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.

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