Tag Archives: Kirk

The Kirk and Independence – Leader in The Scotsman newspaper

Leaders: Kirk limited in its power to heal wounds

 

image

The debate at the Church of Scotland General Assembly. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Published on the 20 May 2014 in the Scotsman

 

IT WAS right and fitting that the Church of Scotland debated independence at the General Assembly yesterday. The Kirk has always been a crucible in which the future of the nation has been argued and discussed with intelligence and passion, and yesterday’s session produced some thoughtful observations on Scotland’s date with destiny.

Also to be welcomed was the Kirk’s recent decision to hold a service of reconciliation in Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral on 21 September. In this, the Church was responding to a letter from the Queen calling on people of faith to “work together for the social good of Scotland whatever the outcome of the independence referendum”.

There is little doubt that the tone of recent public debate has become markedly polarised and fractious. That is only to be expected, but it is a cause for concern. There has been much talk in this referendum of the importance of retaining the “social union” with England, but just as important is the social union between Scots within Scotland. The Church of Scotland is committed to a position of neutrality on independence. However, its members said it was important to reflect on issues dominating public life. Few would disagree either with the Church’s concern over the potential for rancour and divisiveness to persist after the vote, or its desire to promote reconciliation. And it is easy to underestimate how big a task this may prove.

But it is only sensible to recognise there are limits to the Church’s role in this initiative, and to its power to pull the country together. The Church has a positive part to play and its role as an exemplar should not be underestimated. But there is a limit to the extent to which the Kirk can be a healing power for all Scots after the independence referendum vote.

Scotland today is a much more secular country than was the case even just a decade ago. It may still adhere to values that generally coincide with Christianity, but attendance at church is increasingly a minority pursuit. And among those Scots who still adhere to religious observance, that observance is split across many different faiths and denominations.

The Church of Scotland, through its Articles Declaratory underpinned by statute, can justly lay claim to its historical role as the national church. But if there were ever days when it could speak for the whole nation, those days are long gone.

In the light of this reality, caution should also be exercised over the Kirk’s request for special recognition in the drawing up of a constitution for an independent Scotland, should that moment arrive. The Kirk can and should be a positive force for good in Scotland, and an important voice in the national conversation, but in the 21st century it has no claim to preferential treatment – or even inclusion – in a modern Scottish constitution.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

May 21, 2014 · 10:05

Logic?

Logic?

 

http://youtu.be/IrFqDzPPGE8

Leave a comment

December 7, 2013 · 00:20

The Rev Bully

the Rev Bully could be quite intimidating and his “forthright manner” was evident as convener of the Presbytery’s “readjustment” committee.

A neighbouring parish to mine had a minister who was less than popular with his congregation and elders (in fact, the Session Clerk of said church met with me to discuss how to get rid of the guy – for obvious reasons, I didn’t give any real advice – none of my business )

anyhow, the Rev Bully would phone him everyday and with industrial strength language (unbecoming for a man of the cloth) would shout down the phone demanding that he “went forth and multiplied” or something along those lines, in order that the vacant church could be linked or united with another Kirk in a neighbouring parish.

well, the war of attrition got more intense – with implied violence – as the weeks went by until at last the Reverend gentleman decided to leave for pastures new.

I forgot to mention that the ‘victim’ in this sorry tale had a post- graduate Doctor of Ministry degree – a D.Min ……..  and we all know that Jesus drove out the D.Mins as did the Rev Bully!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Churches play a blinder on the scourge of payday loans (The Herald – 29 July 2013)

by Andrew McKie

 

Because it is invariably brought up in any discussion about God and Mammon, let’s clarify one point.

 

Jesus did not throw the money-lenders out of the Temple, not least because there weren’t any money-lenders in the Temple.

The incident usually known as the Cleansing of the Temple is mentioned in all four Gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; and John 2, if you fancy looking it up). They all agree that the people whom Jesus chucked out when he “whummelt the tables”, as Lorimer’s excellent Scots translation of St Mark puts it, were money-changers (and pigeon sellers).

They couldn’t have been money-lenders because Jews were not allowed to lend money at interest to other Jews (though they could to Gentiles). Greek and Roman coins were not acceptable for Temple donations, so there was a sort of bureau de change for turning them into Jewish money. The distinction is important, because traditional Jewish, Christian and Islamic notions of usury distinguish between commerce and lending money at interest.

Money-changing was a commercial operation, not a usurious one, which makes Christ’s action, if anything, even more radical. It is also the only instance in the New Testament when Jesus uses physical force.

