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Tron Church quits the Church of Scotland

One of the highest-profile congregations in Scotland has quit the national church over the latter's alleged departure from the authority of God's Word.


first published 17/06/12

UPDATE 08/10/12

Tron congregation writes to Glasgow Presbytery

UPDATE 08/12/12

Court Papers served on Church during prayer meeting

Meanwhile one of the Tron leadership writes:
"Our congregation numbers have been building steadily and I was told that this morning there was only two seats left on he ground floor and the gallery full."

TronLast Monday a very prominent city-centre church in Glasgow commonly known as ‘the Tron’, took a step into the unknown when on June 11th 2012, the congregation quit the Church of Scotland.

The Rev. Dr. William Philip, minister of the 500-strong congregation of St George’s Tron Church located in the bustling shopping precinct of Buchanan Street has affirmed that this was and is no rash move. Concerning this development he has written: “Our decision to separate from the Church of Scotland is the culmination of careful thought, sincere discussion and prayer for over 12 months.”

The congregation are leaving a denomination which the former believes is separating itself from the authority of God’s word. Writing on the Tron’s website the clergyman continues:

“Last year, despite having had the clear opportunity, the General Assembly failed to reverse the stance taken in 2009 approving the appointment of ordained ministers in same-sex relationships. Instead, it clearly and deliberately chose to set an opposite trajectory towards normalising such relationships. In doing so the highest court of the Kirk has marginalised the Bible, the written Word of God. We believe the Church of Scotland is choosing to walk away from the biblical gospel, and to walk apart from the faith of the worldwide Christian Church.”

If the leadership and congregation at the Tron needed any additional reason(s) to quit the Church of Scotland, then the decision by the denomination’s General Assembly last month to allow other faith groups to hold services in Kirk buildings has provided a further prompt. (The question was brought to the floor of the most recent Assembly largely because of the actions of Rev. Scott Rennie – the Aberdeen minister at the heart of the gay clergy issue – who has given permission to Hindu groups to use the Queen’s Cross church premises for worship.)

Although media headlines have stated that the Tron’s departure represents the first local church to leave the denomination, in a de facto sense the (bulk of the) congregation of High Hilton church in Aberdeen quit the Kirk last October. On that occasion however those involved moved out of the church building.

In the case of the Tron church, the congregation most recently raised millions of pounds to cover a major refurbishment. One church member who was at the heart of the very substantial upgrade to the building has commented:

“Regardless of the risks and the fact that many members provided substantial sacrificial offerings for the development of the building as a gospel station in the city centre, the membership have put biblical priorities in first place ahead of buildings.”

In the event, the overall total expenditure was close to £3M - most of which was paid for by the membership.

Any significant Church of Scotland news would normally result in a media statement from the Kirk’s HQ, however, in this case, the denomination would seem to be downplaying the situation. It has merely, and on request, provided a ‘comment’ which states:

We can confirm that we have been informed by the Minister and Session Clerk of Glasgow St George’s Tron that they and a number of members wish to leave the Church of Scotland because of the decisions taken by the 2011 General Assembly.’
Included is a response from a Church of Scotland spokesperson:

“The Presbytery of Glasgow and the Church of Scotland General Trustees are saddened at the decision of the Minister and members of Glasgow St George’s Tron to leave the Church of Scotland. Discussions will take place with representatives of the Tron over the coming weeks to clarify the situation and determine the best way of preserving a Church of Scotland ministry presence in Glasgow city centre. No decisions have been taken about the on-going use of the building, or the outstanding financial obligations to the Church of Scotland and the General Trustees.”

The Kirk’s communiqué adds:

• The Congregation of the St George’s Tron Church have outstanding arrears on their contributions to Ministries and Mission in the Church of Scotland.
• There is also an outstanding loan made by the General Trustees to the congregation in 2007 to support a remodelling of the building.
• Glasgow Presbytery has a special commission looking at the plan for ministry in Glasgow city centre. It is due to report later this year.
• The St George’s Tron building is owned by the Church of Scotland General Trustees.
• No other congregations have indicated any intention to leave the Church of Scotland, although we are aware of a number of individuals who are unhappy with the direction they perceive the Church to be taking. Each set of circumstances is different.
• The Church of Scotland has set up a Theological Commission to examine whether persons in a civil partnership are eligible for admission for training, ordination and induction as ministers of Word and Sacrament or deacons, among other issues, and a further report will be presented to the 2013 General Assembly. It is disappointing that any Minister or members feel the need to leave the Church before the Commission reports. We stress that no final decisions have been taken, and the Church is currently holding more dialogue on this issue.

