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Are You a Member, And a Member of What?

Christians Together site member John Miller gives a background, overview and comment on the actions of the Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland to evict the congregation of St. George's Tron Church in Glasgow.
 

 
by John Miller
 
Tron Church1IN 1560 John Knox and his fellow reformers took steps to throw off the hierarchical authority of the Pope in Rome and a new form of church Presbyterian governance was established. This was intended to reinforce the truth that the word of God, the Holy Bible and its divinely inspired teaching was the unchallenged authority for Christian preaching, teaching and doctrine.

Every Christian minister in the fledgling Church of Scotland had from then on to unreservedly commit himself to that truth. The Kirk as a fellowship of Christian folk was thereafter to be bound to this principle.
 
Over four hundred and fifty years later, on Tuesday, October 9th 2012 a meeting of Glasgow Presbytery took place that will have grave and far reaching consequences for members of The Kirk. Recently the leadership of the Glasgow St George's Tron Church, unanimously supported by the congregation, decided to leave the National Church.

This led to a determined action, instigated by the ecclesiastical bureaucrats ensconced in 121 George Street, Edinburgh [the Kirk's HQ - Ed.] to evict their Christian brethren from the iconic Church building in Glasgow city centre. This action was apparently finalised at the aforementioned Glasgow presbytery meeting when agreement was reached to order the Rev. William Philip and his flock to vacate the premises.
 
St George's Tron church has for many years been a beacon of biblical preaching and teaching in the very centre of Scotland’s largest city. Its attendance has risen as the purity of the Christian message from
"While attendances in many churches are falling the Tron is busting at the seams".
itspulpit has been maintained in godliness and spiritual zeal. Its tradition of powerful biblical preaching under the past leadership of such men as Tom Allan, George Duncan, Eric Alexander and others has been maintained presently by William Philip, his assistants and elders.

While attendances in many churches are falling the Tron is busting at the seams.Last Sunday only two seats on the ground floor remained empty and the balcony was well filled. Its daily missionary outreach in the very hub of a great city is a fulfilment of the teaching of Christ Himself.
 
Refurbished interior of the Tron Church
Tron church interiorAny who have not visited this building in recent times would now find its interior almost unrecognisable.

Inside this ancient structure there is a wondrously light, modern ambience, designed to be welcoming and conducive to the worship and witness proper to a place where it is the custom of Christians to gather.

It is obvious that a great deal of money has been spent to achieve this and the accounts show that over £2,500,000 has been raised by the membership, by a huge margin the bulk of renovation costs. There is a willingness to pay the remaining debt and thus free the Church of Scotland from any financial burden from the work.

 Church of Scotland headquarters building
121 George StreetThe title deeds show that the building belongs to the Church of Scotland. This body whose headquarters are at 121 George Street, Edinburgh have no intention of relinquishing ownership or title and their legal position appears secure.

Consider however, the basis on which such a property is held in ownership. Is it commercial, for pecuniary advantage? Is it for the display of human achievement or the furtherance of human ambition?

Is it to further the glory or reputation of its earthly owners and their property portfolio? If the ownership of this building has any rightful purpose it must be solely to be used for Christian worship and witness, based on loyalty to the risen, ascended Head of the Christian Church, Jesus Christ, and devoted obedience to the word of God.
 
The faceless cabal in '121' should reflect that they are either trustees for this great service or merely grasping opportunists motivated by the greed of Judas, the thief who held the purse strings of Christ’s little band of followers. No serious consideration of this matter would arrive at any other conclusion than that this self-interested gang and its legal representatives are behind the Glasgow Presbytery’s actions.

The impracticality of the Glasgow Presbytery’s proposals, backed by 121 George Street borders on financial fantasy and logistical lunacy. The pious sounding statement of the Very Reverend David Lunan chairman of the Presbytery meeting, announcing its decision, is nothing but outrageous hypocrisy. 

"In the sanctioning of homosexuality within its ministry the Church of Scotland has demonstrably departed from the teaching of the word of God"
It boils down to the dreadful but inescapable reality that there is a willingness with the movers and shakers of the Kirk to see the building standing empty and unused for Christian worship rather than allowing it to continue in its present character as a vibrant expression of Christian testimony in an increasingly godless, secular society.
 
