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Tragedy in Lewis – A Pastoral Response

My phone has hardly stopped ringing over the past couple of days, with journalists from different news organisations desperate for information and ‘an informed opinion’ about the recent tragic death of Iain D Campbell.     It still disappoints me that in a world where people are being killed, this is considered so newsworthy that it merits so many column inches and so much gossip.     However to some degree I don’t blame the journalists – that is the world they inhabit and they are just doing their jobs.  Its more reading the accompanying comments and even more sadly what passes for ‘prayerful concern’ in the Christian world , which really sticks in the throat.

What can be said?   In some ways it is surely better to say nothing, but as a christian minister in Iain D’s church – and knowing the upset, hurt, pain and confusion this is causing to so many, I think it is right that something be said for those , like me ,who are pastorally struggling with this.

Those of you who are looking for ‘inside info’ or salacious gossip can go look elsewhere.  All I could tell the journalists is how the procedures of the church work.  They probably knew more than me of the allegations!  What I know is what is in the public domain.  Iain D committed suicide and after his death a number of allegations have been made.  The truth or otherwise of these will be investigated by the Western Isles Presbytery.  This statement from the Presbytery sums it up well.

The Presbytery of the Western Isles wish to assure the Free Church and friends in the wider Christian community that meetings have been held to consider the recent death in tragic circumstances of Rev. Dr Iain D. Campbell.

They wish to further give assurance that they are continuing to exercise pastoral oversight in all aspects of this tragic event in accordance with The Practice of the Free Church of Scotland.

We ask for your prayers for the family, for our churches, and for the cause of Christ worldwide, as we seek to deal with this painful matter in a way that is biblically faithful and Christ-honouring.


Weep and Pray – Our first response is to be one of great sorrow and anguish.  For so many reasons. For me it is personal.  Iain D was a friend.  He was the same age and basically followed the same career trajectory – we were both Free Church ministers.  I was the youngest Free Church minister until Iain D was ordained.  We were both PhD students at Edinburgh Uni (he got his), editor of The Record, moderator of the Assembly, married to a Lewis woman, three children, keen cyclist, author and we both preached in different parts of the country and to a small extent, elsewhere in the world.   I feel it,  but can only imagine the pain, sorrow and numerous conflicting emotions that his family must be going through.  We must uphold them before the throne of grace and pray they find help in their time of need. We should pray for all those involved and most directly affected.  Would that we all had the heart of the minister I had to tell, who burst into tears on hearing the news.   We must weep with those who weep. And for him.  And for ourselves.

Avoid gossip.  It’s so easy to hide behind the mask of ‘prayerful concern’ and use it as an opportunity to feed our appetite for salacious gossip.  People say they need to know.  Why?  Why does anyone, other than those directly involved, need to know?  Isn’t what we know enough for sorrow and prayer?  (That is why you will not find here links to the numerous articles that have appeared in the press – why do we need to know any more than the basics already stated?). I don’t know what happened and I don’t want to know.  And those of you who claim to ‘know’ more almost certainly don’t.  What you mean is that you have heard something.  You don’t know. I think what amazes me is how many people have contacted me with the words ‘I have heard that….’  or ‘its widely known…’.   “I don’t want to share this but…’.   I rebuked someone for using this latter phrase before they then went on to share a newspaper article in public on their FB page.  Why?  Because there was no edifying or good purpose in it.

Now the accusation immediately comes – ‘You can’t face up to the truth’.  The reality is that I can’t know the truth.  Not absolutely.   I don’t know the history, people’s hearts or actions and so I can’t know.  And it’s not my business.  God will judge.  And God alone knows.  It is not for us to make judgements, take sides or pontificate as though we had the knowledge of the Almighty.  We don’t.  This does not mean that the church should not act when and as it can with what it does know.   But it does mean that the request for the Church to act as God in order that ‘something must be done’, or seen to be done, should be ignored.  As I told the press – we don’t do trial by media and as I now say to the various Christians networks/gossip chains, we don’t do trial by network gossip either.

Trust the Church – That seems like a strange request. Incidents like this are used by the Accuser to show people that the church cannot be trusted.  But that is not what this incident shows.   I have a great deal of sympathy with my brothers in the Lewis Presbytery who are faced with a situation which they knew nothing of, and have no responsibility for. Now they are acting in accordance with the practice, procedures and principles of the Church, and that is for the good of all those involved.  These procedures, practices and principles are there to protect and pastor people, not to punish.

Doubtless the Presbytery will be slated. Mainly by two groups of people – the militant anti-Church atheists, and worse of all, the Christians who see this as an opportunity to attack the Church and to justify themselves and their own cynicism.  Both suffer from the same sinful desire to elevate themselves by knocking others down.  I don’t blame the atheists, but the Christians who indulge in such Schadenfreude need to take a long hard look at themselves.   Iain D was hardly in his grave before the gossips, blogs and FB comments began.  I find it a sad indictment of much of the modern church, that with our networks and media resources, we seem to find it far easier to spread bad news, than we do to spread The Good News.  Perish the thought, but it’s almost as though we delight in the bad news more!

Humble Repentance –  For ourselves.  We can’t repent on behalf of others.  Those who claim ‘you can’t face up to the truth’ are in one sense right.  We can’t.  At least if we saw ourselves and our sin as God sees it, we would not be able to stand.   It was the apostle Paul who towards the end of his life said, ‘I am the chief of sinners’.    I am reminded that every day I sing, pray or read the psalms of a man who committed adultery and then murder.  He knew the pain of the reality of Psalm 51.  Those who are praying ‘Lord I thank you that I am not like others’ need to remember Christ’s words about the Pharisee and the tax collector.

