Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CofS General Assembly requires evangelicals to sin

This is what is behind the accurate Scotsman headline 'Kirk orders ban on gay minister debate'. Evangelicals adhere to what the ordination service in the Church of Scotland outlines: that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the supreme rule of faith and life in the Church of Scotland. They are now being asked not to adhere to the Scriptures and denounce homosexuality as a sin. They have ruled that no members can speak in public on the issue of openly homosexual, non-celibate ministers. Only the Church and Society, HIV/Aids Project and Mission Discipleship committees can speak out on the broader issue of human sexuality. The General Assembly has instructed all authoritative bodies within Scotland's national church to avoid any public comment on the matter -- including press releases, briefings to the media, and blogging -- and to avoid taking any decisions in relation to 'contentious matters of human sexuality, with respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2011'. They have done this while insisting that the induction of Scott Rennie proceeds.
What we are witnessing is the outworking of the controversial Life and Work editorial which stated. 'The dissenters who have taken ordination vows to preserve the unity and peace of the Church perhaps ought to 'agree to differ' on this and allow the Church of Scotland to remain a broad and inclusive church that can celebrate its diversity while remaining true to the Gospel.' They are being forced to agree to differ. In terms of the ordering of the Assembly's business evangelicals have been ambushed and outflanked and in terms of so-called 'unity', patronised and whitewashed. One evangelical was quoted as recognising this - members were now "effectively prevented from speaking out in public on this". This cannot possibly bind anyone authoritatively, apart from the fact that

two-thirds of the presbyters within the Church had no vote upon it their ordination vows resist it. Evangelicals must protest and speak out or else they are complying with sinful terms. The Lochcarron-Skye overture noted that "a lengthy period of reflection has elapsed without a resolution of the issue". This is now to be extended.

In commending the motion, the Rev Angus Morrison (once a very conservative evangelical) said any split in Church ranks would be a "deeply flawed" solution to the issue. "It is comparatively easy to split a church, but the challenge of healing the divisions is of an entirely different nature," he said. "The notion that these tensions within a church can best be solved by going separate ways is deeply flawed. It is a path rather to the multiplication of problems."  The idea is to let things cool down and take the momentum out of separation.
The decision has not gone under the Barrier Act which would make it constitutional as happened with the ordination of women which was passed with the consent of a majority of Presbyteries on 22nd May 1968. This may yet happen. The fact is that it was even before that point for evangelicals to realise that Scripture had been cast aside. This happened constitutionally, when the Confession was modified. It also happened in 1843 when a schism was made by those remaining in the CofS with those who realised that the constitution of the CofS could only be maintained outwith the Establishment.