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Tain minister to leave Church of Scotland charge

The minister in Tain Parish Church of Scotland has written to his congregation to say that he can no longer continue with them in the context of both local and national issues in relation to Kirk's stance on sexuality.

 




Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. John 12:26

Tain Parish Church
Tain parish churchRev. Paul Gibson having been inducted just eight months ago into the pastoral charge of Tain Parish Church is now finding himself having to leave over the stances — both local and national – within the denomination in relation to sexuality.
Inasmuch as a minister is in effect 'self-employed' a demission – without good reasons that the Church would understand and agree with – is a de facto resignation.

This tragic situation is a reflection of the turmoil throughout the denomination since last May's General Assembly when the Church of Scotland effectively set itself upon a 'trajectory' which departs from the Word of God.

At a pastoral level no minister worthy of the name 'cuts the pastoral tie' lightly. Invariably there is much prayer, heart-searching and pain. However ministers can find themselves caught between personal conviction and professional responsibilities. Others can find that they do not have the support of a sufficient number of  those (elders and church members) around them. Still others can find that they are faced with 'legacy issues' – problems in a congregation which have 'carried over'. Very often a combination of these stresses can be at work. And that's without the very serious problem of their denomination 'jumping the tracks' of biblical orthodoxy.

Having come into the pastoral ministry very recently from a background in journalism and the business world, the Tain minister recently gave the following statement to his congregation:

Rev. Paul Gibson
Rev Paul GibsonDear friends,

It is with great sadness that I hereby announce my demission from the charge of Tain Parish Church. I have informed Ross Presbytery of this decision and I will formally leave the Church, God willing, in four weeks’ time.

I want to express my gratitude to the congregation of Tain Parish Church, as well as those within the Free Church and the APC, for the brief time of fellowship that God has allowed us to share with one another and I remain deeply thankful to those who have shared my own conviction and desire to do all things, by God’s Grace, in a manner worthy of the gospel.

However, in recent months it has become evident that, in light of both the local and denominational contexts, it is not possible for me to fully perform the role of ministry within this church with true integrity and in a manner, which I believe, is in line with biblical teaching and therefore honouring to Christ.

As you know we have had some very difficult and painful issues to grapple with in recent months, issues which have been challenging and upsetting for all concerned and which recently raised a matter of church discipline.

Whilst the bible’s teaching on this is very clear, it is sadly the case that, despite the efforts and support of some of the elders, the Kirk Session as a whole is not united in handling this matter in accordance with Scripture. This, coupled with the serious fracture of fellowship caused by the so-called “revisionist“ decisions of this year’s General Assembly, leads me to the conclusion that I no longer have the liberty and support within this context to exercise a biblically faithful ministry.

I never would have dreamt that my tenure within Tain Parish Church would be so relatively short. However, in God’s providence, we can only respond to situations that fall before us as faithfully as we are able to and it seems that the last of these for me in the current context is sadly, to depart.

I thank you for the privilege of being able to serve Christ and His gospel in this place and I pray that each one of you will know the eternal riches of His Grace, through repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ, in whose name I came and in whose name I now go

Rev. Paul Gibson

 

It will most likely be the case that there are rock-solid faithful believers in most Church of Scotland congregations; and the congregation in Tain is no exception. Pray for all those who, like Rev. Gibson,  will "having done all things, stand" (Eph 6:13).

 

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General Comment:

 

What is certain in all of this is that God is at work amongst the Church of Scotland (and other denominations beyond) in identifying those individuals and congregations prepared to live in obedience to the declared Word of God which – as everyone who holds the Bible in any regard will agree – is quite clear on what God has ordained marriage to be.

 

What is also clear is that the euphemistically termed 'broad church' – the denomination's proud boast – is seen now to be more of a 'mixed bag' of belief and unbelief; some living in obedience to God's Word with others in outright rebellion.

 

In all the upset no single 'template' has emerged regarding how individuals and/or congregations have responded, are responding and – for some – are yet to respond. The very sad situation in Tain is almost certainly not going to be the last one. However pruning, refining and purifying are all (painful) means to an end; used by God in terms of building a faithful church and preparing a spotless bride.

 

 


Christians Together, 23/11/2011

Feedback:
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Editor 26/11/2011 11:03
As we see the status quo collapsing on a whole variety of fronts there is accordingly both opportunity and threat. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum and in the spiritual realm the enemy of God will no doubt seek to capitalise on any instability and flood into the ‘space’.

So headstrong and headlong enthusiasm in isolation, is likely to lead to huge problems. If there is a call to “charge” we need also to ask (and supremely of the Lord and His Word) “Which way?”

