Brief details are on the BBC website here
Soli Deo Gloria
For clarity, the Rev Alistair May is not a contact person for the Church of Scotland Evangelical Network.
A number of readers have asked how they might make contact with the leaders of the Church of Scotland Evangelical Network (its working name for the moment) and find out how they can link with it, or just learn a bit more about it.
I am not involved in the new Network but noticed a little additional information about it on the Anglican Mainstream website, including a contact telephone number or two.
For those who wish to find out more, then, you should go to the link here
Soli Deo Gloria
Here is a statement issuing from a gathering of Church of Scotland Evangelicals
that took place in Letham St Mark’s Church, Perth, yesterday, 14th June 2013:
Many evangelicals within the Church of Scotland are deeply concerned about the current crisis over the ordination and induction of those in same-sex civil partnerships. Some have left the Kirk and others are considering doing so.
Today in Perth there was a large gathering of 350 evangelicals from the Church of Scotland (ministers, elders and members). The result of this was the formation of a network of evangelicals who have made the clear decision to remain in the Church of Scotland and to work for its reformation and renewal. We believe that the Church of Scotland remains an important vehicle for reaching the whole population of Scotland with the Gospel and, despite recent decisions, believe that God is still at work among us. We also believe that we can remain with integrity.
We urge others to join with us and to remain in the Church of Scotland, as we seek to restore and rebuild our Church. Our vision for this network of evangelicals within the Kirk will be developed over the next few months.
On behalf of the Church of Scotland Evangelical Network
Soli Deo Gloria
The Church of Scotland has insisted it is “not in crisis” despite two further congregations indicating they may leave – and one minister quitting – over the controversial issue of allowing gay clergy.
Go here to see the rest of what The Scotsman has to say.
Those who know that there is a crisis will be astonished that our Church should think that the effects of the General Assembly’s recent decision about the Report of the Theological Commission are minimal. Even setting to one side for a moment the reports of congregations leaving or getting ready to leave the denomination, there is a deep spiritual crisis about which the Church seems utterly oblivious. Any Church that can decide to permit its ministers and bible teachers to fail to affirm, by their lifestyle, the biblical pattern for human love and intimacy is in a crisis of colossal proportions. Any Church that permits its spiritual leaders to exhibit a lifestyle which the bible describes as a threat to participation in the kingdom of Christ is in a crisis. Any Church that says we affirm God’s will to be heterosexual marriage for life, but grants freedom to Kirk Sessions to reject God’s will, in the very same breath, is in a crisis of theology, authority, morality, spirituality and sanity.
The Church’s spokesperson has said, rather unconvincingly:
While we would be saddened by the departure of any of our ministers and members, the Church is not in crisis.
The Church is most certainly in a crisis, and many will be wondering at the extent to which those at the Church offices in Edinburgh are simply out of touch with the intensely sore feelings felt in many congregations and manses up and down the land. In those places, notice to leave has not been sounded, yet, but the feelings of anger and disappointment with the Church are nevertheless widespread and real.
Our Church needs to speak humbly and carefully on this matter. Many ministers and congregations are barely holding on. A good number of ministers are seeing their members leave and their congregational income start to drop. Careless language bordering on the triumphalistic will take everyone closer to the edge:
The present situation is nothing like the historical event in 1843, known as the Disruption, when a third of ministers – nearly 500 – left. Presbyteries are now holding conversations with fewer than ten of our 1400 congregations.
I have said so before and I will say it again – the Church should not underestimate the effect on its mission and finances of the loss of those who have not left the Kirk institutionally but who have left it emotionally. They are still in, but they don’t belong to it any more. The effects of that will start to be felt soon enough.
The evidence of the Church’s collective denial of the true state of affairs is seen here:
The vast majority of Church of Scotland ministers and members are committed to the Church and willing to work out, over the next couple of years, how we live with difference.
The Assembly’s ‘top table’ sounded that happy note at the end of Monday 20th June. We are united, they said. How wrong they were. Many of those who voted for the compromising counter motion did so with a sense of horror at the position in which they had been placed. They were faced with a choice of two awful motions, neither of which honoured God and both of which rejected his will for human intimacy and Christian discipleship. It is in that light that the eventual vote should be seen. It was a muddled moment leading to a disastrous decision, and many of the evangelicals who voted for the compromise now regret it bitterly and repent of it wholeheartedly.