We acknowledge that there are lessons to be learnt.  Hopefully as the dust settles and the speculation and salacious mockery moves on to another target, we will take the time to reflect on these lessons.  Now is not the appropriate time, except to simply say that we must not have a culture where ministers are placed on a pedestal and treated as some kind of mini-Saviour.  If our faith is in Christ and his word it will be shaken ,but not shattered,  by the alleged failings of one of his servants.  If our faith is in the servant then we are in trouble.

However we must also avoid the temptation to swing too much the other way where we declare that all ministers are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing the opposite.  Thats not true.  I have known several pastors and church leaders who have fallen, but I have known many more who, despite all their faults and sins, have remained faithful to Christ.   Ministry is hard.  And it’s often especially hard for the manse family.  The pressures and temptations come thick and fast.   We need to be often in prayer for one another.

Where is your God now?   Everyone becomes a self-appointed moralist and expert.  The enemies of the Gospel mock “Where is your God now? ”  Or to be more precise where is your Calvinist theology now?  The answer?   He is on the throne, where he has always been.  And our theology is what keeps us going.  Why?  Because it describes what has happened.  We believe in total depravity – not that every human being is as depraved as they can be – but rather that sin is in every human being and infects every part of our lives.  We believe that there are demonic and evil forces at work, always seeking to disrupt, devour and destroy.   This does not cause us to despair because we believe that over all, God is sovereign.  He permits but does not cause evil.  And he provides the remedy for that evil.  Without Christ we have nothing.  With him, we have been given all things.   May the Lord grant that one mercy out of this will be the removal of any semblance of pride and self-righteousness, and an awareness that those who think they stand, should beware lest they fall.

I had no intention of writing this, but this morning I read three things which compelled me.  I leave you with them.  Firstly from the journalist, John Macleod’s FB page:

We need to hold onto three things: first, the duty to support and pray for those who immediately grieve for a son, a brother, a husband and a father; second, the like duty to support and pray for the churchmen trying to resolve a case without precedent in Presbyterian history, to whose personal anguish I can attest; and – third – the hard and vital fact that God is in control, that He will have a people to Himself, and that the ark of His church sails on.

Then this from John Newton’s letters:

“Unbelief and a thousand evils are still in our hearts; though their reign and dominion is at an end, they are not slain nor eradicated; their effects will be felt more or less sensibly, as the Lord is pleased more or less to afford or abate his gracious influence.   When they are kept down they are no better in ourselves, for they are not kept down by us; but we are very prone to think better of ourselves at such a time, and therefore he is pleased to permit us at seasons to feel a difference, that we may never forget how weak and vile we are.  We cannot absolutely conquer these evils, but it becomes us to be humbled for them; and we are to fight, and strife, and pray against them.

Our great duty is to be at his footstool, and to cry to him who has promised to perform all things for us.  Why are we called soldiers, but because we are called to a warfare?  And how could we fight, if there were no enemies to resist?  The Lord’s soldiers are not merely for show, to make an empty parade in a uniform, and to brandish their arms when none but friends and spectators are around them.  No, we must stand upon the field of battle; we must face the fiery darts; we must wrestle (which is the closest and most arduous kind of fighting) with our foes; nor can we well expect to wholly escape wounds; but the leaves of the tree of life are provided for their healing.  The Captain of our salvation is at hand, and leads us on with an assurance which might even make a coward bold – that, in the end, we shall be more than conquerors through him who loved us”   (John Newton , June 1777)

And finally this was my psalm portion for the day.  As always the word of God is apposite.

8 Charge us not with the transgressions
of our forebears long ago;
May your mercy come to meet us—
you have brought us very low.

9 Help us, LORD, our God and Saviour,
for the glory of your name.
For your name’s sake come and save us;
take away our sin and shame.

10 Why should the surrounding nations
say to us, “Where is your God?”
Make the peoples know your vengeance
for your servants’ outpoured blood.

11 May the groans of every prisoner
come before your throne on high;
By your arm outstretched in power
save all those condemned to die.

12 Lord, remember how our neighbours
treat you with contempt and scorn;
And into their laps deliver
sev’nfold judgment in return.

13 Then shall we, the sheep you pasture,
worship and adore your name;
And through every generation
your unending praise proclaim.

(Ps 79 – Sing Psalms).

An edited edition of this article appeared in Christian Today


  1. It is with a heavy heart that I read this. I didn’t know him personally but listened to him over a weekend’s Bible conference. I know nothing other than what is written here and I’m not interested. His family and church in their greiving need all the support and prayer the wider church can give.

    For any superiority and finger pointing there may be lurking in our hearts, 2 Samuel 11 & 12 and Psalm 51 are divine correctives. They were my readings this morning.

  2. Who was it said -“the Church is the only army that attacks its own wounded”? Sad beyond words, but a good article – with an accurate title- from a Pastor’s heart. Would there were more like you.

  3. David,

    Thank you for this response. And yet it still leaves me struggling. Over the past few days I have wept and hurt over the news about Iain. There were few men that I held in such high esteem because he seemed to radiate such an aura of godliness both in his preaching and personally. And to see him end in such tragic circumstances makes me question the Lord’s hand in all this. Where was God’s persevering grace at the close of Iain’s life? How can I trust the Lord in all this – in my own life even? I don’t ask these questions because I doubt the Lord, but because I’m confused and don’t understand his ways in this. It all seems like a horrible nightmare.

