I have been keeping my eye on the progress of some men in the Aberdeen Presbytery of the Church of Scotland who are in the forefront of a fight to overturn a decision by that presbytery to ordain a man openly in a sexual relationship with another man. There will be an appeal to the General Assembly to that effect next month in Edinburgh.
In addition, Lochcarron and Skye Presbytery will be bringing an overture moving
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.
All of this can be found at the Fellowship of Confessing Churches website. I have to admit, I was quite amazed. This group affirms the historic creeds and the Westminster Confession, something I thought long gone in the church I was nurtured in.
While there is much to be concerned about in the Church of Scotland, this is an encouraging development and we should pray for these men who make a stand. You may even want to sign their statement.
28 thoughts on “Fellowship of Confessing Churches”
I have joined with you in signing their statement, just awaiting their very slow server to send the authenticating e mail.
Though I must admit that I had to read the description as to who was doing what a couple times. When you “live under a rock” you are not always attune to what is going on in the world.
Still awaiting the authenticating e mail……..
Gordon, you’ll have got the email almost immediately if you’re going to get it at all. Most likely one of 2 things has happened: 1. it’s ended up in a spam filter, or 2. the email disappeared into the ether. Best to get in touch with an admin at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them manually to confirm you, or resend the confirmation. Apologies.
What do you think of Trueman’s post on it? (He did also post neutrally about the petition specifically.)
@Stephen: I’ve signed the petition.
@étrangère: I find Reformation 21 hard to read often because the posts often annoy me. Like this post, it isn’t written in a very productive or loving manner as far as I can tell.
Hi Rosemary, I am way behind in following blogs so I did not read the Trueman response until you linked to it. Thankfully it was short.
Trueman is right in his historical analysis. The evangelicals in the CoS, it seems to me, have been functional independents and kept their heads down over the last few decades. They have bemoaned the state of the CoS privately at the likes of the Crieff Fellowship but have not acted in presbytery to reverse the liberalising trends. Trueman is right that the root of the woes of the CoS is not the homosexual issue.
However, what encourages me is that, while the occasion is the ordination of an openly unrepentant gay man to the ministry, the call to the Church is more general. It is a call to the confessional standard on which the church was founded. This is different from previous loose evangelical calls such as Forward Together which has always seemed to me like inviting cats into a bag.
The formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Churches, because of its confessional basis, paves the way to greater cooperation between the Free Church and other denoms in Scotland. Who knows? This may be the start of a move to genuine modern reformation in Scotland.
PS have you noticed how quickly the visitor and signatory counts are going up? I hope it continues, especially amongst CoS members.
I notice that the FCC website has a link to a similar looking group in the PCUSA. When I click it, one is taken to “The Layman” magazine. That was the one you sent me from the church you attended in Florida earlier this year. The link suggests a similar group exists in the PCUSA. Is that your understanding?
David, it must have disappeared into the internet ether. I followed your advice with the e mail and have been manually entered.
Stephen, the list is filling up rather rapidly. I signed it rather late last night and am listed as signature 1890. So there are either a lot of late night owls or there was a rush on Friday morning.
The Presbyterian Lay Committee which I have supported for a long time, publishes “The Layman” which you were linked to and is a very similar organization.
The Confessing Church Movement, as an organization in the PC(USA) has run its course, and other groups like Presbyterians For Renewal and The Presbyterian Coalition still advocate for traditional standards. However, churches that declared themselves Confessing Churches still generally maintain that identity.
Total is now at 3,261. This morning I was assigned number 1890 but I am now 2378, so it looks like 488 signatures for Friday.
Thanks for your comment. However, it raises more questions! What makes you think the CCM in the PCUSA has “run its course”? The Layman website has this page. It is recent (Oct ’08) and so seems like it is going strong. Has it been wound up?
Also the existence of the other organisations muddies the water somewhat since they have different starting points and somewhat different objectives. Reminds me of the plethora of ‘evangelical’ organisations within the Church of England!
3740 as of Saturday morning.
Stephen, I signed up. But I was surprised to read about a fellowship of confessing churches, and I was a bit surprised by the emphasis on the Westminster Confession.
First, as far as I am aware, there is no current public list of confessing congregations. Do any churches actually belong to this fellowship? Or is it simply individual ministers elders and members of the Church of Scotland?
