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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 08:21 GMT
Police called as church anger flares

Church rebels Rebel congregations were forced into other venues such as schools


Police had to be called to two Scottish churches as the acrimonious split in the Free Church intensified.

In North Uist, supporters of the official Free Church turned out armed with a battering ram and sledgehammer after the breakaway minister of the congregation told them they would not be allowed access to the building.

Free Kirk supporters also forced entry to a church on Skye.

Last week, 22 ministers were suspended at a special meeting at which they were accused of defying church codes.

Police Police were called to two churches
Officers were warned of possible trouble at places of worship including Tarbat Free Church in the village of Portmahomack.

The tension stems from a split in the Free Church which manifested itself at the end of last week.

A new faction - the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) - is now in existence. It is a body which emerged from the dissident Free Church Defence Association (FCDA).

The rift came about when 22 traditionalists walked out of the Commission of the General Assembly after moves to suspend them.

The dispute centres around Professor Donald Macleod, who was cleared in 1996 of indecent assault. A sheriff said there had been a conspiracy against him.

Ministers rejected ruling

But a number of ministers refused to accept the decision and the stance taken by the general assembly and set up the FCDA, placing it on a collision course with the church as a whole.

Throughout the west Highlands, Skye and the Western Isles, formal attempts to remove ministers on the first Sabbath after the split were made.

One minister has already gone.

In Lochcarron, Reverend David Murray, who hit the headlines last week with his claims that the church split was over "Sex, Lies and a cover-up", moved out of his manse on Saturday with his wife and family.

He is moving to the Black Isle and there is speculation he may serve on Lewis or in Aberdeen for the emerging new church.

Meanwhile, the Free Church (Continuing) is to meet to set up presbyteries on the Isle of Lewis.

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See also:
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Theologian denies causing rift
19 Aug 99 |  Scotland
Controversy and the minister
21 Jan 00 |  Scotland
A church born out of division

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