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Smacking, Fracking, Fossils, Europe, Anglicans and Feedback – Assembly News and Views.


The Church of Scotland wanted to move on from dissing the Bible and rejecting its teaching about marriage to some things more important.  This week we have been finding out what these things are.

Smacking – The General Assembly voted to ban corporal punishment at home. Of course they can’t, but they want to ask the government to do so. The Kirk agreed by 275 to 259 that any corporal punishment of children must be recognized as a violent act and that violence is damaging to mental and physical health.   In asking the government to criminalise smacking Rev Sally Foster-Fulton stated “We now add the Church’s voice to many other organisations to call upon the Scottish Government to remove the defence of justifiable assault, granting children the same rights that every adult enjoys in this area.”. There were several good points made in the debate – not least from Rev Hilda C Smith, from Lochgilphead, presbytery of Argyll, said the majority of the Kirk’s proposals could end up with “parents standing in the dock accused of assault” and an “at risk register with children on it”.  The fact that the Kirk has voted for a policy, which would see many of its own members in court or jail, is absurd.   The Kirk could not see the inconsistency in stating that the child should enjoy the same rights as the adult – which means that either adults will now be allowed to send other adults up to their room, or compel them to eat their greens, or refuse to give them money, or that adults will no longer be allowed to do this to children.

However there was something more chilling that this. “Yet the state generally accepts parents have a right and responsibility to bring up children within their own, inherited value system, provided those values do not offend the norms of the wider community. “ Note that last line. The Church of Scotland is asking the State to determine the values of Christians. Extraordinary. And really dumb.

Europe – Whilst the Kirk has an ‘open’ policy regarding the bible, same sex marriage and many other biblical doctrines, they are very clear about the EU, about which the Bible says nothing.   The Assembly voted ‘unanimously’ (majority by stamping of feet) to encourage people to vote to stay in. Rev Karen Fenwick made the simple but effective point:

“We are not a political party or a trade union. I think the Scottish public are quite capable of knowing we support the EU without us telling them what to do.”

But apparently the Assembly does not agree.

Anglicans – A big deal was made about an agreement between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. Archbishop Welby visited today. The Archbishop said the most significant part of the Columba Declaration was both denominations formally recognising each other as Churches. This came as something of a surprise to me, that they did not already do so. The Free Church recognises both the Church of Scotland and the Church of England as churches. We don’t need a formal declaration to do so.   But good to see our big sisters coming into the modern world!

Under the terms of the agreement, both denominations would welcome one another’s members into congregations and ordained ministers would be allowed to exercise ministry within the existing discipline of each church, though only within England and continental Europe. Again this surprised me because it is something that we already have – throughout the world. For example when we wanted a new minister for our church plant in St Andrews we had no problem in asking an Anglican curate to come and lead the congregation. It’s also good to know that the Church of Scotland and Church of England both have church discipline. One wonders what the C of E will make of the C of S deciding that its own ministers can live and teach contrary to its doctrine.

It strikes me that we are dealing here with two very different cultures. The more formal bureaucratic institutional churches love this sort of stuff. It is the basis of this kind of formal ecumenism.   Biblical churches will of course make formal arrangements for working together, but our real unity is in Christ, in the Spirit and according to his word.  Today at the Free Church Assembly we had a lovely visit from two brothers from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. They had been at the C of S assembly and clearly felt greatly distressed at what was happening.   They immediately felt at home with us. Just to think – the C of S have abandoned fellowship with a sister Presbyterian church of some 4 million people, to have a formal concord with a very mixed Anglican church with less than one million people.

Fracking and Fossils – Another key issue for the Kirk is disinvesting in companies whose major business depends on fossil fuels. This might make it awkward for the Scottish government and for many C of S members – given that so much of the Scottish economy is based on oil. One interesting comment was from Sally Foster-Fulton saying the C of S should do this because “We have moral leverage”.   With who? On what basis?

