There has been some interesting coverage in the press re my comments on the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s remarks. Of course the press want to portray this as some kind of spate – and I suspect some within the Kirk want to do that as well (going by my e-mails)…as though my motivation were to try and attack the C of S for the sake of it. Let me just simply say that I desire the Church of Scotland to grow with many more than 100,000 new members – as long as those members are actually professing Christians. Unlike the Times report I did not suggest that the Kirk kick out non-believers – indeed we should welcome and encourage and reach out to them….because we want them to be believers. The response of the C of S publicity department was pathetic – and typical of the uncertain sound/waffle that they engage in. They just advised people to read it carefully. They are so patronising. Of course I read it carefully…as I did the previous comments about people becoming members without believing. It was clear what the Moderator meant – if my interpretation was wrong then all they had to do was clarify what he meant. Here are the reports:
The Church of Scotland has been told to stop playing “fantasy church” and kick out non-believers.
In a hard-hitting message, the leader of the Free Church said that the kirk needed “more new Christians, not more paper or online members”.
The row comes after the Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, said that he wanted to see 100,000 new people become members of the national church by 2025.
But the Rev David Robertson, who takes over as Free Church moderator in May, said achieving that would be “a miracle to cause even the most cynical secularist to doubt”.
He said that, rather than make the terms of membership even more lax, the church needed to do the opposite, as most of its members were not in church every Sunday — and the pews were “full of non-believers”.
Mr Robertson added that the kirk “needs to purge its membership roll and get back to basics”.
While he welcomed the desire from the kirk to have new members, Mr Robertson questioned whether it was about numbers and statistics, instead of the promotion of the Christian faith.
Writing on his blog Mr Robertson said: “If the moderator’s call was a clarion call to evangelism, to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are without Christ and without hope in the world, then it would a welcome call indeed.
“However, this is not about evangelism. It’s about numbers, statistics and a somewhat desperate attempt to preserve the role of the national Church in a Christendom that no longer exists.
“There is a game that church leaders like to play in our committees, press releases and minds. It’s called fantasy church,” he added. “It’s where we talk about church as we would like it to be, as it was in the past, or as we hope it will be. You know the kind of thing: ‘We have 150 people attending our church. If they were all here, and it wasn’t the holidays, and we include all the children and animals’. I’m afraid the moderator is playing this game.”
He concluded: “The Church of Scotland needs to purge its membership roll and get back to basics. Ten thousand committed, radical, loving and serving Christians are far more likely to turn Scotland upside down, than one million social media ‘members’. Paper members look good on paper. They are no good for reality.
“What the Church needs is more new Christians, not more paper or online members. And for that we need a clear proclamation of the Good News.”
Mr Chalmers has called on the church to redefine membership in a way which reflects a growing online Christian audience. The kirk has a substantial membership when compared with other organisations, including the SNP, but its numbers have dwindled in recent years as members have died.
Official figures published in May showed there were 398,389 members as of December 31 last year, down from 445,646 in 2010. One of the biggest challenges is attracting new preachers.
THE Church of Scotland should purge its membership of non-believers rather than becoming even more lax, according to the next moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.
Rev David Robertson, Moderator-elect of the Free Church, has taken issue with the Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, urging him to stop playing “fantasy church” after he said he wanted to see 100,000 new people become members of the national church by 2025.
Mr Robertson, minister of Dundee St Peter’s Free Church, said in his blog: “This year Church of Scotland membership f ell below 400,000 for the first time and seems to be in free-fall.
“To reverse the 20,000 members per year deficit and turn it into a surplus of 10,000 would be enough of a miracle to cause even the most cynical secularist to doubt.
“If the Moderator’s call was a clarion call to evangelism, to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are without Christ and without hope in the world, then it would a welcome call indeed.”
But Mr Robertson said it was about numbers, statistics and a somewhat desperate attempt to preserve the role of the national church “in a Christendom that no longer exists”.
He said: “The problem is not that Church of Scotland membership criteria is too strict and thus putting Christians off from joining.
“It is rather that it is far too lax and as a result the Church is full of non-believers.”
Mr Robertson told how a minister visited a Church of Scotland congregation which boasts a membership of 2,000, yet there were only 20 people at the morning service.
He also met an atheist last week whose father was an elder in the Kirk, but who never believed in God.
He concluded: “The Church of Scotland needs to purge its membership roll and get back to basics.”
But a Church of Scotland spokesman said: “We simply urge people Moderator’s carefully.
“It calls for a careful examination of what we mean by Church membership and there is no doubt that this matter is being taken very seriously within the Church of Scotland.”
Rev David Robertson becomes Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland in May.
The original article on which they are commenting is here:
Note – This letter appeared in The Times on Monday the 8th of December – 6th December 2014
I was somewhat surprised to see your somewhat take on my words re the Church of Scotland moderators appeal for more members. I did not tell him to ‘kick out non-beleivers’. In fact I believe that the church should welcome non-beleivers and seek to bring the Good News to them. However I did say that it is a mistake to welcome as members of the Church those who don’t believe. In fact it is hypocritical and false. The Church of Scotland rightly requires members of the Church to believe in the Trinitarian God of the Bible. Why should people wish to become members of a church which professes a faith they do not believe, and more importantly why would the church want such people to become members? By definition it would move the church from being a Christian Church to a general social club. The suggestion of the Moderator would mean the death of the Church of Scotland as a Christian church. Its precisely because I care about the Church of Scotland that I express my concern. We need more Christians in Scotland, not less.
Rev. David Robertson
Moderator- Designate of the Free Church of Scotland,
St Peters Free Church
4 St Peter St