Because I’m a Presbyterian, I keep a close watch on the news surrounding the Mother Kirk back in Scotland. The Church of Scotland is entering the final downhill slide in its long descent into irrelevance, and seems to have taken some lessons from its American children, as you can see from this article in The Scotsman.
The Church of Scotland has evicted the rightful congregation of St. George’s Tron Church in Glasgow because the congregation has left the denomination over its decision to ordain clergy in homosexual relationships.
But it’s not the ongoing row over gay clergy that I find interesting here, even though evaluating the situation in the Church of Scotland would be interesting. What I suspect would be more instructive would be an examination of how the Kirk reached this point.
St. George’s Tron Church in Glasgow is one of the most well-known evangelical churches within the Church of Scotland, and it has been pastored by Sinclair Ferguson, George Duncan, Eric Alexander, and Tom Allan (pastor from 1955-1961), some of the ablest preachers in the denomination. Sinclair Ferguson left the Church of Scotland in 2005 when he moved his credentials to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) and began pastoring First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.
It is the Rev. Dr. Ferguson that intrigues me, as he has been a minister in two denominations that have passed through some bitterly contentious seasons. The ARP Church is currently in a bit of a battle to recover control of its denominational college and seminary (which has warmly embraced Barthian neo-orthodoxy and liberalism). I can’t imagine what it must be like for Dr. Ferguson to have moved from the frying pan to the fire.
You see, I find it interesting because the ARP is making the same mistake the Church of Scotland did twenty-five to thirty years ago. If you read this article you notice that much of the talk in the ARP Synod is that surely things are getting better because the ARP has had such an influx of gifted preachers in the last five years. Thirty years ago the Church of Scotland had some of the most gifted English-speaking ministers in the world, and they were convinced that the way they were going to reform their liberal-leaning denomination was through preaching alone. Thirty years on, we see what actually happened.
Solid, biblically faithful preaching will not reform a denomination by itself. One of the solutions to false teaching in Ephesus that Paul points out to Timothy is appointing elders. You see, in the Presbyterian church, elders (both teaching and ruling elders) govern the church. Elders also form the Candidates and Credentials Committee, which interrogates young men who are applying for licensure and ordination. It is not just that we need faithful preaching, we need theologically astute men of good character to help guard the gates.
If the Church of Scotland’s evangelical ministers had filled their Candidates Committees with biblically faithful men, perhaps the Tron wouldn’t be filled with weeping Christians.
If the ARP doesn’t guard their pulpits carefully, they will be joining the Church of Scotland within a generation…
- The Tron Church Has Left The Building (garyware.me)
- Tears as Tron congregation leave church for last time (scotsman.com)
- Tears In Tron (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- World Reformed Fellowship Letter On Behalf Of Tron Church, Glasgow (garyware.me)
- A Post-Evangelical Analysis Of The Church In Scotland (via David Robertson) (garyware.me)