New figures have revealed that membership of the Church of Scotland is facing a national crisis – with Moray congregations amongst the highest losses.
An official audit of church membership has shown that around 50,000 people have left congregations over the last three years – over 1500 of them from Moray churches which has seen a fall in membership of 621 in the last year alone.
The figures have been outlined in a report, ‘The Congregation Crisis’, that will be placed before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May. A source within the church is also indicating that the crisis may be even worse that the figures reveal, insisting that the numbers provided are actually higher than actual attendances indicate.
However, a spokesman for the church insisted that the church remained “one of the largest member organisations in the country”.
He said: “We care about the values by which Scotland lives and the conditions in which people live, and we put our money where our faith is in the work we do amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised.
“The moderator, the Right Rev Lorna Hood, used here Easter message to address the urgent need to recruit women and men to train to be minister and to let society know that there is something very meaningful about living the life of faith.”
The report has prompted the secretary of the Scottish Secular Society, Garry Otten, to say that the Church of Scotland has “disengaged itself from society at large”.
Mr Otten added: “Look at same-sex marriage – most people feel it is perfectly OK for two men and two women to marry, and the church is struggling with this. Most people are beginning to see humanists and atheists as the voice of moderation because as the Church retreats it is becoming nastier.”
Last year the Church of Scotland insisted that it was “not in crisis” after several congregations indicated a wish to leave over the controversial issue of gay clergy.