Second, with regard to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I have doubts about whether the majority of people listed in the petition could actually subscribe fully to the Confession. And I include most of the ministers and elders in that claim. If and when I am ordained in the Church of Scotland I will certainly require the liberty of conscience clause in order to take my vows with any credibility.
long time, no read!
I am afraid you are asking the wrong man. I recognise a lot of the Tron people (my former church) and some others and I am pretty certain they would be WCF guys. However, it is almost certain that there are those who sign up because of the specific issue and not because they agree with the confession. Certainly there are ministers from other non-WCF churches on the list.
Stephen, I think my point is more this. Many CofS evangelicals would claim to uphold the Confession. But if you were to ask them about it, or take them through it, my gut tells me they would soon discover things too wonderful for them to proclaim.
One interesting case study would be chapter XXIV: sections V and VI. And that’s before bigger questions like predestination and election, relations between church and state, and the whole area of the sacraments. Or Sunday as the Lord’s Day/Sabbath anyone?
As Carl Trueman writes at Ref 21… it is very very easy to sign a petition… but it is something else to live out the implications of your declarations. If CofS evangelicals are serious about the Confession they will need to aim at a complete revision of the Kirk’s current constitution.
Thanks, David. I wholeheartedly agree. Clearly put.
I have read with interest the signatories to your petition and noted that there is only one member of the Queens Cross congregation who has signed. It is to the credit of the congregation that the members are more enlightened and tolerant than the signatories of this openly homophobic petition. The congregation of Queens Cross that it has selected Scott Rennie as their minister based on his abilities without regard to his sexual orientation, why cannot others accept this ? As a former member of Queens Cross I applaud their stance and wish Reverend Rennie every success in his calling and ministry at the church
Hi Gordon C,
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.
I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions to get a better picture of where you are coming from.
First, by what standard do you determine that it is “to the credit of the congregation that the members are more enlightened and tolerant”? What is the standard of enlightenment and toleration? It seems to me that the whole debate is about what standards are being invoked. What standard are you using?
Second, how do one know if someone has a phobia about gay people? I suggest that disagreement about what is acceptable behaviour is insufficient. (You only have to apply it to other cases to see just how insuficient it is.) What other standard are you using?
With regard to the process used at Queens Cross, which you urge others to consider acceptable: again, is this not what is under discussion, whether or not they have held to agreed standards in the selection of suitable candidates? I have noticed that liberals in denomination have a tendency just to go ahead and do things against agreed standards and then get upset when called to account.
Of course, I could say more but I will restrain myself!
This is not about standards, it is about homophobia and I doubt there is a standard for that. All of my working life I have lived in, worked in, and travelled to, many countries in the world and have made many friends. I care not whether they are homosexual or not, my friends are “good” people who know the difference between right and wrong, that is the standard I judge them by. Their sexual orientation cannot be helped or “cured” and is of no importance to me. The question to ask is, ” Is Scott Rennie a good person ?” I would submit that if he were not, and therefore not a fit person to be ordained a Minister of the Church, then the God the petition signatories purport to worship would have intervened to ensure otherwise.
Thursday morning and up to 7,624 Signatories.
What a surprise, two Gordons posting comments!
Again, thanks for posting a comment.
I’m still puzzled – bear with me. Since your comment emphasises the perceived homophobia, let’s stick with that question, then. Once more I want to press my second question above. How do you know when someone has a phobia about gay people? Just because they disagree about what is acceptable practice of behaviour?
Here is my problem: you say “it is about homophobia” and then “I doubt there is a standard for that”. But surely a definition of the word “homophobia” creates a standard by which judge homophobia. My question is, what is the basis of that standard?
Further in your comment you say that “my friends are ‘good’ people who know the difference between right and wrong”. But to know right and wrong, you need a standard! I just want to know where that standard comes from!
Finally, I too can affirm your statement, that I “have made many friends. I care not whether they are homosexual or not”. Where does that leave us?
My thanks for your interesting reply. I have a sense that by your insistence on my quoting standards I am being led down a path that I do not and will not follow.
Suffice to say that I base my own concept of what is right and wrong on The Ten Commandments which, if understood and followed, I believe to be the basis of differentiating between the two. I have also read The Quran which in its own way says much the same.
