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Tain minister to leave Church of Scotland charge

The minister in Tain Parish Church of Scotland has written to his congregation to say that he can no longer continue with them in the context of both local and national issues in relation to Kirk's stance on sexuality.

 




Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. John 12:26

Tain Parish Church
Tain parish churchRev. Paul Gibson having been inducted just eight months ago into the pastoral charge of Tain Parish Church is now finding himself having to leave over the stances — both local and national – within the denomination in relation to sexuality.
Inasmuch as a minister is in effect 'self-employed' a demission – without good reasons that the Church would understand and agree with – is a de facto resignation.

This tragic situation is a reflection of the turmoil throughout the denomination since last May's General Assembly when the Church of Scotland effectively set itself upon a 'trajectory' which departs from the Word of God.

At a pastoral level no minister worthy of the name 'cuts the pastoral tie' lightly. Invariably there is much prayer, heart-searching and pain. However ministers can find themselves caught between personal conviction and professional responsibilities. Others can find that they do not have the support of a sufficient number of  those (elders and church members) around them. Still others can find that they are faced with 'legacy issues' – problems in a congregation which have 'carried over'. Very often a combination of these stresses can be at work. And that's without the very serious problem of their denomination 'jumping the tracks' of biblical orthodoxy.

Having come into the pastoral ministry very recently from a background in journalism and the business world, the Tain minister recently gave the following statement to his congregation:

Rev. Paul Gibson
Rev Paul GibsonDear friends,

It is with great sadness that I hereby announce my demission from the charge of Tain Parish Church. I have informed Ross Presbytery of this decision and I will formally leave the Church, God willing, in four weeks’ time.

I want to express my gratitude to the congregation of Tain Parish Church, as well as those within the Free Church and the APC, for the brief time of fellowship that God has allowed us to share with one another and I remain deeply thankful to those who have shared my own conviction and desire to do all things, by God’s Grace, in a manner worthy of the gospel.

However, in recent months it has become evident that, in light of both the local and denominational contexts, it is not possible for me to fully perform the role of ministry within this church with true integrity and in a manner, which I believe, is in line with biblical teaching and therefore honouring to Christ.

As you know we have had some very difficult and painful issues to grapple with in recent months, issues which have been challenging and upsetting for all concerned and which recently raised a matter of church discipline.

Whilst the bible’s teaching on this is very clear, it is sadly the case that, despite the efforts and support of some of the elders, the Kirk Session as a whole is not united in handling this matter in accordance with Scripture. This, coupled with the serious fracture of fellowship caused by the so-called “revisionist“ decisions of this year’s General Assembly, leads me to the conclusion that I no longer have the liberty and support within this context to exercise a biblically faithful ministry.

I never would have dreamt that my tenure within Tain Parish Church would be so relatively short. However, in God’s providence, we can only respond to situations that fall before us as faithfully as we are able to and it seems that the last of these for me in the current context is sadly, to depart.

I thank you for the privilege of being able to serve Christ and His gospel in this place and I pray that each one of you will know the eternal riches of His Grace, through repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ, in whose name I came and in whose name I now go

Rev. Paul Gibson

 

It will most likely be the case that there are rock-solid faithful believers in most Church of Scotland congregations; and the congregation in Tain is no exception. Pray for all those who, like Rev. Gibson,  will "having done all things, stand" (Eph 6:13).

 

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General Comment:

 

What is certain in all of this is that God is at work amongst the Church of Scotland (and other denominations beyond) in identifying those individuals and congregations prepared to live in obedience to the declared Word of God which – as everyone who holds the Bible in any regard will agree – is quite clear on what God has ordained marriage to be.

 

What is also clear is that the euphemistically termed 'broad church' – the denomination's proud boast – is seen now to be more of a 'mixed bag' of belief and unbelief; some living in obedience to God's Word with others in outright rebellion.

 

In all the upset no single 'template' has emerged regarding how individuals and/or congregations have responded, are responding and – for some – are yet to respond. The very sad situation in Tain is almost certainly not going to be the last one. However pruning, refining and purifying are all (painful) means to an end; used by God in terms of building a faithful church and preparing a spotless bride.

 

 


Christians Together, 23/11/2011

Feedback:
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Editor 04/12/2011 17:37
In actual fact (and the 'Insider' report seems to confirm it) the whole situation is no longer in the hands of any man (or group of men).

Yes, men are still trying to sort it out (from a whole variety of different - and often conflicting - positions) but what has emerged is not a structured manageable situation. In fact it is organisational chaos; an ecclesiastical Mad-hatters Tea Party.

