Report on and Prayer Request for the Church of Scotland

May 25, 2011

The report below was written by WRF Member John Ross (johnstuartross@gmail.com), a minister of the Free Church of Scotland.  It was read and approved by WRF members David Court (davidcourt@zoho.com) and William Phillip (wp@wphilip.com), ministers of the Church of Scotland.  


Yesterday, sitting in our home in South Africa, watching by livestream, we witnessed the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland opening the door to allow homosexual people to be inducted as ministers in the church, provided they have declared their homosexuality and were ordained before May 2009. 

After six and half hours of debate, and by a vote of 351 to 294, the Assembly overturned centuries of Christian doctrine and tradition. In the guarded language of  the report of the Special Commission On Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry, the Church further agreed to consider a 'lifting of the moratorium on the acceptance for training and ordination of persons in a same-sex relationship.’ A final decision will be delayed for a further two years.  

Reporting to the Assembly of 2013, the Theological Commission is in the meantime to facilitate a discussion of same-sex relationships, civil partnerships and marriage, the provision of liturgical materials to celebrate same-sex commitments, and  the eligibility of homosexual candidates for the ministry. Provision is likely to be made for any member of Presbytery to opt out of participating in an ordination or induction which would violate their scruples. But this offers scant comfort to the 294 who voted against lifting the ban. 

Addressing the Assembly, WRF member Prof. Andrew McGowan warned that the decision taken yesterday would, for better or worse, set the Church on an unavoidable trajectory. His clearly articulated and impassioned plea to hold to the biblical, traditional and constitutional position was, however, rejected.

This morning, the Rev James Maciver delivered his moderatorial address on ‘The Glory of Christ’ to the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. Without any reference, or even allusion to events over the road, Mr MacIver highlighted the dilemma of our brethren in the Church of Scotland by referring to how men like Melville, Rutherford, Gillespie and Durham viewed with horror the idea of breaking away from the Church, even though they had to protest strongly against serious doctrinal defection.

The Kirk’s decision has deeply grieved a great many ministers, office bearers and members, some of whom are WRF members. In the face of the huge disappointment they feel and the inevitable questions being asked about the future, can we remember them in our prayers, asking God to give wisdom, courage and the necessary leadership to do what is right?