    1. Andrew – thanks. I would suggest that the problem is not with God’s persevering grace. When we become Christians we don’t become robots. We live our lifes as weak and frail human beings. Sometimes we wonder and sometimes the Lord brings us back – but other times he lets us go our own way. The point of my article is that you can trust the Lord- you can’t absolutely trust your own judgement or other people. Is that not what the bible tells us anyway? And it is a horrible nightmare – we live in his vale of tears…

    2. I did not know this man but have experienced a similar situation in another church. I think the first reaction is to try and cover up and minimise what has happened. However, this has happened for a reason and I think many Christians in all churches look on the outward appearance and place such people on a pedestal. We can all do it. It is not just about the minister. Women professing to follow Jesus Christ were willing to take part in this too.Where was the discernment of others. I believe we can all get carried away with a persons talents, intelligence etc and not ask is this person filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Do we look past what we outwardly see. I think God sometimes has to use a sledgehammer to deal with individuals but also the larger church. Although this has particularly affected certain people and communities, it has also affected many others everywhere.i believe we are to learn to only look to Christ and humble ourselves before him. His will is done on earth in spite of people not because of them. If we repent he is willing and just to forgive our sins!

      1. Christina, thanks for your thoughts. However we need to be careful not to presume to know what we don’t know or to make judgements without knowing. I don’t agree that the first reaction is to try and cover up and minimise what has happened….there is a lot more that people think about. I do however agree about the sledgehammer….

  4. Having met him, and given him a lift from Midlands Airport to a conference in Derbyshire, and then heard him at the conference, I can only say that I concur with this article, and find also the accusations so liberally shared around the media (and commented on negatively by non-believers) quite out of character.

    I spent half an hour yesterday asking almost every single respondent on the Daily Mail article comments line ‘These are merely allegations. Do you suddenly believe in guilt on allegation? Or does innocence until proven mean nothing?’ It was time well spent.

    1. Dominic, this has made me wonder in general about the level of information I, as a christian unconnected to a given denomination should be “entitled to”. We do not have a right to know everything.

      Yet as you imply in this age of fast global communications, we now come up against people using real or imagined facts to libel our Saviour and our Church in general.

      I just clicked the “down” arrow on those running down christians in that Mail article, I don’t know what happened and take anything the press say with a pinch of salt until someone comes out with a definitve statement.

  5. I don’t know the man, the church, or even the island; but I have known great men who have fallen. In the middle of the heartbreak; we must guard against two foes.On the left is judgementalism, which hardens the heart. On the right is antinomianism, which pretends that the saints peseverance grants the license to sin. The most deadly combination of these faults is of course, judgementalism applied to others, and antinomianism to ourselves. We cannot afford to glance for a moment upon any supposed righteousness of our own (and cast the first stone); nor can we afford to think that the fall of another, lowers the Lord’s standards for us.

  6. Thank you David for giving some sort of solas in what has been a heart rendering situation. Many and I emphasise MANY people are broken hearted over this matter some I know losing any sort of assurance in a seeking situation they had.

  7. Thank you for this most dignified response. May the Free Church emerge from this judged not by what may or may not have happened around one of its cherished ministers, but by its abundance of heart and forgiveness of spirit.

  8. I have listened on line to Iain D’s sermons for almost ten years. I didn’t know him but nonetheless loved him dearly and have gained some of the deepest spiritual nourishment from his teaching in some of the most challenging times of life. I’m not hyper spiritual in any way but last night in the midst of my sorrow regarding Iain’s passing, it was as if the enemy was saying ‘I can get him and I can get you, or anyone I want’ . This is true in part, if the enemy has an open door, but we need to counteract this with spiritual warfare and particularly pray regularly for our church leaders, whom the enemy obviously wishes to destroy. I’m so thankful that my hope and trust is in God alone and not in man. Lewis is a place dear to my heart, I agree that instead of seeking to find gossip, we need to unite in prayer for Iain’s family and those who are most affected. And also pray that instead of this tragedy being the means of people falling away from their faith, they may instead be steadfast in their faith – in the eternal and unchanging God.

  9. Thank you David Robertson for this post. It is a balm in this awful season we are having to experience (even if from a distance). I love the clarity of your message and the focus to be on our gracious and Almighty God. Prayers for all, so needed.
    Jesus is still Lord and Head of His church.

  10. Your article means a lot to me. A fellow pastor, my best friend, was falsely accused. With no way of proving himself innocent, gossip was rife. He left a note saying he thought his death was the only way, to stop the shame that enveloped his family and congregation. When will we learn that a finger pointed at a brother has three pointed back at the one pointing?

  11. My heart goes out to you…. I did not know Dr. Campbell yet when the news came out this week I was stricken with grief. I cannot imagine the pain this family and church are experiencing. My personal thoughts focused on the deceitfulness of sin and “there but for the grace of God go I.” May God have mercy on this family, the church and the Church.

  12. This appears to be apposite, particularly for the church, from Schaeffer, via Ray Ortand’s blog:

    “A nice church filled with nice people doing nice things will make no impact in the intensity of our times. Every hybrid form of “Christianity” deserves to die, and will die. But here is a pathway back into the prophetic power of apostolic Christianity.

    Francis Schaeffer asked the question, What is the Christian’s task in the world today? That is a clearly focusing question. And Schaeffer’s answer was not evangelism. Evangelism too often seems canned and mechanical, Schaeffer said, like a sales pitch. But when evangelism is pursued as part of a larger whole, as a part of something unmistakably beautiful, it will be convincing, even captivating. What is that larger whole, embodied in a beautiful church? Two contents and two realities, Schaeffer proposed.

    Two contents

    1. Sound doctrine

    “The first content is clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity.” This strong biblical message stands in contrast to the content-weak philosophical and pragmatic rolls-of-the-dice people are settling for all around us.

    2. Honest answers to honest questions

    “The second content is . . . honest answers to honest questions. . . . Christianity demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation.” We must listen respectfully to all around us and try to satisfy their questions by reasoning thoughtfully from the full biblical gospel.

    Two realities

    1. True spirituality

    “There must be something real of the work of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing his fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. . . . There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.” Moment-by-moment reality with the living Christ—apart from him, we can do nothing.

    2. The beauty of human relationships

    “True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. . . . If we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.” This is a common blind spot among Bible-believing people. An orthodox doctrinal statement on paper might make us proud, but it alone will not make us convincing. Gospel doctrine must create gospel culture. Without that, we are trifling with the truth.

