MONTHLY MAGAZINE OF THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND JULY/AUGUST 2018 • £2.00
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WELCOME TO THE JULY/AUGUST RECORD
s i write this i am in sydney airport heading
It was a refreshing change if not quite a rest — but it will be good to be back in bonnie Scotland. Although in terms of our spiritual condition we are not so bonnie. It is vital in an increasingly hostile environment for the Christian Gospel that Christians stay strong against the tide. For that we need to be informed. That is why we are expanding the Record to 40 pages — not just for this double edition (July/ August) but for every month. We want the people who read The Record (thankfully not just Free Church people) to know what is going on in our society and church and to know the Bible better — so that we can apply it to ourselves and our culture. We also need your help. Firstly spread the word. Encourage others to purchase and read the Record, whether in print or online. Secondly contribute — send us letters, news, questions, suggestions, ideas, constructive criticisms and even articles. We can’t guarantee they will be published but I can guarantee I will look at every one. The Record will not work without the enthusiastic support of the wider Church — and your patience and forgiveness when we get it wrong! We have a great team working hard to make this a quality magazine that you can be proud of — and give to friends, family and others. This month we have a lot of material on the General Assembly — it’s worth sitting down with a wee cup of coffee and reading Angus Macrae’s whole moderatorial address. May we all know the Shalom of our gracious and good God. • home after a three month sabbatical !
FREE CHURCH NEWS
SUDANESE PASTOR VISITS THE FREE CHURCH Angus MacRae
ASSEMBLY 2018: A SUMMARY REPORT OF THE FREE CHURCH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
THE MODERATORS ADDRESS THE SHALOM OF JESUS: PEACE IN A WORLD OF RAGE Angus MacRae
BEHIND THE SCENES - MORE PHOTOS FROM THE ASSEMBLY... Roddy Mackay Evan Sutherland
ETS NEWS REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY Thomas Davis
THE RADICAL CHURCH? Anonymous
OBITUARIES: JOHN MACKAY
NEPALI CHRISTIANITY: ON THE VERGE OF PERSECUTION Suraj Kasula
DUMFRIES BAPTIST CHURCH Alistair Purss
LETTER FROM SOUTH KOREA Callum Bowsie
BONHOEFFER Dayspring MacLeod
POETRY PAGE Irene Howat
GAELIC Janet MacPhail
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE EXPECTING TOO MUCH Dayspring MacLeod
POST TENEBRAS LUX Catriona Murray
Yours in Christ The Editor
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5
PRAYER DIARY JULY/AUG 2018
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. Luke 6:12 Sun 15th This morning remember those who gather to worship in Inverinate Community Hall, with Rev. Roddy Rankin as interim moderator and Mr Ken Macdonald, as they spread the gospel in that area. Mon 16th Please pray for the officebearers in the London congregation as they interview candidates for their ministry assistant vacancy. Give thanks for the ongoing ministry of their Women’s Worker, Marketa Staukova.
Wed 25th Give thanks for the many child sponsorship charities working in developing countries to provide for the basic needs and education of the poorest children and their communities. Pray for Christian agencies in partnership with local churches. Thurs 26th Pray for the induction planned for tomorrow in Gairloch. Give thanks with the congregation as they welcome Rev. Colin Macleod and family into their manse.
Tues 17th Continue to remember Rev. Suraj Kasula as he pastors the Shekinah Evangelical Church in Nepal and praise God for the funds raised by the WfM to buy land for the church.
Fri 27th Skye shinty camp begins today. Pray for Rev. Donnie G MacDonald as he takes over as leader of the camp and for safety in travel for all those travelling to Skye.
Wed 18th Remember ‘Bear Necessities’ in your prayers as WfM raise funds to help a small medical team make fortnightly visits to Orizari, Bulgaria, to give basic medical care.
Sat 28th Kincraig camp with Niall and Emma Lipp and Renfrew Seniors with Innes MacSween begin today. Pray for the young campers leaving home for the first time and for seasoned campers as they join for a week of fun and fellowship.
