Faith No More – the Continuing Decline of the Church of Scotland- The Herald

Faith no more: Questions over a liberal approach as Church of Scotland affiliation plummets

Faith no more: Questions over a liberal approach as Church of Scotland affiliation plummets

In todays Herald there is yet again another article on the decline of the Church of Scotland….It reflects what we have been saying on this blog for years….

The full report is below….with some reflections afterwards.

QUESTIONS have been raised about how the Church of Scotland’s more liberal approach will help public engagement as a new study found less than one in five say they are affiliated to the Kirk.

The latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey has caused disquiet in some quarters as it reveals that those that say they belong to the Church of Scotland have fallen from 32% in 15 years ago to just 18% in 2017.

It also shows the numbers that say they are Roman Catholic has dipped slightly from 13%, 15 years ago to 12% last year.

But those who say they have no religion has shot up from 43% in 2003 to 56% in 2017.

Ian Montagu, senior researcher at the Scottish Centre for Social Research, said: “This year’s figures reinforce a gradual picture of overall decline in religious identity in Scotland – a decline most keenly felt by the Kirk.”

He said the four per cent of people aged 18-34 identifying with the Church of Scotland is “particularly low”. In 2002 it was 14%.

Mr Montagu added: “As attitudes in Scotland become more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion, church leaders will no doubt be considering how to better connect to a changing society.

“It will be interesting to see what impact liberalising measures, such as the Church of Scotland’s efforts to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages, have upon these numbers in the future.”

In June, the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland voted to sever ties with the Church of Scotland due to what it felt was the Kirk’s more liberal attitude to same-sex relationships.

HeraldScotland:

The unprecedented move by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland means the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will no longer be invited to the annual meeting of the church’s General Assembly in Belfast. And the PCI will no longer accept invitations.

Survey data also reveals that in 2009, over one in three said they had attended a Church of Scotland at least once a month, but in 2017 it had dropped to one in four, according to the survey. Those who went to a Catholic church at least once a month dipped from 60% nine years ago to 52% last year.

A Catholic Church spokesman said “While it is reassuring to see Catholic figures remaining relatively constant, the decline in other Christian churches is very concerning.

“An analysis of numbers however should not ignore the significant social capital the Christian church contributes to Scottish society.”

A Church of Scotland spokeswoman said there were various surveys and reports on congregational numbers and religious affiliation and “differing interpretations of their meaning”.

She added: Our view is that we endeavour to be a Christian presence in communities and a force for good and we will continue to focus on that.

“Jesus called every Christian to be faithful to God and to make a positive difference in the world.

“That is why throughout history you have found Christians fighting injustice and inequality, being a voice for the poor and standing up for those who otherwise were alone.

“Jesus called this being a light in the darkness.

“The Church of Scotland is there to celebrate with individuals and families in the happy times but also to provide support during the difficult and sad times.

“Irrespective of the Church’s popularity, that calling remains the same and is why today you still find Christians active at all levels of society.

“Whether we are many or we are few, the church will always seek to be a force for good in society.”

The Church of Scotland backed a report in May which could lead to same-sex marriages in church.

The General Assembly backed a motion which tasked a committee with drafting church law on the issue.

Its legal questions committee was asked to report back to the annual meeting of the decision-making body in 2020.

The 2016 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was based on a sample of 1,237 people interviewed between July 2016 and December 2016.

Three observations:

1.Liberalising the Church will not save it –

It will be interesting to see what impact liberalising measures, such as the Church of Scotland’s efforts to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages, have upon these numbers in the future.”   We know what impact they will have…because the C of S has been doing this for decades and it is a primary reason of their decline.  More of the same methods will results in more of the same results.  Going along with the tide means that they will continue to be swept away by it.

2. The Church of Scotland is in denial –

They deny the Church of Scotland will die out….even as it is dying out.  I’m up in my home area – Easter Ross – and I’ve just cycled past five redundant churches.

They cite a few success stories to negate the overall picture.

They claim influence and effect out with the gathered communities of the Church in order to justify their own existence.  But if people are not gathering to worship Jesus in what sense are they the Church of Jesus Christ?   Holding a crèche or a knitting jamboree is not the Gospel.

(Please note that these comments refer to the denomination as a whole and it’s structures. They do not refer to the faithful few churches and the many C of S Christians who are holding on – many of whom read this blog. You know that we pray for you and desire your prosperity and growth!)

3. The Church of Scotland (at least in its official leadership) has no idea what the Church is for – 

“The Church of Scotland is there to celebrate with individuals and families in the happy times but also to provide support during the difficult and sad times.”    No – that is not what the Church is for.  The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.  The Church has Jesus Christ as its head.  The Church exists to proclaim the Goods News of Christ to all.  The C of S has largely become a social work organisation which just reflects the values of our culture.  The bottom line is that the Church of Scotland is failing because it is no longer the Church.

Listening to the Radio Scotland phone in this morning, discussing this question, was so depressing…in fact I gave up.  The ignorance of the militant secularists phoning in to gloat was to be expected…but it was the religious people phoning in which really made me sad (apart from the one man advocating biblical Christianity whose analysis was spot on)….’there’s too much dogma in the church’..’we need to adapt to the times’…etc..   Old people talking about other old people as being dinosaurs!   All of them spoke of religion and their religious clubs.   Not one spoke of Christ and his Word.  The C of S has done its job….

