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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 03/01/2013 09:25
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.
Captain John S. COLMAN (Guest) 05/01/2013 12:50
On another site the Rev R. Ferguson's article calls for a cogent riposte. He clearly defies his Creator by supporting same-gender intimacies , the law of Moses, the ruin of Sodom and apostolic directives on heterosexual monogamy, nothing less. Buggery is offensive, by far to most people of faith or of no faith, but with a conviction that 'a loving committed same gender coupling' omits love for God and His predilections and directives.

To accomodate that sin in a Church minister is a devilish compromise teling us where the Bible 'got it wrong.' Rev Ferguson's, comment as to where evangelicals might disappear is foul if not underscoring the offensive nature of his article at least in so far as it concerns human love as in contrast with same gender lust.How do you read the Word RF?Do you believe that God is accepting of practice not of His own creatorial goodness? Never can it be that the God of holiness has pleasure in seeing His creation vandalised.
PmD (Guest) 13/01/2013 12:22
On Wed. last at 1:30,I stood at St Georges Tron to see a closed door behind 2 closed black IRON gates----Same on Sat. at 2pm-----Sad day I thought,Satan would have a smile,cos The Gospel was being hid in this great city center.
Wistful (Guest) 13/01/2013 15:38

Thankfully the Tron is not the be all and end all of God's Kingdom, and we can be sure that The Gospel is being faithfully proclaimed in other churches of other denominations (on non) in Glasgow and elsewhere!
Pmd (Guest) 13/01/2013 20:33
I would not doubt your word that Our LORD JESUS does have HIS witness for "The Whosoever". I remember the multitude of Mission Halls in this great city,and many continue to Preach THE WORD, as others do faithfully.
John Miller 14/01/2013 10:23
My wife cand I were in Glasgow on Friday and passed St Georges Tron twice. The doors, once opened to welcome visitors were closed. The poster advertising a Christmas Carol service and sermon by Moderator Bogle was still displayed, a sad testament to the departure of the congregation whose care for such detail is now no more. The official sign at the front door still announces that the Minister is The Rev. William Philip.

I could not help but reflect on David's lament, "Tell it not in Gath..."

The deliberate action of 121 George Street, acting through the Glasgow Presbytery has silenced one part of the testimony of Jesus and the preaching of His Gospel.

Is this pleasing to our God?

Wistful (Guest) 14/01/2013 19:59
JM said, "The deliberate action of 121 George Street, acting through the Glasgow Presbytery has silenced one part of the testimony of Jesus and the preaching of His Gospel.

Is this pleasing to our God?"

Luke 3:7-8 (NIV)

"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham”

John Miller 15/01/2013 11:04
I believe that all those who have had a part actively, by acquiescence or simply by remaining silent in removing this vibrant testimony to God's grace from such an iconic place of worship, have set themselves up in opposition to that grace.

I do not believe that any particular building in itself has an intrinsic spiritual significance. Such an idea belongs to Judaism. Nevertheless a place where large numbers of Christians meet regularly for worship and the public proclamation of God's offer of salvation in Jesus Christ stands as a powerful witness to Biblical truth.

Conspiracy in the removal of that testimony is f the devil. All those who hold membership in the Church of Scotland should be examining their consciences as to whether they have stood by the Cross in this dispute.

It is one thing to pray about it, and that is good and proper, but the fact is that if I am in a fellowship that is identified with evil, I cannot absolve myself of responsibility.
Ewan Wilson (Guest) 15/01/2013 23:38
I cannot but concur with John Miller's sentiments. However until the general Assembly we must bear with Church of Scotland Reformed/evangelical brethren, who though deploring what has happened to the Tron nevertheless feel duty bound to 'hang in' until the final step is taken in May at the General Assembly. If it's a fudge or a downright embracing of the current 'trajectory' then of course they will be obliged, Biblically, to have no further fellowship and withdraw themselves. If they do NOT do so, then, as Mr Miller says, they will share in the same condemnation as the proponents of perversion.
I am not clear if the only service held in St George's Tron since the eviction has been the Carol service, still signposted by the increasingly tattered looking posters cellotaped to the old side boards, but it certainly would appear to be so. Behind the iron gates, there's accumulated a little pile of litter and what looks like post. During the 'real' Tron's tenure such neglect'd have been unthinkable.
It is also ridiculous that the transparent glass signs, announcing the minister's name has not been removed as npw misleading.Really, the lethargy and liberalism in the Church of Scotland that has engineered and allowed such a situation is a pathetic witness.
John Miller 16/01/2013 10:39
Ewan, my wife and I observed the sad outward state of St Georges Tron, indicating the abandonment of any inward activity, on a recent visit to Glasgow. The passer by will remark that this is just another church closure, another indication of the irrelevance of Christianity in the modern world.

May those who conspired together in this sinful act against the Name of Christ and His church repent and may God forgive them!
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