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Fellowship of Confessing Churches

 
National and international support is flooding in for a new grouping of evangelicals taking a stand for a biblical faith within the Church of Scotland.


 Fellowship of Confessing Churc

Growth in Signatories from 29 April (launch) to 23 May 2009
There was a total of 12555 signatories at the time the list closed – including 471 Church of Scotland ministers and 33 Kirk Sessions (Sessions only meet every month or two months or less frequently).
The number of signatories was still increasing – at the rate of around 250 signatures per day.

FOCM Cumulative2
Cumulative

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FOCM Individual2
By Sector

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Church in crisis; Christian faith in renewal?


General Assembly HallAs its General Assembly in May approaches, three new developments now push the Church of Scotland into deep crisis regarding sexuality; but not just sexuality. A week ago the issue in focus was the proposal to appoint a divorced minister living in a gay life-style to a church in Aberdeen.

But now moves are taking place which could lead to the national Church splitting but (and irrespective of this particular issue) to overall positive effect. And a ground swell of support is flooding in for a new grouping which is seeking to hold a biblical line – with a list of signatories literally growing by the minute for the just-launched Fellowship of Confessing Churches. The FOCC (not to be confused with the FCC denomination) have issued a 'Statement about the coming General Assembly of 2009' on their web site (launched last night) in which it affirms support for all who struggle with temptation, but challenges the Church's acceptance of civil partnerships and same-sex sexual activity:

 'To now declare explicitly an active homosexual lifestyle as holy, something the Bible unambiguously calls sin, denies in the most public fashion the authority of the church’s only Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Our church would thus position itself outwith the fellowship of orthodox, credal Christianity worldwide.'

The statement which speaks of these issues creating 'a crisis of communion' (church-speak for 'prospect of a split') goes on to state:

'The majority of congregations of the Church of Scotland have no wish so to depart from orthodox Christian faith and practice, nor to be in fellowship with those who would so abandon the true Church of Jesus Christ.'

It is perhaps significant that the reference to loyalties are with respect of 'faith' and 'the true Church of Jesus Christ' rather than the national institution which is the Church of Scotland.

So what's going on?


The background to all of this is an objection raised by members of Aberdeen Presbytery to the ‘call’ of Rev. Scott Rennie to the pastorate at Queen’s Cross Church in the city, and a Council of Assembly initially considered what action should be taken. With a single-vote margin the Council referred the matter to the Assembly itself.

This situation would inevitably have resurrected (although it was never in any way dead, the Kirk has tried its best to bury it) the issue of sexuality, civil partnerships and the Church’s views and practices relating to these matters.
But the principle focus would have been on the Aberdeen situation and would not necessarily have invoked a wider debate – although it is difficult to see how the latter could be avoided.
However, three events have upped the ante considerably. And these are combining to create a tsunami for the Kirk.

A highly-provocative and partisan editorial


Life and Work

The current edition of the Church’s magazine, Life and Work, is carrying an editorial which scoffs at those who hold to a biblical morality and, in so doing, has overtly ‘taken sides’ at a critical moment. Although the Kirk stresses that the publication is ‘editorial independent’ it was obviously a mistake to believe it was also editorially neutral. (The editor Muriel Armstrong is due to retire shortly.) The article provoked a furious response.

A response from the Highlands


Perhaps in response to the Life and Work article a presbytery in the north-west of Scotland has now lodged a ‘overture’ (motion) with the General Assembly which will oblige the May gathering of ministers and elders to consider the wider issue of human sexuality.
The overture drawn up and submitted by Lochcarron and Skye Prebytery states that the ‘Church’s historic understanding of the Biblical teaching on homosexual practice has been questioned in recent years’ , and calls the Assembly to affirm that:

‘No court or agency of the Church may accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman.’

Woe, woe and thrice woe; the makings of a 'perfect storm'


And if this is not enough, to add to the Kirk’s significant woes the new FOCC grouping turns up the heat significantly. Whilst at the time (morning) of embarking on this article only 26 individuals had signed up to this developent , the web-site links suggest that this embryonic body sees itself – spiritually and relationally – playing within a worldwide and pan-denominational arena. This in itself is indicative of the fact that the particular issue of sexuality is causing disruption in many countries and in most denominations. Not just because of the issue itself (and extremely important it is) but because it has become a de facto litmus test of biblical orthodoxy and fidelity.
The combined effect of all of this could find the General Assembly right in the middle of a 'perfect storm' with global ramifications.

The ‘banner’ at the top of the Fellowship’s web page includes some high symbolism and the new organisation has given itself the title ‘Fellowship of Confessing Churches’. This speaks of informal but meaningful connections between local churches and believers based on adherence to the Word of God. The choice of words indicates that this is no mechanistic anything-goes piece of ecclesiastical joinery.