    “When there are the two contents and the two realities, we will begin to see something profound happen in our generation.”

    Francis A. Schaeffer, 2 Contents, 2 Realities (Downers Grove, 1975), pages 1-32.”

  13. I am grief-stricken, as are so many, and it does shake one’s faith. Yet God’s redemptive purposes are already at work, as we are reminded in this that Christ, not a respected theologian, is our rock. You reference “the Christians who see this as an opportunity to attack the Church and to justify themselves and their own cynicism,” yet it is doubtful as to whether many of them are truly Christian, despite their self-delusion.

    1. Having been pulled away from such a decision, personally, by the Lord many years ago, hearing of Iain’s suicide was a sadness and a considerable shock. But having been that close to that action, all those years ago, I have some understanding of where his ‘head must have been’ to take him there. As for the accusations, I do pray that they will be found to be baseless, and that evidence of that will be presented, not simply for Iain’s sake, but for the glory of the Gospel that he preached and taught with such power.

  14. For many years I have tried to teach myself to pass all news through the “Man Bites Dog” filter. News is news precisely because it is the opposite of what normally happens.
    So IF a well known pastor spectacularly falls to temptation, that is news. A myriad of cases where pastors consistently resist temptation and live exemplary lives is not news. Thank God! Perish the thought that a time should ever come when the suspected fall of a well known pastor ceases to be news.

  15. Obviously, it has been a very difficult time for everyone connected with the late Dr Iain Campbell, including Rev. Robertson, and a pastoral response is perfectly appropriate.

    Yet, there are a few issues related to the article that stick in my throat somewhat.

    1. It is not good enough to simply right-off those wanting some answers concerning the allegations made as gossip-mongers. Does the author not appreciate that people may have legitimate reasons for asking questions? Many people will be wondering, if the allegations are true, where it leaves their faith. If the teachers and leaders can so stumble, where does it leave those spiritually struggling? Furthermore, we may want to re-examine a minister’s public teaching in the light of alleged, contradictory moral behaviour.

    2. If the allegations have any foundation, questions must be raised about church discipline. Church discipline relates not only to the laity, but to the clergy as well. Who was pastoring the pastor? Discipline includes a range of measures such as private admonition, rebuke before witnesses, and excommunication. Was anything done in this way? We are led to believe that the presbytery had no inkling of what was alleged to be happening? Considering the circumstances, I doubt it.

    3. The author tells us to “trust the church,” ergo, trust the clergy. As this whole matter would seem to demonstrate, we cannot always trust every minister. If the people are to regain some trust of pastors, they must be open and transparent and the issues not simply kept secret. There should be some accountability. To be told, what in effect amounts to, “get lost, and leave it to the experts” is not as pastoral a response as I might have hoped, and it is well to remember, that unfortunately, sometimes the experts fail too.

    4. This is a public matter as well as private. It is hard to judge how much of a celebrity’s standing can be attributed to the public “placing them on a pedestal,” and how much can be attributed to “the celebrity” in agreeing to be made a public figure by accepting speaking engagements, writing books, blogs, etc. We don’t need to know the salacious details, but as public figures, the public have an interest to know how it has allegedly gone so wrong.

    1. I am sorry that there are issues that stick in your throat – but perhaps you need to clear your throat and get the issues right.

      1. Would you like to tell us what the legitimate reasons are for people wanting to know the details? Those who are directly involved are different, but why should strangers like you want to know? As for people struggling as to where it leaves their faith, there is a real problem. With their faith. It must be really immature and they must have a poor understanding of faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ, not in any one else, or any of his servants. If the teachers and leaders can stumble, where does it leave those spiritually struggling? Hopefully looking to Christ and not to the teachers and leaders. You see yourself as a Christian leader and teacher, are you suggesting that you could never stumble? You seem to have a very strange and weak view of the Christian faith. My view is that we should always examine a minister’s public teaching in the light of the Scripture and not in the light of his own behaviour….we can determine his character by his behaviour.

      2. Thanks for putting the word ‘if’…but you don’t really seem to mean it. You seem to have made your mind up. You have acted as judge and jury and from the other side of the world you are able to pontificate on something you know nothing about. As a church we practice church discipline, and we are stricter on our office bearers than we are on members. We hold them to a higher standard. You have the gall and arrogance in your ignorance to pronounce in public that the presbytery had no inkling of what is alleged. Well they didn’t. If they had then action would have been taken – as it has in other cases. But you ‘doubt this’? What gives you the right to doubt anything? Who made you judge? You know nothing of the people involved, or the circumstances and yet you think you can make judgements!

      3. The author does not tell us to trust the clergy. Again you are speaking in ignorance of a church and a system you know nothing of. Our church does not operate on the basis of the clergy running everything. No one claims that we can trust every minister. Issues are not kept secret and there is accountability. Again its the breathtaking arrogance of your comments, combined with the ignorance, which is so disturbing.

      4. What a strange doctrine you espouse here! The public have a right to know? Says who? ‘We have a right to know’ is the cry of every gossip and every tabloid newspaper. You also completely misunderstand about the celebrity culture. Iain D was the pastor of a small church in the island of Lewis. He was by no means a celebrity. And again why you think it is good that the public have ‘an interest to know how allegedly gone so wrong’ is beyond me? Why does ‘the public’ have a right to have their interest in gossip satisfied?

      Your post is a depressing and arrogant one, based on ignorance. It saddens me that Christians can behave in such a way as to bring disrepute on the Gospel of Christ through sexual sin. It saddens me just as much that Christians can bring disrepute on the Gospel of Christ through gossip and self-righteous judgementalism – and even more so that they do so in the name of Christ. I would suggest that next time you be more careful before you judge and post. Perhaps prayer would be a more appropriate response? And indeed repentance…

      1. Long-time (and appreciative!) reader of this blog, first-time comment-er. I don’t really like the way ‘Transparency and Accountability’ has put it here, and the assessment of ‘depressing and arrogant, based on ignorance’ seems pretty astute.

