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Good Crieff! – Fellowship, Frustration and the Future.

Good Crieff! – Fellowship, Frustration and the Future

Screenshot 2019-01-11 at 17.35.47
The road to Crieff Hydro!

Every January a substantial number of evangelical ministers head for the beautiful Perthshire town of Crieff and the magnificent Crieff Hydro.  Known as the Crieff Fellowship it has for decades been a beacon of hope for the Gospel in Scotland.  Known as the Crieff Brotherhood (it now involves women – though not many!) it was set up bu Willie Still and the reformed evangelicals within the C of S to encourage fellowship amongst the evangelical ministers.  Gradually it has opened out to those in other denominations and I, amongst others have been going along, and benefiting for many years. (although I have to say that the number of men from the Free Church this year was the lowest I have seen).

downloadThis January I was keen to go, especially as Don Carson was the main speaker taking us through the latter part of Isaiah, but was not able to stay for the whole time – so I only got the Wednesday.   It was a good day – but it is clear that things are changing and there is a real question mark about the future of the Fellowship.  A question mark which can also be placed over the whole of Reformed Evangelicalism in Scotland.



Crieff is a fellowship.  It’s not just a January jamboree, or March and October meetings.  I was reminded of that again this week – where it was good to see familiar, well kent faces and meet new ones.  The fact that we are all in the work of the Gospel together should not be underplayed.   Don bravely observed; “I have a suspicion that Scotland is a place where Christians find it hard to work together…“.   Thats putting it mildly!

There were those who were not there at Crieff because it is not now their network, or their style, or their generation (and of course many of us are too busy….you have to feel sorry for the Baptist minister who thought he would take a quiet few days away from ministry  with the family – only to pick the Crieff Hydro in conference week!).  Tribalism in Scottish Christianity seems endemic.  Don also observed that there are many forms of religious hypocrisy.  An evangelicalism which plays only lip service to working with those who are our brothers and sisters is one such form.


Crieff is becoming very frustrating.  (In fact I find that I am getting increasingly frustrated in Scottish church circles. I need to be aware of becoming cranky – as Don also observed:)

It’s really hard to be a contagious Christian when you are cranky – you can denounce but you can’t attract.

But Crieff is frustrating because although it still has great potential it seems to me as though that potential is not being realised.  It’s serving, (amongst others) an evangelical constituency within the C of S, which whilst it still exists, is much smaller, less united, less clear and coherent than it was in the Stillite days.  Many of the Crieff Fellowship have left the C of S.  Do they still feel welcome?  Do they want to be welcome?  But it’s not just that – unity is based around a clear doctrine of Christ and Scripture.  Some of the stalwarts of Crieff seem to have drifted from that. When a Crieff man became moderator we were told to expect great things.  But it did not exactly work out that way.  I think it was in 2005 that I spoke at Crieff and warned  that we were going to lose the coming battle on sexuality in the Church of Scotland.  But I could not have seen the day when a Crieff man who became moderator was rewarded for his services in “changing attitudes within the Church to same-sex relationships”.

One of the frustrating things about Crieff (and much of the Church in Scotland – including the Free Church) is the unwillingness or inability to face up to reality. Let me give one other example – in the short discussion that followed the session on the future of Crieff it was stated that rural areas were more conservative (theologically?).   I think this is a case of grasping at straws.  If you have a well equipped building in a rural area that has very few facilities and you hold community events (and don’t make church too heavy!) of course you are going to have a larger footprint and your facilities are going to be well used.  But that does not mean that the people in the area are more ‘conservative’ (other than in a traditional rather than a biblical sense).  Coming to the church building is not the equivalent of coming to Christ.  Indeed my experience of both rural and urban Scotland would suggest that in some cases it is far more difficult being a young person seeking to follow Christ in the rural areas, than it is in the cities.  In the latter there tends to be more young people in the church, less peer pressure and more anonymity.   I just felt that the comment was well-meant and positive – but indicated a level of being out of touch with what is happening in 21st Century Scotland.

