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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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Penny Lee 29/12/2012 20:18

Now you've really lost me - I just can't figure out the actual question you're saying you've asked several times. Perhaps if you're not getting the answers you're looking for, it's because your question is so hidden in superfluous text that no-one can find it!

Or maybe it's just that there is only one answer and that's why you keep getting it from different respondents. My answers are certainly not 'stock' ones - they're the only ones I can give because they are from the Bible and that's the only place where I get my authority. Those who frequent this website will see that I give answers which affirm what I personally believe, regardless of whether or not they are 'PC', and I have occasionally come in for criticism because of it, however, I'm not interested in being either controversial or PC, I'm only interested in being honest despite whatever side of the fence my comments fall.

Perhaps if you care to ask your question once again but this time keep it simple and direct and maybe we will have a better chance of being able to respond accordingly.
Seumas. (Guest) 30/12/2012 09:27

I think this course may be needed:


stephen (Guest) 30/12/2012 10:05
I don't think that that course would be very helpful. In fact it is rather puerile.
Why is there a reluctance to discuss the bible
It was mentioned that repentence was the key. I mentioned Peter's statement at Caesaria Philipae. Still people are talking about obedience to the laws. It is the acknowledgement of who Jesus is and his saving power which is the essence of repentence. This is relevant and relates precisely to the tron's decision. Their focus is all on the laws and one in particular.
I find Seumas's video offensive, inappropriate and frankly disrespectful and sadly somewhat typical this website.
Despite repeated effort from a range of different angles there is little attempt to examine the motivations for the tron's decision and peoples own motivations in terms of supporting it. No consideration has been given to the fruits of the spirit which are evidences of spiritual life which are sadly lacking throughout. The way the church of Scotland has been portrayed is as though they are Sodom and Gomorrah and ought to be destroyed. The tron is being portrayed as the one true church in a sea of unbelief like the old testament times of the prophets. What breathtaking arrogance
The humility of Christ taking human form, justice being seasoned with mercy, the unconditional love of our Saviour are certainly not glib phrases which can be made fun of in a you-tube video. They are exactly the point. These virtues are meant to characterise the believer. They are sadly lacking here.
And I musn't forget that Shakespeare's seering prose regarding mercy was labelled contradictory. What can I say! I think people have been watching too much youtube.
Penny Lee 30/12/2012 10:46
Okay - we really did want to discuss the Bible but that wasn't clear from your previous posts. Now that I understand what you are seeking discussion on, here is my opinion (for what it's worth):

The Tron has been well known over many years for being one of the more evangelical parishes of the CofS and appear to have tried to hold to Biblical principles. They are now in a position where the CofS has moved the goalposts on one particular issue and this has made them feel that they cannot remain part of the church. They are not alone in this - there are other parishes who feel the same and are considering their position. Now, some (maybe quite a few) within the CofS feel they have no issue with homosexuality but many others accept it is directly forbidden in the Bible and therefore cannot accept it. Whilst the CofS remained impartial on the issue, perhaps these people felt they could continue to be part of the CofS so long as their parish was not directly affected by it. For others, the fact that the CofS condoned it at all was enough for them to leave. Now that the CofS is likely to accept homosexual clergy, this will be the point where others feel they have no option but to leave the church. The Tron had obviously reached that point.

In what way do you feel the Tron has behaved badly? Is it the fact that they have left at all, or is it the way they left and, if so, what do you feel was wrong in how they did it?

I don't know what went on behind the scenes between the CofS and Tron members and we only have the ugly media reports to go on but I can't see how it could ever have been amicable due to the very nature of the dispute. It is very unfortunate that the matter of buildings comes into it as they are a distraction and may well influence some of the decisions made.

I am greatly saddened that the CofS has decided to keep people happy rather than God and they seem to be making it all up as they go along. The Bible never changes and so why have they changed their understanding of the subject of homosexuality? Do they not have confidence in the very Book upon which their faith is based? It seems not.

