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

(page   1   2   3   4   5   6)
Watcher1 (Guest) 26/12/2011 13:32
Peter Carr
"Watcher 1, if you have a good look at what is going on in far too many of our churches (and denominations) you will soon discover the acrid smell of sulphur in what is allowed to go on unchallenged and unchecked! Sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees when it comes to how much the 'sulphur one' influences far too much of what goes on inside the true church!!"

My point exactly, Peter. No doubt the event will have been spun out in pious sounding language about unity and an opportunity to evangelise to the unchurched, etc. Does anyone actually understand what the RC church stands for any more, outside the stricter Reformed circles?
Editor 26/12/2011 16:23
Watcher1 asked: "Does anyone actually understand what the RC church stands for any more, outside the stricter Reformed circles?"

The following is a testimony of a former US Army Officer. It is written in respect of the RC church (as distinct from individuals within it).


by Earl Payne

I was born in a Catholic hospital, baptized by a priest, educated in the Roman Catholic catechism, received my first communion at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, went to confession, performed acts of penance, and became an altar boy.

Later, while in the U.S. Army, I had the opportunity to attend Bible studies at a nearby church. Although I had attended Mass and studied the catechism, I had never been taught from God's Word. Through the Scriptures, I learned to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour and received God's gift of eternal life.

As I continued to study the Bible, I discovered its teaching to be quite different from my earlier religious instruction. Following are just a few examples:

The concept of a Pope is not found anywhere in Scripture. Catholicism teaches that Peter was the first Pope, the rock on which that church is built. The Bible teaches that that Rock is Christ, as the Apostle Peter himself testified (Acts 4:8-12). (Also Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Co-rinthians 10:4). When the Lord Jesus said "...upon this rock I will build my church," He wasn't speaking of the weak and bungling Peter who would soon deny the Lord three times with oaths and swearing. He spoke of Himself, the One who never wavers. As Hebrews 13:8 declares, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever."

The Catholic Church forbids priests, nun & popes, to marry, however, Peter was married (Matthew 8:14 ), and so were other apostles. 1Timothy 4:3 condemns any religious group which forbids marriage.

The rosary is an important part of Catholicism. Over those beads millions of "Our Fathers" and "Hail Mary's" have been recited. Yet the Scripture says in Matthew 6:7, "When you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do..." Vain repetitions is an accurate de-scription of someone praying the rosary. The Lord said that "heathen" use vain repetitions when they pray, and He commanded us not to follow them.

Catholics pray to Mary and the saints, and they confess sins to their priests to seek forgiveness. However, the Bible plainly declares in1I Timothy 2:5, "...there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. " Since Christ is the only mediator between God and men, why pray, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...?" And why go to a confessional to find a mediator (a "go-between") between yourself and God?

Mary is called the "Blessed Virgin," but she did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Matthew 13:55 reads, "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is his mother called Mary? And his brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?" Mary had a large family. She was definitely not the "Blessed Virgin" after the birth of Christ.

Another fictitious element of the Catholic religion is purgatory, a place where people who missed hell but weren't good enough to get into heaven suffer until their sins are "purged," at which time they are allowed into heaven's gates. As with other points we have mentioned, one can search the Bible from cover to cover without finding a hint at such a place. What we discover repeatedly, though, is that Christ Jesus the Lord has already "purged" our sins (Hebrews 1:3). 1 John 1:7 says further, "...the blood of Jesus Christ his (God's) Son cleanseth us from all sin." According to God, purgatory is unnecessary and nonexistent.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a person goes to heaven by living a good life, being a good Catholic, going to confession and com-munion, and doing other deeds which they consider meritorious. The teaching of the Bible on this all-important subject is far different. Romans 6:23 tells us, "...the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest, any man should boast. " The Bible makes it clear in these verses and throughout its pages that heaven and eternal life are received as a gift, based on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It specifically declares that it is "not of works." Yet in the face of this, the Catholic Church, as well as many other religions and denominations, teach that a person must earn salvation.

When the Bible says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," it is talking about a person relying on Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation and trusting the Saviour to do what a Saviour is supposed to do - to save! If a person tries to live in a certain fashion to merit heaven, he is trusting in his own deeds to save him - which means he is not trusting Christ as his Saviour - which means he is not saved!

