A couple of weeks ago the Scottish Government closed their consultation on gender self-identity and the Church of Scotland produced a ‘pastoral guidance’ booklet on the issue of transgender. I reviewed the book here.
I ended with the following:
“I hope and pray that the faithful ministers who remain in the Kirk will not hand out this propaganda, but will challenge 121 and the bureaucracy that has collaborated in this document. Its time for faithful people to be faithful and to at least be prophets to their own denomination.”
I did not expect a lot of evangelicals to bother with the issue and feared that most would just go along with it…but at least I thought there was Covenant Fellowship Scotland.
Covenant Fellowship Scotland
This is an organisation of what remains of the Reformed evangelicals within the Church of Scotland. They state their aim as “
Covenant Fellowship Scotland exists to work for the Reformation of the Church of Scotland according to Scripture. In doing so, it aims to provide a vehicle for orthodox Christians to have a recognised voice within the Church. In addition, Covenant Fellowship Scotland will provide support and encouragement, not least to those congregations who have been decimated by the disruption over the same-sex issue.”
It’s a worthy aim that deserves our support. Furthermore they have recognised the problem with the lack of leadership…” Covenant Fellowship Scotland also intends to provide leadership. Many orthodox people in the Church of Scotland are shocked and dismayed by the trajectory which the Church has been on for several years. Many are losing heart, looking for leadership and feel powerless. We have frequently been asked, ‘Is no-one doing anything?’ It is imperative that Covenant Fellowship Scotland offers people a rallying point for dissent now, as well as leadership for the future.”
This is excellent. At last we have an organisation which is going to make a public stand, provide leadership and be a prophetic voice to the wider Kirk and indeed the culture. Even the name ‘Covenant Fellowship’ conjures up majestic images of the Covenanters signing their names in blood in Greyfriars Kirk as they pledged to stand for Christ and his Kingdom. It’s all stirring stuff. From my point of view I was delighted at their establishment because I thought, “at last I won’t need to comment on the Kirk (which I long to see renewed and revived) – other than commend these evangelicals who will now provide the commentary, leadership and prophetic critique. But as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The Church of Scotland Transgender Booklet
So lets turn to the issue at hand. The C of S have produced a booklet in association with the Transgender Alliance Scotland, which promotes Queer Theory and its views that gender is a social construct and not something that God has made humanity and multiple gender identities.
Covenant Fellowship have responded to this with the following statement. http://www.covenantfellowshipscotland.com/blog/100-diverse-gender-identities-and-pastoral-care
– Rather than warning people about the document they helpfully advise people where to get copies (presumably for their congregations).
– CFS commends the booklet for fulfilling the Assemblies remit re pastoral care (although I have to ask what do we mean by pastoral care if it is not care according to the Word and intention of the Chief Pastor?).
– It commends the stories told in the booklet as they give ‘insight’ into the experience of a minister, spouse, and parent learning to deal with ‘these issues’ and says that these are “all appropriate enough for a wider understanding of the issues, not least in raising the consciousness of ministers, elders and members of the Church to issues that are likely to already be affecting one or more families in each of our congregations.” Although they do point out that other stories, with a different perspective are missing (again one wonders why they don’t ask the question why these stories are missing? The answer is straightforward – because the booklet is propaganda designed to put over one point of view –something that is blatantly obvious but seems to have escaped CFS’s notice).
– They suggest that the people who produced the booklet might have been a ‘little wiser’ by allowing for more ‘mainline interpretations and more judicious editing. Which is a bit like suggesting that Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book could have done with some subtler editing and mainline interpretations.
– They encourage us to read their own summaries of Vaughan Robert’s small book, Transgender, although Roberts book is so small that it’s probably better just to read the book itself. They also promise to make further resources available.
Finally ‘for clarification’, they correct yours truly. “ It should be noted that the Church of Scotland booklet mentioned above is NOT (as has been suggested elsewhere online) the Church of Scotland’s response to the recent Scottish Government consultation on issues around Transgenderism. The process that led to this booklet was initiated long before the SG’s consultation and had a completely different purpose. As far as we are aware, the Church of Scotland has not made an official response to the SG consultation.]”
A Wet Blanket
What’s wrong with all this? I came across this statement because a CFS member, who I respect and trust, described it as a ‘measured’ response. When I read that I was quite encouraged and looked forward to seeing what stance they had taken. I could not have been more disappointed. The statement is a complete wet blanket that sadly illustrates why the Church of Scotland has got into so much trouble. Why do I say that?
Over ten years ago when the whole SSM and homosexuality debate began in the C of S I got in enormous trouble and ‘hurt’ people for saying that the evangelicals were being suckered by the Establishment. (as you can see I have been writing about this for some time –
The response was that this was a battle that they would win, that two evangelicals had been invited on to the panel to investigate the matter that an evangelical was going to become Moderator etc. But they were suckered. Big time. The evangelicals were never allowed to outnumber the liberals. The only reason they were invited on to these groups was to enable them to keep their fellow evangelicals in line. They were invited to the table but they were not allowed any say in the menu. They were outmanouvered every time by fine words, appeals to unity (and to pride), threats and empty promises of jam tomorrow. I have to say that from a liberal perspective it was a brilliant strategy that largely worked – mainly because the evangelicals were leaderless, clueless and blinded by a myopic fixation with what they hoped the Church of Scotland could be, not what it really is – (as well as a genuine concern for their own congregations). Most evangelicals stayed in, but not to fight. Now they have been reassimilated into the Establishment to such a degree that they are completely toothless. As this statement from the most conservative grouping demonstrates.