Thurs 19th WfM also aim to raise funds for ‘Helping Disabled Refugees in the Middle East’. Pray for anyone that you may know involved in this work. Fri 20th ‘Philippines Basketball for Jesus’ has shared the gospel in the slums of Manila for 10 years and has now purchased land. WfM will raise funds towards their building project. Pray for the 100 or so worshippers who gather on Sunday and the young folk who attend a weekly ministry club. Sat 21st Pray for preparations for the WfM Away Day in September and for Catriona Murray and Megan Patterson as they prepare their messages. Sun 22 Remember Rev. Joel Dykstra as he comes to minister in the vacant congregation of Trotternish. Pray that he and his family will be blessed and be a blessing as he spends his sabbatical period in the congregation. nd
Mon 23rd Praise God with the Bible Society in Honduras as they have been given access to teach Biblical Ethics in the National School of Police. They will also run this training with prosecutors and others in the legal profession and everyone will be given their own copy of the life-changing Word of God. Tues 24th Pray for Donald Macleod as he has been appointed interim Camps Supervisor. Remember also Dan Paterson, who has had to give up this position for health reasons, and Camps administrator Laura MacAulay as she coordinates the summer activities and makes plans for next year.
Sun 29th Pray for the Free North congregation as they begin a new phase in their ministry. Ask for guidance for them as they look for a new pastor. Mon 30 Pray for more Christians to offer themselves as foster or adoptive parents. Ask God to grant wisdom, understanding and insight to those responsible for screening potential carers and matching children with new families. th
Tues 31st Pray that a more suitable venue will be found to enable the Esk Valley church plant work to develop more fully. Remember Rev. Tom Muir as he works there. Wed 1st Give thanks with the Skye and Wester Ross presbytery as Revs Marcos Florit, Lachie MacDonald, John MacLean and Dan Paterson are all recovering from various illnesses. Thurs 2nd There are a number of international churches in cities across Turkey. Pray for their ministries to both the foreign and indigenous communities. In many cases their members will only be in Turkey for a short time, so they have to live with a constant turnover of people, which creates its own particular challenges. Fri 3rd Pray for the committee making final plans for the Positively Presbyterian conference taking place in Lendrick Muir later this month. Ask that all those leading sessions will be blessed in their preparations.
Sat 4th As the last two camps for our young folk end today, pray for safety in travel and for a blessing to follow in all the young lives who have heard the gospel in a fun environment over the summer. Sun 5th Pray for the congregation in Pairc (Gravir) and their interim moderator, Rev. Malcolm MacDonald, as they look for a minister to work in their community. Mon 6th Pray for our mission board as it moves forward with a new strategy, ‘Generation’. Pray that we will all be motivated to speak clearly of the Lord we trust in. Tues 7th Pray that the vision to plant thirty new Free Church congregations by 2030 will begin to happen and that we will reach new people with the gospel. Wed 8th Pray for the development of our existing congregations, believing that God can renew and restore local churches to fulfil their part in the Great Commission. Thurs 9th Pray that our congregations will be filled with people who are equipped to live lives of worship and service and make a difference in their community. Fri 10th Global Mission is the fourth category of ‘Generation’. Pray that as we partner with other organisations we can enable people to hear and embrace the gospel. Sat 11th B.A.S.E. camp begins today. Pray for the young adults as they begin this week of intense teaching, banter, fun and fellowship under the leadership of Calum and Christina MacMillan. Sun 12th Pray for the congregation of South Uist & Benbecula as they have been granted permission by the General Assembly to call a minister. Remember Rev. David MacLeod as he serves as their interim moderator. Mon 13th The Board of Ministry is scheduled to meet over the next two days. Ask the Lord to guide them as they deal with issues relating to students for the ministry, probationers, ministers, elders and deacons. Tues 14th Pray with CARE as they work to maintain human dignity and to support the most vulnerable in society. Ask God to show us how our church can promote Christian community-based initiatives.
Prayer requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please take time to send requests for your congregation or ministry to be included in forthcoming Records. These prayer notes are prepared 5 weeks in advance of publication.
FREE CHURCH NEWS THE FREE CHURCH LAUNCHES 'GENERATION'
he free church of scotland has launched a new initiative called generation.
