Stornoway Watchnight Service controversy

An ecumenical Watchnight service which is due for screening over Christmas has produced hard evidence that the world is shaking.


Watchnight Service1The Earth is moving

If there is any hard evidence to support the view that the world has shifted on its axis, one might be inclined to explore the impact of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

However the tectonic plate-shifting of greatest magnitude is not around the geological fault-lines of the Pacific rim but rather in the Western Isles off the north-west coast of Scotland. In terms of  'climate change', it is not just the polar caps that seem to be disappearing – the thaw is showing signs of melting frozen relationships in the spiritual domain.

To touch briefly on the religious dimension of life in those Hebridean parts, it is very interesting to observe the ecclesiastical diversity which can be found across and within the small communities which are otherwise bound up in a common culture and (the Gaelic) language.

Travelling from the northern tip of Lewis to the southern isle of Barra exposes the traveller, in a relatively short distance, to a cameo of the historical 16th-century split between the Scottish reformers and the 'apostate' Church of Rome. (In fact Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Roman Catholic Pretender, made his escape to France in 1746 via a small island at the southern end of the archipelago: whereas the last signifcant Protestant revivals in the UK took place in the northernmost island of Lewis in the 1950s.)

To go for a walk on 'the Sabbath' in the presbyterian parishes verges on the unforgiveable sin whereas in the south, any Roman Catholic priest that is fit enough would be encouraged to join the local team at the Sunday football match – after the church service of course.

Daily life and relationships in the communities was and is as much governed by the daily routines and demands of crofting, fishing and (nowadays) tourism, as whether one's membership is of this church or that; or of the pub. [See earlier article for a fuller explanation of life in the Hebrides.]

In the pre-internet days the fashions, fads and trends of the rest of the world took a long time to wash up on the Atlantic shores of the Hebridean island chain. But not so now. The cultural 'transit time' from mainland/maintream to island life has been much reduced; and the erstwhile inhibitors to societal change are a shadow of their former selves. A manifestation of these changes has been the relatively-recent introduction of Sunday sailings across the Minch.

A Watchnight tremor

But to whatever degree change – even religious change – has moved on apace, the most recent, and quite spectacular manifestation of a profound shift in the prevailing attitudes has been the filming of an 'ecumentical Gaelic Watchnight Service' with ministers from both the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland taking part along with a Roman Catholic priest. And reporting in the provincial media has sensationalised the event further.
In expressing its concern, the Free Church (Continuing) has likened the coming together of the aforementioned Protestant churches with the Church of Rome as a form of communing with a representative of the Anti-Christ.

Now while the secular media might stand accused of stoking up controversy in order to sell copy, there is valid justification for reporting on the conflict.

Presbyterian churches in Scotland and around the world subscribe to a 'subordinate standard' – a document entitled the Westminster Confession of Faith. The WCF states:

"There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.' (Ch.25/5).

So for a Reformed church of any stripe to share in a service with the arch enemy of God is no trivial matter. In relation to the WCF it is a classic case of being 'hoist by ones own petard'.

And it is in this context that the Free Church (Continuing) which split away from the Free Church of Scotland in 2000 has now written to the latter taking their mother denomination to task regarding the Free Church's participation.

Bridge across the divide

Hands across the divideIt may be of course that the entente cordiale between the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches will dissipate once the season of goodwill is over; but a rapprochement of this nature, in this particular part of the world, ranks high on whichever scale of measure one chooses to employ.

The invitation to the churches in the area stated:
"The service is ecumenical. Rev. James MacIver (Free Church) will lead the service, with readings and prayers from Rev. Angus Morrison (Church of Scotland) and Father Roddy Johnston (Roman Catholic Church).

Soloists Mary Smith, Donnie Murdo Macleod and Isobel Ann Martin are accompanied by local musicians performing a medley of Christmas classics. Pupils from Laxdale Primary School, the Nicolson Institute, Back Gaelic Choir, and the Martin's Memorial congregation will join together to sing favourite Gaelic carols."