Feedback – Its always (usually) good to get feedback – and one C of S minister clearly upset at my earlier post about the Assembly A Rubicon has been Crossed – The Church of Scotland Assembly Decision on Saturday sent me the following to post in public so I am happy to do so here:


I invite you to come down off your high horse and leave the judging to God. Pray that God will have mercy on us all and that, by his grace, we shall be strengthened to live faithfully, without fear or favour, whichever church we are in.

Only yesterday Scott McKenna, the very man you continue to vilify, spoke about you with warm appreciation, in recognition of your resistance to the influence of secularism in Scottish education which he shares.

I appeal to you to stop picking fights and start building bridges. Our God is big enough to police his own boundaries. He has called us to put our energies into proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples and baptising believers.


Rory MacLeod
Strath & Sleat Church of Scotland

Since Rory wrote this to be posted in public I thought it only fair that I put my reply here as well. It’s always good to dialogue!

Dear Rory,

I don’t have a high horse (and if you are going to sign a letter ‘respectfully’ can I respectfully suggest that its probably best not to begin with such a disrespectful remark?), and I am very happy to leave the judging to God. But as always with people who make this kind of claim can I just ‘respectfully’ point out that it is self-contradictory to make a judgement whilst posting about not making judgements.   It is of course part of the duty of the Christian pastor to disciple and warn the people and protect them from the teachings of false shepherds. I am sure you will agree with that. As I agree with you that by Gods grace we should be strengthened to live faithfully, without fear or favour, whichever church we are in.   We need to make sure that does happen and that we stand up for the word of God against all the false teaching that comes into the church.

Speaking of false teaching, thanks for your remarks about Scott McKenna. You seem to be confusing being against false teaching with vilifying.   Perhaps this is the problem that the C of S is having nowadays with its theology?  Just because you disagree with someone’s theology and teaching does not mean you personally dislike or vilify them.   In fact one of the reasons I debated with Scott was because I met with him and liked him. I felt so sad that someone so pleasant could be teaching theology so horrific.   It was sad that the debate was taken over by the C of S establishment who prevented what could have been a profitable on-going dialogue.   Do you agree with Scott’s view that saying Jesus died for our sins is horrific theology?

I don’t pick fights. I hate fights. But I love truth, Jesus and his church more.   I will challenge those in any church I love, who are destroying that church by their heresies.   I love building bridges. But where do you want me to build them? You want to build bridges with false teachers? You want me to invite the wolves into the flock? What kind of under-shepherd would I be if I did that?

It’s a very strange theology, a form of pietistic Calvinism, which says God is big enough to do it himself. He doesn’t need you to convert the unbelievers, or feed the poor. That wasn’t what you were saying? But that is as logical as saying that God is big enough to police his own boundaries.   He has given us a church with elders and pastors who are asked to police the boundaries.

Yes he has called us to put our energies into proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples and baptising believers. That is why we must speak out against false teaching, practice biblical church discipline and ensure that the church remains the pillar and ground of the truth, not the disseminator of poisonous falsehood.

Thanks again for having the courage to put your remarks in public (most people just complain behind my back).

Yours in Christ



  1. I feel saddened on reading this dialogue.

    If David will allow me to express concern I don’t see within this conduct becoming of leadership with which to “consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” with how the issues have been debated. Nevertheless I do recall a previous occasion where concern over such to the point of tears led to a conversation with a fellow dog walked about what frequently goes on the church that is not reflective of the gospel and then shared a gospel message. It seems the Lord had a greater purpose in the grief I experienced.

    There are some obvious issues as clearly articulated and my prayers are with all leaders both CofS and FCofS with the furthering of them with unity in Christ and in his obedience. We demolish arguments and pretenses that get in the way of knowledge of God in the context of capturing every though and making it obedient to Jesus.

    May you know the strength of the Lord David, his peace that passes understanding and the power of the Spirit with the armour of God as you face battles int e spiritual realm and with dark forces in the world.

      1. Because Rom 14 can more adequately describe this, I think, than any attempt that someone who is not with out sin such as myself could in a comment and I know ho much you dislike long comments.

        Why did you ask about unity in Christ. As a prominent Christian leader, isn’t it obvious to you what that entails?