As Lord of all, the Lord Jesus Christ deserves our undivided reverence. As the Saviour of sinners, He requires us to admit our guilt and accept His all-sufficient payment for our sin. You cannot do this and believe the doctrines of Roman Catholicism at the same time, for as we have seen, the two are diametrically opposed.

Therefore, I no longer believe the teachings of Catholicism. Instead, I rely on the Word of God which shall stand forever. I am no longer a Roman Catholic. Instead, I have God's gift of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The gift of eternal life is available to everyone. But the only people who receive it are those who are willing to give up their own ideas and traditions and put their trust in the Saviour. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) This "whosoever" means me. It can mean YOU!

Don't' let anyone or anything stand between you and this precious gift. No one has a right to interfere with the reception of the gift of life, not even your church.

Choose Christ! Choose Life! And begin to live - FOREVER! For your sake and His glory.

See also: 'The Reformation: they think it's all over; it is now'.
Peter Carr 26/12/2011 16:30
"...and they confess sins to their priests to seek forgiveness."

OK, but how many evangelicals miss out on the truth of Jas 5: 16? "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
Rosemary Cameron 26/12/2011 16:35
Watcher1 asked: "Does anyone actually understand what the RC church stands for any more, outside the stricter Reformed circles?"

Probably not.

Jenny - Rev David Robertson of St Peters Free Church, Dundee welcomed the Pope as a fellow Christian when the Pope visited Scotland last year - see the article on the Papal visit elsewhere on this site. I didn't agree with David then and I don't now.

Thanks Ed for the above article from the US army officer - saves me a lot of typing!
Peter Carr 26/12/2011 18:57
" I didn't agree with David then and I don't now."

Are we suggesting that only protestants can be born again? I hope not!

Jn 3: 8 "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Jn 3: 8 "

Editor 26/12/2011 20:31
"OK, but how many evangelicals miss out on the truth of Jas 5: 16?"
The reformers made the mistake of abondoning the principle because of the practise. (Will cover this when looking at the 'two-sacrament' view taught by the WCF.)

"Are we suggesting that only protestants can be born again?"

What any church/denomination teaches needs to be addressed separately from the means of grace by which an individual may be saved.

The late Captain Stephen Anderson when asked if he believed there were born-again belivers in the Roman Catholic Church replied in the affirmative, but added: "God knows how they stay within it."
The same might be said of more than the RC Church.

Peter Carr 26/12/2011 20:48
Thanks Ed, I know a Maltese pastor (ex RC) who knows of many born again priests and nuns who stay in the RC church in obedience to The Lord's call!!
n t (Guest) 26/12/2011 21:38
[ Rome regards all protestants as apostates ]

the current RC wording, since Vatican Council 2, is that we are "separated brethern" -- quite an improvement !

[ The concept of a Pope is not found anywhere in Scripture. ]

neither is the insistence on unaccompanied Psalms only!

Hence the need for us to continue reading our Bibles to see what its text is really saying -- rather than reading the text only through the traditions of men such as the Augustine/Calvin tradition.
Rosemary Cameron 26/12/2011 22:09
David Robertson's words applied to the Pope and so do mine - don't extrapolate! The Pope believes in Mary as co-redeemer with Christ and so I do not regard him as a fellow-christian.
I've no problem with confessing sins to a fellow-believer where appropriate but the whole RC setup with priests who mediate between men and God is not scriptural.
Since when did the Lord call anyone to remain in an apostate church under false spiritual authority?
Oh, and I don't support the unaccompanied psalms-only position because I can't see the scriptural justification for it. NT is quite right in that Scripture should be our authority, not Augustine, Calvin or anything else.
Jenny 26/12/2011 22:28
Rosemary, I agree with you completely, and I'm very sorry to hear that David Robertson took that stance. It goes to show that you can't look to any human being for truth in every situation (which is just the point at issue in another form). I think there are stormy waters ahead as fewer and fewer protestants understand, as Watcher1 says, what the problem is with Rome.

".....the current RC wording, since Vatican Council 2, is that we are "separated brethern" -- quite an improvement !...."
I wonder. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, is my feeling.
(page   1   2   3   4   5   6)

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on most articles is restricted to CT site members. Comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>

Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Archive > Around the Region > Western Isles > Stornoway Watchnight Service controversy