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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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ADG (Guest) 19/12/2012 13:07
Jon Boy. There is currently no evidence that "the former Tron church were transferring money and putting it into a Trust Fund". What we do know is that they established an independent charitable trust in 2001 (Epaphras Trust) to carry on gospel outreach in Glasgow and elsewhere. The income of Epaphras Trust can be viewed at the OSCR website. The impression I get from the OSCR returns for Epaphras and the Tron is that from 2010 onwards individual members of the Tron congregation have chosen to give more of their freewill offerings to Epaphras Trust and less to the Tron(CoS)Trust. They were perfectly free to do so if they believed their gifts would be used more effectively for gospel outreach through Epaphras Trust rather than the Tron Trust, and I see no breach of charity law in that course of action. However, it might be a different matter if monies which were freely given to the Tron Trust were subsequently transferred to Epaphras Trust. In that case I can understand that the CoS might feel aggrieved and would expect some reimbursement.
It would seem to be in the interests of the former Tron congregation to have the allegation of improper financial conduct independently investigated as soon as possible, in order to clear their name.
ADG (Guest) 19/12/2012 20:02
Jon Boy, I don't agree "The Tron" is a brand name of St George's Tron Church. What about The Tron Theatre(the original Tron Church), The Tron Bar, Trongate, Tron St Mary's Church etc? "Tron" is a well known Glasgow name to which no-one has exclusive rights. The Tron Church(Bath Street)and St George's Tron Parish Church are easily differentiated.
Editor 20/12/2012 10:22

[Ed.note: The following message has been sent to all Church of Scotland presbyteries/congregations.]

I am pleased to say that a Presbytery of Glasgow Carol Service will be held in St George’s Tron Church of Scotland, Buchanan Street on Sunday 23rd December at 3pm. The guest preacher will be Rt Rev Albert Bogle, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I would appreciate it if you could publicise this service as widely as possible.

I know that many people throughout the country have been thinking and praying for the continuing ministry at St George’s Tron, and we see this as a positive step forward. There may well be people in your area who would want to come and support this service. I attach various posters/flyers should you wish to use these.


Very Rev Bill Hewitt
Clerk protem To The Presbytery of Glasgow

Guest (Guest) 22/12/2012 16:22
My wife and I were passing this church earlier today. There was a lady standing outside near an exit who looked as if she had something to do with the church. When I asked her she told me she is one of the new congregation.

I asked the lady if she was really happy about buggery ( sometimes people like to forget that this the dictionary word). She was a bit shocked I think after all its not a question one would expect out of the blue but she indicated somewhat cautiously that she did not agree with it
But I said to her the C of S approves of buggery and as she was thinking about that a man whom I think is a minister and probably her husband came out of the building and I simply asked him if buggery is sin. Now it was my turn to be shocked because...wait for it... He said it is sin. The Church of Scotland approves of it and here an officer of the church calls it sin. The previous congregation were evicted because they think it is sin.

Few organisations can prosper with contradictions. In the secular world I have heard consultants stress that organisations should be a bit like a stick of Blackpool Rock I.e. no matter where the stick is broken the word going through the stick is always the same. Consistency they would claim is vital for authority, moral authority. As has been reported suing christians in public courts ,approving of male ministers lying with other men are they not serious breaches of consistency in a Church if it upholds the bible.?
We are assured that God will not be mocked and also that He calls on all men everywhere to repentance

Seumas, Tobermory (Guest) 22/12/2012 19:11
Quote: "I asked the lady if she was really happy about buggery"

I've heard some cracking chat up lines in my time, but that reveals a boldness that is quite astonishing. Quite the silver tongued cavalier arent you? :-)

Derek (Guest) 24/12/2012 11:39
Being what is termed a conservative evangelical I am often saddened by the pride our persuasion convey in the name of “correct doctrine”. Routinely we witness a critical spirit, offhand and ill conceived statements being advanced under the guise of our zealousness for what we deem right. This of course becomes more prevalent when we end up preoccupied and consumed by the “major sins” of others whilst at the same time quickly and conveniently losing sight of the “respectable sins” in our own hearts and lives which we ignore, often tolerate, and refuse to deal with. If we confronted these things first like our own feelings of moral superiority and self righteousness, surly we would be much better witnesses of the “truth” and treat others a bit better!
Alasdair (Guest) 24/12/2012 13:07
Derek - you are a breath of fresh air. Thank you! I too am saddened by the self-righteousness shown by some people. To me it is a zeal but it is not inspired. The "C of S approves of b*ggery" "The previous congregation were evicted because they think it is sin." These statements are simplistic, misleading and grossly unfair. Forgive me, but is this not the season of goodwill? Maybe I've got that wrong too and someone will quote an obscure text to say that it is not!

JOHN IN DEEP CONCERN (Guest) 26/12/2012 13:52
It does seem as though the Church of Scotland is under scrutiny. Will it continue in allowing sinful, perverse and ungodly practice by its ministers or advise taking up the cross of temptation and following Christ the Creator? God searches and judges His Church. It seems as though Satan has not taken HIS SEAT IN THE Church but has been invited in by compromising leaders. LORD HAVE MERCY. Thank God for the Roman Catholic stance in this issue of misplaced affections.
Duncan (Guest) 26/12/2012 19:31
On 12 Dec 2012 the CoS restated publicly its opposition to same sex marriage with the following comment.."Unless our General Assembly decides otherwise, we cannot support the Government's proposals on celebrating civil partnerships or same sex marriage". The statement makes absolutely no reference to the clear teaching of scripture on the subject of marriage. So the CoS view on marriage apparently depends on the whim of a future vote in General Assembly. If this is not a departure from the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, I don't know what is.
stephen (Guest) 27/12/2012 17:10
"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppethas the gentle dew from heaven.....Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown. His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, the attribute to awe and majesty, wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings. But mercy is above this sceptred sway, it is enthroned in the heart of kings. It is an attribute to God himself: and earthly power doth then show likest God's when mercy seasons justice. Therefore...though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation."
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