I will not quote any other religious text to justify my beliefs. I have listened to far too many people attempt to justify their sometimes unpalatable actions and beliefs in this way and I want no part of it.
The question therefore remains, is the subject of your petition a good person, who understands the difference between right and wrong based on the standards set in the Commandments ? If the answer is affirmative, why is his Ministry being petitioned against ?
Apologies for the delayed reply. Sunday has a habit of of coming round regularly for a minister and disrupting other activities!
I am not really trying to lead you “down a path”. I am trying to understand the basis of your position. Unless I understand it you and I will simply talk past each other and I don’t want that. Moreover, your use of terms like “homophobic” will simply seem to me like gratuitous name calling, and I am sure you don’t mean it to be.
I understand your concern about using religious texts to justify belief. I have a particular concern in this since I see it as my job to explain the text of scripture in a way that makes sense of all the other parts of scripture at the same time. However, you should understand that I believe wholeheartedly that God is the author of all of the Bible and that through it he has revealed himself and his will for people. Many people pick and choose the bits of the Bible they like and reject the bits they don’t and end up, sometimes unwittingly, with inconsistent opinions. And please note, this is the normal Christian experience – I have no illusions about this!
What is interesting to me is the underlying reasons for acceptance or rejection. When someone rejects a part of the Bible it is because there is some other deeper, more foundational principle at work. I just want to know what principles drive you since you are willing only to consider the 10 commandments.
On your specific question, I need to say a couple of things:
1) Only God is good – see Mark 10:18. We are all sinners. Any notion of goodness is not the issue. What should characterise the christian life is not goodness, but repentance from sin. Martin Luther’s first of his 95 these was “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” If I were looking at a candidate for ministry, this is what I would be looking for.
2) Applying the 10 commandments and holding them in high regard is vital, but they should be understood in all their fullness. One (there are more!) of the principles that becomes clear in reading the rest of the law, and also of reading the instructions of Jesus and the apostles, is that not only should one not do what is prohibited (e.g. commit adultery) but actively pursue the opposite (pursue the well-being of your marriage to your wife vigorously). That is why any kind of sexual activity outside the confines of a married relationship between a man and a woman is sin, no matter how committed or loving it may be (and I don’t doubt that strong bonds are formed).
The ordination of the man concerned is being opposed because he is unrepentant on this matter and as such disqualifies himself from ministry.
Again my thanks for your very thought provoking reply, and for your patience in trying to understand where I am coming from, sometimes I am not sure myself. Like you I am a qualified engineer, though my discipline is concerned with propelling floating things through water and not flying objects through air ! I am very possibly guilty of letting science and logic influence my beliefs more that I should.
Like you I believe that it would be a mistake for us just to pass each other by. It would give me great pleasure to have a face to face discussion as we have much to discuss. However as I live in southern Spain this seems an unlikely prospect
I fully recognise and respect your belief that The Bible is wholly authored by God, my concern with this is, that having been translated and re-interpreted from the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, firstly into Latin, and then into English, and from there into many other languages so many times, how can we be sure that what we have now conveys the original intent and commands of The Author. In contrast, the original Arabic text of The Quran containg the word of Allah as given to Mohammed by Gabriel, is considered by Islamic scholars to be so profound and beautiful as being beyond re-interpretation, hence it has never been re-written and is used by Muslims today.
You will have gathered by now that I am a simple man with simple beliefs. At the risk of making this post a trifle wordy, and my reluctance to quote religious text, let my try and explain what I mean by quoting an American Indian prayer, the words of which impressed me so much that I carry them around with me.
” Oh Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I am small and weak, I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty.
Make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears be sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so I may understand the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes, so when life fades as a fading sunset, may my spirit come to you without shame.”
Regarding your third point about sexual relationships outside marriage. Both my grown up children live with their prospective spouses and have done so for some considerable time, I cannot. do not, and will not, consider them as sinners, indeed one of them is an ordained Church of Scotland Elder who has represented the Church in charitable work overseas.
Your last point is interesting, had the subject of the petition “Repented” or been in a celibate relationship, would this make him eligible for The Ministry. Repenting will not make him less homosexual.
