Christian Life 


The major problems in the Anglican Communion and the Church of Scotland have produced similar response; but what purpose will these organisations serve?

by Watchman

Comfort blanket and fig leafI RECEIVED an invitation the other day. It was an offer to join the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). In fairness the joining fee was modest and subscription was suggested rather then obligatory, but nevertheless my money was required. (And more on that later.)

The timing of the invitation is related to the forthcoming launch of the FCA in London on Monday,6 July 2009. This event a follow-through from last summer’s Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem which – amonst other issues – discussed the weighty matters of women’s ordination and gay bishops (both of which are, and have been for many years, exercising evangelicals within the Anglican communion).
Of course recent history tells us that evangelicals in the Church of Scotland have leap-frogged their Anglican counterparts by establishing – in May – the Fellowship of Confessing Churches (FCC), a network of like-minded church leaders and members.

Similar aims

So Fellowship of Confessing <insert your name here> seems to be the order of the day. And in both Anglican and Scottish contexts the motivation and aims seem to be much the same – to maintain a true biblical witness and faithfully preserve and preach an unadulterated Gospel message. Both bodies also firmly state that they are not schismatic and wish to remain part of their parent organisations – the Anglican communion and the Church of Scotland respectively.

But similar dilemmas

But there is a difficulty; and within Scotland it has already showed itself in the Church of Scotland grouping called Forward Together which has now existed for about a decade. And the problem is this: “Does any such grouping merely ‘be’ or does it ‘do?’” And if it does things, then money is (usually) required, and a distinct , structure is necessary for decision-making, accountability, financial management, general oversight and adequate control.

Action or irrelevance?

But if FOCC/FCA or any other body builds these mechanisms then a separate identity necessarily develops, and sooner or later that leads to a growing apart.

On the other hand if a grouping merely ‘exists’ then the question is ‘Why bother?’

The answer to this question may well be found in the conflicting imperatives of being both distinctive from but identified with the larger body at one and the same time.


The problem of gay clergy which is a principal factor in bringing these confessing groupings into being has created embarrassment, confusion, insecurity and shame amongst Bible-believers throughout the denominations of which they are part. And the formation of these new bodies are reactions by the leadership. But it could be argued that the FCC and the FCA groupings could be better described by the acronym FL/CB – Fig Leaf/Comfort Blanket.

Whose needs are being met?

When Adam and Eve were found by God in original sin their first instinct was to ‘cover their shame’; and we can see this dynamic at work in these present situations. And when the organisations which support church leaders shakes then there is a sudden need for a new form of security – which a network of like-minded souls provides. Guilt and fear produce sleepless nights and fig leaves and comfort blankets can serve as expedient palliatives – soothing the conscience and providing a sense of security.

Time will tell how these embryonic bodies will develop, but there must be the very real prospect of either meaningful existence which will create the conditions for future splits or, alternatively a passive existence in fig leaf and comfort blanket mode which will inevitably result in irrelevance.
An indicator of intent will be the extent to which these new networks look for financial support; so ‘watch this space.’

The sound of bleating on the hills

If these questions were to be merely academic then that would not be so bad. But as leaders clutch at fig leaves and comfort blankets the air is filled with the bleating of vulnerable, confused and insecure sheep.

Time for bold and biblical leadership

There is a crying need for leaders to lead. And the time has come to put Truth before the maintenance of personal ministries, comfort zones and denominational loyalties, and depart from ecclesiastical institutions which have shipwrecked the faith.
But it is also time to get back to simplicity of local church leadership by a plurality of male elders which is divorced from the overarching and mechanistic structures that have brought the body of Christ to this pretty pass.

Watchman, 15/06/2009

Peter Carr 24/06/2009 17:32
Does anybody know what was decided/announced by the ministers from their pulpits in Skye and Lochcarron a few Sundays ago regarding the whole Gen Assembly decision?
Editor 25/06/2009 23:42
Lochcarron and Skye's overture (motion) was presented and - in the final event - withdrawn on behalf of that presbytery by Rev. Ivor MacDonald (Kilmuir and Stenchol)

In effect a double-dodge by the Assembly saw (a) the Scott Rennie (particular) case being debated prior to the (general) motion by Lochcarron/Skye. In fact the general principle should have been debated first and then the particular case examined once the general principle had been established.

