Thursday, 8 May 2014

Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland

This is inspired by Andrew Webb’s “13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA” and was recently included in our church bulletin.

What are the major differences between the Church of Scotland (CoS) and our own denomination, the Free Church of Scotland (FCS)?

1) The FCS affirms that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in all that it teaches.  We recognise its absolute authority. The CoS does not.

2) The FCS does not ordain women to either of the offices in the church (Teaching/Ruling Elder and Deacon). The CoS by contrast ordains women to both offices.

3) The FCS is against homosexual behaviour and same sex marriage and believes both are sins, expressing loving and evangelistic concern for those trapped in such sin. The CoS theoretically consider homosexuality to be a sin, but takes no action against office-bearers who commit this sin and ordains practicing homosexuals to office.

4) The FCS has a constitution recognising the Westminster Standards. All church officers must subscribe to these documents as their Confession of Faith. Teaching against Scripture and the doctrines contained in the Confession of Faith would result in removal from office. The FCS exercises biblical church discipline. 

By contrast, the CoS has a merely theoretical and historic commitment to the Westminster Standards but does not in any way enforce commitment to them. They are viewed more as a series of general guidelines or suggestions that do not bind the conscience of officers in any way. CoS church officers routinely teach contrary to the doctrines contained in Scripture and in these documents.

5) The FCS is explicitly Reformed in its theology. Someone denying Calvinism would not be ordained in the FCS. By contrast, the theology of CoS congregations varies widely from church to church and can cover a spectrum from de facto Unitarian Universalism to Neo-Orthodoxy to soft Arminianism. Very few CoS congregations are explicitly Reformed and biblical in their teaching and preaching. 

6) The FCS is explicitly evangelistic in its belief that Jesus Christ alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through [Him]”, as well as its desire to see all people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas in the CoS evangelism is much less popular and often either non-existent or repudiated.  Office-bearers are free to deny that Christ is the only way to God; some congregations allow false and idolatrous faiths to worship in their facilities

7) The FCS is generally hesitant to take stands on issues that do not clearly fall under the oversight of the church. The CoS, on the other hand, routinely takes stands on a host of political issues.

8) The FCS confesses that all of our worship should be directed only by the Bible, while the CoS believes that worship should be an amalgam of bible, culture, feeling, and tradition.

There are still good men serving in the CoS, and solid evangelical congregations, but they are becoming more and more isolated and sidelined.  In recent years a number of ministers and the majority of their congregations have left the CoS to join the FCS.  We pray for those struggling with this issue and welcome those who seek to find a home in the FCS and maintain a more biblical pattern of teaching, practice and morality.

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