The minister of St George’s Tron in Glasgow has preached his last sermon in the building, before the Church of Scotland seizes the premises.
The congregation, which has been meeting in its Buchanan Street venue for more than 70 years, split from the Kirk in June over the ordination of openly homosexual ministers.
Since then St George’s Tron has been embroiled in a legal dispute about its building, which has recently undergone a £2.6 million refurbishment paid for by its members.
Last Wednesday, law officers appeared at the church prayer meeting demanding the return of bibles, hymn books and an organ.
The minister, Rev Dr William Philip, described the Kirk’s actions as “shameful”.
He said: “Having law officers disrupt a church meeting and intimidate a church is something we associate with China or former Soviet dictatorships but is the last thing we expected from the so-called national Church.”
Parishioner Said Savidoghchi, an asylum seeker from Iran, said: “This behaviour by the Kirk reminds me of the persecution experienced by Christians at the hands of the government of my country, which I left in order to convert to Christianity.
“Under Sharia law, Muslims who convert risk being put to death, so Christians have to worship in secret. I have been struck by the freedom Christians have to worship here in Scotland, but am alarmed at this turn of events.”
Rev Dr Philip said his family is now “living in fear” that their manse will be “stormed” in the same way and that they may be forced on to the street before Christmas.
On Sunday 500 people packed St George’s Tron for the minister’s last sermon at the venue.
He spoke about the difficulties faced by those who would stay true to the Bible’s teachings and “make a life investment with Jesus”.
He made reference to the Church of Scotland’s “refusal of any terms on which we might continue to use the facility”.
The congregation will now meet in a venue on Bath Street, while the Kirk plans to establish a new congregation in the St George’s Tron building.