        I’ve prayed about leaving this comment- but as a sinner, I’m sure I’m just as likely to be depressingly arrogant and ignorant as ‘Transparency and Accountability’ above. Still, though, I wanted to comment here to express my bewilderment, ask a question that’s weighing on me, and see what you think.

        As much as I want to flee the extreme of injudicious and ungodly gossip, I have to say that some of what ‘Transparency and Accountability’ has said does make sense to me. When Rev Dr Campbell passed away, one of the obituaries talked about his ‘transparent piety’. He himself wrote a book on the doctrine of sin, and had a public ministry (which encouraged me and many others). When allegations like this come to light, I completely understand that we need to wait and see before passing any hasty judgments. But I understand why you would be left curious and disturbed. How can we have it both ways- be encouraged by a man’s public ministry, but then expect private sin to leave that un-tarnished? I guess that’s a question for how appropriate and weigh ministry on the internet, and a good warning for us to receive the ordinary means of grace from accountable ministers of the gospel in a local setting.

        Secondly, it seems like a few public voices have, in the past, leapt on a culture of protecting big name Christians and ‘top men’ even when they had sinned and fallen. The implicit critique was that the big parachurch bodies were unmoored, unaccountable and that such falls were down to a lack of the right ecclesiology. I’m not suggestion that you, writing this blog, are the voices behind this (I think more of the ‘Mortification of Spin’ crew), but it would seem rich to have passed by the ruin of others in as sanctimonious a way as others seem to have done, and then to extend such extreme generosity, such curtain-pulling privacy in this case here. Again, not what you’ve done–but certainly a thing others on the internet have detected. Should this be a warning to us not to moralise in the light of pastoral failure?

        I’m not leaving this comment because I want to affirm the comment ‘Transparency and Accountability’ left above. I’m commenting because I’m left confused, a little anxious and shaken by these circumstances. Of course this doesn’t constitute any ‘right to know’. But I’d love help in holding two things together that seem so at odds: public encouragement from a public ministry, with an outpouring of ennobling grief, and public discouragement from a minister’s private life. Thanks for your thoughts.

      2. Niv, – thanks for this….thoughtful and helpful post. I will try and answer your question in another blog. I have experienced this problem before – and it is possible to be blessed by someone’s ministry and for them still to be living a double life – although it usually doesn’t last for long. And I agree with your other comments. Will try and get back to them…again thanks…

      3. Philippians 1: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

        In reply to the matter of a preacher being discovered to be a sinner (“well, what a surprise NOT!” should be one response) the above quote seems to answer the concerns.

      4. Come on be real! Pastors like Campbell set themselves up as guardians of the truth and set the bar high for the saints. His opinions on sabbath and Keller were just that – opinions. People need to know if this mans opinions were compromised. People listen to him because he is wise. But the bible says fear of god is the beginning of wisdom.

        If there is any truth in the accusations then maybe he wasn’t so wise.

        There is a difference between airing the truth and gossip. A good airing of the truth is the antidote to gossip. You want everyone to be good quiet christians so this embarrassment goes away. In that regard you ate just like the Catholic Church covering up paedophilia.

      5. I am very real. And very wary of someone who says ‘there is a difference between airing the truth and gossip’. Have you ever met a gossip who did not think he was telling the truth?! A good airing of the truth can in actual fact be gossip. Your comments also betray an extraordinary arrogance as well as ignorance and heartlessness. It is not the case that I want everyone to be good quiet Christians, and there is no attempt to cover up anything. But in your ignorance and arrogance you feel free to make the accusation. If you are a Christian you should be throughly ashamed of your post and ask the Lords forgiveness. If you are not a Christian you need to become one!

    2. You are so keen for the light of what you believe is rectitude to be shone publicly onto someones personal life, someone who has now died and cannot defend himself. Let’s merely shine light on your comment.

      1. “write-off”, not ‘right-off’.
      2. “Many people will be wondering WHETHER the allegations are true, and where that would leave their faith.”
      3. “If the allegations have any foundation THEN questions must be raised about church discipline.”
      4. “Church discipline relates not only to the laity but also to the clergy.”

      I’m bored now, this is too easy. It is so easy to criticise others over things that you know nothing about. Others here have excellently pointed out problems within what you have said. Your points 2, 3, and 4 all betray someone who is ‘anti-clergy’, and who does not understand the nature of what ‘church’ really means, and a lack of understanding of the ecclesiology of the author of this article (which is evidenced in your point 3).

      1. Dominic,
        I hope your concentration on my poor written style didn’t distract you from the point I was trying to make. I apologise, but I was of course writing comments on a blog, not writing an essay.
        By the way, did you mean “someone’s personal life,” because you wrote “someones personal life.”

      2. You prove my point very well with your response – which is how easy it is to throw around accusations, how easy it is to find beams in other’s eyes.

  16. Transparency and Accountability.

    1 I’m not part of the clergy nor this particular denomination.

    2 Your point 3 ends with this: “We are led to believe that the presbytery had no inkling of what was alleged to be happening? Considering the circumstances, I doubt it.”
    From a former lawyer I think your doubt reveals a lack of knowledge of human nature and an embrace of the common currency of conspiracy, What are the “cicumstances” that you seem to know, that the presbytery at the time did not and you claim should have? Are these so called cicumstances, evidence or “hearsay”, that you or anyone had heard say?

    2 Your point number 4. You seem to be conflating “public interest” and “interest of the public”, two separate and substantially different points. What can the church at large learn from this? No more than is already set out in scripture, with precedents aplenty.

