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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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Duncan (Guest) 31/12/2012 14:41
Avril, Can I suggest you spend 2013 reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John carefully and prayerfully. There you will find a Jesus who hates sin but loves the sinner. He gave his life for us and is ready to forgive, but never condones sinful practices. Remember his words to a woman caught in adultery.. "Neither do I condemn you. Go now and LEAVE YOUR LIFE OF SIN". These words apply to us all in different ways.
In my experience the Tron has faithfully preached and practised the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles over the last 50 years and more. I am sure they will continue to do so.

stephen (Guest) 31/12/2012 17:19
Your example is a very aposite one and I appreciate the balance in your remarks.
This is where Jesus said that he who has no sin should cast the first stone. He also refused to condemn the woman as she had not been found guilty.
The woman answered him "yes Lord" and it may be that here she was acknowledging who Jesus was.
Jesus made the distinction by not condemning here or finding her guilty but nevertheless acknowledging her sin and telling her to repent.
Repentence here follows acknowledgement of Christ's Lordship. This is the consistent message throughout the New Testament. And it applies to all and every sin.
Notice also the respect that Jesus maintained for the woman in the way he addressed her. This is in distinction with the way the Pharasee's brought her to him.
There is a real sense in which Jesus attitude to the woman is being contrasted with the Pharasee's response.
Duncan, you are very wise in positing this as a very relevant example of the issue in question.
Isa 9: 2 (Guest) 31/12/2012 22:18
Happy new year! And hey lighten up, God's Kingdom has, is, and will be established :)
Ewan Wilson (Guest) 31/12/2012 23:23
Penny Lee's response to Avril Ellis' shrill rant cannot really be bettered either for its logic or veracity. However Avril's emotional outburst amply demonstrates the ignorance- and dangerous ignorance at that, comparing condemnation of sin to gassing Jews- faithful Christians will have to face on this matter.
As for Christ and the woman taken in adultery, the reason Christ lets her go is that according to Mosaic Law there needed to be witnesses and His whole handling of the matter made any potential accuser quail at pointing the finger. It is intriguing that John records He wrote on the ground. One wonders just what it was He was setting forth - material that could implicate in incriminating behaviour?
The inescapable point in all the Gospels is that Christ condemned sin. He never condoned it. Who are the self righteous of today? The Tron Christians who also seek to warn off sin and so incur the Establishment's wrath? Or those who refuse to see sin as sin but self righteously ( by their own ethical standards) castigate those who call to repentance as 'homophobes' and hypocrites. Little wonder the Kirk is cracking apart as the two antithetical stances emerge as incompatible at last. If we don't live by Scripture we shall die by man's 'wisdom'. Momentous judgements await His Church this coming year. The Lord will arise and scatter His enemies.
Stephen (Guest) 01/01/2013 13:17
A W Pink writes that by writing with his finger in the sand Christ was echoing the way in which the ten commandments were given to moses. In so doing he was saying that he came to fulfil the law. Here was the great lawgiver and the word of God giving God's interpretation of the law. We have to listen. These are God's words on the subject.
You could also do worse than read Bishop Ryle. His expository thoughts on the gospels have been recommended by many.
stephen (Guest) 01/01/2013 13:41
Ryle quotes Poole - "Our Lord does not merely say, "Commit adultery no more, but sin no more". No partial repentence or sorrow for any particular sin will suffice a penitent that hopes for mercy from God, but a leaving off all sin, what kind soever it is."
Alasdair (Guest) 02/01/2013 09:57
We are into a new year. May I suggest that this drawn-out correspondence is now getting past its sell-by date? Some fair, valid and interesting points have been made on all sides. But there has also been more than enough ranting, raving, mud-slinging and sanctimonious clap-trap. There comes a time to draw a line and move on.

I don’t know, but I suspect that most of the breakaway Tron congregation have already moved on. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent – and maybe the latter time has come. The breakaway Tron will continue as a viable fellowship and will, no doubt, feel more comfortable out of the C of S. The C of S will move forward in its wish to re-establish an evangelical congregation in Buchannan Street. Is it not possible to accept that this is now the position and to commend ALL parties to God’s guidance, blessing and mercy? At the end of the day we are all unworthy servants and there won’t be separate churches in Heaven.

stephen (Guest) 02/01/2013 10:16
The pharasees left the woman stayed. Christ knelt down and dealt with her despite her issue. He didn't label her apostate or strike her down with his holy arm.
The pharasees plotted to get their own way but she recognised who Jesus was and listened to him. And Jesus used her as an example recorded for ever in the Bible.
Samuel said speak Lord for thy servant heareth and God used him.
That serial adulterer David who not only took Bathsheba but sent her husband to certain death in the front line was used by God once he was a broken man so conscious of his sin. He no longer pursued his own agenda but was used by God to win battles. His psalms are sung to this day to the exclusion of everything else by some. Christ was born into his family.
Sanctimonious clap trap? Do we draw a line under it? That is up to the individual. Are we going to say with Samuel, speak Lord for thy servant heareth.
Thine be the glory
risen conquering son
endless is the victory
thou over death hast won

No more we doubt thee
Glorious Prince of Light
Life is nought without thee
Aid us in our strife
Editor 02/01/2013 13:11
Alasdair said: "We are into a new year. May I suggest that this drawn-out correspondence is now getting past its sell-by date?" I think that he is right.

I am currently working on a short review of the year past (which of course cannot be done without including all that is going on in the C of S). The problems around situation regarding the Tron are much wider, more comprehensive and - on one issue at least - more serious than the matter of sexuality.

Meanwhile (while I get the review finished) the following - written in 2011 - captures some of it.
Ewan W. Wilson (Guest) 02/01/2013 23:25
Of course it would suit many to 'move on' and fall silent on the underlying issues that have driven the Tron from the bosom of the Kirk. However , 'sanctimonious claptrap' or not, we must stand for Truth, through good report and ill report.
If the Church of scotland do manage to reestablish a viable congregation at St George's Tron, whatever else it may aspire to be, manifestly it will not be the 'evangelicalism' that animates the ejected Tron.
It must also be said that praying for the Church of scotland to continue on its present, self appointed 'trajectory' is to pray for blatant sin. Our prayer can only be for their profound humiliation and repentance or for solemn judgement on them. They have approved of heinous, aggravated transgression of God's Law and severely disrupted a faithful witness in so doing. Let's be clear- if they don't repent of this they will become an engine of national moral, spiritual contamination and God will ultimately make their ears to tingle. As a nation we must be striving to do all in our power to avert this madness.
I did say that the excellent Penny's response could scarcely be bettered but of course, Holy scripture alone provides an infallible answer.
On the believer's relationship to the Law under the New Covenant, I would direct you to Hebrews Chap 8 v 8-10, especially :
'..I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts..'
Anti-nomianism is the mark of the unbeliever.
As for reproof of sin as springing from loving solicitude, not from hatred, I am reminded of St Paul's words to the Thessalonians: ( 1 Thes 2 v 3-11 ) and to the Corithians ( 1 Cor 4 v 14 '..but I warn you.' ) and 2 Cor 13 v 2 ...'I will not spare.'

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