Dear friends in Christ around the world,
I am taking the liberty of writing seeking first of all your prayers, but also your active support, prior to our forthcoming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (beginning 21st May). As some of you may know, this year will see a highly charged Assembly, with some of our brothers and sisters from Aberdeen Presbytery appearing at the Bar in their appeal against the Presbytery’s decision to induct a man who has openly declared himself to be living in a homosexual partnership. These brave brethren issued a protest and complaint against the Presbytery’s decision, which has halted the process of this man’s appointment, and have been vilified in the press and in the wider church for doing so. However, the integrity of our Church’s doctrinal position is at stake, and they have done what the Lord asks of all of us, and those others of us in the C of S owe it to them to stand with them, in prayer and active support, at this time of great moment.
Already, liberal voices in the church are raising the stakes. The editorial of this Month’s Life and Work (the C of S magazine) urged strongly for the Church to show leadership in opening the way for acceptance of homosexual practice. Articles have appeared in the national papers similarly. It seems that many of those pushing for such shift into heterodoxy believe that orthodox churches will not, in the end, really do anything by way of response. They seem to have little sense that this issue is one of enormous magnitude, not only about the authority of Scripture but about the nature of humanity, and indeed the nature of the gospel itself, a gospel not of affirmation of sin, but which demands repentance from sin, and of liberation and transformation from sin. To go this way really is to go the way of abandoning the gospel.
We must therefore make it abundantly clear that they are very wrong, that this is supremely a gospel issue, and that if this does go through our Assembly, the inevitable consequences will be deeply damaging for the church.
Mindful of the fact that there are many congregations, and many more church members, who are deeply troubled at the decision of Aberdeen Presbytery, and who do not want to see our General Assembly publicly backing their decision, we have published a Statement which can be found here http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/ . It seeks to urge commissioners to support the Aberdeen protesters, and also to support an overture being brought from the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye, which seeks Assembly support for a clear endorsement of biblical sexual morality: “That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman.”
(We believe these issues will be debated on Saturday evening, 23rd May.)
We want as many to sign up from the C of S as possible, especially ministers, elders and other leaders, to send a strong signal from the “grass roots” of the church that we do not want our Assembly to lead away from Christian orthodoxy in this way . We also hope to mobilise all contacts around the world, to add support from world churches standing with us. A few years ago when we faced a similar issue, it was a great encouragement to know that there were many others all around the world praying for us, and standing with us for the truth. Please will you help us, and encourage us, by signing up and by passing this on to as many of your own contacts as you can, who will also stand with us in supporting the truth? http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/
Clearly support from other world Presbyterian churches is particularly helpful in our situation, but indeed from all orthodox believers, especially church leaders. If any of you have contacts like these, please do forward the statement to them for them to add their support. Any who can speak for large groups of churches “moderators and the like” would be especially helpful. Even better if those who represent a whole presbytery, denomination, diocese, or province could lend their support. We are all in the same battle on thes issues. Our stand matters to others also, as theirs matter to us. Just today the news came that in the PCUSA, the mainline Presbyterian church in the USA, once again in a vote has held to the traditional line on sexuality: a great encouragement, surely, for our own Assembly. And the Anglican Communion likewise is deeply enmeshed in the same issues. In a global village, our Assembly, and the outcome, will have effects far beyond our own little country and church.
It is interesting that the language of disruption and secession is being banded around in press articles about the forthcoming Assembly. That is not the language we are using, however. We do not feel that we are the ones who should leave our churches behind. We are the true churches! We are not for moving; rather we are for standing, and standing firm: firm for the gospel, and firmly together supporting other churches who likewise want to stand for the truth, and will not tolerate the extremism of a few who are opposed to the true gospel of the true lord Jesus Christ and want to destroy his church.
A group of us met recently to seek to consider at various responses. We felt that it is time for us to reassert the fact strongly that the church is the people, not the extablishment structures, and more particularly that it is the local congregation which is the primary locus of missional life, not the denomination. Gospel congregations need a better way of standing together for the faith of the gospel, and for its preservation and proclamation, and showing our strength against those who would gladly take our resources, but use it against our faith.
Therefore, like those congregations in other mainline denominations, such as the PCUSA and the Global Anglican Communion, we hope to form a Fellowship of Confessing Churches, based around a Confessing Churches covenant. We hope that as we look to the future, this will become a source of meaningful unity around real mission and true gospel vision. The hope is that solid evangelical congregations who want to stand for the truth will sign up, and lead the way for others who may be more hesitant, and less able at this point to see things so clearly. More information can be found at http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk
But meantime, we do hope you will add your name in support of our statement, and circulate it to as many others as you know whom you believe would also be willing to sign up in support.
And again, please do keep us in your prayers, asking that the Lord our God would use this fresh assault of the enemy and turn it to his glory, and to the blessing of his church in Scotland. I was reading this morning in Acts 9, where verse 31 gives the wonderful encouragement that all the persecution unleashed by Saul after Stephen’s martyrdom led in the end not to disaster, but rather to the church being built up, and “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” May that be so again.
Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,
William J U Philip
An Urgent Request for Prayer and Support for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Dear friends in Christ around the world,