As if to prove the old adage that we never learn from our history, now the SSM debacle is being repeated. The issue of what is humanity (male and female) and of what our children are being taught about humanity in schools is of far more importance even than SSM or the issue of homosexuality amongst ministers. This is an issue which the church, with its high view of humanity must speak on. Now consider this.
The Church of Scotland has produced a booklet which is intended for every congregation to distribute which specifically endorses the anti=Biblical and anti-Christian teachings of Queer Theory and in effect allies the Church of Scotland with the Transgender Alliance. What a great opportunity for CFS to stand up and provide the leadership that their people are looking for (and believe me I know that they are looking for it – my mail bag is full of C of S people expressing gratitude for the stance we have taken and looking to their own leadership to provide it). For me I was looking forward to my brothers and sisters in the C of S who stand by the Bible, making a stand with me (and the Catholics, Independent evangelicals and faithful Anglicans), in public. And instead they offer this damp squib of a statement, which largely capitulates on all the important issues.
A ‘Measured’ Response
A ‘measured’ response? I’m fed up of ‘measured’ responses to major sins. Thank God that Elijah didn’t offer a ‘measured response’ to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel; or that Paul avoided a ‘measured response’ to the foolish Galatians; and that Jesus wasn’t ‘measured’ and ‘Christlike’ when he told the Pharisees in public that they were like white washed tombs, twice dead! Note our Lord’s lack of measure when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip! Or his rudeness when he said that the lukewarmness of the Laodiceans made him sick. One can only suspect that CFS would have been appalled at Paul’s lack of measure in suggesting to Timothy that the Judaising circumcisers should go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
When I read the C of S booklet I was really upset. Not because I have anything against the C of S (if I took my joy in having a go at the C of S and schadenfreude was my middle name, I would have been delighted!) but rather because I care about what is happening in our society and how the Church as a whole seems to be just meekly following the culture in its descent into the darkness. That’s why I wrote about it. But it seems to me that CFS (or at least the author of this piece) were more irked about my writing about the booklet, than they were about the booklet itself. They strain at the gnats of procedure and politeness and swallow the camels of heresy and hypocrisy.
In fact the wee ‘correction ‘ they made at the end also illustrates the lack of leadership amongst evangelicals within the C of S. It is naïve to believe that on the week that the Scottish government’s consultation on gender self-identity, the C of S just happened to publish this booklet. In the absence of anything else the booklet was the C of S response.
“As far as we are aware, the Church of Scotland has not made an official response to the SG consultation.]” As far as we are aware?! Don’t CFS know what is going on in their own denomination? Have they not read the Scottish Governments website and submission proposals? What CFS should be asking (rather than nit-picking in this somewhat defensive manner) is Why did the C of S not make a response? After all it is the national church, and this was a national government consultation on a major issue. The C of S usually responds to these kinds of consultations in great detail – so why not on this one? Do I need to spell it out? Silence is acquiescence. By not making a response and by producing a booklet on the week the consultation closed in consultation with the Transgender Alliance, the C of S was making perfectly clear where it stood. For that matter why did Covenant Fellowship not make a submission? They want to provide ‘leadership’ and speak for evangelicals within the Kirk – so why the silence? It was as open to them as it was to any other group to respond.
Unloving and Unloved
Now I know instantly that the response to this from some will be a combination of anger and accusation – ‘it’s not loving’ will be the cry. “Shut him up’ they will tell people who they perceive to be my friends! And the Christmas card list will continue to be reduced. So be it. It’s very easy to dismiss any criticism by simply claiming that de facto such criticism must be unloving. But what if I do love the Church of Scotland? What if I long to see it renewed? What if I’m fed up of seeing evangelical brothers and sisters wear themselves out fighting for a fantasy? And what if the analysis given above is correct? Would it not be one of the most unloving things to keep silent? I have for a long time defended those brothers and sisters who have decided, and feel called, to stay in the Church of Scotland. And I would still do so. But they must fight (for the Gospel – not against those who have left, or those who dare to challenge the Kirk). Staying in for the sake of the institution, and not for the sake of the gospel, will only help the continued trajectory into apostasy that the Kirk is following.
Apostasy? Is that not too strong a word? I’m currently reading John Owens Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel (in volume 7 of his works). It is a stunning and apposite work for my own denomination and for the Church of Scotland. I think there is a danger of apostasy in the Free Church, as there is in any other church – but I thought the following was particularly appropriate –
“Men are apt to please themselves, to approve of their own state and condition, wherein they have framed unto themselves rest and satisfaction. Churches content themselves with their outward order and administrations, especially when accompanied with secular advantages, and contend fiercely that all is well, and the gospel sufficiently complied withal, whilst their outward constitution is preserved and their laws of order kept inviolate.” (John Owen – Works vol.7 p.53).
For me the implications of the statement from CFS are profound. They indicate the weakness, blindness and hopelessness of the situation for evangelicals within the C of S. Does CFS exist to fight for the Gospel in the Kirk, or does it exist to fight to retain Christians in the Kirk? These are two very different purposes. If it has become impossible to fight and make a stance on the important issues, then maybe it’s time for the evangelicals to leave – for the sake of the gospel. And maybe its time for all of us to get together and think about what a gospel centred national church would really look like. We need a bigger vision.
If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, should anyone listen? There is an old philosophical question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” For some reason I thought of that when I stumbled across the CFS statement. If evangelicals write a sound theological paper, and no one is listening, do they still make a sound? When CFS produce their ‘further resources and online summaries and papers’, they need to realise that its too late. This ship has sailed. The Lion has whimpered. No one is listening.