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The Church of Scotland 'trajectory' rejects God

Following the Church of Scotland's vote in the May 2011 General Assembly there has not been much tangible sign of any reaction. But a meeting on a  wet day in Glasgow last week broke the silence.
 


Tron VideosUPDATE: Video recordings of the six speakers on the day are now available. Click here.

Preamble: The gathering referred to below was essentially a private meeting for ministers and elders in the Church of Scotland and principally (but by no means exclusively) concerns those within the Church of Scotland and the wider Presbyterian world.

There were six speakers (all ministers) but no names have been included; nor does the report contain any photographs of those present: the exception is the interview with Rev. Ian Watson who spoke to camera for a TV news report. Since the report was written recordings of the meeting have been made public

-------------------------------------------------------
 St. Georges-Tron Church of Scotland
Tron Church1If the Church of Scotland is struggling with God, then Friday, 17 June, 2011 saw a large meeting of its evangelical churchmen which could become a huge coffin nail for the once-mighty national church whose spiritual condition is now viewed as being in terminal decline.

The gathering was instigated in an Edinburgh coffee shop two days after the denomination – meeting in annual General Assembly – voted to permit practicing homosexuals to serve as ministers within its national network of parish churches.

And so it was, less than four weeks after that fateful decision, that the first collective and large-scale meeting was held. The impressive building of St. George’s-Tron church sits on the main shopping thoroughfare of Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Within its walls, over 650 mainly-male voices of ministers and elders from the ‘the Kirk’, sang with great gusto while contemplating an unforeseeable future; a future perhaps within, but more likely outside of Scotland’s principal, oldest and largest and Reformed denomination.

On an overcast afternoon – punctuated by rain and staring the disastrous Assembly outcome in the face – the volume of singing to God’s praise threatened to lift the roof of the newly-refurbished building. It was a defiant post-Assembly ‘shout’; an expression of undiminished, or even amplified evangelical fervour.

A history of turmoil


John KnoxAs an institution, the Church of Scotland dates back to the 16th century when the Reformation of Luther and Calvin swept through the nation – impelled by the fiery preaching of John Knox and his followers. Though rent and racked since those formative years by many divisions, it has managed to survive successive splits, schisms and reunion: at least until now. (The body politic is expert in its bureaucratic manoeuvrings to defuse any threat to the cohesion of the institution.)

But the events during the General Assembly of last month have provoked arguably the worst crisis since 1843 when the first major split took place over the issue of patronage and the relationship between church and state. At that time the ‘Disruption’ saw a third of the church – ministers, elders and members – leave in concerted and choreographed fashion as a cohesive, if not unanimous response to the concerns of that day.

 

A different dynamic; but a line has been crossed


This time however it has been different. Though the same passion is evident, the response has been of a quite different order. Though much lower in profile – at this stage anyway – the consequences in the longer term may be even more significant; much more significant. In the 19th century a parallel denomination was formed. In 2011 much more is needed; but not, emphatically not, more of the same. There are a variety of options and each minister, congregation and member is now deciding on respective courses of action.

While the individual responses – at personal and congregational level – are and will be varied, the overarching message from the six ministers who spoke on the day was and is essentially the same. To a man they affirmed that the denomination in which they have served has reached a defining moment. A line has been crossed; a watershed has been reached; a new day has dawned and a new terrain lies ahead. In the listening it would have been difficult to disagree.

One parish minister has written in his Summer congregational newsletter:

“Don’t be fooled by the official [Church of Scotland] line that nothing his yet been decided. The decisions taken at the Assembly represented a clear and deliberate shift away from the authority of Scripture as the Word of God and the foundation of our denomination.”

The opening sermonette at ‘the Tron’ was based on Jesus’ high-priestly prayer found in the Gospel of John (Chapter 17). The theme being unity; that is a unity within evangelical ranks based – as only true unity can be – on God’s Truth.

Differing views


It was however acknowledged at the outset that there are, perhaps surprisingly, two quite different assessments of the situation even amongst evangelical ranks. Some, it was said, see no major significance; at congregational level it is ‘business as usual’.
But most would overtly or privately acknowledge the view expressed in the aforementioned parish magazine that that Church has deliberately and with planned resolve departed from the clear teachings of the Bible and the authority of God. Certainly this was the view of every platform speaker. To use the biblical expressions, the Church is now judged by them as being apostate (in open rebellion and unbelief) and, employing one description on the day, a spiritual corpse.

A slow demise


ReportA theological study on the new order has been commissioned to report in two years time. However, only the most optimistic (some might say ‘self-deluded’) would anticipate a reversal of the ‘revisionist trajectory’ which the Church has fixedly set itself upon.