    3 And as for “Transparency and Accountability”, your name is….?

  17. There is one reason to publically expose certain people and their sins, and that (in the words of the KJV) is “that others also may fear”, certainly not for the buzz of gossip. My impression is that public rebukes were meted out by the early church to those who did not repent of said sins, not if they admitted guilt and repented.

    Mind you, I cannot recall when I last heard about any church doing this. Does that mean we are all better behaved christians compared to the first century?

    The only other reason I can think of is if a member refuses to accept discipline of the church for a gross sin (such as heresy or a moral failing). If that person just leaves said church and joins another, how would the recipient church know of this problem if it had not been previously publicised to them?

    1. Roland – indeed and that is something that we do…however in this case it is not relevant because the person being accused is dead. If others are accused then we deal with them in the normal biblical manner….which is what will happen here. But we don’t broadcast what we do and only come to public discipline when all else has failed.

    2. Churches should be much more ready to speak to a congregation to which someone has moved. Both to convey their support for the individual as well as to show concern about someone’s behaviour. We were forced to ring another congregation about someone who left a few years ago. Their past contained serious child protection issues which the new congregation HAD to be told. No-one else was doing it. It seems that they have done little with the information, but that is their choice.

  18. Weaflee,

    I will not respond to every point in your last post, and I certainly don’t intend to react to name calling, but I’d nevertheless like to make a few things clear.

    You have asked me who I am to judge. To this I can only say that whether I am a Christian leader or teacher, a lawyer, journalist, congregant, or none of the above, it doesn’t stop me from having an opinion. I see on your blog you are not averse to sharing your opinions. And I am certainly not saying or implying that I can never stumble; if you read my statement carefully you would have seen this.

    You have assumed that I have no knowledge of the church or church system. Whether I do or not, most would agree that no matter how good the form of church government is, problems arise— and sometimes with pastors. Once ordained, pastors, with propensity for certain behaviours, can get away with a lot in the right situation, even in Presbyterianism. Good systems of government are not necessarily used to their advantage.

    You have made light of the questions people might be asking themselves as to where it leaves their faith. I can only say that not everyone has the same degree of Christian maturity—some will be thrown by these events. You have said that you are pastorally struggling with it yourself. It is not commensurate with the office of pastor to have consideration for the weaker brethren?

    God is not glorified by a cover-up (Joshua 7:19). I hope the matter is investigated properly and thoroughly. Allegations of previous cover-ups are not unknown in this denomination; I’m particular thinking of the mid-1990s. What worries me is your comment that “I don’t want to know” could imply a lack of will to pursue truth.

    As for me, I have no desire to know the details of the alleged events, but please, please, have some regard for those who have been harmed by these events, and if they ask uncomfortable questions don’t dismiss them as arrogant troublemakers or salacious gossips, or use the platform of your office to quell them to silence.

    1. I’m not sure where the name calling was – and interesting how sensitive you are to that – given the serious name calling about people and churches you do not know that you indulged in, in your first post. All I did was critique your first post.

      I did ask who you are to judge. Your answer to that is astonishing for a Christian. I am entitled to have an opinion. Actually no you are not. Thats the point. You are not entitled to have an opinion or make a judgement about a situation that you know nothing about. This is Christian discipleship 101!

      Of course all systems have problems, because all systems are run by people. But I’m not sure what the point of your truism is? Problems arise. Duh!

      And yes I did say that those who are spiritually immature and thus look to leaders rather than Christ will struggle. That was my point.

      God is not glorified by a cover up. Again a truism. And again an arrogant and ignorant assumption from you that there has been a cover up! Once again you are like the conspiracy theorist who just knows that the conspiracy is there. Whatever is said, if it doesn’t agree with your pre-judged knowledge, then it must be part of the ‘cover up’. Your comments about 1990’s again show your ignorance and your unChristian propensity for gossip about things and people you know nothing about.

      I don’t want to know does not mean I don’t want to pursue truth. There is no need for you to be alarmed. I don’t want to know means that I am not judge and cannot be expected to deal with everyone’s personal life and all that that involves. I trust the One who is Judge.

      And you are such a hypocrite. You ask me to have some regard for those who have been harmed by these events when you show no such regard yourself. My letter was a pastoral letter for such people and several have been in touch. But you pontificate from a distance with no regard for the people involved or the harm your words can do. I have no intention of quelling you to silence because I suspect you are the kind of person who will gossip and shout whatever….and with scant regard for the people actually involved. But unless you have something to say here that is actually worthwhile I’m afraid you won’t be posting here again. Your posts are totally depressing and discouraging. No regard for truth, self-absorbed, self-rightous and a sad example of the kind of unbiblical ‘christian’ viglantism which is doing so much harm. I am more than happy to listen to the questions of those who ‘have been harmed’ by these events – but gossips and self-appointed religious police are not included in that category. Maybe you should consider taking the beam out of your own eye before you set yourself up as judge and jury? May the Lord have mercy on you – and indeed on us all….

  19. Perhaps we should all wait this out and see where the results of the investigation lead to before we go at each other? When the details come out, and come out they will, then we can have a discussion on how to properly deal with this sort of situation. It has sadly been the case of late that many “good and trusted” ministers have fallen by alcoholism, child sexual abuse, and marital affairs. Publicity in our technologically communicative age cannot be avoided. Therefore, question of whether these matters should be spoken of publicly or not is a mute point. I will say that the outside world has been witness to a double standard in the way these matters are typically handled by the Church. The Church is amazingly forgiving and protective of it’s own, while being openly condemnatory for the same behavior of those outside the Church. Those of us inside the Church really need to rethink the role proper Biblical discipline plays in the Church, to the point where it protects everyone from the leaders to the members.

