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To discipline or not: that is the question

St. Andrew's Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, and the Kirk itself has been put into a difficult position following the actions of a woman minister in Fife: it is potentially a no-win situation.
 


The Presbytery of St. Andrews seems to be finding itself on the front pages of our daily newspapers over the issue of adultery and same-sex liaisons. It will be interesting to watch the comparisons on how discipline has been and might be exercised respectively with relation to the following cases.
 
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Male Minister in adultery         Female minister in same-sex relationship
Craill churchA Church of Scotland minister who was described by his local Commmunity Council leader as "the best parish minister we ever had" during his 25 years of interacting with the local community was suspended by the Church of Scotland and removed from his parish. The initial suspension for two years was reduced by half after an appeal.

At the time of the initial disciplinary action by St. Andrew's Presbytery in 2010, one of Rev. Michael Erskine's colleagues Rev. Dr. John Cameron presented a case for leniency with regard to Erskine's relationship with a local widow.

According the newspaper reports, Dr. Cameron claimed that pressure had been put on the Presbytery by the Church of Scotland higher authorities "which effectively said that they wanted him fired". Cameron judged that the Presbytery "caved in" and "did not stand up to" the pressure from the Church's HQ.

It could well have been the case that the Church was very concious of the treatment it had meted out some years ago to a woman minister who had an adulterous relationship with one of her parishioners; and not stand accused of double standards.

After a long series of disciplinary and legal procedures the Kirk made an out-ot-court settlement to Helen Percy who was sacked from her position and ministry. [Ms. Percy has just published an account of her experiences in a book entitled 'Scandalous, Immoral and Improper' – words used by the Church to describe her behaviour.]
NewburghA lesbian woman minister has recently admitted that that she would like to enter a civil partnership. Prior to an emergency meeting to discuss the situation Rev. Lynn Brady of the north-east parish of Newburgh in Fife failed to take the Sunday service (28/08/11). She has now disappeared from the manse and effectively 'gone AWOL'.

Brady's actions fly directly into the face of the Church of Scotland's appeal to all of its ministers, elders and congregations to do nothing contentious which would re-ignite the controversy following the induction of homosexual minister Rev. Scott Rennie into an Aberdeen parish in 2007.

At the General Assembly in May this year the Church set up a theological commission to look at the subject of civil partnerships, while also voting to allow openly-gay ministers who were ordained prior to 2009 to remain in post. Given that Brady has just 'come out' she does not fit into that category.

The Church has thus far declined to issue any statement other than to say that it relates to a 'private matter'. The 47-year-old minister served as Moderator for the presbytery of St. Andrews in 2008.

It is widely believed that there are other Church of Scotland ministers whose situations extend beyond the Church's traditional views on marriage and sexual relationships.
The theological commission is not due to report until 2013. Meanwhile the Church is in turmoil with ministers and congregations threatening to quit.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea.


Following the recent revelations in Fife, the Church of Scotland now finds itself in a very difficult and embarrassing position. If it takes no action in the case of Rev. Brady then it will be seen as operating double-standards with relation to the treatment meted out to Revs. Erskine and Percy.

However if disciplinary procedure is brought to bear then the question that could be legitimately asked is why the Church took no action in the case of Rev. Scott Rennie's appointment to Queen's Cross Church.

The world will be watching; but it's not just the world that is watching.


Footnote: See Special Report of the situation in the Church of Scotland since the May General Assembly.

Christians Together, 01/09/2011

Feedback:
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(Guest) 09/09/2011 16:30
Is love the sinner hate the sin not what Christ did for us. If he didn't love the sinner he would never have gon to the cross to die for our sins.
There is no specific verse that I know of either, just the hole bible.
Peter Carr 09/09/2011 22:32
Jn 8: 11 "Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Loving the sinner should not stop us from telling how it is (to ourselves and others)!!
Martin Lisemore 09/09/2011 23:06
Dangerous proposition, love the sinner, not the sin. It's a clever blanket statement, cool, calm, and cleverly socially engineered, like much else in the twenty first century church designed to bring in the masses without conviction or repentance. Again I say, if anyone knows of a Bible reference for it, or even an implication, please post it here. Guest's answer is not definitive; it's a generalism covering two testaments.

But let's be clear. This proposition has led to a doctrine where anything goes in the church. That's not the Body, that's the church.

If this is the position of Jesus in respect of sin before a Holy God, please show me where it is in the Bible. That's a very big please for a definitive answer.

