Unless the Church of Scotland returns to the Gospel, it will die. To some, this seems a strange statement. What does same-sex marriage have to do with the Gospel? It’s straightforward. We do not make up the Gospel. We receive it by revelation from Christ – through his word. Part of that is his teaching about marriage. When we start to dismantle that word and rearrange it according to the views of our culture, then it is not the Gospel we believe, but ourselves. When we move away from Scripture, we move away from Christ. Whenever a Church does that, it withers and dies.
Christian Today asked me to write this article about the C of S assembly decision. It is different from my earlier article on the Wee Flea earlier this week.
After a long and protracted process which began with the Scott Rennie case in 2009, the Church of Scotland approved the solemnisation of same-sex marriages in the Church by a vote of 276 to 136 at this week’s General Assembly in Edinburgh. Ministers can now apply to be celebrants, and no one will be compelled to take part.
The Moderator, Rev Dr Ian Greenshields, explained why this had taken so long.
“The Church of Scotland is a broad church and there are diverse views on the subject of same-sex marriage among its members.”There has been a lengthy, prayerful and in-depth discussion and debate about this topic for many years at all levels of the Church to find a solution that respects diversity and values the beliefs of all.”
There was considerable concern at the beginning of this process that the evangelicals would leave. Given the decline in the Church, the Church leaders were well aware of the devastating impact this would have – so they played the long game using a mix of carrot and stick.On the one hand they appointed evangelical moderators (whose job was to ensure that the evangelicals stayed on board and ensured that there were theological commissions with evangelicals on board – although always a minority). On the other hand, they made it difficult for evangelicals to leave – for example playing hard ball over buildings and finances.
These tactics worked. Although a number of evangelicals did leave – including almost all the big evangelical congregations in the cities – there was not a mass exodus. Indeed, some evangelicals facilitated the change.
What does it mean?
The politicians approve. For example, the SNP tweeted their delight: “Congratulations to the Church of Scotland – to all those campaigners for today’s historic moment! An overwhelming majority in the General Assembly in favour of allowing ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.”
And of course, the media are on board. It is incomprehensible to most modern journalists how anyone could be opposed to same-sex marriage. To them it is like being opposed to love! The trouble is when you ask them to define ‘love’, they struggle.
The Church of Scotland is now fully on board with the progressive ‘values’ that run contemporary Scotland. This week they also passed a motion supporting the government’s ban on so called ‘conversion therapy’. It’s strange that they appear to be silent about the other great social issue currently dividing society – transgender ideology. It would be good if the Assembly told us what a woman is and acted in defence of women.
Where is the Church going?
The answer is: to extinction. The Church of Scotland has seen a fall of a third of its membership in the past decade. The Trustees report stated: “A 34 per cent reduction was seen between 2011 and 2021, with no indication of this trend reversing from 2021 congregational data.” Over the past 60 years, the Church has lost a million of the 1.3 million members it once enjoyed.