One speaker rhetorically asked: “Is there any evidence that the General Assembly of 2013 will be swayed by biblical truth?” His pragmatic answer? “I see none.”

Reference was made to an Assembly Commissioner who affirmed: “We know better than the Bible.” That statement, made on the floor of the May gathering and in the eyes and ears of the watching evangelical world, put it in a nutshell.

Accordingly those who are thinking of adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude were invited last Friday to think what they will do in two years time if, as expected, the Church continues on the path it has chosen.

[It is important to note that a cohort of the liberally-minded elite in the denomination worked assiduously, but ultimately unsuccessfully, for a General Assembly non-decision on the whole issue in order to pre-empt the prospect of denominational fracture.
quote

"We know better

than the Bible"

 It is also instructional to note that from an evangelical standpoint the May gathering on Edinburgh’s Mound was “the ‘most prepared-for and most prayed-for’ General Assembly in the last 100 years”. In this context neither the liberals nor the evangelicals got the answer they were looking for. The answer nevertheless was crystal clear: apostasy is the direction of travel.]

A reality revealed


To say that there is a split is stating the obvious. As one speaker put it: “Separation would just be expressing a reality that is already there.” So even supposing that not a single member or congregation left, the denomination has clearly departed from the ‘faith first entrusted to the saints’ and accordingly, anyone and everyone within the institution is now effectively operating in an environment which is hostile to God and in open defiance of His Word.
In the true and biblical meaning of the term, the Church of Scotland can no longer be described as a Christian church. And this, for the sake of the nation and God’s Holy Name, is a tragedy.

A leap into the unknown

 
"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’"

According to the Bible, ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’. But ‘Trust’ is subtly different, and could be defined as ‘faith in action’.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for.  Heb.11:1-2
'Trust' is
faith
in action

For ministers who have preached faith with fervour over the years, a day of great testing has arrived. Every speaker at the Glasgow meeting affirmed that action is essential; yet it was acknowledged on the day that self-interest and personal security can often be powerful incentives to maintaining the status quo.
Aside from the daily stresses (though few in the everyday workplace are immune from these), one of the most secure jobs to be had, is that of a Church of Scotland minister. It was hardly then surprising that more than one speaker admitted to apprehension and even fear when contemplating a life outside of the great big machine. Institutionalisation is not confined to long-term prisoners, and unpalatable surroundings can often be more attractive than the scary world outside. Some ministers have gone for school, to university and into the ministry, and thus have no experience of 'life outside' of these environments.
Please pray for all these men that they will be able to 'hold fast' in the storm. Our security is in God's character and His promises – including those for our personal lives and families. But there are times when these truths are substatially in abstract, and other times when they come into sharp focus.

Faith and Trust


Tightrope walkerThe story is told of the French trapeze artiste Charles Blondin. His greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls.

A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. They gasped in amazement as Blondin carefully walked across; one dangerous step after another; blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow.

Upon reaching the opposite side, the crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls. In the face of the wild acclaim Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his enthralled audience: "Do you have faith to believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?"The crowd enthusiastically shouted an affirmative. "Right," said Blondin in response to that show of confidence, "Get in the wheelbarrow....."
As the story goes, no one did! But there again perhaps no one in that gathering preached faith and trust Sunday by Sunday.

Out of  the box

quote

 

"I feel that I have been set free"

Yet there is at least one minister, not long with his present congregation, is prepared to make the big break. When asked by a concerned friend how he was feeling the day following the Glasgow meeting, he replied: “I feel I have been set free.” He said that he felt that a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Mal. 4:2)
 
In a further positive acknowledgement of a ‘new day’ ahead, the preacher with the heart of an evangelist added: “I don’t care if I have to drive a lorry [ in order to support myself and my family in my ministry]”. A good man with a good attitude.

If that minister’s readiness to contemplate a complete paradigm shift in his thinking and personal situation is typical across the evangelical spectrum, then there is great hope for tomorrow.
The same however cannot be said for the Church of Scotland.

An Edinburgh congregation has already made up its mind as finding itself unable to:
  • submit to the General Assembly decision on same-sex relationships
  • contribute funds to the denomination
  • accept oversight by the presbytery (local geographical grouping of churches)
  • participate in regular church courts and committes locally and nationally

It will be interesting to see how the instituation responds (or not) to this scenario.