The Future

The question is seriously being asked whether Crieff has a future.  I hope so.  But if that is to be it will need to change.  Not to become more contemporary in the sense of following  the spirit of the age, but rather to apply the Gospel in our contemporary society by being  radical, realistic and relational.  There are some fine leaders within the Crieff Fellowship, but they need more….and they need to rest of us to stop nit-picking, stop empire building and to start showing more courage, compassion and committment.  There is no future for Crieff if the tribalism continues.  Indeed there will be no future for the Reformed Church in Scotland if the tribalism continues.  We need to work, pray and evangelise together with like-minded brothers and sisters, even when we disagree on secondary issues, methodologies and find that our personalities clash.  Surely we can be mature enough to learn to bear with one another?!



(The new moderator of the Church of Scotland, Colin Sinclair, is a Crieff man and he was there this week.  A talented and gifted servant of the Lord, we pray for him and the opportunity he has).   


A New Years Wish List for the Church in Scotland

Here is a video we made from a previous Crieff – where Don Carson was also the speaker!


    1. Gave me a laugh as well. That’ s how I picked up on it – a very perceptive Don Carson spotting David. A word of knowledge, or personal knowledge!?
      Hope the Baptist Minister was barred , disabused, from entertaining any semblance of a busman’s holiday diversion to a talk. Hope nobody saw him in the pool (baptismal!). Once is enough.
      Perhaps gathering together around some sort of creed is too progressive or regressive. Not sure which. I’m confused.
      Without unity in Christ, there is no unity in the (Holy) Spirit.

  1. Sadly “tribalism” is the current Spirit of the Age worldwide, as a watcher of the political skies like yourself will know. And the Church since Paul and Apollos has had to deal with it – God be your aid and ours.
    Interesting that you mention men falling away as women (“but not many” – I wonder if they “feel welcome”?) are being let in. So often men refuse to take part with commitment, or even at all, in anything where they might have to deal as equals (if no worse) with women. A senior lady in our Church choir still remembers the men barricading her and other ladies out of the vestry, and forcing them to sit out of sight at the back, when females were first admitted to that ministry. And you only have to read the comments when Cathedral choirs are “ruined” by the presence of young girls to know that not only tribalism is a human sin as universal and taken for granted as the weather.
    Again, may the Holy Spirit lead us all through these dark days to the Light.

  2. I don’t think a week goes past when we at Grace Community Church, Broxburn, don’t earnestly pray that God would be pleased to reform and renew the Church of Scotland. I look forward to Colin’s first acts as Moderator being to refuse to sign into church law their new position on same sex marriages, and in his Moderatorial address calling the denomination to repent of their sin. It might be a short lived Moderatorship, but what a powerful one!

  3. Here is a question to Crieffers: “Is it possible for someone to lose their salvation if they have been through a divorce and a remarriage?”
    The foregoing question, which is asked (at 8:49) in the Premier Christian Radio “Your Call” episode of Monday 7, January 2019, is a salient question that tests the truth of the Gospel seriously, helping thereby to determine if Crieffers actually know the Gospel at all.

    1. In Gospel terms of course the question does not really make sense. We can only lose our salvation if we turn away from Christ….we are not saved by being married and we are not lost by being divorced. It is of course impossible to ‘lose’ our salvation anyway!

      1. David, it precisely is because every Christian, including yourself, is bound to renege on the clarity of the question: “Is it possible for someone to lose their salvation if they have been through a divorce and a remarriage?” that it needs probing and careful consideration.
        Brazenly dismissing clear-cut commands against divorce, and adultery in case of remarriage, by a-priory ascribing an identity to a person which he may very well not possess and which, therefore, cannot in any case be lost, is both unhelpful to him, and damaging to everyone listening-in.
        All things considered, such brazenness actually forbids an answer that is adequate. Rather, it promotes two extremely radical abuses of the truth that are particularly difficult to eradicate and that are encouraging the Scots to further brazen it out. The first abuse is that salvation is concurrent to the moment one decides to become Christian. And, the second abuse is that downstream from the point at which the decision to become Christian is made, it is impossible to lose one’s salvation. The simple, unqualified and unjustified, dogmatic refrain that “once you are Christian you can never lose your salvation” that has crept into Christianity unawares is a grotesque and totally absurd untruth.
        Jesus Christ is very clear that not everyone who says to him Lord, Lord, or that poses as a Christian in other words, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
        If salvation ensues automatically merely by saying Lord, Lord, then it is no wonder that same sex marriage, as well as remarriages that are just as much garbage as same sex marriages, now are very often accepted without batting an eyelid by Christians and non-Christians alike.
        Finally, by its very nature, the question: “Is it possible for someone to lose their salvation if they have been through a divorce and a remarriage?” is a question that ought to be submitted to Crieffers as some very serious probing is definitely required if the avenue to its right and proper answer is to be (re)discovered and retained. This requirement ought to be self-evident, particularly in situations disfavouring marriage that is not garbage and the advancement of Christianity without recourse to common, but false, dogmatic refrains.

