Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.

Journeying Together?  Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.

There have been, as expected a variety of responses to the news that I posted about the Church of Scotland aligning itself with the Humanist Society in seeking to remove Christian worship from Scottish schools.   Some just did not believe it and thought I was exaggerating.  Others wrote to me and said they were in tears for their church.  Others thought it did not really matter, as school assemblies were so banal and rubbish anyway.  Atheists rebuked me for not recognizing what a great thing it was that the Church of Scotland was so ‘open-minded and tolerant’ – i.e. it supported them.

But the situation is actually worse than I suggested.  I have just been given the letter that the Church of Scotland and the Humanists wrote to the Scottish Parliament (I append it below).  What is most astonishing is the following section:

“Both the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland also believe that requiring external visitors to schools to agree with the equality and diversity policy of the school, or local educational authority, would ameliorate situations which have arisen in the past.” 

  It may not be obvious to some but the implications of this are clear.  This is a less than subtle attempt by the C of S to retain its position as the de facto state church from whom most school chaplains should come. It is an attempt to exclude any chaplain or group that does not hold to the same ‘equality and diversity policy’.  In the Orwellian language of the modern politically correct this means the exact opposite of equality and diversity.   If for example you don’t agree with ‘equal’ marriage then you will be excluded.  If you think that Jesus Christ is Lord then you will be excluded.   Can you imagine that this ‘equality and diversity’ would include let’s say, creationists? The only views that will be allowed are those that the Humanists accept.    The C of S establishment is getting more and more concerned that various other church groups (largely evangelical) are becoming part of chaplaincy teams and doing a very effective work.  So they have cut a deal with the Humanists to try and prevent this happening.  And the Humanists of course are keen to be seen as an organization providing ‘celebrants’ – this deal lets them do that and as a bonus, undermines the campaign of Secular Scotland to have an opt in clause for religious observance, which they had refused to support.  The bottom line is that far from just excluding Christian worship, they now want to exclude Christians who do not accept the Humanist agenda.

The letter then states:

This suggestion reflects a desire of both the Church and the Humanist Society Scotland to celebrate diversity rather than see it as a problem and a willingness to search for common ground on which they can journey together. We hope that the Public Petitions Committee will give due weight to our consideration, in the spirit of tolerance and compromise. 

Its so bad it’s almost laughable.  The Church of Scotland wants to ‘journey together’ with the Humanist Society.  A society dedicated to creating a godless society.  How does this fit with article 3 of the declaratory articles of the Churches constitution?   “As a national Church representative of the Christian Faith of the Scottish people it acknowledges its distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry.”  The Humanist Society is dedicated to the abolition of religion from society.  The Church of Scotland is dedicated to the promotion of Christianity in society (at least in theory).  A wise man once said ‘except two agree how can they walk together’.  Does the Church of Scotland ‘journeying together’ with the Humanist Society, mean that they are agreed?

And I love the laughable idea of this being done in the ‘spirit of tolerance and compromise’.  The C of S has indeed compromised itself.  But tolerance?  This is a stitched up deal to ensure that the Humanists get their celebrant into schools, and that the C of S maintains its position as the de facto state religious chaplains.  The fact that they have had to compromise to the extent that they have given up the promise to teach Christianity, and instead will swear allegiance to the Humanist values of the Almighty State, seems not to matter.  For the liberal establishment within the C of S it means they can continue to offer the same therapeutic deistic moralism and have the added advantage of claiming to be tolerant and journeying together, whilst excluding anyone whose teaching would threaten or question them.  It’s a win win situation for them. But it is a disaster for the many faithful Christians, ministers and elders still within the C of S.  And an even bigger disaster for Scotland’s children.

One small request – as I was finishing off writing this a film crew from STV came and I did a short interview which will appear on the evening news.  Personally I hate doing this )I have a great face for radio!) and would much prefer if there was someone else.  After all I am not a Church of Scotland minister and to be honest I don’t want the publicity or the flak that goes along with it.  But they told me they had no-one else to go to.  Is it really the case that there are no C of S ministers who disagree with this who would be prepared to speak?  I am happy to do the media stuff if necessary (that is after all one of the purposes of Solas), but can I plead with the evangelicals who remain in the C of S to take action against the Church and Society Council which has been speaking in your name.  This is worse than the homosexual debacle of last Assembly and in some ways far more serious.  Tomorrow the C of S will appear before the Scottish parliament to argue with the Humanists that Christians worship and prayers should be banned from Scottish schools.  Can you not prevent that happening?

David Robertson

Dundee

Jan 27th 2014

The following is the letter referred to above:

24 January 2014

Dear Mr Stewart,

PE01487 on religious observance in schools

Joint statement from Church of Scotland & Humanist Society Scotland

The Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland are grateful for the opportunity to make representations to the Public Petitions Committee

on the progress of petition PE01487 ‘Religious Observance in schools’.

This petition has stimulated a wide-ranging debate about the role of religious and other belief groups in Scottish education. Many organisations have written to the Committeeto express their support for the opportunity for schools communities to experience shared community acts of reflection and collective exploration of values and beliefs that are at present called Religious Observance. For some people however, the nomenclature “Religious Observance” hinders their participation.

The Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland would like to propose an alternative option, which will maintain the positive aspects of current practice, and introduce a greater sense of equality for all beliefs.  We propose that the Public Petitions Committee advise the Scottish Government to bring forward legislative

proposals to remove reference to ‘religious observance’ in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, and insert ‘time for reflection’ instead.