Yes, we must love the sinner, and, through prayer and fasting, part him/her (I'm being a little bit PC here) from their sin. If we allow deviants of all sorts into the Body without repentance and testing and proving, give them power and status, it is diluted and weakened; ineffectual. Thus is the church today. It is not the Body of Christ. It cannot be in these terms.

In a circumscribed sense you are correct, but the doctrine fails, indeed it fails the Body, and it fails Jesus, when we accept just anybody, no matter what, into the Body, without evidence of true repentance; repentance that is, and please Tartan correct me if I'm wrong, a true, life changing, prayerful and Holy Spirit led permanent turning away from something which is sinful as declared by a Holy God and a threat to the Body, as well as the individual.

It is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and righteousness, not us; if we go against the Holy Spirit and welcome all, unconditionally, and give them power and authority within the Church we shouldn't be surprised at the consequences. The Church becomes the church.

Sky TV God channels, which occasionally I watch during a sleepless nights, is loaded with such popular theology as this. Unsupported and uninspired theology which makes being a 'christian,' easy and do-able. I'm in my forty fourth year as a Christian, yes a real one, and I've never found it easy, always found the wide gate and been led to the narrow gate.

I reject this easy teaching as not of God. If I'm wrong, I can plead the Blood and say, according to your Word. If the easy Gospel, love the sinner not the sin brigade are wrong, well, what are they going to plead. John Wimber, Tony Blair, Pat Robertson et al? I'm left wondering how that will be received at our judgement?

Jesus ministry was not about blessing sinners sin; He didn't go to the Cross so we could continue to sin; He died that we might be free of sin and received with His boldness, or right, at the Throne of Grace, and that in His Name. And now we see an institution created and sustained in His Name, perpetuating and blessing the things He calls sin.

Our sin separates us from our God, He says so. If we continue in sin, as defined by God, we cannot lead others to a place we have not been, and cannot go. So what point a purposely sinful minister unless it's but window dressing? Or perhaps just being politically correct? Wonder how that stacks up at judgement?

Yes, love the sinner not their sin is correct; yet the current interpretation and application is not correct before God. It's too wide and too liberal.

In days gone by, I've quoted an aged Methodist minister whom I knew very well. He said, let's be careful of the things of God.

Best advice I had!


Mike51 (Guest) 12/09/2011 13:49
The church needs to put itsself in order Its okay for people of the church to condemn the congregation for adultery and having affairs, but when its one of your own you close ranks and say its okay to do so, rather hypocritical don't you think Erskine and Cameron?
Put your own house in order and get back to teaching morality and decency
Jenny 12/09/2011 15:52
to be fair,....I seriously doubt if either Erskine or Cameron ever did condemn anyone for having affairs. Liberals don't go in for that sort of thing. So there's really no hypocrisy.

The question is whether hypocrisy is really the sin of sins?

There are two ways you can avoid it. One is to walk worthy, so that your conduct agrees with your doctrine.
The popular new way is the converse - change the doctrine! Don't condemn anything you might be wanting to do yourself some day, and that way you'll never be a hypocrite.

Personally I think hypocrisy is actually preferable to that second expedient.
As Dr Johnson said when embarrassed locals shooed him away from the deplorably neglected St Leonard's Chapel,
"Where there is shame, there may one day be virtue".
Peter Carr 12/09/2011 16:36
When it comes to dealing with the sin in others, we would do well to recall the sin in ourselves. When we point the finger, there are always 3 fingers pointing back at us!!

Gal 6: 1 "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted."
John Parker (Guest) 12/09/2011 21:09
There are two very important principles here (as stated above) -
1. Focus on restoration
2. Examine our own lives

However let us not think that the body of Christ (and the individuals in it) can refrain from exercising a sound judgement on the behaviour of others regarding biblical standards.

The 'judge not' verse is often used to silence those pointing out error; in fact it is 'judgementalism' (as a heart attitude) that we are warned against not 'judging' (as in 'making an assessment) of right and wrong.
Peter Carr 12/09/2011 21:21
Yes John, the thing being Paul says the person should be restored 'gently', how often do we witness that happening in the body of Christ?
John Parker (Guest) 13/09/2011 21:41
"the person should be restored 'gently', how often do we witness that happening in the body of Christ?"

Very sadly, far too often there is a harsh spirit at work.

But of course 'restoration' can only come after 'repentance'.

And in equal measure as 'gently' there needs to be an honesty when problems appear. Far too often they are swpt under the carpet. (As if God doesn't see there.)
Peter Carr 14/09/2011 08:34
True, 'lumpy carpet syndrome' may avoid discipline in the short term but will lead to major problems in the longer term!

Rev 2: 23 "Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds."

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