C of S logoRaising the flagOne of the images is that of the burning bush – and this symbol has been used since the late 17th century. It is now recognised around the world as an emblem of Presbyterianism.

Meanwhile, the picture of a standard being raised is a direct take-off from that most famous photograph of  American soldiers raising the Stars and Stripes on Japanese soil after the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. However the flag is that of the Saint Andrew’s Crossthe Saltire. The picture invokes the memory of John Knox’s prayer: ‘Give me Scotland or I die’.

Meaningful unity between gospel congregations..


The potent strap-line proclaims a: ‘meaningful unity between gospel congregations’
Unity is a very emotive and highly important word, but it has become a ‘false god’ in justifying some spurious connections within the religious world. So ‘meaningful’ suggests not just a largely symbolic and passive organisational ecumenism but rather a dynamic and symbiotic alliance: a unity of spirit.

It is perhaps significant that the initiative would seem to have come spontaneously from the grass roots rather than from any particular and pre-existent grouping, but the burgeoning list of signatories rushing to subscribe includes men and women, ministers, elders, church members, academics and preachers . Also highly significantly is the fact that those from other denominations have very quickly ‘signed up’ to this new movement. The list includes believers from Kilsyth to Kenya and groupings and churches ranging from traditional denominations to new free evangelical churches; and from the USA to France to Australia.

Where's it all heading?


TsunamiHow it will go from here is anyone’s guess (thank God He knows) but what we could be seeing is the first major wave of a Second Reformation  – not just for the Kirk but for and within the evangelical church in Scotland.

Let’s pray that it could also become the initial breakers of a move of the Spirit of God onto the beaches of a Godless Scotland and within the believing body of Jesus Christ - including those within the national church.

Rev. Thomas Chalmers, a Church of Scotland minister who led the 'Disruption' in 1843 which formed the Free Church of Scotland famously remarked: 'Who cares for [his own denomination] compared with the Christian good of Scotland?'

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If you wish to stand alongside the position adopted by the FOCC you can add your name to the list.

Also you can e-mail this article to a friend by clicking on
the Email to a friendlink on the top-left of this page.



Footnotes:
Between starting and finishing this article, the list of signatories has grown from 26 to 174 on 29 April at 1.00pm. Judge for yourself the level of interest by visiting the new web site.

Many over the years have been of the opinion that if revival is to come to Scotland, then it will come via the national church.

Christians Together, 29/04/2009

Feedback:
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MAURICE ROBERTS (Guest) 29/04/2009 16:41
O how we all need God to pour out His Holy Spirit on our beloved nation once again! Let us pray earnestly that God will in these days and perhaps through these present circumstances awaken in all our churches in Scotland a new earnestness at the throne of grace. What we all need above everything else is to recover the lost power in our preaching which our fathers used to have. May God say concerning the sin in His church "Hitherto shalt thou come but no farther".
John Parker (Guest) 29/04/2009 21:10
If the Life and Work editorial has done anything then it seems to have not-so-much awakened a sleeping giant of concern as it has prompted the giant to speak out; and the FOCC has given him a worldwide stage from which to speak.

This could be another 'Martin Luther' moment with the web serving as a Wittenberg door.
Editor 30/04/2009 00:05
At midnight (BST) on the first day (29/04/09) that the FOCC web page went up it had collected 810 names endorsing the stance. And while Scotland goes to sleep no doubt the those west of St. Kilda will be logging on.

Good night all - at the end of an interesting, busy and perhaps historic day.
Editor 30/04/2009 09:41
And e-mail from Rev. Willie Philip (minister of St. George's Tron in Glasgow).

TITLE: The Forthcoming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Dear friends in Christ,

As you will no doubt already have seen in a spate of recent press articles, this year will see a highly charged General Assembly, with some of our brothers and sisters from Aberdeen Presbytery appearing at the Bar in their appeal against the Presbytery’s decision to induct a man who has openly declared himself to be living in a homosexual partnership.

Already, some voices in the church are raising the stakes. The editorial of this Month’s Life and Work (the C of S magazine) urged strongly for the Church to show leadership in opening the way for acceptance of homosexual practice. Articles have appeared in the national papers similarly.

But this is an issue of enormous magnitude: not just about sexuality, nor even only about the authority of Scripture, but about the nature of humanity, and indeed the nature of the gospel itself, a gospel not of affirmation of sin, but which demands repentance from sin, and brings liberation and transformation from sin.

Mindful of the fact that there are many congregations, and many more church members, who are deeply troubled at the decision of Aberdeen Presbytery, and who do not want to see our General Assembly publicly backing their decision, in consultation and with the support of Forward Together a group of us have published a Statement which can be found here:

http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/

It seeks to urge commissioners to support the Aberdeen protesters, and also to support an overture being brought from the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye, which seeks Assembly support for a clear endorsement of biblical sexual morality: “That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman”.

