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.
FOLLOWING 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.
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.