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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 20/06/2012 10:55
"Christ's Bride on earth, called to function as a Body, under the Headship of its Lord and Saviour."

That is indeed the biblical model. As I have written before the problem is not 'homosexuality' the problem is 'structure'. Denominations is not a biblical concept, and in fact represent the problem which Paul had to address in the early church (1 Cor.1:10-13).

And apart from the divisions which these create in the body of Christ, they have developed into - nay, have always been - a hierarchical set-up: General Assembly; (Synods); Presbyterias; Ministers; Elders; Members.

Remove one problem and the next one appears to take its place.

Of course inherent in all of this is the issue of accountability. And this too is a greatly mis-understood and wrongly-practised feature of 'standard' church practice.
Dave (Guest) 20/06/2012 12:46

From what I gather they are working together as a local expression of the church universal. We are each responsible and accountable before The Lord for obedience to Him, not manmde institutions.

If they are taking their stance biblically and honestly before The Lord, who is to argue with them? Would you rather they towed the line with the wider apostate
C Of S GA?
B. Lever (Guest) 20/06/2012 12:54
william, "The Church of Jesus Christ is not a collection of individuals pursuing their own wisdom"

Tell that to the General Assembly!
John Miller 20/06/2012 15:37
As a Christian my first responsibility is to the One that I call Lord. In Paul's second letter to Timothy (ch.2 v.19-21) he makes clear that the individual must act in separation from evil. The letter is not to a church, it is to one man.

As we find our place "outside the camp" with Christ (Heb.13:13) we will then find others with whom we can have fellowship. The position is first and foremost individual, personal attachment to Christ being the anchor. In such a position we will discover others who have "not bowed the knee to Baal and kissed him".

Every church fellowship must likewise stand on its own understanding of God's word and obey that word. There is no pattern given in the New Testament where one church should wait for another in matters pertaining to the holiness of the house of God. Paul's command to the church in Corinth was almost abrupt in its urgency to deal with the evil in its midst.

There is certainly no pattern in scripture for a central body having authority over individual churches. The only Apostolic authority that exists today is that invested in God's word. Any who claim such authority now, whatever their denomination are impostors. The church, local or universal is responsible to its Risen, Living, Ascended Head in Heaven and to Him alone.
william (Guest) 20/06/2012 17:26
I liked your final sentence,John - "The church, local or universal is responsible to its Risen, Living, Ascended Head in Heaven and to Him alone".
I think it will require a little casuistry to align it with your otherwise individualistic thinking!
God's Word indeed is our only authority; its main focus is the Church of Jesus Christ,not separated brethren!
william (Guest) 20/06/2012 17:42
Dave - I appreciate the truths you are expressing:
"they are working together as a local expression of the church universal". But they are more than that, they are part of a national manifestation of the Church of Jesus Christ, and they don't seem to be working together with their brother elders there, inasmuch as they have taken unilateral action, Yet I am sure they don't mean by that action that their brothers and sisters left within that manifestation church no longer are part of the body of Christ.
Similarly, you say "We are each responsible and accountable before The Lord for obedience to Him, not manmde institutions."
Surely we don't consider that part of the Body of Christ to which we belong, a man made institution? Remember how Paul spoke to his brothers and sisters in Christ in the Corinthian churches, and at Rome - together they formed a body, and what they did individually affected how that single body functioned. Surely that is a biblically defined responsibility which is incumbent upon all of us who are part of christ's body on earth?

Dave (Guest) 20/06/2012 17:51

My reference to a manmade institution relates to the C of S GA.
Seumas. Tobermory (Guest) 21/06/2012 09:01
Lets look at this for a minute:

A 3 million pound refurb, paid for by a membership of 500. Thats £6000 per head. Obviously the sort of poverty stricken, disposeesed and undertrodden people that Jesus walked amongst....

The CofS was being "unbiblical". The CofS started being seriously "unbiblical" when they started "ordaining" women. No mention of schism over that particular "unbiblicalness" Double standards, but then again, discriminating against gays is less of a risk than discriminating against that part of the human race who make up well over 50% of the membership of most churches

And thirdly, on a vote only 5 out of 500 wanted to remain? 1%? That beggars belief. Stornoway High Church couldnt get 80% in their "secession vote" And thats in the most conservative place in the UK. So with the Tron, they are all thoroughly well indoctrinated or its a case of "birds of a feather" - Really hate gays do you? Get yourself along to the Tron

And finally, apparently they are looking for a denomination to join, and it looks like it will be IPC. Despite the unbiblicalness of denominationalism and all the politics, power seeking and ego building that goes with it.... oh hang on....
John Miller 21/06/2012 10:14
William, thanks for your observations on the need of casuistry in my theology. You certainly had me diving for the dictionary! I love adding a new word to my vocabulary. Perhaps Fifers don't do casuistry!

Perhaps I didn't make my understanding of the Christian position very clear. In the days of the early church there would have been one easily identifiable position in any place where there were Christian believers that could be named as THE Christian church. It is not so today.

There are many gatherings of professing Christians sailing along under the flag of Christianity. If I want to find a fellowship where I am comfortable with the theology and practise as being in accordance with the word of God, I must first examine myself. I was saved as an individual and the assurance of my salvation is entirely an individual reality. Only Jesus was involved in the great transaction that freed me from the guilt of sin. The Father, of course graciously drew me to Christ and the Spirit of God convicted me of sin, but Christ alone accomplished my redemption.

I am responsible to God as far as my obedience to His word is concerned and He has given me His Spirit to help me understand it and apply it to my own life.

The Lord Jesus makes it clear in John's Gospel that the individual's relationship with the Father and the Son is the basis of his participation, first in fellowship with God and therefore with his fellow believers. Only as a child of God, bound in this divinely initiated fellowship can I be fully serviceable in Christian fellowship and witness to unbelievers.

There is no perfect church. If there was and I joined it, I would spoil it! All I can do is find a company of the people of God who share a desire to serve God in worship and witness according to the truths in His word.

To Seumas, I would say with the greatest respect, you have absolutely no idea of who contributed to the money for the alterations in the Tron. There are many in the congregation of very limited means and the widow's mite would have been joined with some of considerable wealth. You have no right to judge since you write without the benefit of knowing the facts. The worship and witness in St George's Tron church is a testimony to the Spirit of God's work in a Christian fellowship where the desire of all is to lift up Christ.

The rest of your ramblings can be allowed to pass. God bless you.
william (Guest) 21/06/2012 10:45
John, I can identify with your description of what the glorious gospel of the Triune God accomplishes for us - to read over a passage of God's word like Ephesians 1, which explicates this gospel, warms our hearts and blows our minds.
God's purpose was not to leave us on earth as God glorifying individuals. He had a still greater purpose. To form us into a body [cf His purpose revealed to Abraham to form a people for Himself through Isaac], a Bride for his Son.
It is that body of people - manifested locally throughout the world- - which forms the Church of Jesus Christ today. To be part of it is to be the most privileged people in all the earth - amidst all its flaws and failings, since as you indicate, it incorporates people like you and me.
So if your God is not too small, and I can read clearly that He is not, yetI fear your concept of the Church of His Son is!!
Paul would tell you that from every page of scripture which he wrote, would he not?
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