Current News 

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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william (Guest) 23/06/2012 12:41
John, I am not suggesting your description of the Church of Jesus Christ is limited, or in any way that the fellowship to which you belong is less than significant.
The point at issue is that the Church is more than just an abstract, non localised entity to which we belong, from the moment of our being in Christ. The New Testament Church is almost exclusively conceived of, spoken of, described as a local, physical, concrete body. It is this living organism, functioning on the earth today, which we evangelicals have failed to take due account of. Our doctrine of the church does not shape our thinking or our witness. Hence the plethora of para church bodies which evangelicals spawn and give themselves to in order to be salt and light in the earth. More, such thinking allows the 'Tron' folks to think that they are not bound to their brothers and sisters in Christ in all the local manifestations of that Body, of which they were part, into which they were bound [cf Romans, 1 corinthians] until just a few days ago ; they give themselves the luxury of separating themselves from those to whom they are eternally bound in Christ. But they don't think they are wounding the Body; the Body for them is an abstract, unfeeling entity.
Are we communicating with each other's thinking yet??
John Miller 24/06/2012 09:55
William, I am enjoying our discussion and I am certain that you and I are not far apart in our thinking. I will come back to you in detail but since this is Lord's Day my time is limited. You have raised interesting issues and they deserve some thought.

Seumas, you evidently feel that the "wealthy middle classes" are somewhat less worthy of divine grace and that their worship and witness is of less value to God than that of poor people. Let me ask you this, where are the poor people today in Scotland? Why are they, if they exist not found among the Christian fellowships where the name of Jesus is lifted up? Are they represented although you seem to deny it?

Could you be confusing poverty with profligacy? Might you be confusing affluence with a modicum of fiscal responsibility? Do you think that the church is only for the poor and that God looks with a touch of disfavour upon those who have been careful and prudent in their affairs. Perhaps I am completely misjudging you, but judging by your comments their is a certain disparagement of people who have a bob or two "put by".
Tom Watson (Guest) 24/06/2012 17:13
William, (I am not sure whether you are in Scotland or fully acquaint with the scene) but the Tron folks are not separating themselves from the body of Christ: they are separating themselves from a denomination which is increasing rejecting the authority of God's word. They are leaving a religious organisation, they are not leaving a relational network of believers.

As far as giving themselves "the luxury of separating" I don't think they would see it as a 'luxury' to contemplate the prospect of departing the building which has been home to them and in which they have invested much time and money. (The issue of attachment to buildings is an issue, but that is not the point here.)

As far as 'wounding the body' is concerned what is 'wounded' is the integrity of the Christian adherence to God's word - and wounded not by Bible-faithful people, but by the Church of Scotland's actions.
One Way (Guest) 24/06/2012 17:16
It is always sad when we see such public fallouts, and also a timely reminder as to why the Gospel Halls, Salvation Army and others came out of the established church!

History has a habit of repeating itself, and it would seem that Christian history is no different.
Dave (Guest) 24/06/2012 17:19
Yes Tom, spot on. (Thumbs up).
william (Guest) 24/06/2012 20:33
Tom, I think your response illustrates what I am trying to describe as the typical evangelical understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ - when you say " the Tron folks are not separating themselves from the body of Christ: they are separating themselves from a denomination"
Dave (Guest) 24/06/2012 21:01
Interesting william, 'cause I thought that I had said something very similar earlier;

"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?"

So, what is wrong with the 'typical evangelical understanding...'?

william (Guest) 24/06/2012 21:54
I'm sure you did, Dave
When you ask - "If they are taking their stance biblically and honestly before The Lord, who is to argue with them?"
I think the answer is - the whole of New Testament revelation !!
Dave (Guest) 25/06/2012 13:15
william said, "I think the answer is - the whole of New Testament revelation !!"

I asked, "So, what is wrong with the 'typical evangelical understanding...'?"


John Miller 25/06/2012 16:52
William I am finding difficulty in understanding your recent pronouncements. The Tron congregation have acted because they feel that despite many true believers making their position clear in wanting to abide by the teaching of God's word the main body of those who have the power to influence the direction of the C. of S. have clearly departed from the its authority.

If an individual or a group of individuals take a stand against evil, and the C. of S. has clearly embraced evil by setting aside the truth of God's word, unless there is repentance and the putting right of what has been said and done that is wrong, those who separate are not causing rouble or wounding the body of Christ. They are doing what scripture commands.

How can you say the "whole of New Testament revelation" is contrary to that? What is your understanding of "the whole of New Testament revelation"?
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