ELLON Parish Church’s ministry is officially vacant, following the dismissal of minister Steve Emery.
Reverend Emery was initially suspended from his post for the past few months following allegations about his conduct while minister in Ellon Parish. However, the ruling of the Presbyterial Commission - which dealt with the allegations - has suspended him from all ministry for a year, with Gordon Presbytery declaring the position of minister in Ellon officially vacant.
A spokesman from the Church of Scotland would not discuss the allegations, however, the Times understands that they relate to the Rev Emery’s professional conduct.
Speaking for the church, spokesman Grant Hutchison said: “The Rev Stephen Emery of Ellon Parish Church has been the subject of a disciplinary investigation by Gordon Presbytery for the past few months. We are not going to disclose the nature of the allegations against him, as we consider this to be a private internal matter.
“Mr Emery has admitted fault and a Presbyterial Commission meeting in October concluded that he merited censure. It was determined that a suitable sanction was his suspension from all ministry for a period of a year, commencing 9 October 2012. Mr Emery has not taken up the option to appeal the sentence imposed within the necessary timescales, and so his suspension will stand. Mr Emery will have to apply for a Practicing Certificate upon expiry of his period of suspension.
“In view of this, the Presbytery is dissolving the pastoral tie between Mr Emery and Ellon Parish. The Presbytery is declaring the parish vacant, and so the congregation will now be able to call another minister. Mr Emery’s National Chaplaincy of the Boys Brigade and his Chaplaincy of the ATC will also cease. His role as Chaplain to the schools in Ellon will naturally come to an end with the decision to declare the Ellon charge vacant.
“The congregation have been informed. The next step will be the appointment of a Vacancy Procedures Committee. In the meantime, the Rev Douglas McNab from Newmachar has been appointed Interim Moderator, and the Rev Eleanor Macalister as locum minister.”
The Ellon minister had previously attracted warm praise from both the congregation and the wider community based on his enthusiastic ministry at the church, which saw congregational numbers increase. He also re-started the Sunday School after a period of abeyance, and - according to parishioners - was widely regarded generally as an excellent minister.
Sources inside the congregation say that they have been left disappointed by the sequence of events leading up to the Rev Emery’s dismissal, and that finding a formal replacement could potentially take a long time.