Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Clock is Ticking

Time for evangelicals within the Church of Scotland to reconsider their options.  Some, of course, will never leave, believing that it would be schism to unite with other evangelical presbyterians in, say, the Free Church of Scotland, but that continued fellowship with moral apostates within the national church is morally preferable.

From the Press and Journal (Aberdeen)
Equality campaigner “encouraged” church will soon accept gay ministers
The Church of Scotland is moving closer to ending its historic opposition to people in same-sex relationships becoming ministers.
Figures obtained by the Press and Journal show that 21 of the Kirk’s 46 presbyteries have so far voted in favour of a controversial policy that would give congregations the freedom to appoint a gay man or woman if they wished.

This means the so-called “mixed economy” proposal would need the support of only three more presbyteries before it could be referred to the General Assembly, which has the ultimate say over whether it should become Kirk law. Under the plans, the Church would retain the traditional position – a ban on gay people in relationships becoming ministers – as its default stance. But congregations could opt in to a policy to appoint a minister in a same-sex relationship under a “conscience clause”.

The proposal is aimed at ensuring both sides of the debate are accommodated within the legal framework of the Kirk.

A total of 10 presbyteries, made up of ministers, elders and deacons, have rejected the proposal so far and 15 have yet to make a decision. It has been backed by presbyteries in Aberdeen, Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland, Abernethy, Gordon, Kincardine and Deeside, Argyll and Glasgow.

Members of the Buchan, Lochaber, Lochcarron and Skye, Uist and Lewis presbyteries have rejected it.

The debate over the issue was triggered by the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009 – a decision that resulted in some people leaving the Kirk because they believe the Bible teaches Christians that gay sex is wrong.

The Rev John Mann, of pro-gay rights Kirk group Affirmation Scotland, said he was “very encouraged” by the direction of travel within the Church. The group has decided to support the proposal despite the fact that it “still enshrines inequality and discriminatory treatment for lesbian and gay people in the church”.

Mr Mann said: “Although this proposal is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction and it allows people the freedom of their own conscience. We are praying for a time when the Church and other denominations affirm people in same-sex relationships and celebrate love between two people as a gift from God. We will keep working towards full equality in the Kirk. That is our mission.”

Evangelical Kirk group Forward Together, which has a membership of about 70 ministers and elders, said it would be difficult to predict what the future held until all presbyteries had voted.
Acting director the Rev Douglas Cranston claimed the vote in many presbyteries had been close, which meant that “any hope that this will heal divisions is forlorn. There will be a reaction in response to this,. We have been able to hold on to people for the time being but if are going to have this affirmation I think there will be a steady drift away from the national Church.”

The Kirk has around 800 ministers serving nearly 1,400 congregations and only 18 have left in recent years for a variety of reasons, leaving most congregation members behind.

Former Lochcarron, Applecross and Torridon parish minister the Rev David Macleod and the Rev Roddy MacRae, who led congregations in Glenelg and Kintail, recently quit the Kirk and joined the Free Church of Scotland. The Rev Dominic Smart and members of Gilcomston South Church of Scotland in Aberdeen left the Kirk in March last year.

But Mr Mann played down the impact of the vote.
“The threatened mass exodus has not happened,” he said. “It has been a trickle. I think people who are unhappy will just stick together and feel as they always have – the Church has lost touch with their values.”

It is understood that the presbytery of Dumfries is expected to vote on the issue tonight and Lothian tomorrow.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The vote is under way and presbyteries have until December 30 to submit their returns. Those presbyteries who have yet to decide will be doing so in the coming weeks, and each presbytery will be debating and voting according to their own individual points of view. The outcome of the vote will be known in the new year.”

Scotland’s Biggest Presbytery Supports Active Gays in Ministry

The Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland voted last night, 25th November, to defy Scripture and support sexually active homosexuals in office.  The vote was 127 to 93; that is 58% of presbyters backing sexual immorality.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


I missed this when it originally appeared.  The Herald is a Glasgow newspaper; being ensconced in the North East I read the Press and Journal and the (UK National) the Telegraph, so was not aware of this piece by Stewart Lamont. I reprint it without comment.

Looking back it surprises me that the seed of moral apostasy in the Church of Scotland has taken 20 years to bear fruition.  The warnings were there, but few choose to acknowledge them. Twenty years of ignoring a problem was not the best preparation for eradicating it.

I left the denomination in 1995.


Saturday 11 September 1993

POLITICS in the pulpit used to be the sin which was allegedly ruining the Kirk. Now it would appear to be homosexuality in the manse.

I'm not convinced that the problem is widespread but it is surfacing in a number of ways which make it inevitable that it will be dragged from the closet and paraded as a public controversy. This year's general assembly heard that the 1994 assembly will be hearing two reports about human sexuality -- from the Board of Social Responsibility and the Panel on Doctrine.

