Villagers in Torphichen were stunned to learn this week that their minister has been suspended from her post by Church of Scotland officials.
The Reverend Sandi McGill, who preaches at the linked charges of Avonbridge and Torphichen was asked to step down from her ministry by the kirk session, the lowest court in the Church of Scotland.
The unexpected decision met with mixed reactions from the congregations which has split opinion in the normally quiet West Lothian villages.
The Journal and Gazette has learnt that the suspension is believed to be linked to a formal complaint over allegations of bullying and intimidation.
Rev McGill has been the minister for almost two years, having been inducted in July 2012.
On her arrival she immediately faced friction among some church elders who did not like her more modern style.
Her supporters within the parish claim that style of ministry has led to an ever- increasing litany of complaints, and resignations, prior to the formal complaint of bullying being made, and which has led to her suspension by kirk officials.
One village resident and community leader, who asked not to be named, said: “When she arrived, she was like a broom – a breath of fresh air.
“I think there was a genuine breakdown in the relationship between her and some of the parishioners.
‘‘There’s a clique in the church and, when she arrived, I think she saw what was going on.
“She knew what they were doing, which was basically interfering with her job as the minister. They had a great say in how the church was run – she came in and saw it had to stop.”
Her leadership style is believed to have antagonised some church elders after she took on the post as minister.
Both the Rev McGill and the local Kirk Session refused to make any comment .