Christian Life 

Prayer support and Bibles for Councillors

Highland Council
The Highland Council in session [photo: Highland Council]

An article entitled 'Presentation Bibles offer prompts furore' has appeared in a Highland newspaper (Press and Journal; Monday 21 April 2008).
The opening sentence  suggests: "An unholy row has broken out among Highland councillors after an Inverness group offered to present Bibles to every councillor and chief official of the council."   The news piece reports of an e-mail from a councillor who thinks that religion has no place in politics - a view she has apparently communicated to all her fellow councillors. And it seems this e-mail has now been leaked to journalists.

A spokesman for the organising group, whose intention was and is to demonstrate support and prayer for political leaders and policy makers in the Highlands, has said that the church leaders involved had been following a procedure suggested by Council officials; and it is regretable that details of the proposal had emerged at a premature stage.

In response to the newspaper report the organising group have issued the following statement:

An offer has been made by Christian leaders in the Highlands, to Highland councillors and to chief officials of the Council, to support them in their role through prayer; and to further demonstrate this support for them by making a gift of a presentation Bible to each individual.

Acting on the suggestion of a council official an outline/summary of the proposal was submitted to the Council offices for onward transmission to all the individuals concerned.

The Council officer gave an approximate timescale within which responses would be gathered and collated. This period has not yet expired, and the responses are awaited. It is not appropriate therefore to make comment on the returns at this present moment, other than to emphasise that the offer of support was and is made in good faith; and, contrary to the newspaper report which mentioned an 'Inverness Christian group' , is being made by Christian leaders at a Highland-wide level.

The proposal, which has been jointly agreed, is that Lord Mackay of Clashfern would make the presentation at a future date and in a location and manner befitting the gift and the sentiment of support embodied in it. And it has always been the intention that a public presentation would be made as a signficant gesture of support from the Christian community to those who lead us in the Highland area.

Lord MackayLord Mackay, a former Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, is a prominent Christian living in the Highlands. Amongst his many involvements he is president of the Scottish Bible Society (SBS), and the correspondence with the Council has carried the endorsement of the chief executive of the SBS, Elaine Duncan who has written: “The Scottish Bible Society is delighted to support this presentation of Bibles to those charged with the responsibility of leadership in Scotland through our government and local councils”.

At a British Coronation ceremony a Bible is presented to the monarch with the words: "We present you with this book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom.This is the Royal Law.These are the lively oracles of God."  Lord Mackay has commented that the offer of a Bible is indeed akin to that made to the Queen at her coronation, to mark the place of the Bible in the life of our nation; and the presentation copies of the Bibles being offered on this occasion have been carefully chosen and would be inscribed to carry each recipient's name.

Alasdair RhindThough it would appear that some councillors are less than enthusiastic to receive the offer of prayer and support, councillor Alasdair Rhind (Tain and Easter Ross) has been quoted as saying: "The Christian faith is our faith and it is part of the heritage of the Highlands." In expressing his regret about the content of the e-mail resisting the proposal he continued: "When councillors are elected they get offered advice on many things and I see this offer from church leaders as very appropriate. If any councillor doesn't want to take up the offer than that is fine, but this e-mail is discourteous."

Meanwhile, councillor Liz Macdonald has been quoted as saying: "I think religion and politics should be kept separate."

However Mr. Greer Johnston, a prominent Sutherland businessman, lay preacher and former Highland councillor has remarked: "There is a historical tradition of the church and state working closely together particularly in the realms of education and social services. Indeed most of Scotland's schools were established by the churches. So to divorce the church from the day-to-day affairs of the council would, in the light of that history, be a bit ridiculous."
While council convener Sandy Park has been quoted as saying: I don't think the Bible offer is erring into anybody's private life.."

Mike FinlaysonCouncillor Mike Finlayson (Cromarty Firth) is one of the elected representatives who takes part in leading with the prayer at the commencement of council meetings. He remarked: "Scotland is still deemed a Christian country and so it is appropriate to open council meetings with prayer."
While Norman Lindon, is a Highland-based accountant who heads up the local group of a CBMC national network of Christian businessmen and he comments: "I am very much in favour of presenting Bibles to political leaders as I believe that the Word of God is vital for today's world."

