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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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Editor 27/11/2012 11:42
Could '(Guests)' either (a) register with the site if they wish to post regularly or if not, (b) use a name when posting. This will help others follow the various reponses.

Many thanks. Ed.
Guest letting you know! (Guest) 30/11/2012 01:01
I was converted there in 1973, under the preaching of George B. Duncan. Perhaps before you were born?!!
I am still a member. I even go to the prayer meeting.
There were times under Eric Alexander's preaching when the congregation was faced with the awareness of their sin and fled to Christ on bended knee.It was much the same in Sinclair's day.
Unfortunately these days are gone and in the past year, so has the gracious humility which should adorn God's people.
Our Saviour however remains unchanged and He sees all things.
one guest to another (Guest) 01/12/2012 00:34
I'm sorry if you felt that way. Personally joining the church as one of the 52 I was moved to tears of joy, and could easily have been on bended knee. This is the church where I've really learned what transforming grace, mercy, repentance and forgiveness mean, and have been lifted up as I lifted my eyes. I haven't followed all that's been written, just the last few posts. I am sinful, as we all are, but I've been shown much love and kindness from my brothers and sisters, who haven't judged me, but have built me up. I'm so thankful to have found a church where God's Word is preached and I learn more about Him every week. I just pray that as I deal with others, I do so with as much patience, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness as has been shown me, by my family in Christ including the church leadership, one which makes me want to be more like Christ. The spirit you spoke of has not gone. With love, your sister in Christ
One guest to another! (Guest) 03/12/2012 10:07
Praise be to God alone.
He meets us where we are and saves His people.
Even in the Indep churches and believe it or not, even in the Church of Scotland.
Much love and blessings.
stephen (Guest) 06/12/2012 08:07
I remember Mr Alexander saying, "the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart." What he meant was that humanity as a whole was unable to have any communion with God because of sin and the only answer was the gospel of Jesus Christ. All have sinned and fallen short of his glory. All and every sin disenfranches us from God's polity. Moreover we must not point out the speck in our neighbour's eye as we already have one in our own. None of us can rest in our own purity or lack of sin. This surely must be the root of our humility and the reason why we cannot wallow in pointing out the sin of others. We are all in need of the gospel.
Moreover, all true believers are one in Christ Jesus. There is no distinction - neither Jew nor Greek etc. There is no room for boasting except in Christ. Eveything else is aggrandisement and the great example of that in the Bible is the Tower of Babel - ultimately futile and resulting in chaos.

Nothing in my hands I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling
Naked come to you for dress
Helpless look to you for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly
Wash me saviour, lest I die
Alasdair (Guest) 06/12/2012 08:34
Well said, Stephen. You are a breath of fresh air on these postings. Christians Together? Hmmmm, well! Pity that some of the participants don't live up to that name. I met and spoke with Eric Alexander once or twice and to me he was a most remarkable man. He did not compromise in any way what he preached and believed. Yet he had that that Christlike quality that enabled him always to be gracious and magnanimous even to those with whom he profoundly disagreed. He was highly respected in all traditions of the church. He would never have descended to the abusive name calling and rabble rousing that some (not all, of course)"supporters" of the break-away Tron have shown on these pages. These correspondents have done nothing to forward the evangelical cause in Scotland.They have done nothing to help the people of the Tron either. In the end of the day, we are all unworthy servants. And I have the uncomfortable feeling that in the days ahead, people on all sides of this issue will be clinging to human pride rather than the Cross of Jesus.
One guest to another. (Guest) 07/12/2012 19:41
Thank you Stephen and Alasdair.

Encouraged (Guest) 07/12/2012 22:00
The above posts of 3/12 and 7/12 should read from Guest "letting you know". Getting confused because I cannot use my proper name.
Anyway thankyou Stephen and Alasdair.
Calling myself Encouraged now!

Tron Member (Guest) 08/12/2012 10:14
Last (Thursday)night just a few minutes before our mid-week prayer meeting was due to start we had a surprise and unwelcome visit from Messengers-at-Arms who came to deliver an interdict the C of S had obtained in the Court of Session against us.

This is to prevent us from taking taking any items from the church, which our own folk bought with their own money because outrageously the C of S believes that all these things belong to them even though they've not put their hand in their pocket to pay a penny towards them. It feels like not only are they taking everything off us by forcing us out of the building but are now trying to take the shirts of our backs.

It's shocking and the fact that they came to the Bath Street Halls at 7:20 to deliver a citation to four of us personally even though our home addresses are on the legal action shows it was calculated to achieve maximum effect & upset and destabilise our people. Willie [the minister - Ed.] even had to be called out of the prayer meeting to receive his papers. It was disgraceful.
Editor 08/12/2012 10:24
THE Church of Scotland has been criticised after legal papers were served on a minister at his home.

The Rev Dr William Philip and five other senior members of the St George's Tron congregation in Glasgow received similar documents to those already served to the minister at a prayer meeting this week.

They have been warned about a possible eviction from church premises and the manse after the church split from the Kirk in opposition to the ordination of gay ministers.

See also -

Rev Dr William Philip and five other senior members of the St George's Tron congregation in Glasgow were served with near identical documents to those already served to the minister at a prayer meeting earlier this week, following a blunder.

Read on...
Court papers are served at family home of minister -

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