    1. Robert – that is not a helpful nor true comment. Please be careful. You are far too quick to accuse the church of double standards based on gossip. I find it more than ironic that at the same time as you are writing about the Church being too forgiving and protecting of its own, others are writing about the church shooting its own wounded. It seems we are dammned if we do and damned if we don’t. Biblical church discipline is for the purpose of restoration and protection of the Lords people within the church – from the effects of false teaching and false practice. We try to do that. That is not helped when people pontificate from outwith, without knowing….

      1. You are right, his ‘many’ does NOT ring true with what I know. The only ‘many’ are those who are struggling with the workload, their own increasing age, and the aging congregations they pastor.

  20. I tried to post a comment last night, but my phone seems to have dumped it before it was sent.  My apologies if I am duplicating it.

    I came across your blog when a friend reposted something you’d written about Indyref2 on her facebook page.  As a result I also read a number of your other articles and I was so very thankful to come across this one. A lot of the sentiments mirror my own and I am grateful to see someone publicly refusing to indulge in the gossip and the mud-slinging!

    I am a Christian who has lived on the Isle of Lewis for 15 years and although I was not a member of Rev Dr Iain D Campbell’s church I knew him a little and respected him a lot, as a man of integrity and honour.  I have seen no evidence to the contrary and feel it’s exceptionally sad that much of his brilliant teaching has been removed from the web.  Even if he did the things of which he is accused (and there’s a huge question mark over that) it doesn’t, in my opinion, invalidate teaching he produced 5, 10, 15 years ago!

    It has been utterly heart-breaking to see the level of vitriol in the accusations and counter accusations washing around the island since his death.  No one will  ever know the full story, but in a largely Christian community you would expect that Jesus’ plea to ‘love one another’  would take precedence over ‘slander one another, gossip about half-truths, and seek the punishment of those who might have been involved’.  Sadly this has largely not been the case and rumours are spread unhindered, often by people who should know better and often disguised as ‘informed prayer points’!

    I’m not interested in arguing theology, but I do know that just about every translation of John 5 v 22 states that ‘the Father judges no one.’  That privilege has been given to Jesus alone.  Not to ministers, not to elders, not to deacons or priests or vicars or pastors or communicants or adherents or interested bystanders or anyone else.

    I understand the need for the church to be seen to be ‘dealing’ with the fallout.  But healing and restoration will only be achieved through love and forgiveness!   Love for the brokenhearted, love for the offended, love for the confused, love for the hurt, love for the frightened, love for the angry, love for the guilty!   The love of Jesus and the love of His followers towards each other and the community will achieve infinitely more than accusations and judgement.  

    In the words of Craig Adams:
    “You who point out the sin of others to them and tell them to behave:
    Do you think they do not have a heavenly Father to love them and correct them Himself?
    Or do you think you are wiser or better able to make yourself heard by them than their own Father is?
    Let them hear and do what their Father says to them, and so stand.
    For He is surely able to make them stand.

    The day after the news broke I was compelled to go out in the Castle Grounds and pray.  It’s something I do often but it’s not often it takes on such an intensity of weeping and praying and groaning as it did this day.  I believe God is heartbroken at what has happened.  But I also believe he insisted that if I was to involve myself in prayer for the whole situation I was to be absolutely and totally uninvolved in ANY sort of speculation about what may or may not have happened.  That’s pretty difficult in a place like Lewis where everybody and their mother wants to draw you into discussion about the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’.  But I sincerely believe it’s the only way we can keep our hearts pure before God and help bring the depth of His healing into the pain people are experiencing.

    I am not of the Free Church persuasion and I can’t begin to understand the theology behind some of the comments on this blog.  What I do understand is that we are all part of the body of Christ, and when one part hurts we all hurt, when one part suffers we all suffer.  It is with that in mind that I offer heartfelt love and prayers for ALL my brothers and sisters in Christ who have been rocked by these events and to all those others who have been confused or hurt by them.  xx

    1. Hi Tina, thanks for your helpful and interesting comments. I would just offer one small corrective – I wouldn’t blame the theology behind some of the comments on here on the Free Church! Most people who comment are not Free Church!

  21. When I think I can not be deceived, I am deceived already
    When I think I above a particular sin, I’m in a particular sin.
    As a youngster growing I frequently heard the phrase, “there but for the grace of God go I”
    I didn’t know what it meant, as part of an unbelieving family.
    How many in my believing family really believe it?
    This by no means condones wrongdoing as there are always consequences. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
    Are we really like porcupines huddling together in the hearth trying to find warmth and comfort and light in the gospel of Christ, while at the same time piercing each other, even as Christ was pierced in our place.

  22. I’ve only just read that the reported heart attack was indeed a suicide.
    Who decided it was reported as a heart attack? THAT in my opinion is the thing sticking in my throat. THAT indicates a cover up if the church was dishonest about the initial facts. Who put out the initial statement or rumour it was a heart attack? Why didn’t I hear from my pulpit a correction to the information I had been given?
    Who actually disclosed the truth?
    No one here has answered those questions. .

    1. This is a very sad post. Perhaps you should be more careful about what sticks in your throat and a wee bit less quick to rush to judgment. Why should you be given information from the pulpit about this tragic situation? And why do you rush so quickly to the notion of a ‘cover up’ by the church and dishonesty? I suspect you watch too much TV and internet! Why would the church cover up anything? What does the church have to cover up? And I assume that it is not the job of the church to diagnose or disclose cause of death. I’m afraid that in setting yourself up as judge and jury, you have forgotten the Judge who asks you to look at your own heart not others.

  23. Coming back to apologise. I realise you have lost a friend and I’m not helping pour oil on your trouble.
    I felt betrayed, by who I’m not sure. By whoever authorised the press statement to say he died of a heart attack. It doesn’t help me taking it out on you. I saw your blog and it still left questions, other comments were similarly dismissed but none raised my concern, so I asked it myself.
    it probably wasn’t you I need to ask, but you put yourself out there, so to speak, and I responded.
    Please forgive me.

