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Senior minister takes the Kirk to task on sexuality issue

Rev. David Randall a senior (retired) Church of Scotland minister who spoke at the General Assembly in May in defence of the traditional view on marriage and sexuality exposes the present confusion in a letter to Church members.

Ed preface: The following letter is not a 'quick read' but it has been published in its entirety as it raises very important questions on a very serious issue. Ultimately the authority of God's Word is at stake. The 'pull quotes' have been drawn from the text and inserted as important summary points.

The letter has been published on this website as a pastoral response to all Bible-believers – in the Church of Scotland and beyond – who are understandably highly troubled and perplexed by the decision of the General Assembly; and not least by the fact that the successful motion was proposed by an evangelical minister.

A letter
by Rev. David Randall
June 2013

A letter to members of the Church of Scotland who feel downcast/angry/disappointed/puzzled/frustrated/betrayed because of the recent General Assembly

David Randall

Dear Friends,

As one who was at the recent General Assembly, I share all the above feelings and I would express sympathies with brothers and sisters who feel such emotions at this time and who are seeking God's guidance about what to do.

I have been associated with the Church of Scotland for my whole life up till now (68 years), and I am immensely saddened by the turn that events have taken. Like you, I would never in earlier days have contemplated such a dire situation with our church decisively turning away from the teaching of the Bible that we love and seek to follow.

"His word will outlast all who attack it and seek to undermine it"
However, God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8) and His word will outlast all who attack it and seek to undermine it (Isaiah 40:8). He is still the Lord God Almighty and, in and behind all that is happening, He is working out His purposes. The Psalm which says, "My times are in your hands", also says, "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord" (Psalm 31:15 & 24). It is surely important that, as we wait upon Him, we avoid all bitterness or animosity towards those with whom we profoundly disagree, while at the same time being unafraid to state our case boldly and straightforwardly.

The following are reflections on some of the questions raised by the Assembly's decision to "Affirm the Church's historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality; nonetheless permit those Kirk Sessions who wish to depart from that doctrine and practice to do so".

Question 1: In what way is this decision a compromise?

Various people have spoken as if it is a solution to keep people together. The decision, however, is patently self-contradictory. In defiance of basic logic it puts two opposites in to the same sentence. To put it plainly: if we are to hold to the "Church's historic and current doctrine", how can we allow the ordination of practising homosexuals – and if we allow the ordination of practising homosexuals, how can it be said that we are holding to the Church historic and current doctrine?

"This is a clear decision to embrace revisionism"
Far from compromising between revisionism and traditionalism, this is a clear decision to embrace revisionism (the so-called mixed economy). It's like an argument about a colour scheme – where some wanted blue and some green, so they compromised and settled on green! Some compromise! It would be like the SNP asserting its default position in favour of independence but allowing members to campaign for the Better Together movement if that was their preference, or the government re-asserting the law that vehicles should not exceed 30 mph in built-up areas but adding that people who feel differently should be allowed to follow their own consciences.

Sadly, evangelicals have been made a fool of – bad grammar but sad reality. That the motion should have been moved and seconded by traditionalists is an extreme irony.

Question 2: Why have we embraced congregationalism?

"...individual congregations can go their own way"
It is ironic that a former Moderator should move, and the new Moderator and Principal Clerk later speak in favour of, a move which is so blatantly unPresbyterian. It is congregationalism when individual congregations can go their own way. And one may doubt whether congregations who wish to defy "the Church's historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to" other matters would be told to just go ahead! One would expect the officials of the General Assembly of a Presbyterian denomination to support Presbyterianism!

Question 3: Where does authority lie in the church?

"Is decision-making to be controlled by the Word of God ..or .. by our own wisdom?"
This is the most important question of all. Is decision-making in the church to be controlled by the Word of God in Scripture, as has been believed through the ages – or is it to be controlled by our own wisdom, by contemporary mores or by social pressure? The Church of Scotland professes belief in the Scriptures as its rule of faith and life but it has now, through its General Assembly, turned its back on Scripture. The question was asked as to whether the Theological Commission found anything in the Bible that might legitimise homosexual practice, and the answer was given that all
(revisionists as well as traditionalists) agreed that wherever the Bible mentions homosexual practice it is to proscribe it.