The second sleight of hand was to allow what was effectively a counter motion (to appoint a Special Commission) to be voted on in advance of the motion itself (from Lochcarron/Skye).

This is all-too-typical of the political maneouvering of C of S Assemblies, and is essentially duplicitous.

In the light of the procedural ploys to out-flank the Skye/Lochcarron motion, the latter was withdrawn.

As a final unethical act, the (acting) principal clerk to the Assembly decreed (wrongly) that Scott Rennie's induction should go ahead (unless he robbed a bank in the meantime). Again this wrong. The Assembly may have given their blessing to the call by Aberdeen Presbytery, but the 'life and doctrine' of Rennie should be presented for scrutiny at the time of his induction.

Meanwhile, Rev Ivor Macdonald has written:
*-- qoute---*
Lochcarron and Skye overture

I know that many people are, with me, deeply upset by the decisions of this year‘s General Assembly. I know too that some have been confused as to why I had to withdraw Lochcarron and Skye Presbytery‘s overture. This overture called on the Assembly to affirm its historic and biblical standards of morality for ministers and to seek the endorsement by presbyteries of this position under the Barrier Act.

The preamble to our overture made clear that a debate leading to a conclusion and clarification was needed before individual cases were considered. Most reasonable people inside or outside the church and on whichever side of the argument would agree that this was the proper way to proceed. Nevertheless, despite a move to reverse the order, the highly publicised case of Scott Rennie was heard before the overture could be presented.

The debate on Saturday night in relation to the Rennie case showed the church in its worst colours. It was argued by Mr Rennie's supporters that if the General Assembly upheld the induction of a minister in an openly homosexual relationship it would not create a precedent. This is, of course, nonsense to every sane person outside the church and simply creates the impression that the church inhabits a parallel universe in which logic does not apply.

There was lack of clarity as to whether the debate was simply about church procedure or about broader principles. There was much talk about how nice a man Mr Rennie was, of left handedness and of being inclusive. The evangelical case was presented with clarity and discipline but many were not to be persuaded. As we all know the Assembly upheld the action of Aberdeen Presbytery in sustaining his call to Queen's Cross.

Meanwhile our overture was still waiting to be heard. We were astonished to learn that a motion to appoint a Special Commission to deliberate further was to be taken before the overture – despite our appeal that this was in reality a counter motion and despite the fact it had been lodged after our overture it was taken first. The assembly embraced the opportunity to avoid the debate we asked for and agreed to a controversial "gagging order" on the courts of the church from speaking on "contentious matters of human sexuality in respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland until 31 May 2011"

When at last I was called to present the overture the Moderator ruled that I could speak but that I could not mention homosexuality. This was the final absurdity, the final manipulation which left us with no alternative but to withdraw our motion. Some people believed I was happy to withdraw for the sake of the Special Commission. I was not. I was extremely unhappy to have been placed in such a position and withdrew with a heavy heart. Some have wondered if the commission and the ban on homosexual ordination for two years might be a good thing. I don‘t think so.

This is nothing but spin. The Special Commission will not change anything that has happened. It is simply a mechanism used in the church to tame opposition to an unbiblical position by prolonged discussion until evangelicals wane in their opposition and speak of there being "more important issues."

I was baptised in the Church of Scotland, was converted in the Church of Scotland, have faithfully served in the Church of Scotland but today I am utterly ashamed of the Church of Scotland. I wish to disown the decision to approve the induction of an openly homosexual minister and the sham process that was agreed in its wake.

In response to this some feel they have no alternative but to leave the Church of Scotland and I can fully understand that. But I would ask you, for now, to remain committed to the Bible believing fellowship of which you are a part so that together you can decide on the way forward. Many Kirk Sessions are discussing the possibility of affiliating to the Fellowship of Confessing Churches. This would allow churches to distance themselves from the Church of Scotland‘s position and make their position as gospel churches clearly recognisable – thus hopefully limiting the damage done to them and to their witness by the Assembly‘s shameful decision.

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