It might well be asked what the significance of these goings-on is for all churches of this denomination throughout Scotland and beyond. In the sanctioning of homosexuality within its ministry the Church of Scotland has demonstrably departed from the teaching of the word of God. This is not a homophobic statement but one of fact. Those without the fellowship of Christianity, irrespective of denomination may adopt the homosexual lifestyle without the fear of contradiction according to man’s law.

It is neither the purpose of this article to criticise or attack them. God’s law is a different matter and any who claim Christian ground must bow to it. It is clearly delineated in His inspired word, the Holy Scriptures of truth. To argue otherwise is to give the creature a station above the Creator. However this is the path that the national church of Scotland has taken and its guilty conscience will brook no challenge.

"The Christians who meet in the Tron have dared to make that challenge and, it seems, they must be taught a lesson".  
The Christians who meet in the Tron have dared to make that challenge and, it seems, they must be taught a lesson. More than that, any others who might possible have sympathy for them and lean towards a similar course of action must be firmly discouraged.
 
In a recent article on the Christians Together website, the editor made an observation –
 
Evangelical clergy facing the 'carrot and stick' of maintaining their secure C of S positions, or being left to swing in the wind if they don't, is a powerful influence. So the minister and the good folk of the Tron could find themselves - as an example to any others contemplating similar moves - deprived of a building and ‘out in the cold’: expediently utilised as per Voltaire's satirical description of Admiral John Byng's execution: "..... pour encourager les autres" ("it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others").
 
 
These events signal a clear departure for the Church of Scotland’s hierarchy, its presbyteries and  members in their perception of morality and behaviour pleasing to God. Sadly there are many local congregations that will be unconcerned but some will be deeply exercised.

The Christian fellowship that meets in the Glasgow’s Tron Church has been hung out to dry. This treatment has already been meted out to a congregation in Aberdeen led by the Rev. Peter Dickson, which now meets in a hotel. The message is stark in its brutal simplicity, “Step out of line and you will suffer the consequences!” Like the opposition to Christ when here on earth, the bitterest enmity comes from those who profess to be the most religious.
 
Benjamin Franklin, “The First American” said: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
 
John Bunyan’s hymn makes the call: “Who would true valour see, let him come hither….”

Those who remain as members of a denomination that now sanctions and practises what is contrary to God’s word and denies its teaching of Christ’s Lordship should ask themselves:

”Does membership of the Church of Scotland take precedence to membership of Christ’s church, His body here on earth? Is membership of the Church of Scotland now indeed compatible with that infinitely greater membership?”

The question to all Christians of every denomination is: “Am I a member, and of what?”
 

Footnotes:
Tron church31. The first church was built on the present site around 1687 as The Wynd Church. At that time the area was on the western extremity of the City Centre and was an area of some squalor and degredation. Around 1808 the decision was made to build a new church as part of the expansion of Glasgow. The architect chosen was William Stark (who Sir Walter Scott regarded as a genius) and he built the distinctive 'bulky' church which now stands at the very heart of modern Glasgow.

2. For an historical overview and chronology of the post-Reformation church in Scotland see 'Presbyterianism - Scottish Style'.

3. A Church of Scotland minister who is part of Glasgow Presbytery has remarked on an on-line forum: 'We have instructed the Trustees etc to get vacant possession "by all means necessary". Whether that's fair is a matter folk will differ on. I hope they will leave, because if they don't then we'll be in court."

If in fact the eviction goes ahead, while the Church of Scotland may have the best intentions of establishing a new congregation in the Tron church, it will be a very brave evangelical minister who would take up the charge in the light of what has happened. Of course there will be a queue of liberally-minded clergy who would very happily inherit the iconic building and prestigious city-centre site.
 

4. On the Sunday (6 Oct 2012) prior to the meeting of Glasgow Presbytery, the Tron's minister Rev. Philip spoke to his congregation (see link below). In his pre-prayer address he made the point that it was persecution which resulted in the 1st-century expansion of the church; and that those who left and lost everything for the cause of Christ will find great reward in spiritual terms.

John Miller, 12/10/2012

A briefing to the Tron congregation Rev. W. Philip
A briefing delivered by Rev. William Philip on the Sunday prior to a meeting of the Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland which was to decide on the Presbytery's response to the congregations secession from the Church of Scotland over the matter of sexuality and gay clergy. In the event the Presbytery voted 2:1 to repossess the church and the manse.
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