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Et Tu Kirka? Reflections on the Church of Scotland’s new alliance with the Humanist Society

Et Tu Kirka? Reflections on the Church of Scotland’s new alliance with the Humanist Society

 If anyone doubted the corruption that is at the very heart of the Church of Scotland (and the reason that Church is dying and deserves to die), then todays joint press release from the Church and the Humanist Society, should remove any such doubts.   If the mess that the C of S got itself into with last Assemblies convoluted decision on homosexual ministers was a suicide note, today’s press release is the dagger being thrust in and twisted. Even to someone like yours truly who, despite genuinely hoping for some kind of change and renewal, still did not expect much – this has gone below my lowest expectations.  Let me explain.

Church and Humanist Alliance

The Secular Societies in Scotland have been campaigning against Religious Observance in state schools in Scotland.  They thought they would not be able to get a ban on such observance and so have taken the first step by asking that RO be opt-in rather than opt-out.  A not unreasonable position.   But those who want rid of RO need not have been so cautious.  Yes, the Secular Societies are tiny and have only a fraction of the membership of the Church of Scotland, but the Church of Scotland is spineless and totally confused about what it is supposed to be doing.  In response to the petition on RO currently before the Scottish Parliament, the C of S has issued a joint statement with the Humanist Society and will be presenting a joint approach to MSP’s this coming week.  You can read this joint press release at the end of this article – but let me just give you the lowlights.

Time For Reflection? 

The C of S wants RO in schools to be changed to ‘time for reflection’ and to be ‘inclusive’ of all faiths and beliefs in order to help spiritual development. For those who don’t quite understand the language codes of the liberal elites this just simply means that no more Christian worship will be allowed in state schools.  Instead our children will be subjected to the banalities of liberal ‘inclusive’ moralism. It is explicitly stated that RO in schools should NEVER be confessional in nature, it is not worship and should not include prayers.  One can of course understand why the Humanist Society loves this.  It is exactly what they stand for – godless secular humanism lifted to the status of State religion.  What totally beggars belief is why the C of S has gone for this.   Why would they want to remove Christian worship from what has traditionally been the Scottish Christian education system?  Do they really want to commit suicide?


The only answer I can think of, apart from sheer stupidity, is politics and self-interest.  The clergy and bureaucrats who make these kind of decisions, know full well that their congregations are declining, that they are losing 20,000 plus members per year, that their finances are in severe trouble (with the pension scheme being tens of millions in debt and a significant number of the larger evangelical congregations leaving).  But they don’t really care.  There is enough silver to be sold off to keep them in jobs for a few years.  What they really do care about is the fact that with the rapid secularisation of society, the nice cosy arrangement they have had with the secular state is under threat.  What will they do if they are not allowed to be schools chaplains or other religious functionaries of the state?  How can they maintain the illusion of importance and significance?  When Secular Scotland began their campaign I thought it had no chance of succeeding just now, but I had reckoned without the spineless Machiavellian leadership of the C of S.  In order to preserve their positions they have done a deal with the humanists (who in turn of course are aspiring to be humanist chaplains).   For the Humanist society this also has the advantage of giving one in the eye to the newish Scottish Secular Society, who have proved themselves far more adept at advancing the secular agenda.

The End of Knox’s Vision?

So now we have the extraordinary situation where the Church, which claims to be the Church of John Knox, is undermining his core policy, that there should be a Christian school in every parish.  We have a church that is now collaborating with the atheists to prevent Christian worship and prayers happening in a State education system – a system created by the churches when they handed over their schools on condition that they remained specifically Christian.  I sometimes wonder if the Monty Python scriptwriters are sending out C of S press releases!   Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, who is to Christianity in the Church of Scotland, what Tony Blair was to socialism in the Labour party, came out with this extraordinary statement:   “We welcome this exciting opportunity to collaborate with our humanist colleagues in supporting genuinely inclusive Time for Reflection in schools that supports the community and spiritual development of all pupils whatever their faith or belief. Scotland is a wonderfully diverse nation. Regular, inclusive Time for Reflection will enhance young people’s ability to celebrate difference rooted in respect.”  No it won’t.  Sally and her atheist allies won’t allow confessional worship (so all those who believe in that are excluded), she won’t allow Jesus to be Lord (because that would be exclusive of all other lords), and any young person who dares to uphold any kind of biblical morality will quickly be excluded to the naughty corner to reflect on the dangers of their exclusivity.    Difference will only be allowed as long as it fits in with the absolutes of the Humanist religion.

