Free Church pulls out of talks with Kirk
In the context of the current indecision and confusion within the Church of Scotland's relating to sexuality, the Free Church of Scotland has served notice on the Kirk to the effect that regular bi-annual talks between representatives from both denominations are now suspended.
AN announcement last week (18 Nov 2009) states that the Free Church of Scotland has decided to suspend its regular discussions with the Church of Scotland. These biannual talks involved representatives of both denominations and had been taking place over the past 5 years.
According to the FC web site: "They involved a frank but friendly exchange on the theological issues which divided the two denominations, along with an acknowledgement of the good relations which exist in many localities between congregations of both churches."
However, the Free Church has said that, in the light of the uncertainty over the Kirk’s position on homosexuality following the induction of an allegedly gay minister earlier this year, which appeared to be sanctioned by their General Assembly, it cannot for the time being continue “as if nothing had happened.” The decision was communicated at a recent meeting between the representatives of both churches and accepted with regret.
Rev. Iver Martin, Convener of the Free Church Ecumenical Relations Committee, said:
“Suspending the talks, whilst regrettable, was the most tangible way of expressing the Free Church’s discomfort with the failure of the Church of Scotland to take a thoroughly Biblical stand on the place of marriage between one man and one woman.”
However the Free Church has also affirmed that it continues to value and encourage the close relationship that there is between congregations of both denominations in many areas of Scotland.
Comment: The move is unsurprising in the light of the current crisis within the Church of Scotland which has left Bible-believing leaders within the denomination unsure of how to proceed.
Confusion within the Kirk
There are a number of different responses across the evangelical spectrum within the Kirk. Some are actively planning an 'exit strategy', others are operating as a de facto 'church-within-a-church'. Still others are in a 'wait and see situation' whilst a number would see a resolution via action on the committees and within the institutional mechanisms of the Church of Scotland.
Those least likely to do anything at the moment are those who are either in training or at the start or end of their ministries. Also ministers from across the age spectrum who have recently been appointed to new charges are not well-placed to embark on any action that could be upsetting to and divisive within their respective congregations.
Any Church of Scotland ministers who might contemplating a new home in the Free Church would have to come to terms with the prevailing cessationist theology; and with the 'unaccompanied psalms only' policy within the latter, and the extent of the contention within the Free Church over this issue. The words 'jumping, frying pan and fire' come to mind.
Meanwhile the liberals within the Church of Scotland who are driving the sexuality agenda can afford to sit back and watch the confusion within the evangelical ranks.
The battle between institutional unity and biblical fidelity
Last week the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America became the latest denomination to be rocked to its core over the issue of homosexual clergy after a vote in August to allow sexually-active gay and lesbian pastors.
The strains across these denominations relate to institutional mindsets in both camps which place a disproportionate need on maintaining the machinery, structures and buildings associated with their denomination, whilst on matters of doctrine and biblical fidelity the divisions are fundamental and – without a mightly intervention from God – irreconcilable.
Careers, status, power, money, buildings and empires are at stake so what should be a straightforward matter becomes hugely complex. One is given to wonder how God sees it all.