Evangelicals and The Fall of the Church of Scotland

Jul 9, 2022 by

by David Robertson, theweeflea:

Though it was an inevitable outcome, there is still deep sorrow for the decision of the Church of Scotland at its General Assembly to allow ministers and churches to conduct same-sex marriages.There are many lessons for the wider evangelical church to learn, not least the role that evangelicals played in this decision.

There were, and are, those who spoke out boldly in favour of the Christian position. For example, the Revd Phil Gunn, minister of Rosskeen Parish Church in Ross-shire, asked the Assembly: ‘A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what kind of gospel is that?’ But overall, the weakness of the evangelicals and the lack of leadership meant that the opposition has been ineffective and fruitless. Indeed, some evangelicals even facilitated the change in doctrine – apparently more concerned about keeping their fellow evangelicals on board than they were for the truth of God’s word.

The moderator of the General Assembly, himself an evangelical, admitted on the BBC that the reason the change had taken so long (around 15 years from when it was first raised in a controversial discipline case – which the evangelicals lost); was an attempt to keep the church together. In other words, to prevent the significant minority of evangelicals from leaving. In general, that tactic worked – but at an enormous cost to the gospel. Although some evangelicals left, the majority have, and will, go along with it.

Most of the moderators in recent years have been evangelicals. One evangelical moderator was even honoured by the University of Glasgow for advancing the LGBT cause within the Kirk!

Twenty-five years ago – it all looked so different. Evangelicals were up to one third of ministries – their big city-centre flagship congregations were thriving, and it seemed that the wider church could not do without them. Now many of the people have left, the large congregations have disappeared, and once solidly evangelical congregations are being swallowed up in the amalgamations that are occurring in a church that is in freefall. The Trustees report to the Assembly put it starkly: ‘A 34% reduction was seen between 2011 and 2021, with no indication of this trend reversing from 2021 congregational data.’ In other words, as the Church has moved over the past decade to a more ‘progressive’ position, its decline has accelerated. Evangelicals used to argue that this was just getting rid of the dead wood, thus resulting in a purer church, but the reality is that the evangelicals are fading away just as quickly.

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