      2. What a depressing post! I don’t renege on the clarity of the question – I answer it clearly. Your post is full of false witness and heresy.

        1) I don’t dismiss the clear commands of Scripture – I just state that we are not saved by obeying the law.

        2) No-one said that salvation was concurrent to the time one says one became a Christian.

        3) Yes – once you are born again – you cannot become unborn again. This is not something that has crept into Christianity unawares – it is taught by every main Christian teacher – from Jesus and Paul, to Augustine and Calvin…and many others as well.

        4) Again I am not saying that mere profession (anyone who says to me Lord, Lord) is salvation.

      3. (David I sent this response to you in this morning but maybe not through the right channel; via the REPLY e-mail, that is).

        David, how is it that one knows with certainty that a question originates from someone that is Christian, particularly in the case when faced (as a listener) by the following:

        Caller: Is it possible for someone to lose their salvation if they have been through a divorce and a remarriage?

        Presenter of “Your Call”: OK, very clear question.

        You David: Very clear question. And it’s good to hear a lovely Scottish accent. Hum, the very clear answer to that is: No!

        Divorce and remarriage are not things that exclude you from the kingdom of heaven and you certainly don’t lose your salvation. My own view would be that once you are Christian you can never lose your salvation. You can do things that are wrong and you will suffer because of that, but you’ll never lose your salvation. And, I think divorce and remarriage – again it’s a complex issue in different ways – but in terms of the question; no, you cannot lose your salvation because you’ve been divorced and remarried.

        Presenter of “Your Call”: OK, well Caller, a very … clear question, clear answer; happy?

        Caller: Yes, more than happy: very, very, helpful – thank you for that David.

        Presenter of Your Call: Alright, bless you Caller (Caller then hangs up).

        Also, if subsequently to the foregoing you afterwards say “In Gospel terms of course the question does not really make sense” are you then not reneging on the clarity of the question?

        It is quite unclear to me how a question that does not make sense is also deemed to be “a very clear question”. It also is quite unclear to me, and to others I may add, how you can determine immediately that someone is right about his (or someone else’s) identity particularly when there is a good deal in doubting.

        My grievance is not at all in relation to doctrine: It is with the expediency with which a very, very, serious and delicate question has been dismissed. Before answering any such question, it is decent and not taboo to want to first know such things as, for example:

        1. When did this “someone” go through divorce and remarriage? Before he/she came to faith, or after?
        2. Did he or she behave immorally sexually or was it the Partner?
        3. Did he/she know the Biblical principle regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage?
        4. Since when did he/she know it? Before he/she came to faith, or after?
        5. What did he/she do to fight for this marriage?
        6. Did he/she seek for help? how long? how many times?
        7. Is he/she willing to obey the Word of God?

        Finally, please excuse me for having caused you to be depressed; for that was not at all my intention. Thank you for your kind attention, warm regards, Edouard.

      4. Edouard…..I don’t spend my life on the computer and I don’t allow posts just to automatically appear. I get so many that they have to be screened (as I have learned from bitter experience!).

        The question is whether a Christian can lose their salvation (that should have been fairly obvious…a non-Christian cannot lose what they do not have!).

        I wasn’t giving a personal counselling session, nor talking about the rights and wrongs of divorce and remarriage. I was answering the question.

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