More ‘Christian’ Non-Thinking

Matters are not helped when the self-styled Christian ‘Think-tank” Ecclesia predictably jumps in –  “It is excellent news that a major Christian denomination and a society representing the concerns of a growing number of ethical, non-religious people in a plural society are agreed that the concept of ‘Religious Observance’ in schools should be replaced by an equal and inclusive ‘Time for Reflection’,” commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.  We would love to ask Mr. Barrow whether ‘equal and inclusive’ includes those who wish to express a biblical view on sexual morality or celebrate the divinity and resurrection of Jesus.

Beige Banalities

Let me give you a couple of examples of how this will work.  The deputy head of a secondary school here in Dundee proudly boasted that they would never allow any one who believed in an absolute truth to speak at a school Assembly.  To which the only response has to be- ‘is that an absolute truth?”    I was once asked to give a talk on BBC Radio Scotland’s thought for the day.  Sure, I said. No problem.  Will I just go into the BBC Dundee studio and do it live?  Oh no, they replied, as though I had suggested stripping naked on live TV (although on reflection they might have preferred that – we do after all have to be ‘inclusive’ of the naturist community).  Send us a script, lets do some rehearsals and then we will record it.  So I did.  But the script got rejected.  Why?  You cannot mention ‘Britain’s Christian traditions’.  Why not?  Because that might offend some people.  Ok, can I say, ‘as some would say, ‘Britain’s Christian traditions’?  No.  You really want me to speak to 250,000 people without offending any of them?  No wonder thought for the day is so banal!  Suffice it to say I was not allowed to give the thought for the day on the Beige BBC.  That is what the new CofS/Humanist time for reflection will be like.  It will not be the multi-coloured rainbow of our diverse society but the beige Disneyesque moralism of our liberal elites.

So where do we go from here? Lets take time to reflect:

1)    Secular Scotland’s petition makes a whole lot more sense than this C of /Humanist Alliance.  In fact I almost feel like apologising to my friends and fans in Secular Scotland for not supporting them from the off.  I feel sorry that they too have been stabbed in the back by this CofS/Humanist marriage of convenience.   Personally I prefer an honest atheist to a dishonest ‘Christian’!   If the C of S stab in the back for Christianity is accepted I would suggest that Christians should automatically opt their children out of this compulsory State godless religion.   It would be far better to have meaningful Christian worship which pupils and teachers could ‘opt in’ to, rather than force everyone to go to the beige, bland, brain-dead, unquestioning banalities that would inevitably result.

2)    When are C of S evangelicals actually going to do something about their denomination?  We keep being told we are in it in order to influence it.  That we are on the cusp of taking over. I suppose it could be that the darkest night is before dawn.  But is that really what is happening here?  Who is going to stand up to this nonsense?  Why do evangelicals keep allowing their church to undermine other Christians in Scotland?  Do they realise how frustrating it is for so many of us, who are battling away, constantly to be stabbed in the back by the C of S?    Why are the Catholics, with all their problems, more faithful and consistent?   If evangelicals can’t turn this around, if they can’t prevent this kind of Christian suicide, why on earth do they remain in submission to a denomination that is increasingly becoming a major obstacle to the Gospel?  And before I get the usual plethora of e-mails moaning about ‘dividing the body of Christ’ and bringing Christian disunity, could I simply ask fellow believers to reflect on why those of us who have the knife in our backs, should not at least expect our ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ to be the ones who are preventing the knife, not wielding it!

3)    For all of us as bible believing Christians.  Given that we cannot expect the State schools to teach our children the faith, (should we ever?), then what are we doing to equip our children to face up to the sea of humanist/Buddhist/liberal anti-Christian propaganda they will be compelled to swim in?  One hour of Sunday school per week is nowhere near enough.  We need a revival of family worship; we need suitable apologetics material for children and young people (not telling them what to think, but showing them how to think), we need to be salt and light in our state schools; and we need to campaign, set up and work for proper Christian schools – which will genuinely be inclusive and provide the true diversity and equality that the Gospel does.