Money-lending has always been problematic for religious groups, as the Archbishop of Canterbury discovered last week when launching a crusade against the payday loan company Wonga, only to discover that the Church of England had invested in the business. Although it was very indirectly, and a very small sum compared with its overall investments, he immediately conceded that this was embarrassing. (Politicians might try this little-used tactic, known as telling the truth.)

The Church of Scotland, which has already said it would like to follow the archbishop’s initiative, is sensibly first checking its own investments to ensure that it doesn’t have any money in similar enterprises.

The condemnation of lending money at interest is by no means as straightforward as it might seem; the Sermon on the Mount declares that there is a moral duty to lend money, while in the parable of the talents (which in Luke is actually in the same chapter as the Cleansing of the Temple), the feckless servant is upbraided for having failed to put his money out on the exchanges to get a return.

But one of the chief obstacles the poor face is being unable to borrow money, which is why micro-lending schemes for Third World countries are one of the most effective forms of aid. In practice, Christians have always been allowed to charge some interest on loans; the Council of Nicea, for example, ruled that interest should be capped at 12.7% APR, though it didn’t put it in quite those terms.

The chief justifications given were usually that the lender should either share in the venture being financed, and compensated for the risk, or that he should gain some allowance for the loss of profit which he might have made had he invested the money himself – a doctrine very similar to the economic notion of opportunity cost.

Islam, which has historically taken a stricter view of lending at interest, has nonetheless created a successful banking system which builds on similar ideas, such as risk-sharing and fees for safekeeping.

But no matter how generously or loosely one defines usury, I think we can be fairly confident that the advertised APR of Wonga, which is a staggering 5853%, would be judged by most theologians – not to mention anyone of any faith or none who has half an eye and the ability to count to three – to be outrageously usurious.

This doesn’t seem to bother the firm, which, to be fair, makes no pretence about its charges and points out that it is not designed for long-term lending (its current maximum term is 46 days).

Wonga acknowledges that it is not the cheapest or most sensible way to borrow money, but believes it provides a convenient and efficient service for those who require loans for very short periods, and may find them difficult to get from more conventional lenders.

The problem for payday lenders of this sort, however, is that their customers are overwhelmingly drawn from the poorest sections of society. Of course Wonga and firms like it are operating within the law, and people are free to choose their service or not. But the reality for many poor people is that they do not really have that element of choice.

The refreshing thing about Justin Welby’s intervention in this debate is that he did not choose to call for lenders with high interest rates to be outlawed – indeed, he has acknowledged that they can be well run and are infinitely better than illegal street lenders who are likely to collect their payments with the aid of a claw hammer. Instead, he has suggested using churches to help expand the reach of credit unions, something which the Kirk is also considering.

By declaring he would like to “compete Wonga out of business”, the archbishop has played a blinder, and won approval from all points in the political spectrum. The right likes it, because it’s entirely consistent with free markets. The traditional left approves of mutualism, and better rates for the poor (though a credit union’s maximum 2% a month is still, in fact, twice the Council of Nicea’s upper limit). Even Wonga has said that it welcomes competition as good for customers – something which businesses always pretend to approve of, even if most of them secretly like markets only when they work for their benefit.

The archbishop’s background in commerce, as well as his acknowledgement that the Church, if it is to operate in the secular world, is bound to be imperfect, gives weight to his plans. But their primary usefulness is not merely to help those who find it difficult to borrow small sums at reasonable rates – valuable though that is. It is also a declaration that the Church can, and should, be actively involved in helping the most vulnerable, and that it should be taking its place in the public square.

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly may have called last year for legislation to cap interest rates, but the Kirk’s decision to back Archbishop Welby’s scheme – as well as its announcement that it is considering funding credit unions, is a more effective and concrete demonstration of commitment. Like food banks, many of which operate from church networks, facilitating credit unions is a practical manifestation of the Christian imperative to help those in need.

There’s nothing particularly virtuous about trying to outlaw businesses which you think morally objectionable; providing a real alternative, however, is not only a spiritual, but a material, good.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Kirk and Gay Clergy (article from “The Scotsman” newspaper)

General Assembly

 

Church of Scotland faces breakaway over gay clergy

The General Assembly decided to allow gay clergy. Picture: Getty
The General Assembly decided to allow gay clergy. Picture: Getty

By ALISTAIR MUNRO and CRAIG BROWN
Published on 31/05/2013 03:14

THE Church of Scotland is facing a fresh crisis over the controversial issue of allowing gay clergy after two churches threatened to break away from the Kirk.

Congregations at the two churches, both in the Western Isles, are to vote on whether to quit the Kirk over the issue.

The congregation at Kinloch and elders of Stornoway High, on the Isle of Lewis, are the first to react to the Kirk’s decision to allow gay clergy, which was passed last week by the General Assembly. Sources suggested at least ten more congregations could be considering similar votes this summer and warned the Church of Scotland “could be facing extinction in the Western Isles”.