The convener of the latter's sub-committee on sex and marriage, theologian Liz Templeton, has already made it clear that her view (even if she does not carry her committee) is to endorse same-sex relationships. One of her friends, Rev. Margaret Forrester, who is convener of the Board of World Mission and Unity, and a leading figure in Kirk policy making, has already blessed the same-sex relationship of two women in her Edinburgh parish.

Two swallows do make a summer but there were some who couldn't swallow this and, without naming Mrs F, wanted the assembly to rebuke such conduct. The assembly wouldn't take it on and so this week one of the disgruntled proposers, Rev. Robert Walker of Gardenstown, raised the matter in the Presbytery of Buchan -- the part of the country where brethren keep close ranks.

This time he had come well prepared with a motion which was careful to make a distinction between homosexual genital acts (''which are condemned in Scripture as perverted and immoral and incompatible with Christian standards'') and homosexual orientation. Those ''wrestling'' with their sexual orientation, according to Mr Walker's motion, were not disqualified from Christian discipleship or from becoming ministers provided they did not indulge in homosexual behaviour.

His motion won the day and has been sent to all presbytery clerks (presumably to encourage them to take up the cudgels). Although it apparently makes Buchan a no-go area for gay ministers, it does not have the force of legislation. That would require general assembly approval. However, it does show that there is a growing body of opinion which will fight hard against any endorsement of same-sex relationships. This issue has yet to hit the Kirk in a public way, and I suspect when it does it will prove just as damaging as it did in the Presbyterian churches of North America.

Ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Pretending it doesn't exist is liable to bring even greater difficulties. Killearn Parish Church found this when they appointed Rev. Francis Dixon from Glenburn Paisley as their sole nominee earlier this year.

Just as he was due to leave, he was named in a Sunday newspaper as one of a group of men in the Paisley area using rent-boys. At first a tearful Mr Dixon denied the charge, claiming he had been offering counselling to the youth in question and on the day of publication, Dr Andrew Weir, the Killearn session clerk, stood in front of a stunned congregation to tell them not to believe what they read in the newspapers. ''We will get our minister,'' he told them.

When tapes and transcripts revealed a Jekyll-and-Hyde life which Mr Dixon had led, masquerading as a teacher in his dealings with the rent-boys, he withdrew from Killearn and resigned from his Paisley parish. Nobody should take glee in the pain brought upon the Dixon family, but it was not the publicity which caused it. Whereas anyone reading Dr Weir's explanation of the events in the May newsletter in Killearn would have been forgiven for thinking it was all a nasty plot got up by the media.

The same vacancy committee resumed their task and are now near to revealing another name. For the peace and unity of Killearn I can only hope this will be someone with a healing touch. In most organisations a committee that got it so horribly wrong would at least have offered their resignations, but perhaps they have decided to work their penance by making a brilliant appointment.

The Killearn case illustrates a tendency to close ranks and hope unpleasant affairs will go away. They won't.

How then are we to deal with the closets of the Kirk? Are we to cleanse them with Buchan witchfinders? Let them breathe good Killearn air? Or are we to leave a couple of mothballs and hope that will deter the corrupting moth? I suspect that none of these remedies is sufficient to deal with something which is defined as a sin by some and a legitimate lifestyle option by others.

There are stormy times ahead and this may well be the issue on which the conservative evangelicals show the strength they have been amassing within the ministry in recent years. On this issue they will probably attract support from those, like this writer, who resent the fact that the issue is often presented as pro-gay or anti-gay. Neither does justice to the problem.

Like politics and religion, sexuality and morality are inextricably mixed into life. What matters is whether the religion gets lost in the politics or the morality is forgotten in the sexuality. The Buchan declaration has the moral merit of making the distinction that it is what we do with what we are, that is important.

Friday, 21 November 2014


The Forward Together website, as usual, carries the Church of Scotland news, culled from the Aberdeen Press and Journal, that the new moderator of the National Youth Assembly has been appointed.  What it does not carry is the equally important news that Hannah Mary Goodlad is an enthusiastic supporter of the Rev Scott Rennie, the homosexual activist whose civil partnership with another man brought to a head the present crisis in the Church of Scotland.  Miss Goodlad, who is joining the Aberdeen Queen’s Cross congregation, is reported as saying, “Scott is a great speaker and his interpretation of theology and the way he relates the Bible to modern day life is excellent.”

Now evangelicals may argue that the National Youth Assembly has no constitutional position, that they do not, of course, send their young people to it anyway, and that the Youth Assembly is as broad as the church as a whole, therefore the appointment of someone else to a national position who is a supporter of the introduction of active homosexuals into office is of no consequence. They may also argue that although their contributions go towards the finance of such an institution they cannot be held responsible for its debates and decisions.