To finish:  As this is Burns night – some words from the Bard might be appropriate.  Burns seemed to have an admiration for the Gospel and the Bible, but little time for the hypocrisies of the established church.  In the Cottars Saturday Night he wrote the following:

Compar’d with this, how poor Religion’s pride, 

In all the pomp of method, and of art; 

When men display to congregations wide
Devotion’s ev’ry grace, except the heart,
The Power, incens’d, the pageant will desert,
The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;
But haply, in some cottage far apart,
May hear, well-pleas’d, the language of the soul;
And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.

Men (and women) can play at religious politics all they want.  They can link with the humanist society and seek to use the ‘pomp of method and of art’ to retain their power.  But it is only the Book of Life that will prove manna for the poor.  Its about time the Kirk stopped speaking the language of power, and instead started speaking the Word of the Lord.  Its time to stop playing the role of the politician and instead start being the prophet.  For Scotland’s sake.

David Robertson


25th January 2014

Note:  For the sake of Latin pedants!  The original version of this had the title Et Tu Kirkus (intended of course to mimic Caesar’s last words Et Tu Brute)….but the vocative of Kirk is Kirke if masculine and Kirka if feminine hence the revision!


Joint Press Release from the Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland

January 25th 2014

The Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland have called for legislation to be brought forward to change Religious Observance in schools to “Time for Reflection” as a way of making these events more inclusive and clearly not gatherings where one faith or belief system is promoted over another.

Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland said: “We welcome this exciting opportunity to collaborate with our humanist colleagues in supporting genuinely inclusive Time for Reflection in schools that supports the community and spiritual development of all pupils whatever their faith or belief. Scotland is a wonderfully diverse nation. Regular, inclusive
Time for Reflection will enhance young people’s ability to celebrate difference rooted in respect.”

Douglas McLellan, Chief Executive of the Humanist Society Scotland said: “We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Kirk. We urge the Public Petitions Committee to make strong recommendations for the change of Religious Observance to ‘Time for Reflection.’ This removes the religious exclusivity of the
current system and brings about fairness and equality for all. If this change is made, it will bring current practices in-line with the modern demographic in Scotland.”

The Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland will make their joint submission as additional evidence to the Petition Committee of the Scottish Government on Tuesday, 28 January, when there will be discussion of the petition of
the Scottish Secular Society (PE01487) to make Religious Observance an opt-in activity. They will ask the Public Petitions Committee to urge the Scottish Government bring forward legislative proposals to remove the reference to “Religious Observance” in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and insert “Time for Reflection” instead.


The Church’s commitment to Time for Reflection as it would call Religious Observance can be expressed in five core principals.

. Head teachers decide who leads Time for Reflection
. Outside leaders, including chaplains, do so to assist the school in delivering a Time for Reflection agenda defined by the school, bound by the need to be genuinely inclusive
. Should be built on the exploration of sensing as defined by the 2000 review
. Time for Reflection is not or never should be confessional in nature nor is it worship or state sponsored prayers
. The best Time for Reflections are often pupil led


  1. Here is worries me about the Kirk, in an interest to stay relevant we move away from the very thing that sets is apart from the world, the Word of God.

    No longer Salt and light as unseasoned and dim!

    (Worried Ex Presby who lives in California now)

    1. It was part of the press release given to journalists – just so that they would be sure what was being proposed. I noted it was not on the C of S website. I wonder why?

  2. David, when I was a chaplain with schools in Inverness, the pupils were completely clueless on the very basics of Christianity. On one occasion, I was asked, “Why would you believe in a god who is dead?” To which I responded with an explanation of the resurrection, which completely amazed them.

    Now we have the CofS campaigning for a time of reflection? How does that advance the kingdom of God? It only serves to advance the kingdom of man, which is really no kingdom at all when the ruler is not the King of Kings.

    Praying for you all.

    – Ethan

  3. David – I have given up looking at the CofS website so would have missed this if you hadn’t drawn it to our attention. Here is a chance for those who say they are staying in to fight, to fight. Who will challenge this? What Forward Together? What about convenors of Legal Questions and Mission and Evangelism (especially the latter with his links to SU). Here is a perfect opportunity – let’s see if any of them has the courage to disagree with the formidable Sally.