The ordaining of ministers in same-sex relationships has divided the Kirk since traditionalist members attempted to block the appointment of Scott Rennie, who is gay, in 2009.

So far, two congregations have left the Kirk over the issue – St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow and Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen – both 
before the Church of Scotland took the historic step last week of voting in favour of allowing openly gay men and women to become ministers.

The two churches now considering breaking away are from the evangelical wing of the Kirk, which believes in the “gospel truth” and follow the written word of the Bible.

The evangelical wing is strong in many parts of the Highlands and Islands, and is at odds with Church’s more liberal sections and their position on the ordination of gay ministers.

One source from within the evangelicals said: “On current form, it is perfectly conceivable that in two years time the Church of Scotland will have nobody left in places like Lewis. Many congregations across Scotland are deeply unhappy with what the General Assembly decided.

“Now that Kinloch have announced their intention to leave, it could have a domino effect across the Highlands and Islands, with many more planning to leave – easily running into double figures. If rumours are correct, come May 2015 the national church could be facing extinction in the Western Isles.”

The minister and members of Kinloch Church of Scotland have made a unanimous decision to consider their position, saying they are unhappy with the way in which the Kirk has handled the issue of gay ministers.

Kinloch minister, the Rev Iain Murdo Campbell, said the General Assembly should not have even tackled the matter.

He added that it was not so much the decision by the General Assembly that had caused them to consider a breakaway from the Kirk, but the fact the issue was being discussed at all. “They have been investigating and talking about this for at least four years,” he said.

“As far as we can see this is a question of what authority God’s word has within the denomination within the Church.

“If the word of God had the authority, which it should have, the question and debate would never have been in the General Assembly in the first place.

“God has spoken quite clearly and it only takes a few seconds to read what God has to say on this issue.”

Meanwhile, elders at Stornoway High Church held a meeting on Wednesday night and also decided to vote on whether to leave the Kirk. The congregation narrowly voted to remain part of the Kirk in 2011 when it became clear that the Church of Scotland was moving in the direction of allowing gay people to become ministers.

At the General Assembly earlier this month an attempt was made to find a compromise to satisfy all within the Kirk, but it has not gone down well with the evangelical wing.

The General Assembly maintained the Church’s traditional stance on the doctrine of human sexuality, but allowed congregations to decide themselves on whether to allow a minister in a same-sex relationship.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “We have not been informed of any congregation wishing to leave the Church of Scotland following last week’s General Assembly and the debate on the proposals put forward by the Theological Commission, and we would be saddened if this were the case at such an early stage.”

A summit is to take place for evangelical ministers next month to hold “crisis talks”.

It has been organised by Rev Kenny Borthwick, now leader of Holy Trinity Church in Edinburgh, urging traditionalists to gather and “repent, pray and work for reformation that is so badly needed”.

A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “By voting for political correctness over faithfulness to the Bible, it can be no surprise the Church of Scotland has jeopardised its own future.”

Just prior to the General Assembly, the Free Church’s moderator Rev Dr Iain D Campbell said the underlying principal of the 1843 Disruption – which caused the split in the Church 170 years ago – was the key issue, ultimately freedom for the Church to be governed by the “Word of God” alone.

Over the past few years a number of ministers have left the Church of Scotland over the issue of gay clergy.

The Reverend Paul Gibson resigned his charge of Tain Parish Church after just eight months into the post. The Reverend Ivor MacDonald left Kilmuir and Stenscholl on Skye and the Reverend John Murdo MacDonald resigned from Lochalsh.

The Church of Scotland is facing a fresh crisis over the controversial issue of allowing gay clergy after two churches threatened to break away from the Kirk.

Congregations at the two churches, both in the Western Isles, are to vote on whether to quit the Kirk over the issue.

The congregation at Kinloch and elders of Stornoway High, on the Isle of Lewis, are the first to react to the Kirk’s decision to allow gay clergy, which was passed last week by the General Assembly. Sources suggested at least ten more congregations could be considering similar votes this summer and warned the Church of Scotland “could be facing extinction in the Western Isles”.

The ordaining of ministers in same-sex relationships has divided the Kirk since traditionalist members attempted to block the appointment of Scott Rennie, who is gay, in 2009.

So far, two congregations have left the Kirk over the issue – St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow and Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen – both 
before the Church of Scotland took the historic step last week of voting in favour of allowing openly gay men and women to become ministers.

The two churches now considering breaking away are from the evangelical wing of the Kirk, which believes in the “gospel truth” and follow the written word of the Bible.