Please forgive my impatience in not waiting for a reply to my last post, but I am struggling with two things in you discussion.
The Bible reference Jesus says that only God is good, and you emphasise this by saying that the notion of good is not the issue, this is what I am struggling with so please bear with me. From a religious perspective of good and evil “good” is morally positive while the opposite is “evil” If only God is good does this mean that all who have been, are, and will be, are therefore evil. I find this almost impossible to believe.
Forgetting the religious perspective for a moment and concentrating on the Moral and Altruistic, there are, and have been, many truly “Good” people, religious, altruistic, and philanthropic who have made a great difference to the lives of others.
The other concept I struggle is that we are all sinners. I presume that this comes from the theological doctrine of Original Sin, that we are born as sinners. I have difficulty with the idea that a new born child, with no concept of morality, ethics, good, and evil can be considered as a sinner. Surely there is nothing as pure and innocent as a new born child.
I do not have the advantage of being a student of theology and I hope you can understand my confusion, and struggle.
Thank you for both of your careful responses, and once again, sorry for the delayed reply.
The issue of what sin is vital. It is the problem we all have and indeed, it is the problem that makes the gospel necessary. In other words, it is what made Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, substitutionary death for our sins, and resurrection from the dead necessary. Through that complex of events he has forgiveness of sins and effected reconciliation with God through faith in Christ.
The question of what is good and what is evil is tricky simply because there are always underlying assumptions at work by which one judges such things. Almost always people in the street make an assessment based on cultural norms. Think how many things are now acceptable that were not 200 years ago and vice versa. Think what things are acceptable in, say, Saudi Arabia that are not acceptable here and vice versa. People will usually take their cues from people around them.
The Christian, however, takes his cues from God. It is one of the things that is a real sign of a work of the Spirit in a person – he/she suddenly realises it is God he/she must relate to. The question then is, “What is this God like?” and, since he is God, “How can I serve him?” Answers to both of those things are found in the Bible.
However, it is not long before such a person realises that he/she keeps failing to do what God requires. The Bible is not silent about that either. Let me list some stark statements:
– the story of Noah, “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
– Ecclesiastes 9:3 – “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts”
– Jesus puts it well in Mark 7:20-23
– The apostle Paul also saw this. After surveying the problems of mankind, both of pagan gentiles and religious people, he says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Now Paul is not pointing his finger at others while he considers himself “good”. He wrestled with sin in his own experience – see Romans 7:21-24 (and you will note the marvellous answer to his final question in 7:25 – God acting through Jesus Christ our Lord.)
So, I hope you see that the Bible helps us see ourselves more clearly. If we are honest, when we look at our hearts closely we will see muck and mire – anger, lusts, greed, mixed motives, self-idolisation, God-denial etc etc. Most people do not want to look too closely. It is simply too unpleasant. Hence most of us live in an unreal Walter Mitty world where I am “good” and evil comes from somewhere else. But, amongst the first indications of true Christian faith is the acceptance of the reality of one’s own heart.
Of course, the answer to this problem is not to try to be “good”. You can’t. But that gives us a problem with God. The answer is to turn to Jesus Christ who bore the penalty for sin. He is able to effect reconciliation with God the Father. The gospel call is to trust in Jesus and be saved.
I realise I have left behind the issue of homosexuality for the moment, but the above has application to that issue.
But that’s probably enough for now!
Your replies to my posts are clearly those of a man with a deep, unshakeable, and profound faith. In many ways I regret that my beliefs are not as clear as yours. Even at my advanced age I continue to question and struggle with the the concept of an all knowing, loving, and forgiving, God, especially with so much, conflict and bigotry worldwide carried out and practised in the name of religion.
I do believe that there is a supreme presence guiding my life, but unlike you, I do not have that overpowering and devout belief that The Bible contains the answers to all my questions.
I have read with interest the links to The Bible passages in your messages and can understand why you included them. I go back to the question, if only God is good, are those people who, for religious, ethical,moralistic and altruistic reasons have made a great difference to the lives of their fellows therefore not good. I cannot get away from this concept of good and evil, or not good.