 

And out of the camp


out of the campLet us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.  Heb 13:13-14

'Out of the camp’ was the only option for Moses when faced with a situation of spiritual dereliction; and departure is perhaps the only honest-to-God recourse in the present situation. It will be spiritually dangerous to stay. (The principle of the mutual influence of the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ was expressed by the prophet Haggai (Haggai 2:12 - 13). In spiritual matters the ‘clean’ is invariably the loser.)
In a chilling follow-through, the prophet declares the mind of God where sin is involved: "So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,' declares the Lord. 'Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.'" (Haggai 2:14)

The Church has made its agenda clear: the body is set on its chosen trajectory.
As one minister put it: “The Church of Scotland has now publicly committed itself to be unholy, uncatholic and unapostolic.” In acknowledging both the need for and the risk of radical action he said: “I would rather put my head above the parapet than simply stick it in the sand.”
quote

“I would rather put my head above the parapet than simply stick it in the sand.”


Terminal trends


ruined churchAside from the spiritual decline in the Church, a secular analysis regarding the denomination’s health and life expectancy comes up with the same answer.

The organisation is already in numerical, demographic and financial meltdown. Faced with increasing liabilities, grossly-reduced income from disaffected evangelicals; retiring ministers; expensive buildings; ageing congregations and a liberal membership which is comparatively illiberal in its financial givings, the prospects are not good.

(As an aside, when splits occur, there is usually a fight over possession of buildings. However many of these could represent heavyweight liabilities which neither side of a separating body might necessarily want to hold on to.)

But spiritual life beyond..


Bible StudyIn our 21st century nation, it is not just the Church of Scotland which is in crisis. There are profound and chronic problems right across the denominational spectrum; and these issues are causing all those who have any respect for the Word of God to ‘get back to basics’.

So what all of this might produce is a re-energised and faithful remnant of Bible-believers who will proclaim and live out the true Gospel of Truth and trust in Jesus Christ – to the glory of God and the saving of souls. This is the heart of the Great Commission. It is a calling to and the responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ. A nation deserves nothing less; our nation needs nothing more.

 Interview with Rev. Ian Watson in St. Georges-Tron 17 June 2011 
Sorry, your browser is unable to play this type of file. You can still download it

 
Since the above report was prepared, video recordings of the six speakers have become available. These are now available below.
 
 1. Martin Allen 
 2. Calum Jack 
 3. William Philip 
 4. David Court 
 5. Robin Sydserff 
 6. Jerry Middleton 

COMING SOON: Recorded interviews with Rev. David J. Randall and Rev. Louis Kinsey


 Footnotes:

St. John's Shaunessey, Vancouver
St Johns ShaughnessyAt the meeting in Glasgow one speaker showed a recent video interview with the highly-respected Rev. Dr. J.I Packer who is on staff at St. John's Shaunessey (the largest Anglican Church in Canada).

Back in 1966 there was a huge controversy in England when, concerned about evangelical compromise, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called on believers to leave their denominations.
Rev. Dr. John Stott who was chairing the meeting immediately took the platform to publicly disagree with his evangelical colleague. The record states that Packer aligned himself with Stott on that occasion and urged believers to stay where they were.

In the video interview shown in Glasgow last week, Packer stated that while some matters were 'secondary' the issue of sexuality is primary. In this context the theologian and the rest of the congregation of St. John's have removed themselves from the authority of the Anglican Church in Canada.
The day before meeting in Glasgow, St. John's were refused a right of appeal over the removal of ownership of their building. On Thursday, 23 June the congregation met in a gym to discuss the 'transition'.

Further analysis: It is hoped to offer further thoughts from Scripture on the implications of the above report in terms of the estimated impact on the structure, leadership and membership of the Church of Scotland (for those who stay and those  who go).

Christians Together, 24/06/2011

Feedback:
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George Orr 16/07/2011 10:28
Is this because the "world" got so far embedded?
Yes and this is the main way it gets embedded. The bible speaks 'Ipso Facto'. For each of us and corporately we will be judged accordingly.

1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:9
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.

2 Corinthians 12:21
I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

Galatians 5:19
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

Ephesians 5:3
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Colossians 3:5
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 4:3
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

1 Corinthians 6:9
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

1 Corinthians 5:11
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

Galatians 6:7
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Ephesians 5:5
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

1 Timothy 1:9-10
We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.

Leviticus 18:22
"'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Revelation 21:8
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."

.......and others


Martin Lisemore 17/07/2011 00:46
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Doesn't that sum up our times?

The question I have is, who is culpable for this intrusion into the Church?
Peter Carr 17/07/2011 09:23
"Doesn't that sum up our times?"

Sadly, both inside and outside of the church (at least those outwith the church have an excuse)!!


Peter Carr 17/07/2011 09:26
"The question I have is, who is culpable for this intrusion into the Church?"

All (ordained or not) who are called to be "Guardians of the Truth".