Pilate’s question “What is truth” (John 18:38) remains as relevant as ever. However the Westminster Confession of Faith, though substantially thoroughly biblical, is also in part extra-biblical (legislating in issues where the Bible is silent) and in part dogmatic in areas where Christians conscientiously disagree. It was and is a child of its time; it is (in part) anachronistic and it now is as much a hindrance as a help in terms of full and vibrant Christians life.

These are pretty ‘bald’ and strong statements which I am prepared to defend and expand upon very shortly: but for the moment just to add that any ‘new’ movement which forms around the totem pole of the WCF is going to be shackled by it. However any new movement which merely rushes off into something that is, well, merely ‘new’, is also likely to end up in an unholy mess.

So we need to seek the Lord in all of these things. The transition from King Saul to King David happened in God's way and in God's time. But perhaps the time has come?

Peter Carr 26/11/2011 11:31
Ed said, "So we need to seek the Lord in all of these things. The transition from King Saul to David happened in God's way and in God's time. But perhaps the time has come?"

Yes, is maybe already here in line with Isa 42: 9
Editor 27/11/2011 15:01
In terms of contemporary doctrinal statements the following may be of interest -

Evangelical Alliance; Basis of Faith -
http://www.eauk.org/about/basis-of-faith.cfm

Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches; Basis of Faith - http://www.fiec.org.uk/AboutUs/Beliefs/tabid/509/Default.aspx

Affinity; Doctrinal Belief -
http://www.affinity.org.uk/doctrinal-belief/doctrinal-belief

It is interesting to note that historical and much more complex definitions of Christian faith have been obviously unable to stem the slide into outright rebellion that we are now seeing.
They have however well served the purpose of defending denominational 'distinctives'; and providing convenient support for the splintering of the body of Christ into a myriad of seperate parts.
william (Guest) 27/11/2011 16:26
It was helpful of you to list the creeds you did.
I notice you refer to historical/complex examples, in which you may include the WCF. I would have warmly welcomed you at least giving a link to it. It has been the doctrinal statement of Presbyterianism for centuries, so not insignificant. Yet it has never been widely read/studied within CoS hence my desire that it be given a public airing. It is full of treasures for all of God's people.
You mention the inability of such creeds to stem the tide as we descend into rebellion; it would probably be truer to say we had simply closed it and its content unknown to us. For over a century the CoS has not required adherence to WCF. Indeed I reckon most of our current elders/ministers[including evangelicals] would admit an ignorance of its contents - even though they have all signed up to it as the subordinate standard of CoS.
It would be most worthwhile for the whole Church if you could set up studies of its contents, allowing you ofcourse to remove those which you feel do not enter into the substance of the Faith!
Editor 27/11/2011 21:37
"It would be most worthwhile for the whole Church if you could set up studies of its contents"

An article on the Westminster Confession coming very soon (d.v.) as the second (in a 'bottom-to-top' sequence) in the 'Drilling Down' series of articles.
See - http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/158924/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Drilling_down_on.aspx

The first in the series on the biblical Covenant was was published some time ago under the title 'A Covenant-keeping God' -
http://www.christianstogether.net/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=176014

Alisdair Smith 27/11/2011 23:47
William, I'd certainly agree that the Westminster Confession is essential reading. I'd sign it tomorrow.


Alisdair Smith 27/11/2011 23:54
The underlying point your getting at is something I think it crucial. What I'm taking from your points is that no matter what shape the church in Scotland ends up being, there needs to be a much greater focus on teaching the flock WHAT they should believe and WHY they should believe it. IN addition to creeds, I'd also recommend a greater emphasis on the teaching of Apologetics, which is virtually non-existant at a local church level. This is something that at least one elder per congregation should have responsibility for.
Editor 28/11/2011 08:27
Re "I'd sign it tomorrow."

The advice to "read the small print first" is as true of the WCF as any document. And as the old adage goes: "The devil is in the detail."
A concerned observer (Guest) 28/11/2011 12:37
I find it very sad that the minister of Tain Parish Church thought it necessary to put into the public domain a statement which was clearly intended for his own congregation. There are always two sides to every story and perhaps before publishing such a statement the editorial team of 'Christians Together' would do well to assertain the true facts as to why some of the elders disagreed with the actions of the minister. These are men of equal integrity to those who supported the minister.
Editor 28/11/2011 14:00
If the Kirk Session of Tain Parish Church and/or 'a Concerned Observer' has a public statement to make, Christians Together will be happy to receive it.

Regarding the Christian faith and the overall ethos of 'walking in the light' it is of great concern that there have been attempts to withhold information from both church members and the general public as a whole.

Such a policy (first instituted by the Church of Scotland following the 'gagging order' imposed by the May 2009 General Assembly) generates distrust and confusion; leading to speculation, misinformation, rumour and counter-rumour.
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