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The Kirk is imploding
The induction of Rev. Scott Rennie to Queens' Cross Church in Aberdeen reveals the Church of Scotland as a denomination in deep crisis.
Writing late on Friday night I am assuming that the deed has been done.
The advice given out by the Church of Scotland’s (Acting) Principal Clerk (PC) to Rev. Scott Rennie at the Kirk’s General Assembly in May was: “Don’t rob a bank” (or the like) before the month of July.
The occasion of this very public piece of counsel followed the Assembly’s decision to endorse the call of Aberdeen Presbytery (see Footnotes) to the minister who was/is living in a homosexual relationship with his male partner.
On the assumption that he has followed the advice, Rennie will have moved – at 7.00pm this evening – from his present charge at Brechin Cathedral to become the minister at Queen’s Cross Church (Aberdeen).
The underlying reason behind the PC’s remark was that those gathered at any induction are invited to examine the candidate’s ‘life and doctrine’, and to declare if there is any good reason to question the appointment. It is at this moment, and prior to the ‘laying on of hands’ by members of the local presbytery, that any relevant issue can be raised by anyone present.
However by giving out the advice that she did, the PC – in a de facto sense – pre-empted any dissenting voices (assuming that Rennie’s bank-robbing record remains clear).
At the time of writing it is not known if any objection on ‘life and doctrine’ grounds was lodged. But with the full weight of the Assembly’s May decision behind it, Aberdeen Presbytery have been on very safe ground in terms of facing down any protest. In fact the first induction of an openly-gay minister has been – subsequent to the Assembly’s decision – almost a fait accompli. It represents, in the eyes of many, a line being crossed – taking Scotland’s national church into outright apostasy (wilful unbelief, unrighteousness and heresy).
The ramifications of this act are seismic, and – as in any impending earthquake – the extent of the ensuing devastations and after-shocks is totally unpredictable. (More on this soon.)
Shameless procedural maneouvering
But apart from the act itself, the way in which this situation was handled at the General Assembly exposes the Church of Scotland’s highest court as manipulative to the point of deviousness. By ensuring that the running order was cleverly set and defended (defying logic and objections), the case in point (Rennie’s proposed induction) was decided before the principle (relating to same-sex relationships, brought by Lochcarron/Skye Presbytery) was debated.
In fact the debate on the principle was effectively out-flanked by a preceding motion to appoint a Special Commission to report back in two years time. So in the event the Lochcarron/Skye ‘overture’ was withdrawn and never brought to the floor of the Assembly. Accordingly the Kirk’s highest court, through the clever orchestration of mechanisms and procedures, effectively gave its blessing to a gross departure from biblical standards on a most serious matter of morality and God's appointed order for human sexual relationships.
A point of no return
Let no one be of any doubt that in spite of a 2-year moratorium on any further inductions of gay ministers, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. The Rubicon has been crossed, the dam has been burst and the stable door has been thrown wide. The interim ban was and is a sop to appease dissenters. Certainly no fig leaf is required to cover the sin, as no establishment shame is evident.
As soon as decency (and that’s not quite the right word) allows, another such incident will occur; and one presbytery after another will follow the Aberdeen example in 'domino' fashion. The Queen's Cross induction is seen and and understood by all others as a ‘precedent’, but dismissed by the ecclesiastical intelligentsia and the bureaucratic sophistry of the Kirk’s HQ in 121 George Street, Edinburgh which states that 'nothing has changed.'
Without going into a theological analysis at this point, God sees into it all. And He is not mocked.
A dereliction of faith and duty
In an age when all of the supporting pillars of our society are being shaken, the Church of Scotland would have been in a strong position to bring some stability, sense and direction into the life of the nation. As it is, the institution is imploding; it has lost whatever residual credibility it possessed, and has brought shame, in the eyes of the world, on Scottish Christianity and its history of taking faith in Jesus Christ to nations everywhere.
If ever we needed to pray for our nation in our age it is now. God has promised to 'shake all things, so that that those things which cannot be shaken will remain' (Heb. 12:26-27); and as we know He is 'watching over His Word to perform it.'
1. A summary of responses and a biblical perspective will (d.v.) follow shortly.
2. A short presbyterian lexicon:
General Assembly: meets in May of each year as both a judicial court and legislative body. The GA is the highest court and authoritative body in the Church: it is comprised of ‘Commissioners’ who are selected from the clergy and laity within the Church. The commissioners have voting rights.
Moderator of the General Assembly: each year a new moderator is appointed. Up until very recently the position – which is largely ambassadorial – has gone to a male minister (clergyman). However there has now been a women in the post.
Overture: effectively a ‘motion’ submitted in advance of an Assembly for the Assembly’s consideration.
Presbytery (in this case, that of Aberdeen): a court covering (typically) a city or a region and comprising the minister and a representative elder from each local congregation within the presbytery’s geographical boundary. Retired ministers can also be active members of a presbytery.
Principal Clark (PC) : a quasi-legal/chief administrator post in the Church of Scotland’s HQ in Edinburgh. The PC gives advice on procedure to each new incoming moderator at the Kirk’s annual General Assembly in May. At the May 2009 General Assembly the Acting Principal Clerk (a woman) performed the role.
Special Commission: in this case a dedicated 2-year process by a 9-person team appointed to examine and report back to the Assembly in 2011 on the question of sexuality.
Christians Together, 03/07/2009