Up to 150 conservative and evangelical ministers are reportedly threatening to resign in Scotland, where the Church of Scotland is about to become the first Presbyterian church in the world to allow the ordination of openly gay ministers.
The 450 year-old Christian establishment and cradle of Presbyterianism famously voted for allowing gay ministers in May, causing mass protests of current ministers.
Presently, as many as 150 serving ministers are considering resignation, The Guardian reported Monday. In addition, at least six ministers have left the church since May. One minister and his entire congregation, a church at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen, even reportedly threatened to leave as a group.
Experts call the event the largest schism in the church since 474 ministers quit in 1843 to form the Free Church of Scotland.
A spokesman for the church reportedly denied that as many ministers threatened resignation, however, other sources seem to confirm the number.
The Church of Scotland became the first major Presbyterian church in the world to allow openly gay and lesbian ministers to take up parishes at its general assembly in May, despite protests from some 20 percent of its officials.
The vote took place after a temporary moratorium was initially imposed in 2009 following an uproar at the appointment of the first openly gay clergyman of the church, Scott Rennie. However, the Presbyterian Church's law-making body voted to lift that ban.
The subject of homosexual clergy has deeply divided the denomination, with a previous report suggesting up to a fifth of the ministers, as well as some 100,000 church members, could abandon the church body in protest.
The Rev. Andrew Coghill, a minister at Church of Scotland, issued a warning in May to the church’s General Assembly, saying that allowing gay clergy would devastate the denomination.
The Church of Scotland has also reportedly commissioned a report to be presented by 2013 on the proposals as well as plans to allow ministers to bless gay and lesbian relationships.