My late father had a deep and simple faith believing absolutely in a life after death, he was in my eyes a “good” man. He loved the simplicity of the Presbyterian form of worship, and a good sermon, well preached was a joy to him. In his later life in England he did not attend Church regularly, but retained his faith, seeing God in his garden, a sparkling river, and the beauty of a sunset, a simple man indeed. It is from him that I took my own simple beliefs. I think the words of the prayer I sent you illustrate this, they are simple yet profound, declaring both belief and hope.
I well remember my youth in Paisley attending Lylesland Church with him, indeed, the then Minister, Donald McDonald, a man I remember as having both great faith, and a wry sense of humour, became one of his greatest friends and often visited our house.
I know what you mean about “good”. There are those who seem to live exemplary lives that are a lot of help to others. I do not for a moment want to deny that. In fact I would see those manifestations as having their source in the way God has made us – in his image.
The sinfulness of man means that there is no faculty of man (the mind, the affections, the will) that is not tainted. It does not mean that man is as evil as he can possibly be but it does mean that everything is affected by it, and it affects everyone. So any measure of goodness has got to be relative i.e. relative to other fallen human beings. Compared to God, compared to Jesus, however, were are nothing, and that is what really matters.
The problem of absolutising the idea of “good” is that it makes Pharisees of us. They believed that before God what mattered was moral performance. They believed they were good and did not want to do, eat, touch anything that defiled them. They were deeply religious through and through, and the people looked up to them. But Jesus answered that question in the reference I linked to earlier: Mark 7:20-23. You see, religion, goodness, a high view of the 10 commandments, your own personal moral standard, can all be the problem not the solution if the deep problem of sin is not dealt with.
If you want to get a handle on the evil in the world you need to get this concept of sin. If you do not get this you will never understand it, so you will not see the answer that God gives in Jesus Christ, and you will always have doubts about God. “Why does he not do anything about it?” Well, he has – in Jesus Christ.
I appreciate your comments about your father. I have no doubt that he had a strong sense of God through what has been created. This I would fully expect, since God has “wired” us that way (see Romans 1:19,20). The thing that is missing, however, from your account of your father’s approach to God is Jesus Christ. (Please note, I am not making any comment about his relationship to God or eternal state – that is a matter for God alone. Besides I cannot tell whether this was his view or your impression of his view!)
I meet many people with similar views, some of them in church. It is is though they do not see a need for the gospel. But without the gospel (see 1 Cor 15:3,4) we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17) and have to face a holy God. We really do need the gospel! It is Jesus’ goodness we need. He became sin, that we may be treated as righteous (good, if you like) (2 Cor 5:21). When we have that, we really can rejoice.
And, er, I think I have a sense of humour. Did you hear the one about…
No. I’ll spare you.
“Do cannibals eat clowns, or do they think they just taste funny?”
A sense of humour indeed, the old ones are always the best.
I think that at last your patience is beginning to pay off and I have an understanding of where you are coming from regarding the concept of Sin. Please bear with me and let me know if I have at least a glimmer of comprehension of what you have been saying.
The Bible in it’s entirety, not just the Commandments contains the whole of Divine Law as authored by God. Divine Law is a moral code considered to be inviolate and cannot be changed. A sin is is an act or thought that is prohibited under The Law or violates The Law in any way.
As it is considered that as only God is perfect, people are not capable of obeying the whole of The Law and are therefore classed as sinners in either thought, word or deed. For someone to be “good” in the Biblical sense, they have to accept all of The Bible as being the truth and conduct their lives accordingly, an impossibility if I understand you correctly. How am I doing so far ?
Herein lies my problem, while The Bible without doubt contains the moral code for our daily lives, I cannot accept certain parts if it as being true, again please bear with me while I try to explain in my own simple way.
Let me use the subjects of The Creation and Adam and Eve as an example.
I cannot believe that God created the world in six days or that Adam and Eve were the originators of all human life. What I do believe, is that someone, no doubt very pious and well intentioned, tried in his own way to set down his own thoughts as to how the world began and was populated. He had no concept of either evolution, physics, and astronomy, nor any notion of what now is accepted science. Without meaning to sound disparaging, these are simple stories written by simple well meaning people.
I never have, and never will, mock anyone’s religious beliefs, if their faith gives them comfort that is indeed a wonderful thing, but as I have said before, I have questions to which as yet I have no answer, and that is troubling. However, your messages have provided me with a greater understanding.
Comments are closed.