It may look as though most in the Church are committed to living with difference, but evangelicals will surely not be content to live with difference in any way that grants moral equivalence between the Christian trajectory and the revisionist trajectory. The reality is that many – it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say all – are only barely committed to the Church, because they feel that the Church is no longer committed to the Lord, who speaks to the Church through inspired and infallible scriptures, and not through the ever-changing decisions of General Assemblies.
If the Church of Scotland is increasingly going to become the Temple of Dagon we will see nothing but further conflict and division for those who stay in its ranks, no matter how hard anyone works to ensure that we can all live with difference. In the end, Christians cannot live with sin, and we will no doubt soon see how this plays out in the real issues and day-to-day life of Presbyteries and committees.
The Presbytery of Lewis has cut across the spin merchants by saying:
The Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lewis states its total opposition to the selection, training and ordination for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and the Diaconate of those in same-sex Civil Partnerships.
That should be the position of all who follow Christ in the Kirk. If so, we might see evangelical Presbytery Clerks refusing to administer the ordination or induction of ministers in civil partnerships. If so, we might see evangelical Presbytery Moderators refusing to ordain or induct ministers in civil partnerships. If so, we might see evangelical assessors of candidates for the ministry refusing to assess applicants for the ministry who declare themselves to be in civil partnerships. If so, we might see evangelical ministers and elders declining the invitation to come to the Lord’s Table in Presbytery or General Assembly alongside ministers, deacons and others in civil partnerships. How can it be otherwise? The Table of the Lord becomes the Table of Man. If so, we might see evangelicals declining to serve on Presbytery or General Assembly Committees alongside ministers and others in civil partnerships. If so, we might see evangelical congregations declaring themselves to be out of fellowship with congregations that call ministers in civil partnerships. If so, we might see evangelical congregations seeking permission to be released from Presbyteries that ordain and induct ministers and others in civil partnerships, in order to join Presbyteries that will not.
The list could go on and the implications are considerable.
The Church’s spokesperson said:
The work of the Church of Scotland – preaching the Good News and caring for the vulnerable the length and breadth of the country – continues unabated.
Soli Deo Gloria
Forward Together has published a statement in response to the decision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2013 with regard to the Report of the Theological Commission. You can find it here
The statement does not pull is punches. It calls the middle-ground motion that eventually appealed to the General Assembly a ‘compromising’ one. It says that it was a last minute effort intended to ‘win votes from both sides of the debate,’ and asks if the emotive attempt to achieve unity and protect the institutional coherence of the Church of Scotland managed to ‘bring unity to the church on the issue?’ Forward Together is of the view that it did not.
Here is the crux of the matter. Is the Church in a better and more united place today than it was before close of play on Monday 20th May? The answer is surely no. Forward Together argues in its statement that it had worked hard and long to secure a united, evangelical stance towards the General Assembly. The subsequent fast ball has not in the opinion of Forward Together, done anything good for Church of Scotland unity. Forward Together says:
The reality is that the General Assembly decision has not only divided the church, internally, but evangelicals within the church and begun to harm our relationships ecumenically.
Division amongst evangelicals has resulted, and the harm to our relationships with believers in other world Churches and denominations is also likely to become apparent.
Forward Together has a job now on its hands. The evangelical body within the Church of Scotland is now disunited, sadly. True, it has not been a coherent whole for some time, if ever. There have always been evangelical groups within the Church of Scotland, some of which have silently existed under the radar, as it were. But Forward Together now speaks to the Church of Scotland along with a newer group whose members are likely to be warmer towards the compromising standpoint than followers of Forward Together are.
The question that Forward Together has to ask itself is this, who are we now trying to carry forward, together? What is our distinctive role, now that other evangelicals within the Church of Scotland see the present and the future in a very different light?