    1. Fight, fight, fight from within..Many of us have this heard often but there is little sign of mobilisation and little sign of appetite for the fight. More Chamberlain certainly not Churchillian.there seems to me to have been a great emphasis on speaking nicely ,speaking graciously. Of course that is right but isn’t the case that righteousness comes first and that involves taking a stand sometimes with righteous indignation.
      I quote Spurgeon
      ‘We want John Knox back again.Do not talk to me of mild and gentle men, of soft manners and squeamish words,we want the fiery Knox and even though his vehemence should ding our pulpits into blads it were well if he did but rouse our hearts to action.’
      This message from David Robertson is surely about a terrible evil which will have incalculable consequences not only for the children whose parents are members of the C of S but also for those of every Christian church in our land.
      Indeed Ian what an opportunity and a responsibility for Forward Together and the new grouping C of S Evangelical Alliance to shout No more. This is evil.

  4. The CoS “leadership” has been slipping its Christian moorings for some time now. I have used inverted commas around the word in the previous sentence because senior clerics like Martin Johnstone abnegate their leadership responsibility and shift that on, as he says, to the CoS’s 500,000 leaders (now 400,000 according to the latest census results). This approach (managing by sleight of hand) means that he and Dr Sally can virtually come out with anything they like without having to face the impact of their statements or actions – because they have no leadership responsibility (according to them).

    The latest CoS announcement makes it even harder for small parish churches like my own to develop its evangelical roots in the community. We are continually hindered by the confusing, contradictory and politically correct utterances that our non-leaders insist in releasing to the media. And, of course, this doesn’t even begin to take into the account the grieving of our lord as he sees his church and his people moving further and further away from his word. This will not be without repercussions. The experience of Ethan above becomes more and more common as the CoS becomes more and more a lobbying interest group rather than the church of Lord Jesus Christ.

    The CoS has long since abandoned its commitment to proclaim God’s Word, preferring to fight for popular social issues. Not that this is wrong in itself but when it becomes an end in itself without the intention of leading sinners to repentance and to salvation then it is utterly wrong. There is no point looking for self-satisfaction in setting up a food bank if we have closed down the spiritual food bank!

  5. have asked around about this, and the context in which this press report has appeared is important.
    There was a Scottish government circular on Religious Observance in 2005 and another (referencing Curriculum for Excellence) in 2011
    The suggestion of using “Time for Reflection” comes from the latter paper and not the Church of Scotland. In that circular, the government is insistent that the fact that many pupils/staff in schools have faiths other than Christianity or no faith commitment “must be taken fully into account in supporting spiritual development.”

    1. Indeed the context is vital. The context is an attempt by militant secularists to remove all forms of Christianity from state schools. The suggestion of using ‘time for reflection’ comes from the joint humanist/C of S statement. It is an act of incredible stupidity and suicide. The Church of Scotland is supposed to be about the promotion and advancement of Christianity. Now it sides with the secular humanists to get rid of Christianity from our schools. Unbelievable.

  6. This is in addition to my response on Google Plus.

    Gentlemen, this is a good development and I’m surprised that you’re against it. The time when Christianity was something that children were indoctrinated into has passed. Now if you want them to follow your faith then you are going to have to get your hands dirty and engage with them rather than dictate to them.

    1. Of course as an atheist you think the removal of Christianity is a good move! Of course you want the indoctrination of atheism and secular humanism and you don’t want any alternative. By the way we don’t ‘indoctrinate’ Christianity. We teach it. We always get our hands dirty and engage with people. What the atheist fundamentalists are doing is trying to ensure that we are not allowed to engage. That’s dictatorship.

  7. I’m new to this blog, and I’m American, to boot; therefore I know nothing about the Church of Scotland. Is it similar to the Church of England? Is there a Church of Wales? What specifically makes up the Religious Observation in schools? Do parents have the opportunity to opt out of RO? Sorry for all of the questions, but I’m sure you know about the First Amendment here, with our separation of church & state. Naturally, I am very curious about your system of education in Scotland.

    1. The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian and was the Established State church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland and other Presbyterian churches handed over their schools to the State on condition they remained Christian schools and had an act of Christian worship every week. We do not have the separation of church and state that you have in the US.