No doubt the Devil will be accused, but it may well be the work of the Lord.
Alan Keely (Guest) 05/12/2011 00:54
Brothers in Christ, this issue has given me great concern and grief, however, I went to a free church of scotland service this morning, and I forgot all about it until I came home, lesson learned for me, spend more time elsewhere, and enjoy the Word of God.
George Orr 05/12/2011 10:11
From a new testament perspective the only church that we the believers are accountable for and have influence over is the local church. The rest is politics, let them fiddle while Rome burns. Our opportunity is local. The rest of the stuff, the mess, can distract us from our task at hand.
Fair play we should use our voice and engage where necessary, but not to the distraction of the local mission field.
Peter Carr 05/12/2011 13:23
George,

When Paul speaks about the body in 1 Cor 12, my understanding is that it goes beyond the local. The Church, local, national and international are all inter-dependant, otherwise it leads to isolation and heresy!
George Orr 05/12/2011 14:31
Peter

I agree it does go beyond the local, after all Christ will return for His bride which is international and from throughout the ages, but the local is our primary responsibility, even more primary would be our family for those not living in one.

When the question of the practises for gentile believers was brought to council in Jerusalem the response by James could not have been more succinct and concise
Acts 15
19 “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
The application of this was worked out at the local level. What a contrast with volumes laws, rules and paper produced by the denominational machines.

When Jesus gives his report card to the churches in revelation it was to local churches. There are other interpretations that also apply but these were real local churches.
Elders were appointed to have responsibility for and authority over local churches.

National and international groupings may have their place but I would suggest that this should always be subordinate to the needs of the local church. Quite the reverse of the current situation.
Alan Keely (Guest) 05/12/2011 14:37
George

There is no limits to "God's Church", it's Global, years ago we sent missionaries out to far off lands to "Make disciples" of men, thus, ensuring we were not keeping our Faith under a bushel, if that makes sense?
George Orr 05/12/2011 14:52
Alan

I have no problem with sending out, it is a 'natural' result of a healthy local church where people are listening to and responding to the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the local church in Antioch not by a national committee.
Editor 05/12/2011 15:48
For the 'local/global' question see article - 'The Primacy of the Local Church; an oft-subverted truth' (particularly the footnotes).
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/150664/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/The_Primacy_of.aspx

The article refers to local direction (leadership) and local accountability. This is the biblical model.

The problem for the C of S (and the Free Church on the subject of 'worship') is that in both of these situations the denominations have developed into a hierarchy which then imposes decisions on local congregations.

In the above-mentioned article FF Bruce is quoted with reference to denominations "The church of Antioch, for example, did not lie within the jurisdiction of the church of Jerusalem, although the mother church naturally enjoyed a special measure of prestige and respect." (The Spreading Flame p.210)
The distinguished scholar who was born in Elgin continued: 'There is no thought here of a central or metropolitan authority to which the various churches must bow.' (ibid p.110)

But in fact this what we have today; and this is the problem for those who are presently in the Church of Scotland. They are operating under the authority of a corrupt leadership.

If someone wants to know who a soldier is fighting for, and who he is answerable to they look at his uniform and cap badge.
This is how you judge which side he is on and who gives him his orders.

Local C of S congregations (ministers/elders/members) might say that they want to preserve the Truth and represent Christ locally. And that's just fine. But to do so with any integrity they need to take the 'Church of Scotland' title and logo off their notice boards.

But to do so would invite an early visit from Presbytery: the congregation could lose its building, and the minister lose his preaching licence. But there again in the early church neither of these things existed.
George Orr 05/12/2011 17:26
'Local C of S congregations (ministers/elders/members) might say that they want to preserve the Truth and represent Christ locally. And that's just fine. But to do so with any integrity they need to take the 'Church of Scotland' title and logo off their notice boards.'

If they are led to then they should, if not then don't. Otherwise we may end up chasing the idea of the perfect local church. It doesn't exist this side Jesus return. If the Holy Spirit is not given the lead it will only be religion anyway.
Are we not best to be found faithful with what we have and keep the politics in perspective?
william (Guest) 05/12/2011 18:38
"They are operating under the authority of a corrupt leadership" - "they need to take the 'Church of Scotland' title and logo off their notice boards"
WOW!
Indeed CoS has many problems, but with a range of perspectives within its GA and Assembly Committees it is unfair, at least 'not proven' to call its leadership [however that is defined within Presbyterianism]corrupt.
George makes a good response - and where is this church [local/national/global] that is preserving the truth and representing Christ?
It's not enough to say we believe and preach the gospel, or we only have the bible as our confession. Lots of churches stand on the bible, many claim/believe they are preaching the gospel.
Yet that leaves a huge spectrum into which we all fit!!
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