Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Split ends or what has happened at Gilcomston?

I hear on the grapevine that a prominent conservative evangelical former Church of Scotland in Aberdeen has been so careless as to lose its beloved minister of many years standing, with whom it made its exit from the ever-more-contaminated-by-liberalism national church. This is not good. I am not surprised it has been kept relatively quiet. Nor am I surprised that all has not gone according to plan. That plan presumably saw the church now uncontaminated rise soaring from the ashes of the national church and be free to pursue an unalloyed and pure calling according to its vision of the Biblical Way. Falling out with its minister cannot have been part of that plan. But then when you lose that accountability to anyone but yourself, (oh, and God and His Word of course, although that only seems to matter some of the time), then of course, like Israel of old, every man may do what seems right in his own eyes.

The framework with which working within a larger church institution provides us is a hugely important, and provides a much needed bulwark against many evils which can befall the church, including that of giving us a means of due process through which disagreements among the leaders can be sifted and decided upon, by others, under whose authority we put ourselves. Sure, it's a mixed blessing, belonging to a church which entertains a "mixed economy" (clever speak which means "all sorts"). The decision making councils may decide things which are anathema to us. But continuing to belong has never in the Church of Scotland been equated with the giving of assent to these decsions, even if sometimes we have to obey them, and we hold among our members and even office bearers people who believe in adult baptism and have undergone it (despite "One Lord, one faith, one Baptism"), and we have coped with that. Those who left were spoiling for a reason to do so, and the decision on gay ministers gave them that. But it was the tip of the iceberg of growing disaffection. They were wrong to leave. Their leaving weakened the Church of Scotland massively, left a huge hole in the centre of Glasgow, (although that was not entirely their fault), and has contibuted to the fracturing of the image of the church. And those who have left are now exposed to exactly the kind of thing we see happening in Aberdeen. One fracture line may lead to another. They closed the Forth Road Bridge because that happens, I hope no other churches will close or be lost and that more ministers who have served long and faithfully and acceptably, will not suddenly find themselves being hard pressed by Kirk Sessions who are finding their voice and a new authority unencumbered by Presbyteries or General Assemblies.

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