The Gaelic Watchnight Service is due to be broadcast on BBC Alba on Christmas Eve at 11.00pm and repeated on Christmas Day. The programme – entitled 'Noillage à Steòrnabhagh' (Christmas from Stornoway) – was recorded in Martin's Memorial Church of Scotland in Stornoway on 3 December 2011, and can also be listened to on Radio nan Gàidheal.

Watchnight Service

Christians Together, 22/12/2011

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Penny Lee 28/12/2011 19:20
Sometimes it's the pastors who are the ones leading others astray! (Not speaking personally here!).
Peter Carr (Guest) 28/12/2011 20:44
Sometimes, but not always. There are usually also 2 sides to every story, but to often it comes down to God's word versus the worlds ways!
Martin Lisemore 31/12/2011 16:40
This discussion has moved on somewhat.

If we accept we are now in the end times, in terms of Jesus' discourse in Matthew 24, then there are visible and inevitable consequences, some of which are in the Letters to the Seven Churches. If we do not accept that, then we're in an even bigger mess!

In my understanding, Jesus' words in Revelation 2:4, You have forsaken your first love, underpins so much of what we see as church these days. If He has a place at all, it's below the minister and other egos vying for attention. It's a top of the table against the bottom of the table. That's a generalisation, although I do have places in mind as I write.

My heart goes out to ministers and pastors who are battling with an invasion of the world into their flock. Yet, in reading those same Letters this morning, I don't understand a note of hope in the voice of the Risen Christ, just a warning, and a promise if that warning is heeded and a dire consequence if it's not.

If we Christians forget our first love, then the world in the Church is a natural consequence; it's inevitable. The scramble to increase numbers, to be more visible in the community; to be acceptable to more sections of the community, to be all inclusive and to have others think we're just like them, but go to church on Sundays. That's another generalisation, but it is in evidence within a few miles of my home.

Penny, your point about homosexuality is good and valid. Thank you. The issue shouldn't arise, let alone get such prominence. Yet just two years ago I attended several Quaker meetings at one of which were two visitors, co-habiting homosexual vicars from Essex. During the silence they were blowing kisses at each other across the room and indicating things with rather untoward gestures. The Church of England employs this pair to lead people to a Christ they don't know, to pastor a flock which which eventually be more in their image and than that of Christ. So the C of E has taken a position on homosexuality, just not made the detail public. At least in Scotland the whole matter is being aired publicly.

It is we Christians, the possessors of the Word, the Rhema and the Logos, who have allowed the world to flood the Body. We've opened our spiritual floodgates and just let it happen. John Lennon's words, anything goes, man, were prophetic. Somebody else said, if it feels good, do it! The first became an ethic, and the second now an obligation to remain socially acceptable and included.

But these do underpin much of our nation today.

I'm not entirely guiltless in the opening of the floodgates. But I have long since repented.

Peter, God's Word versus the world's ways. Oh yes, letting go of the primary Biblical truths of our God and His Son is at the root of all this. In my lifetime the Bible has been re-translated quite a few times, and primary doctrines diluted. An exercise was completed a few years ago, and the Good News Bible was found to be the worst offender. Actually, the Catholic Jerusalem Bible is as near accurate as anything. Even the AV was tainted by King James desire not to offend the Bishops of the realm by correctly translating a Greek work to overseer, preferring to leave them with their Roman designation, Bishop.

None the less, eternal truths have been marginalised in favour of convenient lies.

This has been a deliberate and systematic undermining of the truths our God has given us. The consequences are with us daily. Perhaps those Letters are more poignant and more easily understood by the few today than at any time in the Christian era.

Men and women who have turned vast chunks of the world to Christ, or recalled them to our Lord, or have been Godly local ministers and pastors have all stood on the Word of God. Their thoughts, words, and actions have been in agreement with the Word. As such they were infused, even owned by, the Word and the Holy Spirit. They were, and others still are, Jesus people. No regression there.

Now that is clear cut.

iMac (Guest) 04/01/2012 20:45
Need we say any more about the ecumenical service held in Stornoway! Shame on the Protestant Churches for ever doing this in the first place.