      2. Yes – it is obvious to me what unity in Christ is. I just wondered if it was to you? How do you have unity in Christ with people who deny the teaching and work of Christ?

      3. Another good and challenging question.

        I suppose I would ask for a specific example as it would be difficult to make a short and generic comment by way of an attempt to answer your question. Unless your question was rhetorical in which case answering it wouldn’t be fruitful would it?

        So I’m going to take it that your question wasn’t rhetorical. I would make one assumption, that there has been at some point a “conversion experience” with “the people” you refer to. If it were not the case then the question would be a moot point.

        I suppose you discern what is the teaching and and work that is being denied. It seems does it not that there is everything from the man who was having sex with his father’s wife to an inadvertent sin that with correction would be repented of. And what one of us has not sinned without knowing it. then there are biblical precedences for either.

        And at all times as I understand it, to do so in gentleness taking care to not enter into sin and it be seasoned with grace.

        So in summary I would say sometimes you don’t have unity and sometimes you do bearing in mind that you will be judged as you judge and that it is good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity for there the Lord bestows his blessing as I am sure you are aware from what you have shared about knowing what unity in Christ is.

        I hope that answers your question. If you have a better answer for my correction or different biblical perspective then I welcome your comment.

  2. I am an Australian and have been encouraged reading about those who ploughed and gave their whole lives for the cause of Christ in Scotland.
    What would Murray Mccheyne or The reverend Duncan Campbell do in this situation ?
    Would they do what Rory suggests and unite with false teachers, wolves and demons and then leave it all up to God ?
    Or would they do what 2nd Timothy chapter 4 vs 2 suggests and that is “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction”
    I would say this is again a no brainer situation.
    May the Lord give us all the wisdom, patience, grace, love, courage and boldness in knowing when to and how to deal with those like Rory who have created their personal unbiblical Jesus which Galatians chapter 1 warns us about ever so clearly.

    1. Carmelo,
      I too have been encouraged reading in Scottish church history by the lives of men who preached the gospel in season and out of season. I’m afraid you’re wrong in your assessment that this is a ‘no-brainer’ situation. First of all about Rory MacLeod: I did a little bit of research but for some reason the sermon I was listening to was cut off in mid-flow. I can see no reason in what I did hear; in what I have read, or indeed in the open letter he sent to David that he should be castigated for having ‘created [his] personal unbiblical Jesus.’

      You ask what Murray McCheyne would have done in the current circumstances: I think everyone is agreed that he would have joined the Disruption of 1847 had he lived; but that was a unique occasion and Gospel men were more divided in their response to other crises. We might equally well ask what Thomas Boston would have done if he’d lived until the Secession but in his case it is unlikely that he would have come out then.

      There was an old custom in Scotland of ‘Ridding the Marches’ which means ‘clearing the boundaries.’ Communities were very glad of those who were fleet enough of foot to check near the required date that the stones had not been moved, while evading the men of those who would like an excuse to encroach. I’m sure that Rory MacLeod is wrong about the boundaries and that God does employ watchmen in this day also. Sometimes our not-very-well-informed, no-brainer solutions in effect move the ancient landmarks instead of ridding them. Those who choose to stay are not all doing so on the same terms and there are those who have chosen to stay and do everything in their power to keep the boundary stones clear.


  3. Respectfully, David, though everything you say is true, you’ve handed Mr Macleod quite a smorgasbord of opportunities to dissipate the real issue.
    Years of trolling on atheist sites (that’s what they called it, anyway) have persuaded me it’s always best to corral debate into as narrow a pen as you can.

    Scott McKenna has the name of a brother, yet consistently denies the Gospel. How can it be right to build bridges with him?

  4. “Just because you disagree with someone’s theology and teaching does not mean you personally dislike or vilify them.”

    Unfortunately few people feel able to have the grace to live like this. We live in a world where everything has to be measured for its offensiveness. Jesus didn’t like the woman’s adultery, but he liked her. I think that is a good model to live by.