We seem to be looking for perfection from flawed human beings. Perhaps there are things which could have been done better but would we have been better at managing this situation if we had been part of it? I wouldn't like to say that about myself.
ADHERENT in his sorrow. (Guest) 30/12/2012 13:25
There is a false representation made that the leadership and flock of the Tron are homophobic prima facie an attempt to obscure Bible-based teaching that the practice , not the temptation to homosexuality and that love and mercy will overlook public sin. God hates sin, as He the Creator made man and woman differently and to the street people and their addictions, the poor and needy of society, some lonely through their personality disorders in fact giving to show mercy to all those who called in, a cogent witness to God's beneficent mercy
BUT resiling from the appalling satanic conduct of a minister, living with another man in a Church of Scotland manse and assuming to preach to others.
God's holy law is violated. I doubt, very much, if this is the end of the matter, possibly the beginning of the end and in time we shall see God bare His Holy Arm in his purposes and in defence of sanctification in His Church. The minister and his flock were building and still must build the KINGDOM OF GOD, not an EMPIRE as crudely judged by myopic critics. ARISE OH LORD.
visitor to this site. (Guest) 30/12/2012 14:39
REV Rennie in his lifestyle and indeed those who support his aberration have caused a cataclysmic breach in Church cohesion.

Will the C of S follow apostolic guidance in Romans 16 v 17 and concur with the Tron Church in its loyalty to Gods' word? AVOID THOSE DRIVING DIVISION AMONG CHRISTIANS not too strong even for these days of laissez-faire?
To look past the clamour for same gender marriage is to see a subtle suggestion that homosexual practice and co-habitation can even be legitimised.....WE ARE MARRIED NOW.
No indeed, an affront to God's holy order for centuries proven as a blessing in heterosexual monogamy. God is not mocked.
Avril Eliis (Guest) 31/12/2012 00:15
I am so saddened to hear and read the controversy surrounding the Tron departure from the Church of Scotland. I was raised in the North East of Scotland and was taught that Jesus loves everyone. Obviously the homophobic members at Tron are selective in who they love and I say good riddance to them. Walking the Christian path is at times very difficult but to openly condem homosexuality and same sex unions is just as bad as Hitler gassing six million Jews just because he didn't like them. Shame on all pathetic Tron members who dare to call themselves Christians. I have visited Tron many times before and after the restoration to pray for my very sick child in Yorkhill hospital never knowing I was baring my soul to uncaring hypocrites. Love The Lord give me a break.
RESPONDING GUEST. (Guest) 31/12/2012 10:23
A correction to Avril Eliis.

The Tron believers, let it be said with clarity, are not outside of God's creatorial order in their concern over the corruption of homosexual PRACTICE which is condemned throughout the words of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and in love for that God and His predilections and commandments from the outset we who profess love for God must speak out. HOW DO YOU READ, HOW DO YOU READ?
To compare protesting Christians acting in good conscience with Hitlerite oppression is absurd, devilish in very deed. The Lord bless and keep your sick child with His mercy and prayerful concern.
Covenanter 1 (Guest) 31/12/2012 10:58
Totally disagree with Avril Eliis statement about the Tron members being homophobic and to claim that this is just as bad as Hitler's gassing of the Jews is pure and utter nonsense! The Tron are standing by the infallible Word of God.
Penny Lee 31/12/2012 14:10

Just because you cannot agree with any particular practice (especially if it is condemned in the Bible) does not make you hateful and this is a nasty attack on people who happen to have a different view from others. If that were the case, then we would all hate drug addicts, prostitutes and various other groups in society who indulge in activities which we cannot accept as being in line with God's will.

Do you disagree with the taking of heroine? Then, by your own logic, you must also hate those people who do. Ridiculous, isn't it? I had to tell my children off on occasions for stealing. The Bible clearly says stealing is wrong so I had to tell them so. It didn't mean I hated my children - quite the opposite!

This whole situation is not about homosexuality - it is about individual Christians within the congregation staying true to God's Word - that is the meaning of being a Christian. God's Word never changes and we can't change it to suit public opinion at any given point.

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