"The seriousness ... is that the Bible has been cast aside"
The Assembly was challenged on the issue of whether it would stand by such plain and consistent Scriptural teaching or go with the flow of social pressures. It was pointed out that the underlying issue was the question of where authority lies in the church. The seriousness of our situation now is that the Bible has been cast aside. After the manner of Genesis 3, doubting God's Word has been followed by denial of God's Word, and denial of God's Word has been followed by defiance of God's Word. It is often asserted that liberals have often acted in defiance of Scripture and yet evangelicals have 'accepted' this, but our situation now is that the church as a whole
(not any individual) has made a deliberate decision to turn its back on the Bible. The issue of the ordination of women is often raised, but that also is a different matter, because that case is at least arguable from Scripture. Now, however, we have a case of the church specifically and with open eyes deciding to act against the teaching of the Bible.

Question 4: ARE there 'more important issues' for the church?

"It is the revisionists who have been driving the whole issue for a long time"
Some people are saying that there are more important issues for the church today. In one sense, we may sympathise with this assertion, but the obvious response is that it is not the so-called traditionalists who keep harping on about this issue; it is the revisionists who have been driving the whole issue for a long time – regardless of any consequences for the peace and unity of the church. But the other response to the bland assertion that there are more important issues is the reminder that what is at stake here is the church's attitude to Scripture.

Homosexual practice is the presenting issue, but behind that is the issue of the authority of Scripture and, that being so, how can it be said that there are more important issues to take up our attention? There are few more important issues than the authority of the written Word which centres in the living Word who became flesh for our salvation. We also hear sometimes the mantra that the things that unite us all are greater than the things that divide us. This may sound good, but it is simply untrue.

If we are divided on the question of Scriptural authority, then we are seriously divided. All of us (traditionalists and revisionists) agree that so-called homophobia is a sin. Rejection of Scripture is also a sin. There may be occasions when people have to simply accept that they have been on the losing side of a debate, but when the issue is as significant as the authority of Scripture, it is a different matter.

Question 5: From where is the next generation of ministers to come?

"One wonders how...pulpits are going to be filled in years to come?"
We were informed at the Assembly, with surprising candour, that the stream of candidates from evangelical congregations has practically dried up. Does anyone think that this decision will change that! The tiny influx of candidates is likely to become tinier and one wonders how the Assembly thinks its pulpits are going to be filled in years to come. (The reference to candidates from the evangelical wing of the Church also raises the issue of whether evangelicals are willing to be simply tolerated as a wing of the Church.)

Question 6: From where is the church's money to come?

"The present financial crisis can only be greatly worsened..."
Are evangelical congregations, and evangelical people in mixed congregations, to be expected to happily send money, some of which may be supporting active homosexuality in the manses of our country? The present financial crisis can only be greatly worsened by this decision. The Assembly was warned that a revisionist decision would result in the loss of members, ministers and money – yet walked in to this decision open-eyed.

Question 7: How are Kirk Sessions to act?

"This is an obvious  recipe for division and controversy"
Apparently the proposal is that when a vacancy occurs a Kirk Session will have to decide whether it is revisionist or traditionalist! They will be forced to discuss issues that ought not to be on a Session agenda at all, and, far from being a recipe for the unity of the church, this is an obvious recipe for division and controversy. Few Kirk Sessions would be unanimous in their views on the matter, so there would have to be a vote.

This would itself be divisive, and would the disaffected minority be expected to simply keel over and accept the decision? In particular, would traditionalists who believe that such a decision would be a decision to approve of something which is wrong in God's eyes be expected to go on as if nothing had happened? This cobbled-together and un-thought-out motion (or was it?) is of no practical help to anyone. The revisionist position is also cruel to people who are homosexually inclined but seek to live a celibate life pleasing to God.

Question 8: What is to happen when 'traditionalists' are targeted?

"Congregations and ministers will find themselves targets of activists and then legal action"
It is almost certain that congregations and ministers who decide against the acceptance of practising homosexuals will find themselves the targets of activists and then of legal action. The Assembly has walked into this situation, without any regard for the widely held recognition that any assurances of protection by government sources are meaningless.