The evangelical wing is strong in many parts of the Highlands and Islands, and is at odds with Church’s more liberal sections and their position on the ordination of gay ministers.

One source from within the evangelicals said: “On current form, it is perfectly conceivable that in two years time the Church of Scotland will have nobody left in places like Lewis. Many congregations across Scotland are deeply unhappy with what the General Assembly decided.

“Now that Kinloch have announced their intention to leave, it could have a domino effect across the Highlands and Islands, with many more planning to leave – easily running into double figures. If rumours are correct, come May 2015 the national church could be facing extinction in the Western Isles.”

The minister and members of Kinloch Church of Scotland have made a unanimous decision to consider their position, saying they are unhappy with the way in which the Kirk has handled the issue of gay ministers.

Kinloch minister, the Rev Iain Murdo Campbell, said the General Assembly should not have even tackled the matter.

He added that it was not so much the decision by the General Assembly that had caused them to consider a breakaway from the Kirk, but the fact the issue was being discussed at all. “They have been investigating and talking about this for at least four years,” he said.

“As far as we can see this is a question of what authority God’s word has within the denomination within the Church.

“If the word of God had the authority, which it should have, the question and debate would never have been in the General Assembly in the first place.

“God has spoken quite clearly and it only takes a few seconds to read what God has to say on this issue.”

Meanwhile, elders at Stornoway High Church held a meeting on Wednesday night and also decided to vote on whether to leave the Kirk. The congregation narrowly voted to remain part of the Kirk in 2011 when it became clear that the Church of Scotland was moving in the direction of allowing gay people to become ministers.

At the General Assembly earlier this month an attempt was made to find a compromise to satisfy all within the Kirk, but it has not gone down well with the evangelical wing.

The General Assembly maintained the Church’s traditional stance on the doctrine of human sexuality, but allowed congregations to decide themselves on whether to allow a minister in a same-sex relationship.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “We have not been informed of any congregation wishing to leave the Church of Scotland following last week’s General Assembly and the debate on the proposals put forward by the Theological Commission, and we would be saddened if this were the case at such an early stage.”

A summit is to take place for evangelical ministers next month to hold “crisis talks”.

It has been organised by Rev Kenny Borthwick, now leader of Holy Trinity Church in Edinburgh, urging traditionalists to gather and “repent, pray and work for reformation that is so badly needed”.

A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “By voting for political correctness over faithfulness to the Bible, it can be no surprise the Church of Scotland has jeopardised its own future.”

Just prior to the General Assembly, the Free Church’s moderator Rev Dr Iain D Campbell said the underlying principal of the 1843 Disruption – which caused the split in the Church 170 years ago – was the key issue, ultimately freedom for the Church to be governed by the “Word of God” alone.

Over the past few years a number of ministers have left the Church of Scotland over the issue of gay clergy.

The Reverend Paul Gibson resigned his charge of Tain Parish Church after just eight months into the post. The Reverend Ivor MacDonald left Kilmuir and Stenscholl on Skye and the Reverend John Murdo MacDonald resigned from Lochalsh.

SEE ALSO

• Analysis: Secessionists likely to be trickle not flood

• Aberdeen church breaks away over gay ministers row

• Church of Scotland faces exodus over gay clergy

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Desmond Tutu at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 2009

Leave a comment

April 24, 2013 · 22:59

Clothes Make the Man

There used to be a friendly bowling match (outdoor bowls) in one of my parishes between officers (and friends) of the two respective Boys’ Brigade Companies in the Town.

I appeared at my first one, wearing  jeans and a t-shirt, to be told by a gentleman in his sixties and whom I hadn’t met before, “For a minister of the Kirk, you look like a tramp!”

Wow!  Some rude comment!

Now, this guy was wearing a white cap (in was summertime), a white polo shirt and cream-coloured chinos.

So, I replied: “Well, at least I didn’t put on fancy dress to make me look like a geriatric ice-cream salesman!”

Ouch!

–ooOOoo–

Now, on the other hand…. when I ministered in Guernsey, I was invited to attend the induction/introduction service of the new Methodist Minister in St.Peter’s Port.

As was (sadly dying out), it is the custom for Church of Scotland ministers to wear full robes (cassock, Geneva gown, academic hood etc) to such events.

So I did – and found myself sitting up-front with fellow clergy (including the rector of the Town Church), all of whom were wearing suits and dog collars or ties.

Only the officiating Methodist Superintendent was robed – and that was just a cassock.

Talk about an ΙΧΘΥΣ  out of water!

Ichthus.svg

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Auld Kirk Meenister

The Auld Kirk Meenister

1 Comment

April 7, 2013 · 09:55