  5. Oh dear! I fear that I may muddy the waters. Worse, I fear that I may be mistaken for another person who, recently, banged on about the topic I am raising!! However, I am interested that two Presbyterians (and I was ordained to the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament, by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, more than 40 years ago) should refer to “… proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples and baptising believers.” I came out of the CoS less than ten years after my ordination, on the very subject of the Biblically-correct subjects for water baptism. I am aware of the ramifications of covenant theology, but surely even it does not count the children of believers as believers themselves. Is this a move towards the baptism, only of believers – i.e. those who make a public profession of repentance towards sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus, the Christ, for salvation? I am unable to speak for the Free Church, but that really would stir up the Kirk – an attack on what is considered by some (many?) to be “the sacred cow”!

    Blessings, and shalom.

  6. Some points arising from David’s original blog and some of the comments. I’m not a presbyterian, but in Christ Jesus we are one.

    1 Adam’s (Julian) grief and tears over division in the church are Godly. Would that more of us were brought to our knees and to the end of ourselves.

    2 Against the flow and might of the church and Emperor and facing death and an order to recant this was the response from one man:
    “I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I can not and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I can not do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me.” M Luther

    3 Ah Yes, “covenantal baptism”. Bearing in mind my adult conversion and baptism I do fear that infant baptism which frequently seems to go hand in hand with large (ish) reformed/presbyterian families, is, or has been, seen as the primary way of increasing the Kingdom. After a lengthy online discourse between David Gibson and Andrew Wilson, I have Andrew Wilson to thank for his conclusion, but I’m probably misquoting – infant baptism respresent a better theology of children, whereas creedal baptism represents a better theology of baptism. On the surface, one can remain inward looking, family/church and the other can be more outward focussed. But the faulty default mode of both can be to look no further than the act of baptism as salvation itself. And yes, there are many exceptions to the inward/outward focus.

    But here is where they meet: in our “Union in Christ.” The “Gospel Coalition” brings together both camps, reformed “In Christ Jesus.” As David repeatedly emphasises there is no union outside of Christ. All scripture is about Him, and if is it is about Him it is of necessity of and about the triune God. We have scripture for His glory. It is not about us, for our name, our glory.

  7. One interesting aspect of the Columbia Declaration is that it shows a certain, what should we call it, ambiguity perhaps, on the part of the Church of England. On the one hand the Anglican Communion has been conducting talks with the Catholic Church for many years on the subject of unity and ecumenism. These talks have even resulted in a number of agreements between those taking part in the talks although not necessarily at any official level. One of the agreements, believe it or not, is on the subject of ‘eucharistic faith’. (Who’s kidding whom?) They even suggest that on the basis of that agreement the way is open for the Catholic Church to recognise Anglican orders. On the other hand the Church of England signs a declaration with the Church of Scotland by which “ordained ministers would be allowed to exercise ministry within the existing discipline of each church”. So the Church of England has talks with the Catholic Church and hails these talks as showing great unity between the doctrines of two Churches but on the other hand puts out its hand to a Presbyterian Church and declares that they also have great unity. Something a little bit suspect there, is there not?

  8. David – and others interested in this debate and who love Jesus Christ and his church,

    I believe the real issue here is one of priorities. I am reasonably confident that we are all close theologically but where we differ is over which battles we choose to fight and our rules of engagement. My own conviction is that everything we are and do must honour the Lord Jesus above all else. To my mind that does not include vilifying fellow believers (as labelling them “heretics” and “false teachers” surely is) and for that reason I shall depart from this conversation.

    … unless of course you want to sort this out like men, David. I’m sure there is a bicycle shed between Skye and Dundee that we could get behind!


    1. Rory – no, a thousand times no. This is not about some playground theological squabble. This is about the church of Jesus Christ, our blessed saviour, the church which is to be the pillar and ground of the truth. Your statements directly contradict one another. How do you “honour the Lord Jesus above all else” if you then state that those who teach he was not born of a virgin, did not die for our sins etc are ‘fellow believers’ and not false teachers? Would you regard anyone as a false teacher? How can you claim to love Jesus and yet not care that there are those who attack him, his work and his word?