I am not against the church enabling youth to reflect on their faith and be guided by those of spiritual experience as they mature in the faith.  Our recent Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow and Argyll have given £1000 to help support the development of our local teens and twenties work.  However, it does seem biblically inappropriate when the mania for listening to the voice of youth goes as far as giving them delegates at General Assembly, (I presume they are not actual commissioners but only guests, with the right to speak in debates but not vote.)  

Ten representatives of the National Youth Assembly, including the NYA moderator, and a youth representative from each presbytery are invited to each General Assembly. The Kirk’s website informs us that the Youth Assembly is “designed to enable young adults to have a voice within the Church of Scotland. The NYA consists of a series of discussions on topics ranging from fashion to politics, from tax avoidance to climate change and from social media to marriage. After the event feedback from the discussions is collated and alongside a report printed in the ‘Blue Book’, is presented to the following General Assembly by the NYA moderator.”

The same spin on youth was seen earlier in the year when the press releases were carried by the national media about Rev Michael Mair who at 25 was to become the Kirk’s youngest minister – incidentally he also is an active promoter of active homosexuals in ministry. I don’t want to burst Mr Mair’s bubble but historically the Kirk has had many younger ministers.  Indeed, I myself was ordained in the Church of Scotland at 23 and that, not after a truncated course, but after the then regular 6 year double degree requirement.

To return to the original point, is there a conspiracy in the national church to promote and publicise those who stand against biblical norms on sexual ethics, especially if they represent the voice of youth and the spirit of the age.

I do not think this will influence the current votes taking place in Presbyteries.  The latest figures I have seen are 19 to 10 in favour of allowing congregations to appoint active homosexuals as ministers. This means that in the remaining 19 presbyteries still to vote there would need to be a complete reversal of the current voting pattern if the legislation is to fall. 80% of the still to vote presbyteries would now need to vote against the proposed legislation in order to give a majority against.  However, even a 73% vote against by the remaining presbyteries, giving a dead heat of 24 presbyteries on either side would be enough to halt the legislation as it requires a majority of presbyteries to approve it before it can become law. Technically, even if the majority of presbyteries voted for the legislation the General Assembly of 2015 could reject it.

I end by quoting Johnny Cash, “And the lonely voice of youth cries, “What is truth?”” They will certainly not find the answer in the 65% of presbyteries who have, thus far, voted again Scripture.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

New Supporter of Gay Marriage

The new minister of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, has been announced with much fanfare by the Church of Scotland. Rev Calum MacLeod moves from Chicago to take over the church of John Knox, whose statue still graces the Cathedral precincts.  The two men could not be further apart.  Knox was a firebrand evangelical, MacLeod is …  Well let his own words speak for him; in a recent sermon in Chicago after hosting a LGBT conference at his church:

“The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, an organization, within our denomination, that was cofounded by Pastor Emeritus John Buchanan. For many years it has fought for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks in the life of the church, worked to create ordination standards that are inclusive, and celebrated the movement of the Holy Spirit in lives of lesbian and gay Christians being called to ministry. Covenant Network is continuing that work, and the conference offered the chance to reflect on the question of marriage equality for GLBT people. Marvelous scholars and theologians reflected on the biblical and theological reasons for why marriage equality is important.

Currently in our denomination [PCUSA] the church recognizes marriage only as between a man and a woman and it prohibits clergy from officiating at services that are called same-gendered marriage. So our church is in its present state marginalizing people who are in our churches. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered Christians are being treated as other. Not being given the same fully human rights as others in our pews. Covenant Network is working to change that definition of marriage at the next General Assembly, which is in Detroit in 2014. And it is my hope, my prayer that this continued marginalization of a category of people in our midst would end.”

His liberal hopes were realised – the General Assembly of the PCUSA voted both to allow its ministers to officiate at gay marriages and to change its official definition of marriage as between “two people” rather than between a man and a woman. (The PCUSA continues to loose members, with a 5.86% decrease in 2012 and 4.83% in 2013, and a loss of a total of 148 churches and 165 ministers to other more biblical denominations in 2013.)

I am sure he will join other revisionists in pursuing this anti-biblical agenda in the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh Presbytery having “cleansed” itself of solid evangelicals such as David Court, Philip Hair, and Robin Sydserff (and their churches) must be delighted with its new recruit. 

Meanwhile Forward Together desperately try to convince evangelicals that it is their duty to remain within this increasingly apostate body – did any of their members in Edinburgh Presbytery raise an objection concerning Mr MacLeod’s theology or ethics, or did they simply keep silent because they are “ in it to win it” without the danger of confrontation.