(We believe these issues will be debated on Saturday evening, 23rd May)

We would like to encourage your support in signing up to this statement, which can be found at:

http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/

We want as many to sign up from the C of S as possible, especially ministers, elders and other leaders, to send a strong signal from the ‘grass roots’ of the church that we do not want our Assembly to lead away from Christian orthodoxy in this way. But also from others of all denominations whose solidarity is so important, and such an encouragement at such times.

I do hope you will add your name, and be willing to circulate it to others you know in your presbytery (and elsewhere) whom you believe would also be willing to sign up in support.

Finally, but above all, please do join with us in prayer about this matter, that the Lord our God will hear our plea and have mercy on us in his church, and that this may rebound for the glory of Christ and his gospel in our land.

Thank you for taking time to help us.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

William J U Philip
Alec (Guest) 30/04/2009 14:18
Hang on a second. There is a double standard at work here. We are told that the "authority of Scripture" is central to all this. Fair enough. Scripture, if taken literally, makes it fairly clear that homosexual behaviour is worng.

However, when i look through the list of names on the FCC site, I see several women elders and ministers listed. Presumably the "authority of Scripture" regarding leadership in the church is being ignored here? There is also the business of women remaining silent in church - cant see many women pastors doing that.

So it looks like "authority of Scripture " is being apllied when it is a small minority that is being discriminated against. But not when the target of that "scriptural aithority " happens to make up more than 50% of the church...

This is hypocrisy, pure and simple

It is also notable that the Tron church seems to be playing a pivotal role in all this. Interestingly, in the list of signatories, as well as numerous Tron elders, members and pastors, we also have a collective "Kirk Session " entry. Gives the numbers a little boost eh?

Speaking of numbers, it is interesting that a website that has just been launched should attract so many names so quickly. I would suggest that this whole thing is being carefully orchestrated by Forward Together. I smell a massive email campaign behind all this to draw in the "flying pickets"....
John Parker (Guest) 30/04/2009 17:59
Hello Alec,

It appears from what you have written you have a sympathy with and understanding of the Bible and the church (in its widest sense). And you seem to know from what you have said that there are some issues that Christians conscienciously differ on (and we could add 'hat-wearing, exclusive psalmondy, women in leadership, baptist, etc.).

However the issue under discussion here is part of God's creational order. And I am sure that not one of the signatories would condone heterosexual infedelity and more than they would support 'gay marriage'.

Regarding 'who set this going' - I think that in a sense it is immaterial. What 'seems' to have happened (spontaneously) is that believers from around the world from a whole variety of backgrounds have been watching what is going on in Scotland; and have weighed in with their support. In much the same way as a flood of support has come in for the efforts to allow the ghurkas to remain in Britain. (Although stressing that these are quite different issues.)

Regarding the charge of 'hypocrisy' we may look at the church(es) and find flaws; but I would encourage you to look at the head of the church, Jesus Christ, and you will find him totally blameless. That is why he could say: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
Editor 30/04/2009 21:36
In less than 24 hours the number of signatories has risen by over 1000.
Current numbers (9.20pm 30/04/09) -

Total: 1819
Church of Scotland: 734
Other Scottish churches: 434
Other UK churches: 331
Churches worldwide: 319
Alec (Guest) 01/05/2009 10:38
John

I hear what you are saying, but the business of women in leadership is not just a minor issue like hat wearing or exclusive psalmody. It is the other major issue that causes deep division in the church.

It is fascinating that the 2 most divisive issues (women in leadership and LGBT matters( are BOTH gender related.

Endless debate and strife over these issues makes the church look backward, bigoted and out of touch

I would urge a lot of caution in this current debate:

1) Think back to the Section 28 / Clasue 2A debate 10 years ago - one of the nastiest most unpleasant debates in recent history which created a lot of unneccesary ill feeling and put a lot of churchmen in a very bad light

2) There was a nasty split in the Free Church 9 years ago, again over issues of morality and whether the offender had been properly dealt with

3) 20 years ago the FPs split in a nasty acrimonious schism. Incidentally, out of that schism the APC emerged which at the time was looked upon as a new evangelical body and a breath of fresh air. It has essentially gone nowhere.

4) Anglicanism has been wracked by debate and strife over gay issues AND women bishops. And the saga goes on and on

To the unchurched, this sort of thing looks like madness. To the rising ranks of secularists, it is a gift.

To quote from Prof Donald Macleod several years ago "Do we really want to see another set of steeples?"
Peter Carr 01/05/2009 10:45
Alec said, "To the unchurched, this sort of thing looks like madness. To the rising ranks of secularists, it is a gift."

To the unchurched God's word looks like madness, but judgement day will bring it all in to perspective!
Alec (Guest) 01/05/2009 11:43
I always reckoned that this was about to get nasty. Looks like it just has:-

"Evangelical group apologises to gay minister for untrue claims"

URL: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1195657?UserKey=

Sad.
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