Alec (Guest) 17/07/2011 21:25
In the CofS things just seem to be going from bad to worse. This item has just hit the news:

"Church magazine refuses ad for book telling of minister’s rape"

Details at:

http://tinyurl.com/5tdevol (Herald newspaper)

Full text here:

LIFE And Work, the Church of Scotland’s in-house magazine, has been accused of censorship after refusing to take an advert for a book by one of its former ministers.

Derek Rodger, who owns Argyll Publishing, says he tried to take out an advert for the forthcoming book Scandalous, Immoral And Improper, by Helen Percy. He says he was told it was not “entirely suitable for a church magazine” and was “giving cause for concern”, apparently because of the “racy” title.

However, Rodger believes this is not the real reason. “Life And Work have taken our adverts without question for all manner of books in the past,” he said. “It is difficult to think there is not some other agenda here with Helen Percy.”

Percy, 42 – who remains an ordained minister, although outwith the Church of Scotland – agrees. Her book, which is subtitled The Trial Of Helen Percy, claims that in 1995 she was raped by a church elder in a Perthshire parish. Subsequently, she had an abortion.

She says senior figures within the Kirk reacted unsympathetically to her allegations and treated her not as the victim of a sexual attack but as a willing participant in an affair.

Ironically, the words used in her book’s title are not hers but the Kirk’s. It accused her of “scandalous, immoral and improper behaviour” and forced her to abandon the ministry. Percy went with the Quakers to South Africa where, in 2002, she set up a support network for child and adult survivors of rape and sexual abuse. She now works as a farm labourer and shepherd.

She told the Sunday Herald: “You cannot tell me that a cabal of Church leaders has not recognised in the ‘racy’ title of this book their own words, applied to a young woman who had been raped.

“They lied. They bullied. They doctored evidence and fed the press. They know very well the true nature of the ‘scandal’ this book contains. It does not carry the Church’s imprimatur, and that is the reason why every churchgoer should read it before making their own judgment.”

In her book, Percy tells how she pursued her case against the Church to the House of Lords, and was awarded £10,000 compensation, which she gave to charity. Last month, however, she admitted she had committed benefit fraud – unwittingly, she maintains – and was given 18 months’ probation.

Among those who have provided endorsements of Scandalous, Immoral And Improper is Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh. He said: “Since the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, the matter of an attractive woman being bullied by a cabal of male religious leaders is one of the most persistent themes throughout history. Helen Percy’s book is a modern version of an old song. Read it and weep.”

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said: “Concern was raised with Argyll Publishing about the content of the advertisement, and a review copy was sought. The publisher was asked if they would like to promote another [title] but they refused.

“Given the provocative nature of the title of the book, it was appropriate for the magazine of the Church of Scotland to exercise editorial discretion and make further enquiries.

“To suggest that either the book or the advertisement has been banned by Life And Work or the Church of Scotland is incorrect.”

Scandalous, Immoral and Improper: The Trial Of Helen Percy will be published next month. Percy said proceeds will go to benefit children and young people in Africa.


.... Hard to know whether to be sad or angry....

Morag Macdonald 18/07/2011 00:21
I think everybody needs to Realise. that in the bible not once has God said that it was a sin for women to be in ministry.

Alec (Guest) 18/07/2011 08:33
1 Tim 2:12

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"

1 Cor 14:34:

"women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says"

Unequivocal I would say, IF one claims to be a "bible believer"

Liberals have the luxury of playing "Alice in Wonderland" with texts like these.

Evangelicals shouldnt be doing semantic gymnastics

If there is now a situation where gays are asking for what women were seeking at one time, then the evangies have only got themselves to blame for the current mess they find themselves in

Should have stuck to what they claimed to believe.

Editor 18/07/2011 10:03
The problem is not with women ministers if the term means (as the Bible intends it to mean) 'performing acts of service'. Every believer should have a ministry - men and women.

The problem is with the word 'minister' - especially when used as a noun; and the more so if referred to an office and/or a particular person i.e. THE Minister or The Ministry.

So the problem is not 'women'; the problem is the clergy/laity system.

But please, if anyone wants to discuss 'women in ministry' further, go to the thread I referred to above -
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/180993/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/The_Role_of.aspx

Peter Carr 18/07/2011 11:28
I thought the word minister means 'servant' in any sphere of life, i.e. church, politics etc?
Editor 18/07/2011 16:44
"I thought the word minister means 'servant' in any sphere of life, i.e. church, politics etc?"

Your right, but the difference between what the word really means and what it has come to mean are two quite different things. And that is the problem.

Again a subject for another thread. See concluding paragraphs in - http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/134257/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Employee_or_servant.aspx
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