Thursday, 18 December 2014

Grace and Geography

Now that the dust has settled and the majority of Church of Scotland presbyteries have voted to endorse ministers in active same-sex relationships, it is interesting to see how the church establishment view those who voted against this endorsement of sexual immorality.

The acting principal clerk for the Kirk, Rev Dr George Whyte, is quoted as saying:

“Many ministers already allow and conduct the blessing of civil partnerships and people who have decided to commit to one another."

“However, this is not happening in a more, let’s say Herbidean setting, but each time we have voted, the gap has grown wider in favour of the proposal.

I am not sure whether this is simply an ethnic slur or the contemptuous arrogance of the liberal urban elite for those rural bumpkins who have not yet adopted the new program for sexual liberation.  It may be both!  As an ethnic insult it suggests that the west coast Gaelic areas of Scotland are not as advanced as those areas where ministers conduct same sex civil partnerships.  Not very P.C.

It is, however, fairly accurate in terms of geography.  This Hebridean fringe were also the power house for the formation of the current Free Church of Scotland in 1900. At that time some sixty-three congregations refused to join in the union with the United Presbyterian Church, with most being found in the Gaelic-speaking districts of Scotland.

I have to confess that if I had been around in 1843 I would have been part of the Disruptions and joined the Free Church.  I am not entirely sure that if I had been around in 1900 I would have chosen not to join the new union that formed the United Free Church.

However, with the insight of history we know the United Free Church of 1900 rejoined the established church in 1929, and by and large its evangelical ethos was lost.  It was, therefore, the Hebridean fringe that maintained the true evangelical and Reformed succession,  In the providence of God he “chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” ( 1 Cor 1:28)

This remnant was preserved, but perhaps the purpose of God was that through this original remnant evangelical Presbyterianism might reseed the whole of Scotland.  Despite its detractors the Free Church is no longer a highland church restricted to the areas of the GĂ idhealtachd.  It is now as much a lowland non-Highland church as a Highland body.  Indeed, at the very time the Church of Scotland risks so alienating its remaining Highland congregations that they will leave the denomination, the Free Church is going in the opposite direction by expanding its outreach in central Scotland.  The Free Presbytery of Glasgow and Argyll this week were discussing our new church plants in Stirling  and Govan, Glasgow.  Someone described it as “exciting”, and I concur.

How much more exciting it would be if our evangelical brethren within the national church instead of forming yet another pressure group to slow or reverse the apostasy in the Church of Scotland which despises them , their theology and their sexual ethics, were to join with us in taking forward the work and ministry of a truly national evangelical Presbyterian body.  

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