    1. Thanks….I think you have to understand that sometimes people make mistakes and someone passed on a rumour presented as fact before checking first. But there was no cover up as there was nothing for the church to cover up. Now of course we are being condemned for actually dealing with the situation!

  24. REPORT FROM PRESBYTERY, April 26, 2017

    Issuing a statement from the Western Isles Presbytery, Rev James Maciver, the minister of Stornoway Free Church, said: “The Western Isles Presbytery has completed a thorough investigation into serious allegations about the conduct of the late Rev. Dr Iain D Campbell prior to his death. The Presbytery has now sadly concluded that elements of Dr Campbell’s moral conduct were contrary to, and censurable by, the Word of God (Bible), and seriously inconsistent with that expected of a Christian minister.

    “Following the investigation, each local Kirk Session has carried out appropriate disciplinary action, according to guidelines laid down in the Practice of the Free Church of Scotland. Bearing in mind that the Church has a duty of care to all parties, this has been carried out in private.

    “The Presbytery will continue to consider how to bring this sad episode to a conclusion and what we may learn from it.

    “The last few weeks have been a deeply distressing time for all concerned. The Presbytery would appeal to everyone within the Free Church of Scotland for unity and prayerfulness. The Presbytery wishes to particularly remember Iain’s wife, Anne, and the rest of the family. We urge the Church to pray for them, and for all those affected by recent tragic events, that God will provide comfort and healing for them.”

  25. David, your blog is very helpful – thank you for it! It will be for the Lord to bestow comfort where it is required. Meantime we rest in His Sovereignty – and grieve.

  26. Dear Pastor, I have loved Dr Campbell among other Reformed Pastors and Teachers for several years since I was so graciously, mercifully brought to the Reformation out of a sheer shipwreck of my soul. There are many pastors and preachers in Scotland whom I have gained much from as they were to me the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, preaching through the voice of mere men, (as Alistair Begg reminds us so many time).

    I found out about Dr. Campbell’s death when I came once more in a time of deep need to hear the Word preached, and which always met my need as it is the Word of the Living God and He lets us hear His voice and still live. I knew that there would be regular sermons like clockwork. But that Sunday sermon was missing….I wondered… and began to look at the comments on Sermon Audio telling me the unthinkable, that young Dr. Campbell had died. That was shock enough in itself and grief beyond belief for me. He did preach Jesus Christ, the Altogether Loverly Lord and God.

    I am still so very grieved and my tears flow for the loss to the Church and especially to Scotland, land that I love for God chose sons from that dear land who though dead still speak a word in season to those who are needy of that kind of work. I hardly know how to think about this, so casting my thoughts and cares and questions and grief upon Him Who has bid me cast them upon Him brings a quietning strength.

    I was so close to Dundee last week. I was in Aberdeen for my oldest daughter’s wedding. And it was a difficult time for so many reasons. I so longed to come for Christian fellowship and worship with you all, but was not able. I am from Houston, Texas and have had the privilege of auditing several of Dr. Ferguson, classes at the Redeemer Seminary campus. I think that Dr. Ferguson has come to your church and I have followed you since I was first brought to find out about you when I was looking for information about dear Robert Murray McCheyene. Your words have been helpful to me on many occasions, especially now. So I am thankful for your response.

    I do not understand this tragedy that has broken my heart, but not my faith. I do understand that our Sovereign Father of our Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, has allowed this frowning providence for of our good–for so He has promised and so it is. His promises, exceeding precious and sure are solid ground when all else gives way.

    It is our need to be always and ever brought to repentance… For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” let it not be said of the Church …But you were unwilling, ( Is 30:15)

    I wish I could express better my grief and hope and love for all of you who are close to this tragedy. Let us meet together at the Mercy Seat and find together that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. One thing for sure we can all be impressed with the horror of remaining sin and run into the sheltering arms of our Comforting Savior knowing and feeling that He will never, no never, not ever forsake us.

    Glad to be in Christ with you,
    Linda Crutchfield

    1. Thanks Linda – for so many of us Dr Campbell’s death has been so painful. We continue to pray…Yes you are right Sinclair Ferguson now serves in St Peters as Associate Preacher and elder. Feel free to visit us some time!


  27. I have left a comment on your post about Ravi Zacharias on Premier Christianity. I hope you will read it. Your post about Zacharias and your post on your own blog about Iain D Campbell are similar and liberal and non-judgemental. It is because of men like Campbell and Zacharias that atheists have no interest in Christianity and they think that Christians are hypocrites. I am a Bible-believing Christian and I am weary of Christians who will not roundly condemn men like Zacharias and the adulterous “Pastor” Iain D Campbell and his scarlet women. Those wicked adulteresses should have been put out of the Church in disgrace. Instead they got a slap on the wrist. I am judgemental because the Bible is judgemental and I can judge as long as I am not guilty of the sin I condemn in others. Quit you like men you softly-softly, non-judgemental Ministers and condemn the wicked hypocrites among us who live double lives, that others may fear and watch their conduct accordingly.

    1. It is not because of men like Campbell and Zacharias that atheists have no interest in Christianity. I have never met an atheist yet for whom that is the case. They have no interest in Christianity because they are dead in sins and trespasses and they are enemies of God! If you are a bible believing Christian then you should act like one and believe what the bible says about not entertaining an accusation against an elder without two or three real witnesses – and the process for church discipline that Christ puts forth in Matthew 18. You seem to think that you have the right to act as judge and jury on the basis of gossip. That is hardly the action of a bible believing Christian. I would suggest that you should take the beam out of your own eye before you take the speck out of others. I have no qualms in being a judgemental minister and telling you that in my judgement it is you who sounds like the wicked hypocrite!

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