  9. OK Rory MacLeod let’s have this “fight” in public.

    How do you counter David’s opening “punches”, priorities

    Punch 1 Jesus was born of a virgin.

    Rory’s counter………

    Punch 2 Jesus died for (in our place) for our sins.

    Rory’s counter …….

    But you’ve already cried off, “departed from the “conversation”. Not that you’ve had any of any substance on here. Let us see just how close you both are theologically. All Christians have a vested interest in this and it is not to be carried out in corners, hidden away, or covered up. We look forward to you humbling yourself to astonish and grace us with a substantive response.

  10. Yes to both. But please don’t patronise me about hiding in corners. I’m really not interested in proving myself to fellow believers. I repeat, leave the judging to God and let’s get out and join the few workers in the harvest. As the Lord himself teaches in the parable of the wheat and the tares, judgment will come but in his time, not ours, and by him, not us.

    Out (military-speak for: conversation over)!

    1. Rory,

      Again I’m sorry but you are once again avoiding the question. You acknowledge that Jesus was born of a virgin and atoned for our sins. But that was not the question. Do you think that those who deny these things are Christian brothers who should not be charged with being false teachers? As a minister you have a responsibility for protecting your flock from false teaching – at the moment your position seems to be going the opposite way..

    2. “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.”
      ‭‭2 John‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

    3. Mr MacLeod, by continuing to be associated with a non-Biblical new religion outside of mainstream Christianity, you have moved beyond association with “fellow believers”. This is a real shame because if you are the Rory MacLeod I think you are (ex-Marine, ex-St Andrews Presbytery?) then I remember you at Presbytery as someone who impressed me a lot and who I thought was a young, energetic believer in Christ and His Word. How have you moved so far so as to accommodate – and defend – such rank heresy?

  11. Surely the issue is one of obedience of Scripture. Those outside of the church who are sexually immoral, greedy, corrupt or who worship idols we should engage with in the hope of bringing them to repentance. However, we are instructed to disassociate ourselves from those who claim to be Christians but who engage in, or teach, sexual immorality, are greedy etc., to expose them and their teaching and not to tolerate such teaching in our churches. None of us is perfect and we need to remain humble in doing so. However, we still have a duty to expose false teaching. Even if we get other things right, Jesus still points out the need to disassociate ourselves from false teachers and their teaching.

    “I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?…” 1 Cor 5: 10-12

    “Test and prove what pleases the Lord. Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.…” Eph 5: 10-12

    “I know your deeds—your love, your faith, your service, your perseverance—and your latter deeds are greater than your first. But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads My servants to be sexually immoral and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Even though I have given her time to repent of her immorality, she is unwilling.…Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets … Only hold on to what you have until I come.” Rev 2: 20-25

  12. Dear David,
    whilst I appreciate your defence of the faith, I am not sure engaging with heretics is really worth it. Anti-biblical sects outside of mainstream Christianity such as the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Church of Scotland, Moonies, Church of Scientology etc etc ad nauseam are obviously of Satan and so should perhaps be just left alone. You know what they say about rolling around with pigs!

  13. Rory MacLeod.

    Perhaps you forgot that you introduced pugalistic language.

    Even after you’ve counted yourself out, you may raise an eye from the canvass.

    I’m only too pleased to leave the judging to God, especially that reserved for false teachers. It’s terrifying really. It’s probably just as well that generally, in their delusion, they don’t believe in a God who judges.

    Prayer is needed that they will be thoroughly converted before that happens.

    There is a difference between judgementalism and discernment. Every decision we make is a judgement. As others have shown well from scripture decisions, judgements over this are required.

    How can we work together with those who can not articulate what the Good News of Jesus Christ is? And blaspheme Him, and misrepresent him.? Even at the lowest level the messages would be at odds.

  14. Putting truth second to good manners must always kill Gospel unity and witness.
    Rory, I’m certain that at some level you know that!
    What is it about the C of S that makes ministers cling to it against all reason – do they hand round Koolaid at the GA??
    Whatever it is, is working its own demise with slow but awful inevitability

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