I am writing this from memory, the morning after the night before – so forgive me if I don’t remember everything – but you can get the procedures of the GA from the Free Church website and I will write a fuller report of the whole Assembly later. A few points from the final day…
1) The Board of Ministry report and discussion was excellent – congratulations to Angus Macrae and his team. In particular the encouragement for ministry apprenticeships (and great to have Hamish Sneddon from St Andrews speaking as a shining example of that), the need for flexibility in the length of time training and the need for proper pastoral care for ministers.
2) Good to hear of the new ministers who are coming into the church. One of them, David Macleod from North Harris, spoke of how warmly he had been received from the Church of Scotland. Indeed one aspect of the Assembly in speaking to those who have come from the C of S is a) how at home they feel and b) what an enormous sense of relief to be free from a denomination which turning more and more against the Word of God and becoming more and more oppressive to those who want to hold to it.
3) There are 17 recognised candidates for the ministry and more in the pipeline.
4) The visit of the Lord High Commissioner, Lord Hope, was interesting. I actually very much enjoyed meeting him and giving him absolution for the sins of his fathers (they were judges and ‘moderates’ at the time of the Disruption who ruled against the Free Church). I gave him four books (The Book That Made Your World, Life of John Knox, From the Mouth of God and of course Magnificent Obsession!). He promised me that he would read them all and report back to next Assembly!
5) The last report of the International Missions Board largely emphasised the work of Christian Witness to Israel. It will be interesting to see how the new joint missions board deals with international mission.
6) Best speech of the day – from Hugh Henderson, my own elder from St Peters. Hilarious, warm and challenging…a real focus on what mission is about.
6) News came through from the C of S General Assembly that they had voted to support ministers in Same Sex Marriages – a depressing vote. A couple of the international delegates to that Assembly came over to visit us, not sure who we were, and asked at the door how important the plain truth of the Bible was to us. When we told them it was essential they were relieved. I think it kind of says it all – the C of S has moved away from basic Christianity and is in the process of setting itself up as some kind of ‘spiritual’ community centre and property management group. Its becoming harder and harder to regard it as a church at all. Very very sad.
7) And then we finished early – brought forward the evening session, closed with worship, appointed the next assembly and we were all done by 6pm. Robert Macleod summed up the week well – “As this Assembly in Edinburgh draws to a conclusion – consensus opinion is that its been enriching, educational, enlivening, encouraging and enjoyable” ..
It has been a privilege to be here as moderator. I love the way that the Free Church has changed, I love the variety of people, I love the fact that the Assembly was an act of worship, I love the fact that we have many problems but we are not looking to ourselves but to Christ, the head of the Church to solve them. I love being in beautiful Edinburgh – after New York it is the city in the world that most stimulates and provokes me! And on a personal note this week has been a hugh encouragement to me. After 29 years in the Free Church ministry I finally feel as though I have been accepted! Not so much because of being appointed moderator but more because of the warmth and respect shown, and far more important than anything – I feel that my core passion is one that is really shared by the vast majority of the Church. In other words my views are now the mainstream position of the Church. I don’t expect or want people to agree with me on everything or even to like me – I do expect and want us all to have a total commitment to the Word of God and the God of the Word. After years of hopeful expectation I am now in the position of one senior figure in the Church who told me yesterday – that he had never been so encouraged or expectant. May Jesus be glorified in and through his church.
You can get links to various highlights here –