The finances of each parish church are tied to the Kirk's central funds but the present occupiers of the 17th-century site are likely to claim their investment of time and money earns a moral entitlement to ownership. Given the congregation’s desire to remain in the building it is difficult to see how the issue will be resolved without recourse to legal channels.

1. The Tron is one the best-known evangelical Church of Scotland congregations – with an impressive list of Bible-preaching luminaries serving as former ministers including Rev. Thomas Chalmers from 1815 -1819. Additionally the location at the heart of the main shopping centre in Scotland’s largest city gives the building a very prominent profile.

2. Since the General Assemblies of May 2009 and 2010 considerable upset has been experienced across the denomination over the Church of Scotland’s persistent failure to unequivocably state its position on what the Bible allows (and disallows) regarding human sexual relationships. In the wake of last year’s Assembly a meeting was held in the Tron which saw hundreds of ministers and elders from across Scotland gather to express their grave concerns. A Christians Together report was prepared following that meeting.

Subsequently a further assessment of the situation within Scotland’s national church was written up under the title ‘Harvest is past; the summer has ended’. Since that time some ministers and many members have quit the denomination. Many who remain are withholding their giving to central church funds and this action is exacerbating the serious financial situation in which the denomination finds itself.

The departure of the Tron’s minister, elders and congregation with the high-level of attendant risk regarding their recent investments in the premises, is indicative of the extent to which they place little faith in the denomination reversing its acceptance of gay clergy.
Another high-profile congregation which has also recently made a high level of investment in its building is amongst other local churches considering their future within the denomination. Reverend Dominic Smart said elders at Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen disagreed with the General Assembly's stance, feeling it had "marginalised" the Bible.

3. Concerning the Tron congregation's future the statement on its website affirms:

“We cannot depart from the historic foundations of our Church, and will not separate from communion with orthodox Christian believers globally. Consequently, we intend to realign with a church grouping which remains clearly and publicly committed to orthodox Christianity.

“Our ongoing work remains our priority. We are a diverse, growing Christian family made up of people from all walks of life, of all ages, from many nations. We are passionate about the life of our church in Glasgow City Centre, serving the city seven days a week. Our earnest desire is that we can continue our wide-ranging service to the people of Glasgow uninterrupted. To this end, although we are no longer part of the Church of Scotland, the leaders of our congregation remain in positive and constructive engagement with the denomination. Our goal is to ensure that all issues around this separation are dealt with reasonably and peaceably, and for the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

4. For a short history of the Church of Scotland and derivative presbyterian denominations from 1560 to the present day, see article 'Presbyterianism - Scottish style'.

Christians Together, 17/06/2012

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Alasdair (Guest) 14/11/2012 18:27
Roy, I respect absolutely your right to say what you say. However, these are the very kinds of comments that I was suggesting are, in the current circumstances, unhelpful. I rely on two texts "Judge not, lest you may be judged" and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." You make the rather sweeping statement that I don't have Scripture on my side. Well, let others be the judge of that. There are two sides to every question - in fact, often more than two. If you read my comments again - and see what I actually said rather than what possibly you think I said - you will see that all that I am suggesting is that the situation could still be resolved with dignity on both sides. That may be difficult but not impossible. It needs the right person or persons who could talk to and conciliate between both sides privately rather than resort to megaphone diplomacy and letters to the Glasgow Herald. It would certainly help if everybody who is involved could try to "cool it" just a little and moderate their language. It is interesting that you are using almost the same words ("outright apostacy") as were used by the evangelicals in 1843. That split, in the longer term, dealt a blow to the Kirk in Scotland for which it has never quite recovered. As I said before, we don't seem to learn, do we?
Roy (Guest) 14/11/2012 19:33
Alasdair. A verse out of context is a pretext. The 'judge not' verse is often used to silence criticism. We are obliged not to be 'judgemental' but we are absolutely called to discern truth from error. And 'Blessed are the peacemakers' was said by the same Godman as overturned the money-changers stalls and called the religious leaders a brood of vipers and whitewashed tomgbs.

