The institution is 456 years old, it has millions of pounds in assets, it fights for social justice at home and abroad, it has some degree of political influence. There can’t be many people in this country who are not aware of it in one way or another.
But why do you stay?
Think deeply and carefully about your answer.
x x x
My mentors, my friends, you know that I am not the teary type but it pains me deeply to see how this eats away at you. It is like a knife to the heart how weary and frustrated and disillusioned it makes you.
How upsetting it is to see how deflated and defensive you become when talk of church should really light you up and make your eyes shine. This is not just a phase, a shadow passing momentarily over the face of the church. It has been this way as long as I have known you and it shows no sign of change.
This is not church. This is not how it should be.
Why do you stay?
x x x
I love you. You know that, right?
If I didn’t I wouldn’t say anything. I’m not criticizing you, I am worrying about you. Like more and more of our brothers, I do not understand. Help me.
Because ignorance irks me, I do my best to keep up with what’s going on in the church, not just in Scotland but all over and many denominations. So I read the Blue Book and various reports from the General Assembly, I read a bunch of stuff by your new Moderator, I keep up with your various projects via social media, I talk to you my friends.
I am not ignorant, I am deeply concerned.
There are three questions that bother me but the answers are between you and God. All I ask is that you think about it and make sure that you are absolutely convinced in your mind and conscience that your answer, the reason behind it, and the actions that flow from it are biblical and glorifying to God.
x x x
Forget gender issues for now, let’s talk church leadership. Many of you are in churches which are pretty evangelical as individual churches. Some of you are even ministers and elders.
What about the wider church though? What about those with the strongest voices? What about those who are vetting your candidates and pushing them to conform to a particular view (and yes, I know a number to whom this has happened)?
Scott McKenna is not a rogue minister. He’s pretty normal. Does your current moderator believe in Christ crucified? Does he believe that repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ is the only way to salvation? Because as far as I can see, he doesn’t appear to preach it.
The Church of Scotland has elders who don’t believe in the deity of Christ. You have leaders who believe and preach that you can go to heaven if you’re nice. Heck, I was stunned to hear one of your elders admit that he’s a polytheist.
When it comes to secular work, God often puts unbelievers in authority over us and that’s fine. When it comes to the government, we must honour them as far as is biblical but I don’t need to tell you how ungodly they are.
But when it comes to those in authority over us within the context of the church, it’s different.
The Church is Christ’s body, right? So why would he call you to submit to ungodly leadership in his own body?
As a believer, you are called to both preach the Truth and to protect the Truth and in doing so protect your weaker, less well-grounded brothers.
God does not call you to put yourself under ungodly leadership. That is not his design for the Church.
Are you putting yourself under ungodly leadership or even unbelieving leaders in the Church?
x x x
Your voice is clear in my head, telling me that not all of the Kirk is that bad, there is a remnant who remain and you must remain with them and try all you can, like the Reformers, to Reform from within.
Reformation and revival is a good and honourable desire. It is a right desire.
I killed a chicken once. I held it as its head was removed and it was a full ten minutes before its heart stopped going wild and it lay still at last.
When the head is removed, the creature may continue a little longer but the body cannot go on. It will die. Those last throes are only an illusion of life.
The head of the Church is Christ and we are his body. If we cut ourselves off from him, we will die. Horrific a picture as it is, it is what the Church of Scotland has done.
To come at it from another direction, if you transplant a living, healthy heart into a dead body, the body is not revived, the heart will die.
One of the things which hurts me most in life is seeing the incredible strain that remaining in the Church of Scotland is putting on you. Some of you are jaded, bitter even. Some of you are struggling in your faith. Some of you are beginning to falter. All of you are exhausted from being criticised from without and pressurized from within.
I long that you would be joyful, excited, and full of life, full of love for the Church again. I long to see your spiritual lives rejuvenated and re-energized, revitalised by not having to be constantly guarded and concerned.
The Church exists outside of your denomination and we need good, strong, godly men to plant and pastor churches, to evangelise, to teach.
It is the most beautiful feeling to be amongst brothers who love and support you and are rooting for you. How freeing it is not to have to be constantly concerned, constantly fighting your corner, constantly holding your ground. It allows you to better spend your energy discipling the saints, preaching the gospel, and building the kingdom, energy which is currently being spent trying to save something which has been lost for too long ever to be regained.
Don’t worry about having nowhere to go because this country is in such dire need that there will always be somewhere to serve. Please, come out of this losing battle before it kills you. Let us work together to glorify God.
I can see the toll that remaining in the Church of Scotland is taking on you. It is honourable to want to reform from within like Calvin, Luther, and Melancthon but even for them there came a time to just leave. They understood when nothing more could be done. You must have wisdom and steward time, energy, and emotional investment as well.
The second question is this: Is reformation realistic at this point?
x x x
The final question is pretty brief, it needs no explanation. But I want to thank you for sticking with it so far. Please don’t be angry.
Sure, I imagine that this is hard to read. Perhaps consider how difficult it is to write my friends. Ink and tears stain the page in equal measure and my soul hurts. I understand that this is difficult for you, how you just want to do what is right by God.
We all want to see reformation and revival in Scotland in these days. Heck, I’d love to see -formation and -vival in the Church in Scotland.
Why do you stay my brothers?
Come out. Come out, my brothers, into light and life. You are part of a body so the rest of us hurt to see you this way. You have no fellowship with darkness. It breaks my heart to see the hope and life slowly fading from your eyes.
My question is this: How far does this have to go?
x x x
New College stands atop the hill overlooking Princes Street, grand and sombre, all weathered stone and glinting windows. I can’t help admiring the high arches and carved turrets each time I go by. The weather is irrelevant, the charm of the place outlasts the flowing seasons. Year by year the faculty of Divinity and home of the General Assembly continues to stand, majestic and proud, the two towers flanking the gates like two fingers raised defiantly against the sky.
x x x
Are you submitting to ungodly authority? Is reformation from within realistic? How far does this have to go?