      1. It’s no wonder that you feel such betrayal. Turning over anything to the State can only end up being a bad partnership for any religion. But to have the Church itself just hand over her core values & purpose is shocking. In America the secularists are fighting against Christian displays in public schools, holiday displays, & prayers at graduations. The Christians are defending their First Amendment rights to worship without gov’t interference. It seems in Scotland that the Church is the one who is tearing down the foundation by its own hand. To have secularists not only invited in, but also offered tea & biscuits, as it were, is unbelievable. I can’t wrap my mind around this decision. I will pray for Scotland. Years ago, before we moved, I was good friends with a Scottish woman, who had strong faith. I loved her so much. Scots are good people.

    2. There is a Church in Wales as opposed to a Church of Wales, which is like the Church of England. I did work with them as part of an ecumenical group and the local minister was evangelical. He took assemblies and was very proactive in the local school where he was appreciated. I don’t know about the Church in Wales as a whole though.

  8. Another utter shambles from the CoS (could the now represent secularism?). I’ve been increasingly irked by the CoS.
    Moving away from the Bible, the whole Rennie issue, the way they conducted the Tron debacle, and now this.
    Knox would be spinning in his grave if he knew what is going on.

  9. In my fairly recent experience of ‘Christian’ assemblies in schools, more harm has been done to the cause of Christ and His Gospel by having them than not. In the majority of cases the impression of the church gained by my friends was that it stood for nothing other than a slightly wishy-washy niceness. The simple fact is that many chaplains have already taken Christianity out of schools.

    1. Indeed they have. But this blandness will now be made the law. Those of us who did not do this will now be banned from having Christian worship and teaching in school assemblies.

      1. ‘But this blandness will now be made the law’.
        There is NO guarantee that this suggestion will be taken up by parliament. It is a scandal that the CofS would suggest it – but they don’t make the law.

  10. I did not expect to be commenting on this page, but let me claim credit for the Latin lesson. And indeed Kirche is feminine in german, so a feminine gender for Kirk is appropriate. So you’re ok now.

  11. Thank you for your informative posts. You personally give me hope for the future of Gods children.

  12. Yes, the C of S is a nightmare that keeps shooting itself in the foot, and this cosying up to the Humanists is weird, but, as one involved with delivering RO in a multicultural school, I think there is merit in rebranding RO. I find it a creative challenge to provide experiences for the pupils that are genuinely inclusive and also compatible with my evangelical theology (and it is part of the guidelines from the government that these events should not compromise the personal faith of the participants). If an event is “religious”, then the humanists, atheists and those of other faiths opt out. If, however, an event looks at a concept – Truth, Justice, Respect, or a festival like Harvest, Christmas or Easter – whatever – this can be done from a Christian perspective while allowing those of other faiths or none to participate without feeling as if they shouldn’t be there. Of course, from a Christian point of view, everyone is always welcome – but in reality it is important that participants feel spoken to where they are at, rather than where the worldview represented by the leader of the event assumes they are at. In this way, a Muslim child can reflect on the meaning of the Easter story, rather than being sent to the library while the “Christian” children get to reflect on the Easter story. In this way a Humanist child can consider what “Good News” might be at Christmas time, and a Christian child may also consider that “Good News” might be – rather than one group having the opportunity while the others get to tidy the book cupboard. All kinds of faith groups and social communities have failed our young people by failing to provide the means by which they can form functioning world views. The guidelines for RO are very flexible. As a Christian, I see it as my job to take my children to church and to bring them up knowing about and knowing Jesus. I think it is the school’s job to let them think for themselves. I think it is the church’s job to provide fellowship, community and truth. Perhaps churches should put on more for teenagers who could opt in in an authentic way in a real faith community?
    I understand your dismay with the dropping of RO as a title, but in reality, some exciting work is being done in schools. As for the C of S…. I am interested to see how it all works out….

    1. Gary – I wrote a reply at your comments at the end. Incredible that the Humanists and the C of S ar e’journeying together’ to a common goal. Wonder what that goal is?!

  13. Living in Uganda as a missionary, I am continually discouraged at the news from the Christian church coming out of Scotland. It is frustrating that the Church of Scotland are undermining the very foundation of the school system in Scotland from the time of Knox. It is annoying that Christians are not standing up to the undermining of the foundations on which our society has stood. It seems like the Church of England seems to have more of a spine and sense of purpose, whereas many Christians in Scotland don’t seem to have any fight in them whatsoever, reminding me of our rugby team. What is your suggestion of how people that genuinely want to stand up for truth do so?

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