Catriona - No I am not at all saying that all those in the Chrch of Scotand are apostate. But wahat I am sayingb is that they are risking serious damage to their spiritual health by staying within an apostate church.
Catriona (Guest) 15/11/2012 15:27
Oh well Praise the Lord indeed, that He was able to use Samson from His own people; the backslidden, priest honouring, idol worshiping, apostate tribe of Dan.
Alasdair (Guest) 15/11/2012 17:54
I must say that I find a lot of this feedback profoundly depressing and spirit-crushing. As I said in an earlier post, I don't want to enter into controversy but some people just seem to be spoiling for verbal point scoring and thoroughly enjoying themselves in so doing. It must be so gratifying to be "right" Enjoy your moral high ground and text jabbing. I won't bother posting again.
STEPHEN (Guest) 16/11/2012 09:39
Robert (Guest) 16/11/2012 10:33
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil:whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
1st. John 3:10.
Editor 16/11/2012 11:53
In the big picture and without 'taking sides' what I believe we are seeing is God putting a plumb-line of His righteous standards right into the middle of the church (cf Amos 7:8).

Fence-sitting is becoming increasingly difficult; and ultimately it will be each believer (at a personal and individual level) to 'choose'.

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word." (1 Kings 18:21).

In it all, false gods and idols will be exposed and and any dependency based on things other than God will fail. We are seeing this happening around us.

Humanly-speaking there will be much trouble ahead as the Lord of the church applies a steam iron to remove the wrinkles from the Bride's wedding dress "that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Eph 5:27)
Ewan (Guest) 17/11/2012 23:54
A self styled 'evangelical' who nevertheless sees sexual immorality and filth as 'relatively trivial'! I think i've heard it all now. One wonders how such 'evangelicals' deal with such portions of Scripture as Paul to the Romans or the Corinthians. It's fascinating to see these 'evangelicals' engaging in expositional gymnastics to get Scripture to say the diametrical opposite of its actual message.
As for the constant refrain that the 1843 Disruption was a disaster, schismatic, etc., the blame for that falls foursquare on the old 'moderates' not the socially aware and engaged evangelicals such as Chalmers. The subsequent decline of Scottish Presbyterianism is mainly down to a different front- the fight for the divine source, plenary inspiration and supreme authority of Holy Scripture. The Kirk, as much as the Free Kirk, revolted against the Word and the sorry, relentless downgrade has been the Biblically predictable result.
Finally as no church is indefectible and can even as I say degenerate into a synagogue of satan it is sheer 'righteousness over much' to loftily announce one need never disjoin oneself from predominant error and shameless sin. The Kirk's current 'trajectory' is as egregious as it can get. If they win this battle, who can doubt the evangelical life will be squeezed out of the Kirk, as evangelicals called to the ministry will carefully screened out. If Dr. Philip has spoken in 'apocalyptic' tones, he has good reason to sound the alarm as a faithful Gospel messenger- especially when we see the immorality being joined by tolerance of false gods and pagan religions in the Kirk! And if ever a matter could not be brushed aside as 'relatively trivial' surely that is it?!
Stephen (Guest) 18/11/2012 14:38
A set of pejorative and sweeping statements. What is missing is Christ-likeness and in particular humility. After all Christ himself did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but took upon himself the form of a servant. The rejoinder should be to let this mind be in you.
Ewan Wilson (Guest) 20/11/2012 21:58
We do well to remember with what awe inspiring zeal the Spirit of Christ filled Him when He cleansed the Temple of those who had made it 'a den of thieves'. Holiness becometh well the House of God and when it is polluted His fearful righteous indignation is an example and warning to us of the mind that is in Him and so should be in us.Blatant sin and idolatry indicate disobedient pride, not humility.
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