Up to 50 congregations may leave the Church of Scotland if the General Assembly votes next month to allow the ordination of openly gay ministers.
Two congregations and a number of ministers have already left over the issue.
Now the Kirk is braced for a potential hemorrhage of evangelical members if the proposal is passed, in protest at what they consider is a breach with biblical teachings.
Sources within the more fundamentalist Free Kirk have revealed that representatives of 50 congregations around Scotland have held initial discussions about splitting from the Church of Scotland in advance of the debate and vote on gay ordination in May.
Although the Church of Scotland has more than 1,400 congregations, such an exodus would represent the biggest split in its ranks since the 19th-century schism which led to the Free Kirk’s formation.
If such an exodus were to go ahead, the Free Kirk would almost double in size. The source said: “Representatives from the Free Church have spoken to many different ministers, elders and members in the Church of Scotland who are mulling over their options – amounting to some 50 congregations.
“Obviously, a lot hinges on what happens at the General Assembly, and the current vibe is that it does not look good at all for the evangelical position.”