Forward Together still has a job to do with regard to the General Assemblies of 2014 and 2015. The legislation has yet to be written, presented and debated. The case for rejecting the legislation has to be offered. There may be some chance, however slim, that the present trajectory will not be continued. It can be argued, however, that the present, bible-departing trajectory is not new at all, and that it has been in existence for more than forty years.
What is the basis, in that respect, for thinking that the present trajectory will come to an end soon, if ever?
For those evangelicals who supported counter-motion 2d on Monday 20th May, what evidence is there that any hoped-for renewal and reformation, with its roots entirely in scriptural faithfulness and not affected by ecclesiastical pragmatism, will see the light of day in the Kirk given the repeated desire of General Assemblies to adopt the revisionist slippery slope?
Forward Together asks ‘how will we move forward together?’ One answer is that it should move forward with as many or as few as share its aims and goals. If it believes that it has heard the mind of Christ it should, like Stephen, stand or fall with the truth on its lips. It should avoid playing politics. That is not God’s way. If there is any victory, whatever that might look like, the victory is His alone. This is something about which evangelicals have been in disagreement. It is a mistake to think that we are in the business of ‘winning’ back the denomination. That is simply presumptuous. The Lord may have finally tired of the denomination. None of us knows the truth about it. The future of the Church of Scotland is known only to the Lord.
The calling of those who know Christ and His way is to live the truth, speak the truth, and stand or fall because of the truth – not to set biblical convictions to one side in order to secure a measure of peace and unity.
Witnessing, not winning, is the Christian way.
Of course, the peace and the unity of the Church of Scotland is one of the ordination aims and vows of its ministers. Greater than that, though, is our desire to see the Church of Jesus Christ grow in this land. Forward Together should try its hardest to improve the health and defend the doctrine of the Church of Scotland. There is no doubt about that, but it has a wider role to play.
It should draw together its constituents and discuss with them how best to plant new churches and create new ministries across Scotland. It should not try to facilitate leaving the denomination. Many if not most of those who are warm to the aims of Forward Together are just not in a position to lead congregations into secession, nor do they see the need to do so or feel such a call from the Lord.
But such supporters as Forward Together has would wholeheartedly be inspired to work towards the growth of new churches, in new places, with new shapes and structures.
Forward Together is ideally placed, because of its doctrinal robustness, to partner with other Presbyterian and evangelical denominations and churches in Scotland to work together in a nationwide initiative to establish new congregations, to have a vision that was beyond denominationalism and to act as though denominationalism was yesterday’s methodology.
There are, for instance, ministry-training organizations in Scotland, some of which are internationally linked, that could help to train a new generation of church leaders, pastors and ministers, preachers for this work, church workers who are Kingdom not denomination-focused. Cornhill Scotland is one such. The Free Church College in Edinburgh, itself seeking new direction and identity, might be an ideal place for the ministerial training of those who might spearhead this new church-planting and evangelistic work.
The new congregations, once planted and established, would have no need to become Church of Scotland congregations or, indeed, congregations of any denomination, if they do not wish to be so or feel led by the Spirit to do so. The future is a much more liberated one, free of the denominational straitjackets that have led to the complex and all-consuming fractures within a number of our denominations in recent years.
This is one way in which, to quote Forward Together, we ‘will honour God in our nation and exalt Jesus in our Church, and encourage fruitful evangelism’.
Forward Together is heading for tough evangelical competition if its sole aim remains to unite Kirk evangelicals around the business of rescuing the Church of Scotland. There is another group that is also now trying to do that, and none of us knows if we are walking in step with the Spirit if that is the path down which we are intent on heading.
But if Forward Together had a wider aim, and a bigger vision, that of building the Church of Jesus Christ in this land, then it has a doctrinal track record that is commendable to our potential partners, and a consistent stance towards the General Assembly that is admirable. These two things make it a natural ally for those others of like mind who wish to build the Church in Scotland.
There is a bigger and more exciting vision ahead of Forward Together if it can see it and resist the narrow agenda of merely fighting the endless intra-denominational conflicts that blight us in the Kirk. There are, I hope, other Churches who would welcome this sort of vision and who have already heard something like it from the Lord.
Which way will Forward Together go?