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A bridge across the divide?


In the immediate aftermath of the Church of Scotland's failure to come to a clear view on sexuality and gay ordination, Kirk leaders are already ignoring the 'urge' to silence; and are actively considering their position (or not) within the national church.



Hands across the divideFOLLOWING on from the events at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly last weekend relating to homosexual ordination there are significant signs that Kirk leaders are prepared to defy the gagging restriction imposed upon them. Rev. Ivor MacDonald (Kilmuir and Stenschol, Skye) whose presbytery submitted an ‘overture’ (motion) to the Assembly has been quoted in The Herald as saying that the intention to appoint an actively gay minister and those who support homosexual ordination are ‘pushing the Church on a rocky road.’

What is clear is that there is a deep level of concern and upset at all levels within the national church following the Assembly’s failure to come to a clear view on sexual relationships.
In the Press and Journal an unnamed Church of Scotland minister has indicated that he and many others would be willing to open up discussions with the Free Church of Scotland if the latter were seen to be amenable to the prospect.

Surmountable barriers


One of the most significant barriers to a new alliance of evangelical presbyterians from the two churches would be the matter of forms of worship whereby the Free Church tradition is that of singing Psalms exclusively and 'a cappella' (unaccompanied).

However, speaking to Christians Together, Rev. David Robertson said: ‘The Free Church is looking at forms of worship, and we would not be prepared to let this stand in the way of the more important matter of unity.
Robertson who pastors St. Peter’ Church in Dundee and edits the denominations monthly magazine is of the view that the Free Church cannot survive in its present form and is going to have to change whichever way the present situation develops. ‘Either Scotland needs a new Presbyterian church starting from scratch or a renewed version from what already exists. In my view the Church of Scotland is finished. When a church stands up and says that the Bible is not the word of God, then orders its ministers to silence and appoints a magisterium to determine what the God is saying, then it’s over.’

A ball rolling


When asked what the Free Church position would be if approached by a woman minister to join the Free Church he replied: ‘We would not accept a woman to be an elder, but we do believe that women can be in Christian leadership. Ordination for me is irrelevant and is a side issue - a hangover from priesthood; and there certainly has to be a new co-operation.’  Whilst not claiming to know where the current situation will end up, Robertson confirmed that he feels ‘a ball is now rolling’.

The Free Church itself was split in 2000 over a matter of internal discipline with some leaving to form the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). The Church of Scotland is not a state church, but is the national church and has special and exclusive privileges enshrined in law which protects the Kirk from civil laws and interference on ‘matters spiritual’. The history of Scottish Presbyterianism is that of schism and reunion, and currently developments suggest that the pattern of behaviour has not changed. It will be interesting to see whether current developments can heal what has been the scandal of division amongst those who believe essentially the same things.


General Assembly last day report:

On the last day of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was given a very warm welcome by Moderator Bill Hewitt. The South African church leader who congratulated the Kirk for approving the controversial appointment of a gay minister was described by the Moderator as being an irrepressible, inspirational and noble voice and has applauded the Kirk for approving the controversial appointment of a gay minister to a north-east church.
In a call for unity, he told commissioners that there are ‘no outsiders’ in the church family. ‘We are all children of our heavenly father, the rich, the poor, the lame, the blind, the clever, the not-so-clever, the white, the black, the red, the yellow’ he said. The Archbishop received a standing ovation from the Assembly.



Christians Together, 28/05/2009

Feedback:
John Parker (Guest) 28/05/2009 19:47
There is another option in all of this. Scrap denominations and go back to individual churches with autonomy for their own affairs but in a supportive and accountable relationship with other churches in their city/town/locality.(I think I saw the pattern outworked in a book called the New Testament).

The history of church re-unions just creates another entity of those who happen (for a time) to find it expedient to get together.

A denominational re-alignment just creates another group in which some are 'in' and some others are 'out'.
Peter Carr 28/05/2009 21:17
Not all denominations are 'bad'. The Scottish Baptists although operating under the umbrella of a union all enjoy autonomy. We are not subject to an Assembly, or hierarchy like other denominations.

So, please think again John before rubbishing or wiping out 100's of years of real reformation!
John Parker (Guest) 28/05/2009 21:35
With respect, I am not saying that "all denominations are 'bad'" (your expression and word).

What I am saying is that denominations demonstrably - and throughout history - create division. And it might just be because the concept does not find a support in the Bible. Additionally (and self-evidently)they offer no guarantees whatsoever of preserving a biblical orthodoxy.
Peter Carr 28/05/2009 21:49
I think that history teaches us that where you find sinners you will find division, whether that be in an automonous church settting or in a whole denomination.

A step back into the 1st century is not going to solve any problems. God is both eternal and contemporary, and therefore we have to be willing to see His Sovereign hand in the development of denominations, which have many good qualities!
George Orr 29/05/2009 10:03
"A step back into the 1st century is not going to solve any problems. God is both eternal and contemporary, and therefore we have to be willing to see His Sovereign hand in the development of denominations, which have many good qualities!"

What would those good qualities be Peter?
Peter Carr 29/05/2009 12:32
"What would those good qualities be Peter?"

I can only speak from a baptistic point of view, however my experience is that the baptist denomination works well as a whole, and yet each church enjoys it's own autonomy under the Lordship of Christ, with no need to seek approval, or otherwise from a ruling body concerning the appointment of ministers etc.

The Baptist Union is there to help and guide, but has no say in the running of the local church. I am sure there are other denomonations in the Kingdom who are equally happy with their own situation.
An observer (Guest) 06/06/2009 12:33
I was just reading through the Christians Together website, and I’m disquieted about one thing particularly - the discussion with David Robertson re the possibility of Free Church/Church of Scotland negotiations.

Everyone has the right to air their own opinion, but David is often seen as spokesman for the Free Church, and his opinion can therefore be seen as the general opinion of the church. The article says:

“However, speaking to Christians Together, Rev. David Robertson said: ‘The Free Church is looking at forms of worship, and we would not be prepared to let this stand in the way of the more important matter of unity.
Robertson who pastors St. Peter’ Church in Dundee and edits the denominations monthly magazine is of the view that the Free Church cannot survive in its present form and is going to have to change whichever way the present situation develops”

The Free Church General Assembly, meeting a couple of weeks ago, agreed to continue considering the present form of worship over the next year, but there are strong voices within the church who want to prohibit even the discussion, and when David says “and we would not be prepared to let this stand in the way of the more important matter of unity”, he’s taking a position which would irritate many across the denomination, as he seems to be anticipating the outcome of the debate, and it could produce the opposite reaction he wants.

When asked what the Free Church position would be if approached by a woman minister to join the Free Church he replied: ‘We would not accept a woman to be an elder, but we do believe that women can be in Christian leadership. Ordination for me is irrelevant and is a side issue - a hangover from priesthood; and there certainly has to be a new co-operation.’ Whilst not claiming to know where the current situation will end up, Robertson confirmed that he feels ‘a ball is now rolling’.

On this issue, David is on very shaky ground in speaking for the church – because the distinction between eldership and leadership is a vague one at best, and the church has made a recent study of the biblical position for women in ministry, and come down conclusively against women in leadership. Where David says “there certainly needs to be a new co-operation”, he’s not taking seriously the enormous weight of opinion that would say there can be no cooperation with the Church of Scotland until the issue of how we approach God’s word for authority is resolved.

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on some articles may be restricted to CT site members. In these circumstances comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>christianstogether.net

Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > Current News > A bridge across an old divide?