3. The Legalisation of SSM in the Church will be its death nail, not its Resurrection

The only reason for the Church supporting SSM is because the society has endorsed it.  This is the kind of compromising attitude with the world which has always resulted in disaster for the Church.  The C of S sees itself as the ‘national’ church – the spiritual voice of the culture.  But the Church should be the prophetic voice to the culture, not the sanitised spiritual voice of it.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 11.19.16
The new Free Church in Haddington

But not all churches are dying.  As the society becomes darker and more secularised the opportunities for the light to shine.   Just this week the Free Church officially opened its new Church in Haddington…

I have also been reading this week about FIEC Scotland planting a new church in Aviemore.   Meanwhile 20Schemes has just opened their training seminary for church planters in Scotland’s poorest areas.

And this week my own Kirk Session (now itself twice the size of the original congregation I came to in 1992) has to consider how we cope with the growing numbers.  Last Sunday morning was the largest we have ever had – if you want a seat with your family this Sunday downstairs you will need to come at least ten minutes early!  There will be many young people….

IMG_6392

So it’s not all decline.  And it is more complex than ‘evangelical churches grow, liberal ones decline’.  But one thing is sure.  The Church of Scotland is is dying….Yesterday I was in the lovely Nigg Old Parish Church – once a church which saw Rev John Ross go to China and Korea as one of the founders of the now massive churches there.  It is virtually dead.    In the Nigg Old building there is a reminder of this statement from the grave of Thomas Hog –

“This stone shall bear witness against the parishoners of Kiltearn if they bring one ungodly minister here”.  

The stones of the closed churches in Scotland are bearing witness.  Ichabod.

76569B4478D1A84B9807AC296DB34A9F@christianfocus.com
Thanks to William MacKenzie for sending me this!

(And its not only Scotland…after publishing this article I read this about the Church of England in todays Guardian 

Perth’s Pride, Perth’s Shame

The Secularisation of the Church of Scotland – What Really Happened at the Assembly?

10 thoughts on “Faith No More – the Continuing Decline of the Church of Scotland- The Herald

  1. ‘The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The Church has Jesus Christ as its head. The Church exists to proclaim the Goods News of Christ to all. The C of S has largely become a social work organisation which just reflects the values of our culture. The bottom line is that the Church of Scotland is failing because it is no longer the Church.’

    Thankful that you call it out for what it is – thanks for commenting on this David.

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  2. Powerful assessment of an absolutely tragic situation. The same is going on here in the States. For many of the same reasons you cited above, several denominations are (and have been) in decline: i.e. the United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church of USA (PCUSA), etc. Also, the RCC has, of course, taken quite a blow due to the child abuse/sex scandals. Yet on the other hand, there are several growing communities of faith: i.e. the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), various Eastern Orthodox churches, non-denominational communities of faith, etc. At any rate, great write-up! Thank you and blessings!

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  3. I was looking at the latest Bulletin of my local Church of Scotland the other day. It had a section on the ten Commandments. (Everything else was of a social nature.) It had a version of the ten Commandments which had been produced by children attending that church. Not one of them mentioned God.
    It is staggering that there are people who think that there will be a bright future for any Church which simply follows whatever is the latest whim of the liberal elite in our society. But what do these people think that a Church should do in countries where these people don’t like the dominant culture? Do they, for example, say that Churches in Uganda should adopt what they would see as a homophobic agenda as that is, according to these people, what exists in Uganda?
    But as Cardinal Cupich of Chicago seems to believe, ‘talking about the environment’ is the main function of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis wants concrete action to combat the “emergency” of plastics littering seas and oceans. The pope also denounced as “unacceptable” the privatization of water resources at the expense of the “human right to have access to this good.”
    Reminds me of the headline in the newspapers in 1979, regarding Jim Callaghan and the Winter of Discontent: “Crisis, what crisis?”
    And I’m not just referring to the clerical abuse crisis but also to the situation where attendance at Mass in many countries is in free fall and there is an ever-growing shortage of priests.
    So in a spirit of ecumenism I would say that the leaders of the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church need to have a major rethink of what exactly their main purpose is.

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  4. As someone who left the CoS almost 2 years ago, I don’t think it will last 10 years. The churches are virtually empty, mostly elderly congregations and no Biblical study. In contrast those churches which aren’t those 3 things are thriving and the Catholic Church for all It’s faults has a loyal membership.

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    1. “No Biblical Study”? Come along to the C of S where I serve, to the Bible Study we started recently, and which is always well attended – and tell me we and all the folks there we are not studying the Bible……….

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  5. My denomination (International Presbyterian Church) recently aquired a very nice CoS building in Aberdeen. We are a theologically conservative church as a rule. If that doesn’t work as a small microcosm of what is going on, I don’t know what is. Great analysis as always David.

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  6. Romans Ch 1, v 30 & 32.

    All we hear is that people are proud of their stance, proud of their liberalism, proud of their relationships, proud of their church’s new path, proud of their cities for having the biggest “gay pride” parade.

    I wonder how “proud” the manager of one of the oldest shop buildings in Belfast is now, as her over 300 staff plus all the businesses around are out of work for the foreseeable future.
    She was so proud of her gay pride window display and said all shops in the city should be following Primark’s example, plus a portion of the takings for that day go to their support for Stonewall.
    Built in 1785, it burnt to the ground and no one could save it.

    The old saying; ” Pride comes before a fall” might to fit the bill.

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      1. No – there was no gloating….just simply pointing out what has happened. She may or may not be wrong re the consequences…but please don’t accuse people of gloating…

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