In answer to a question, it was said that the church would always indemnify any minister or elder against whom action was taken, but that does not address the emotional and personal costs, nor does it face the possibility that it will, at some future time, be the Church itself that will be putting pressure on people (as in the case of the legislation on the ordination of women, which was meant to be permissive legislation).

Question 9: Are evangelicals going to play along with this trajectory?

"In reality the game was up in May 2009"
The Assembly decision plays for time. It is claimed that nothing could happen before May 2015. In the meantime, however, there will continue the steady drip-drip effect in church and society, and it is frankly fanciful to expect any reversal of the present trajectory. In reality the game was up in May 2009; 2011 confirmed the downward direction and 2013 has given greater solidity to that trajectory.

Evangelical voices in 2013 were few and far between, and some traditionalists played into the hands of the revisionists; the proposer of the motion which passed even spoke of needing more time to 'catch up' with the advanced thinkers (and these advanced thinkers should look with patience on us weaker brothers)!

"How long will [evangelicals] consent to be made fools of?"
Some evangelicals advocate staying in to win back the Church of Scotland. This may be a laudable aim, but is it a realistic one? It has been tried for a long time, and doesn't there come a time for realism, a time to conclude that God has other plans? It may be asked: when will evangelicals take No for an answer? In reality liberals have many evangelicals exactly where they want them - protesting and making much noise but always rolling over and accepting liberal decisions. How many tellings do they need and for how long will they consent to be made fools of?

What next?

"In these difficult times may we know the grace and guidance of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"
People are considering different options, and we need to respect one another even when we come to different conclusions.

Some individuals may simply withdraw their membership from the Church of Scotland and go elsewhere (which will leave the remaining congregations poorer in all ways, including finance; they may simply be unable to meet their allocation to central funds). Some ministers will be left in charges where the bulk of the membership wants to sit tight, and they will be faced with the difficult decision as to whether they should demit and seek a sphere of ministry elsewhere.

In some cases congregations may be able to move together in leaving the Church of Scotland and inviting their minister to be the minister of a new congregation. This could involve finding other premises for the worship and other activities of the congregation, and alternative accommodation for the manse family. It would all require considerable financial commitment from faithful members (although obviously there would no longer be the demand for whatever sums are presently sent to the offices of the Church).

Others may consider a formal declaration of intent – that, if the Assembly of 2014 continues on the present trajectory and, instead of turning back, sends the matter down to Presbyteries under the Barrier Act, at that point they will secede. In these difficult times may we know the grace and guidance of "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
David J Randall

Ed footnote: The following articles summarise the situations surrounding and immediately following on from the General Assembly decisions in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
The Church of Scotland: 1560 - 2009
Harvest is Past; the Summer has ended (which carries a comprehensive list of related articles)

David J. Randall, 03/06/2013

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John Miller 18/06/2013 08:57
Jack if you review other threads on this forum you will discover the Guset(guest) is pursuing a specific agenda.
jack thomson (Guest) 18/06/2013 09:16
John - good morning from the Cowal penisula....
If I might prevail on you and ask that you save me the bother of trawling back through previous threads by revealing what, in your opinion, is Guest's specific agenda....
Editor 18/06/2013 09:17
Admin note: Because the majority of these threads are 'open' the facility can be abused by anonymous posters. Some of these have specific agendas as John points out (and the homosexual issue is certainly one of them). Others are merely looking to stir up contention and/or engage in mind games and intellectual jousting.

One of the 'tests' (which Jack has identified) is to 'examine the spirit' behind the remarks being made. Is it a Christian spirit or not? And of course we know that all who say they are 'Christian' do not know the Lord.
jack thomson (Guest) 18/06/2013 09:34
Quote: Others are merely looking to stir up contention and/or engage in mind games and intellectual jousting.
I understand but...
Just as arm wrestlers need arms, I would have thought that intellectual jousters needed intellects - yes/no?
John Miller 18/06/2013 09:35
It is no secret. He believes that God's word permits and gives licence to those who call themselves Christian to engage in the practice of homosexuality. All his posts as far as I can discern have the underlying purpose of promoting such a theory.

