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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.



Footnotes:
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

Feedback:
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Dave (Guest) 21/06/2012 12:49
william "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..."

Being part of the body does not negate our individual responsibility as living stones, 1 Pet 2: 5 - 6 " you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ"

We are saved as individuals, yes we are brought into the body, but we are not zombies, and therefore we are not to be complicit with hersey, false teaching, disobedience etc!
Seumas, Tobermory (Guest) 21/06/2012 13:41
John

With respect, I attended the Tron regularly for a number of years. It is one of those evangelical churches where very few of those who attend actually live in the nearby area. The vast majority come from places like Milngavie, Bearsden and the West End. In other words, wealthy middle class types.

As for my other points, allow them to pass if you want, but the questions are still valid.

How many denominations are there in Scotland now? Denominations are political. not spiritual.
John Miller 21/06/2012 15:06
Seumas, may I ask you how long ago you attended the Tron?
Seumas, Tobermory (Guest) 21/06/2012 16:28
Last time I was at the Tron would have been about 4 years ago. Used to be in Glasgow regularly and knew a lot of people who went there. My wife was a member of the Tron at one time.

My experience of other large evangelical churches, BTW is similar. They tend ot be very middle class and affluent. In fact, I think this is a major issue for the churches. A lot of them are little more than middle class social clubs where the great the good and the worthwhile go to be told what to think. You just need to look at the registrations of the cars parked outside.

There are whole strata, generally lower socio-economic strata that are conspicuous by their absence. The very people Jesus walked among.

Its the same here - there is an evangelical church where I live - it is dominated by middle class white settlers with loads of dosh.

Also, by way f example, It has been said jokingly of Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh that if you fell ill, you would get crushed in the rush of doctors coming to help you. That isnt a sign of success IMO.

The stats bear out this middle class bias. Go to

http://www.whychurch.org.uk/welloff.php

And you'll see what I mean. In fact that site has a lot of very revealing stats on it. Maybe depressing rather than revealing would be more accurate!

B. Lever (Guest) 21/06/2012 17:53
What is the word on the street? Are there more to follow the Tron?
Editor 21/06/2012 23:05
Gilcomston South (very big Aberdeen church which has also recently completed a very costly re-furbishment) is very much in the same position as the Tron.
However, and in spite of the early cries of anguish following the 2009 Assembly, most of those who are seriously concerned have now settled into a 'wait and see' attitude in relation to the Commission that will be reporting to the 2013 Assembly.
And given the Kirk's expertise in facing two ways at once, even that could well fail (succeed) by producing a fudge.

However the sexuality issue is not the only serious matter on which the C of S is flying in the face of God (more on this soon).
Dezy the dingo from down under (Guest) 22/06/2012 09:38
My, but you Scots have gotten yourselves into a real fankle! What happened to the land of the book?
Editor 22/06/2012 16:17
We have a long history and are very experienced in 'real fankles'. See chart in -
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/138977/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Presbyterianism_Scottish_style.aspx
Dezy the dingo from down under (Guest) 22/06/2012 16:34
Thanks cobber
John Miller 23/06/2012 10:58
William, as far as my understanding of scripture is concerned, the moment I received Christ as Saviour I was immediately a member of His body here on earth. I became part of that as a living stone, an individual given the status of a son of God by adoption.

To enjoy these wonderful blessings my personal walk and personal communion with Christ is of paramount importance. Do I pursue personal holiness? Do I make room for the Spirit of God to lead, guide and take of the things of Christ and show them to me? Underlying every enjoyment of collective worship must be personal devotion to Christ.

I am sorry that you find my concept of the church of God to be limited. I can assure you that although I am set in a very small fellowship of God's people and that publicly the church universal is in a divided, ruined condition, I can see with the eyes of faith that the work of God in the hearts of His people is perfect. His purpose is eternal and unchanging. I a coming day of glory that glorious perfection that is in His purpose will be diplayed and it will be a reflection of the glory of Christ.

The work is going on in time to secure God's eternal purpose and the precious jewel of that work is the bride of Christ. He sold all that He had in order to possess it. The church is the body of Christ and comprises every blood bought, born again child of God. It is the answer to Calvary.
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