Agreed by previous General Assemblies, it is hoped the new structure and vision will provide a vehicle for effective and efficient gospel work at home and abroad. Mission Co-ordinator Sarah Johnson said, ‘Generation is a network of missional partnerships in Scotland and throughout the world. In other words, Generation better connects what we do nationally and internationally. Generation is much more than just a name. It's an idea behind which we are focusing our work and our people. Our purpose doesn't change but our unique beginning-to-end perspective on all things means we learn from past generations, serve this generation and plan for the next generation.’
Congregations were provided with a booklet at the weekend outlining its vision, aims and purposes. It states, ‘Generation exists to generate hope in Christ, generate positivity within and outside our church and generate confidence in our denomination, among the wider Christian church, and with our partners and our funders.’ One of the main strategy elements outlined in the new booklet was to create four ‘streams of work’: developing existing churches, planting new churches, equipping our people and working with the global church. Most, if not all, of the work of Generation will now fall into one of these categories. • For more information on Generation please visit their new website: www.generation-mission.org
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SUDANESE PASTOR VISITS THE FREE CHURCH BY REV. ANGUS MACRAE
stations, mainly in refugee camps serving internally displaced peoples. The SRC works mainly in South Sudan, which has experienced a violent civil war since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. There are also SRC congregations in Khartoum and other cities in the mainly Muslim nation of Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan have known over fifty years of tribal and religious conflict and civil war. The social fabric of South Sudan has been shattered by crime and war. Although the region has oil, abundant water, fertile soil and other natural resources, the society and economy is utterly dysfunctional. There is no public electricity, water or sewage even in the capital city of Juba. The mobile network and internet can fail for several weeks at a time. Fields go unplanted, herds and animals are looted and there are few sources of employment. Most of the population are fed by family money remitted from abroad or by the UN and international aid agencies, with all food being imported by road from Kenya or Uganda. Many are forced to travel abroad for basic health care. The roads are dangerous and towns and cities can become war zones. Despite these disadvantages, the Reformed Church has emerged from liberal influences and is working to teach Godâ€™s Word and organise healthy biblical churches. They resist heretical prosperity teaching and have embraced a biblical and culturally appropriate worship with Reformed liturgy. Patrick and his colleagues see the need to provide diaconal care and basic education to internally displaced refugees and those who have lost their homes to looting and warfare. There is no money to pay pastors, yet they continue to offer their service to the church and God provides for their needs. In the cultural context of South Sudan, faithfulness in a pastor involves teaching Godâ€™s truth, living humbly, having only one wife (where polygamy is normal) and loving and respecting Christian brothers and sisters as equals, irrespective of their tribal background, language or identity. Those who met Patrick were won over by his good humour, his humility and his balanced approach to
everal free churches were honoured to host rev . patrick jok ding ,
the General Secretary of the Sudanese Reformed Church (SRC), when he visited Scotland in May 2018. Patrick got to know Free Church people through the International Conference of Reformed Churches, mutual friends in South Africa and the World Reformed Fellowship. He is a magnetic and warm character and it was a pleasure to have him stay with us in Dingwall for several days.
Patrick Jok Ding and Angus Macrae.
The SRC is a young denomination of around 6,000 members with two presbyteries, sixteen congregations and a further eighteen preaching
serving God in his difficult context. He has lost all his books and possessions several times over, has had his life threatened and goes to bed each night to the sound of gunfire. He once went five days without food. Generally Patrick eats one meal a day. His wife, son and four daughters all live in Kenya as it is unsafe for them to live with Patrick in Juba. He tries to see them every few months if he can. Yet he does not feel in immediate personal danger as he has a strong call to remain with the church and people to whom he has been called. Nor does he feel sorry for himself as he goes about his work with purpose and commitment.
Patrick spoke at churches and fellowships in Stornoway, Back, Shawbost, Dingwall, Smithton, Inverness Free North, Rosskeen (Capstone), Edinburgh Buccleuch, Glasgow City and Cumbernauld. He also visited the Free Church Offices, Edinburgh Theological Seminary and attended the ETS Closing Ceremony at St Columba’s.
Calum Macmillan and Patrick at Capstone, Rosskeen..