I am confident that I am factually correct in this.

My belief is that the practice and allowance of homosexuality within the Christian church is expressly forbidden by scripture. I recognise that the world has a diametrically opposed view on the matter but while I believe that the practice is evil I also believe that we are not called to judge those without the church of God who indulge in such a lifestyle.

Paul says, "Those without God judges." There is a responsibility on every local church to have a judgement of evil and separate from it. This may mean withdrawing from an individual as Paul envisages in his first letter to Corinth or a company of Christians in unity of belief in God's word separating themselves from the allowance of evil within a church or denomination.

Greetings to you and your fellow believers on the Cowal peninsula!
jack thomson (Guest) 18/06/2013 11:03
Hi John,
As a christian, saved by Grace, I cannot critically judge anyone - but I can impartially judge sin as being sin.
The problem which the natural man has in clinging to his natural (sinful) propensities is that he himself is completely enslaved by them. Sin rules him - and but for the divine and gracious intervention of God there is no escape from its suffocating and life denying influence - NONE !
As Paul states in Romans 7 - we are either a slave to Sin - or a slave to God - there is no middle ground.
IMHO those who promote homosexuality as a 'Christian' lifestyle choice do not know - and are not known by the God who they profess to worship - and what's worse is that those who condemn homosexuality as a Christian lifestyle aren't necessarily known by God either...because the natural man can appear as 'godly' as the next - Having a form of Godliness but denying its power - as Paul puts it.

Editor 18/06/2013 12:48
"Just as arm wrestlers need arms, I would have thought that intellectual jousters needed intellects - yes/no?"

Jack, sorry if I have not communicated well.
I have no problems with 'intellects: these are vital to any grown up discussion/debate. However there have been some who merely engage for the sake of intellectual stimulation rather than to honestly debate an important point. We see warnings against this (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:23; Titus 3:9).
Seumas. Tobermory (Guest) 18/06/2013 13:19
That scripture reference Titus 3:9 is interesting:

"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless."

Could someone explain it in a bit more detail, because it sounds a bit ambiguous. Let me explain: Does the word "foolish" only refer to the arguments bit , or does it apply to the genealogies, arguments and quarrels?

Also, to avoid "arguments and quarrels" about the law. Does that mean that the Law should never be debated, under any circumstances?

Or is it a case of , the Law is patently obvious , there is no need to debate it?

This is actually germane to the whole debate in the church right now. OT law in particular is often hotly debated.

Not being contentious, just genuinely interested...
Editor 18/06/2013 16:18
I would be inclined to think that the adjective 'foolish' is confined to 'controversies'. And 'quarrels about the law' as it relates to those described in Titus 1:10-16 (particulary vs. 14) and also 1 Tim. 1:3-8 (esp. v4).

However,on the subject of 'the law' it's even more complicated when we read (according to a Messianic teacher Mark Ensign who also practices as a barrister who has written):
"The most significant result of these [legalistic] developments on the "Law" of the Torah was the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word Torah into Greek as nomos meaning law and not didaskalia.
Didaskalia means teaching, instruction, education, doctrine, what is taught. It means precisely what the Hebrew word Torah really means.

This mis-translation of Torah into Greek as nomos set the stage for the church fathers' full-fledged proclamation of the Torah as "the Law."

'Torah' is to do with godly instruction; 'nomos' relates to legalistic strictures and is used to underpin the Theonomic/Christian Reconstructionist position which negates grace and is wrongly applied as an antidote to antinomianism. (Of course the latter is also unbiblical,as believers in Christ are under Christ, in God by the Holy Spirit who puts the 'Torah' in our hearts Jer 31:33).

If there is a genuine interest in further opening up the question of 'law' then perhaps we can do that on another thread?
(In the Drilling Down series 'Theonomy' is the next on the agenda -
Seumas. Tobermory (Guest) 18/06/2013 16:48
Thanks for that input, Editor! Didnt know a lot of that and it certainly throws a different light on the matter.

Interesting that one one word, carelessly translated can cause a lot of misunderstanding.

Thats enough for now, to answer your last question. It'll be interesting to see an analysis of theonomy when the article comes up. Thanks again.

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