Pope declares Protestants churches not true churches; Protestant ordinations (including Episcopal orders) are not proper
A local (Guest) 05/01/2012 16:50
isn't that in essence what so many protestants say about the Catholic church - indeed they go so far as to say the pope is the antichrist.
AnneDroid 10/01/2012 11:47
Re the discussion about the Pope, David Robertson, and Mary as co-redemptrix, etc... fascinating. In prison chaplaincy I work with a RC priest so these are live issues to me.

My understanding, Rosemary (26/12/11 at 22.09) and others, was that it was the current pope's predecessor, John Paul II who was more minded to have Mary declared co-redeemer with Christ.

My understanding of what caused David Robertson to make the comments he made about recognising the current pope as a brother in Christ was his having read Benedict's book on Jesus. I haven't read it myself so have no opinion one way or another but think it worth recording that this was what led to David Robertson's words.

I liked the list quoted by the Editor from the military guy who had been brought up Roman Catholic. It reflects for me just some of the many things about Roman Catholic doctrine which quite frankly I find outrageous and opposed to Scripture.

However, before I am too quick to pronounce with smug superiority that all born-again people within the RC church should have left long ago, I must remember that I have not been the subject of their particular variety of indoctrination and so it's too easy for me to judge.

I have a number of friends who left the Roman Catholic church on or soon after their conversion, but I have others who very clearly love the Lord at least as much or more than I do and who have not left.

I also know plenty of people who call themselves Protestants and plenty of people who call themselves Roman Catholics who don't seem to be in a living relationship with the Lord at all.

Actually I think that God doesn't give a stuff about what denomination we belong to, if our hearts aren't full of love for Him and for our fellow human beings.
John Parker (Guest) 10/01/2012 17:16
Anne you are indeed right that there are many within Christian denominations who "don't seem to be in a living relationship with the Lord at all". And I would also agree that there are born again people to be found in different denominations.

However when you say that God is concerned "about what denomination we belong to, if our hearts aren't full of love for Him and for our fellow human beings" maybe that is a step too far?" There are many who become born-again within the RC church and come out of it. There may be some who travel in the opposite direction; but I think that there will not be many.

And I can't think that there will be many new converts who are rushing to join the Church of Scotland and other denominations that are falling away from the authority of God's word.
AnneDroid 11/01/2012 12:07
John, on reflection you're right - that's a step too far and of course God cares about everything about us anyway. Like you I doubt that many new converts would move towards the RC church. My thoughts were around what it must be like to have grown up being intensely taught heresy and how it probably isn't as easy as we may imagine to just throw it all off. As regards the CofS, if their attention is on the national situation I also "can't think that there will be many new converts who are rushing to join the Church of Scotland". On the ground though, for someone who comes to faith through a good local evangelical CofS ministry, there are still plenty coming in. I see this in the church I'm a member of - the vast majority of our attendees, in a large working-class parish, look to the local and are pretty well oblivious to the national, denominational, picture. The time may well come (and it may be in the next year or two) when such sheltering of them is no longer possible but meantime people are coming to faith and people are growing in their faith, pretty well unhindered by the shameful goings on.
Rosemary Cameron 11/01/2012 15:33
Having done some more research recently I have found that Pope Benedict XVI is indeed currently resisting a movement to declare Mary as co-redemptrix, although some who wish that to happen think that he is moving in their direction.

In considering whether or not the Pope is a fellow-christian once has to look at everything, not just one book he has written (and I am aware that that was behind David Robertson's statement) or one aspect of his teaching.

In general I think it is unwise for any christian to stay in any church which preaches another gospel, whatever that might be, although I can understand the difficulties faced by those who decide to leave, especially the church they were brought up in.
John Parker (Guest) 12/01/2012 09:13
"The time may well come (and it may be in the next year or two) when such sheltering of them is no longer possible but meantime people are coming to faith and people are growing in their faith, pretty well unhindered by the shameful goings on."

The Lord is indeed capable of working in all situations; and no denomination is perfect. However, when a denominational - officially and at leadership level - abandon Scripture then it is surely time to move out from under that corrupt authority.

"In general I think it is unwise for any christian to stay in any church which preaches another gospel, whatever that might be, although I can understand the difficulties faced by those who decide to leave, especially the church they were brought up in."

And this is where the 'winnowing' is taking place.
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