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Monday, 25 May 2015

Is this a step towards total apostasy?

One week from today, it will be exactly forty years since I was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, by the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Edinburgh, Moderator the Very Rev Leonard Small.  Although I am no longer an active minister in that denomination, it is still dear to my heart, and I am saddened as I watch it, as a denomination, apparently move further and further away from the clear teaching of the written Word of God.

Last week the Church of Scotland held its annual General Assembly.  Many deliverances were made; there was much debate and discussion; many decisions were made.

Among the decisions were some that were, in effect, 'rubber-stamping'.  Among those were the decision to permit congregations to call, as their minister, persons in same-gender civil partnerships.  This had already been agreed by a majority of Presbyteries under what is known as the Barrier Act.  An additional decision was made, to follow the same procedure with regard to those in so-called 'same-gender marriage'.  The result of these Presbytery discussions will be known by the end of this calendar year and, at the 2016 General Assembly, one assumes that that decision will also be 'rubber-stamped'.

Such decisions have, understandably, caused much concern, and much heart-searching, among members and ministers of the Kirk.  Many have already left the membership if the Kirk over these issues - including full congregations that come from a theologically evangelical background.  It will be interesting to watch developments over the coming months. 

Permit me to make one or two comments that may prove to be helpful.  The first is that, as an individual, I stand fully and unequivocally for marriage as being only between one man and one woman, in faithfulness to one another and for life.  This is the Biblical stance.  It has been since the beginning and, in spite of the sinful nature of mankind having departed from it throughout history, it remains God's only plan.  It is a plan that is revealed in Gen.3:18-25 and, as many wits have pointed out, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve (or Ethel and Eve!).  The same message is reiterated, time and again, throughout the pages of the New Testament - not least by the Lord Jesus, Himself.  In the context of a question about divorce, He stated: "Have you not read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matt 19:4-5).

Of course, there are the familiar arguments.  "If two people love one another, why should they not be allowed to be married, and live together?"  The simple answer, from a strictly Christian, and Biblical, perspective, is that it is sin!  It is against God's law.  However, please do not think that I am merely ranting against homosexuals and lesbians!  It is equally against God's law to commit fornication and/or adultery - even for heterosexual people!  Not that sin has only to do with sexual relationships!  Even small children, who do not yet know about sex, are sinners!  Paul puts it, simply, succinctly, and all-embracingly, when he writes: "... there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom 3:22-23).  If you doubt that, please take the time to read through the Ten Commandments (Ex.20: 1-17).  Please let me know if you honestly believe that you have never broken any one of them!  

Then there is the argument about "moving with the times"!  That may be translated as "The church must conform to what the world (i.e. people who live without any reference to God) teaches.  That, I would suggest, is not an option for disciples of Jesus!  Paul, again in his letter to the early believers in Rome, writes: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2; emphasis added).  The unidentified writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus further wrote: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." (Heb 13:8).  If the Head of the Church is unchangeable, why should the body believe that it has any authority to change in fundamental matters?!

This is, of course, an emotive issue.  I am certain that many of my former colleagues, and continuing friends, will be involved in much deep heart-searching with regard to their own future within the denomination.  Many members will be giving deep consideration to the same question.  As one who has already gone through such a personal situation, albeit over a different matter, I can empathise fully with them.  My only prayer is that each one will know clear guidance from God the Holy Spirit, and have the courage, strength, and faith to follow His leading - wherever that may take them!

The bottom line, surely, is to be faithful to God, and to what He has revealed in His Word.  I commend it to all.

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