This change would echo the 2011 Scottish Government guidance, and send a clear message that no one particular belief system is valued over any other in Scottish education.

The change to a more equal and inclusive ‘time for reflection’ would echo the current practice of the Scottish Parliament, and bring legislation into line with modern views. It will also remove the current focus on ‘religion’, with which many non-religious people struggle.

The examples of bad practice, which the petitioners rightly raise, show the need for a closer scrutiny of current practice by Education Scotland and HMIE.  Both the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland also believe that requiring external visitors to schools to agree with the equality and diversity policy of the school, or local educational authority, would ameliorate situations which have arisen in the past.

This suggestion reflects a desire of both the Church and the Humanist Society Scotland to celebrate diversity rather than see it as a problem and a willingness to search for common ground on which they can journey together. We hope that the Public Petitions Committee will give due weight to our consideration, in the

spirit of tolerance and compromise.

Yours sincerely,

Rev Sally Foster Fulton

Convener

Church and Society Council

Church of Scotland

121 George St

Edinburgh

EH2 4YN

Scottish Charity Number SC011353

Douglas McLellan

Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland

272 Bath Street

Glasgow

G2 4JR

14 thoughts on “Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.

  1. Hello,
    As a CoS member, I have to say that this is news to me – but that is not unusual …
    I have asked the Church to give me some information on their rationale for this decision but I wonder if it was possibly about engaging with the secular society and have at least some influence. In the current scenario where parents have the option to remove their children from religious observance, I always imagine Jesus to be sitting on the chairs outside the assembly hall with the opted out ones, rather than inside. I wondered what your take on that was.
    Thanks for raising it.

    1. Jacqui – It was not about engaging with the secular society and having some influence. It is about giving up that influence by removing Christian worship from schools and replacing it with ‘time for reflection’ and excluding all who want Christian worship. Opt in might be better.

      1. However David, a recent statement made by SSS is that “We welcome the suggested removal of religious components from Religious Observance / Time for Reflection, a positive step for those who do not share the Christian faith …when you bring Jesus into it, it becomes offensive to people with no beliefs, and blasphemous to some with beliefs”.

        So SSS may still call it RO and go fro opt in. But like you have mentioned in one of your videos this si not where ti ends with SSS. Allying with SSS means allying with those that would welcome the “removal of religious components”. If if is “insane” as you claim for C of S to work with humanists, what is is for the Free church to work with SSS?

  2. Saw you on STV. You made your point well. But – sorrow after sorrow – who speaks for the CofS but one of our own. Why do evangelicals who get into positions of influence feel they have to do the liberals’ job for them?

    1. I didn’t see it but I did not think I made my point all that well and I share your frustration. I was unhappy about doing it – I thought once I raised the red flag someone else would step in. I could do without the hassle…

  3. There are surely two issues for the Kirk to address here.
    1) The lunacy of the decision itself – which is impossible to justify on any Biblical, theological or,indeed, common sense grounds.
    2) The fact that one committee – or, perhaps, one convenor – is able to make this stand with no reference to the wider courts of the Church.

  4. My heart is completely broken for all of you. The ones who will suffer will be the children, of course. I’m sure many will wonder why their Christian beliefs were wrested from their schools. I pray that your Parliament rejects this attempt by the Church of Scotland and the Humanists. I just wonder what common ground a humanist group could ever find with a Christian church? The humanists I know are opposed to religion. How can you partner with someone who wants to end you? This is so bizarre. Prayers and tears coming to you from America.

  5. David, You have been very perceptive here. If the only external visitors are those who agree with the new equality and diversity gospel, then any who are against homosexual marriage would be excluded. Note that it does not say “do not speak against”, but “agree”. In other words, even if a chaplain never speaks on this issue or makes his views known publicly, the very fact that he holds a different view would exclude him. This would exclude not only Free Church chaplains, but also evangelical Church of Scotland chaplains. remember, it is not what you say, it is what you think that will exclude you.

    My union, the SSTA, has told members that within school they must not voice opposition to homosexual marriage either to pupils or to other staff. If we do we could be subject to discipline by the local authority and the union has said they will not defend us or provide legal support. How long before the “within school” becomes “express opposition anywhere, at any time, in any context”?
    Or, how long before even to hold these views privately will be enough to remove teachers.

    Welcome to the new tolerance.

  6. This is just the screwing down of the last coffin screw.

    The children of Scotland were lost to the Gospel thirty years ago with the decline in Sunday School attendance so that now they know more about Islam than they do about Christianity even at its basic ecumenical level never mind the way of Salvation. We are into the third Bible illiterate generation with all the social evils that produces in broken and directionless lives.

    The children of Scotland post Primary level are either atheists or agnostics.

    The Moderators of the Church of Scotland have denied every Doctrine in the Creeds so why the surprise at this latest excretion.

    Yet God is Sovereign and this scenario was predicted by Rabbi Shaul 2,000 odd years ago (see his final letter to Timothy). Every one of the Elect will still be Saved!

    1. It was front page of The Times on Saturday and in most news reports. The C of S allying with the Humanists was a big story. My own view is that instead of damage control it should have been used as an opportunity to present Christianity in a positive format. In terms of a well chosen phonecall – who to? And who do the press contact? And why are C of S evangelicals not building up contacts with the media – so that they are called?

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