Margaret PatersonCouncillor Margaret Paterson (Dingwall and Seaforth) also takes part in leading public prayer, and outlined that the time of prayer was of long-standing tradition and is enshrined in the standing orders. She affirms: "I regularly receives words of encouragement and thanks from both member of the general public and fellow councillors for the prayers said."  Councillor Paterson said she would be delighted to receive a Bible.

[ The relevant extract from the Minutes of the Council Meeting of 14 June, 2006 states: A query was raised as to whether it was still legal under equal opportunities legislation to commence each full Council meeting with a prayer in Presbyterian style. It was understood that many other public bodies who had carried out this practice had now abandoned it. However, a view was also expressed that while it was accepted that Scotland was a multi-cultural society, it was still predominately a Christian society with Christian values and traditions and therefore the Prayer at the start of Council meetings should be retained. It was also noted that the Prayer was a part of Council Standing Orders relating to the conduct of meetings and if any change was to be made, this would require to be decided by the full Council. - Ed.]



The relationship between church and state has been in the headlines since the 3rd century and the Emperor Constantine. More recently it surface again when the Provost of Inverness took unilateral action to suspend the tradition of 'Kirking the Council'.
The issue is a personal one for each councillor and official to decide upon for his or herself.
Many years ago the leader of a great nation said to his people:
"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

In matters of faith in God through Jesus Christ, there is no middle ground: we are not given that option. So today, as then, the choice is ever before us.


Ed footnote:

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

                                                                                                                                                2 Tim 2:1-5

Anyone wishing to make their views known can do so by using the 'Add your Comment' facility at the foot of this page. A list of the Highland Councillors, Wards and contact details can be found on the Highland Council web site.

PJ Bibles for Councillors

Christians Together, 21/04/2008

Peter Carr (Guest) 22/04/2008 13:17
A bold, but important step. The Lord will bless the distribution of His Word. Also an important reminder to all in office as to where we have come from, as this land moves further and further from God and His standards, only the Good Lord knows where we are heading!
Editor 24/04/2008 13:37
Bible offer rebuffed by SNP councillor.

A PROMINENT member of the SNP group on the Highland Council has rebuffed an offer by church leaders to present each councillor and top official with a copy of the Bible.

Read on in the John O'Groat Journal -
Penny Lee 24/04/2008 14:46
I would have hoped that SNP would be the most likely of the political parties to understand the importance of our culture and inheritance. Sadly, it seems they are no better than the rest.

I would urge those of you who care about this issue to leave your comments at the link given in the post above.
Editor 03/05/2008 17:53
A humanist responds to the offer of prayers and Bibles for Highland Councillors:
Peter Carr (Guest) 04/05/2008 09:16
The humanist response should not surprise us, and it may well be the tip of a very dangerous and ugly anti-Christian iceberg. However, I support the offer of bibles to the councillors mainly because we need to remind people of the rich Christian heritage that is ours in this land, one that is in danger of being stolen from us by godless people with their own agendas to promote.

If this humanist, and others like her care to look at the building adjacent to the Town House they will see evidence not only of the Christian heritage that is rightfully ours, but also God's Word which was here before they existed, and will endure long after they are gone! (Not mere words chiselled on a building, but the eternal word of God, which people ignore at their peril).
Editor 04/05/2008 20:52
Verses engraved on the wall across from the Town Hall.

For pictures of the verses referred to in the above message from Peter Carr see -
Donald Boyd 07/05/2008 21:27
Response to humanist suggestion in Inverness Courier:
Helene Macrae 26/08/2008 17:48
reflecting on the picture at the top..wouldn't that be grreat if they all were on board for the Lord..?. then watch the Lord do His stuff.. why do we mere humans think that we are better than our Creator..?. why do we not need to be educated in our roots.?. of course scotand has christian roots.. and we that live and enjoy this country should be proud and boast in Jesus that He who began a good work in and for scotland will not shirk away from His plans for scotland.. just a sad note..if this was an islam bible they would except it on grounds of not insulting 'them'..but do they not think they are insulting us and who we serve.. for the good of Jesus' name folks..let us grow up into the things of the Lord..great and wonderful things He has in store for those that love Him.. xo hmac..

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