His presentations touched many hearts and left many with a desire to pray for Sudan and the SRC. Patrick said his ‘faith has been refreshed and strengthened’ by his visit. He returned to South Sudan having made many new friends in Scotland who wish to support him and partner with the SRC in their work. There are risks and sensitivities involved in cross-cultural cooperation. All who wish to offer support should obtain advice from David Meredith, the Mission Director at Generation Mission at the Free Church Offices. In the north of Scotland some books, finance and other items were provided to Patrick. There are plans to send out a container with NIV Bibles for the churches, study Bibles for preachers, and some PC and IT equipment. Of even greater value is an ongoing commitment to prayer and encouragement. On his return home, Patrick wrote to say, ‘We are mobilizing SRC congregations to pray for you and the ministry of The Free Church of Scotland at home and overseas. It is our prayer that the GOOD LORD will revive Scotland again, the land of the Bible and Reformation. I visited you in Scotland. We are also praying that the Lord will give you an opportunity to visit us in South Sudan. If opportunity opens please come. Your physical presence will be a great encouragement to our young faith in Christ Jesus. We need your prayers.’ We also need the prayers and the refreshing we gain from meeting faithful Christians such as Patrick Jok. •
Patrick Jok Ding at Dingwall Free Church.
Patrick came to a living faith in his early teens. His father was an animist and his mother a Roman Catholic. He speaks English, Arabic and his own tribal language. Church services are usually conducted in Arabic and English, the two most common languages in Sudan. Patrick is an intelligent man. He holds a BA in Theology from Khartoum Presbyterian Seminary and is interested in doing a Masters in Mission Theology. He is theologically astute, knows much about current affairs and politics and is sensitive to the dangers of theological liberalism and the threat a worldly leadership style poses to the church. He has a burden to see gospel work develop in Sudan and in the most dangerous parts of South Sudan. Patrick believes that a partnership between Reformed churches in different nations should bless both parties. His vision is for pastors and lecturers from the global Reformed family to go out to visit and equip their leaders. He believes their local church should train and support their own workers. Financial help at this time of warfare could be strategic for the future when peace comes. They have identified sites on the outskirts of Juba where three simple church buildings could be established for a total cost of under $10k.
A SUMMARY REPORT OF THE FREE CHURCH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
BOARD OF TRUSTEES In The Board of Trustees’ report to the General Assembly, it was conveyed that there had been an increase in congregational remittances and other donations over the 2017 period with an overall ‘positive net movement in funds’. The Board wished to ‘record its gratitude to those who gave generously to the work of the Church and commended congregations that have worked hard to meet the remittance requirements.’
A new Free Church Book Club will also run in conjunction with the store, which will provide reviews and recommendation from members across the Church. Recognition and appreciation were given to Miriam Montgomery, who had taken the lead to establish the new online facility and continues to administer the store. PSALMODY & PRAISE COMMITTEE This past year the Psalmody and Praise Committee focused efforts on their digital presence online through social media as well as the introduction of new iOS and Android apps. The Committee was approached by Christian Hymns, a hymnody app, and the Evangelical Movement of Wales to incorporate the text and tunes from Sing Psalms. Successfully launched in August of last year, the Committee said they were grateful for this new partnership. A standalone Sing Psalms app was also launched in December of last year providing people with a single resource that includes the words and melodies in one place. Both the Sing Psalms and Christian Hymns UK apps can be downloaded from the iOS and Android app stores. In October last year, the Committee held a Praise Workshop in Dundee. The workshop focused on singing technique, accompaniment, precenting and harmony. They observed, ‘It is always good when people get together across the Church to sing praise.’ It is hoped that various digital resources will also be made available at a future date, including a tune parts app, PDFs of tunes and a manual for precentors.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Professor James M. Fraser CBE
In response to the financial report, The General Assembly ‘acknowledged with humility and thanksgiving the provision made by the Lord for the work of the Church.’ Appreciation was also given for those who ‘gave in a regular, responsible and liberal manner’ and for the legacies received over the last year. The Board expressed their pleasure that earlier this year a Communications Oversight Group was established to research the fundamental communication needs of the Church and how it presents itself to the wider public. It is hoped that from the review and research carried out a new strategy will be implemented.
MISSION BOARD REPORT In his introduction to the Mission Board Report to the General Assembly, Mission Board Chairman Rev. Dr Bob Akroyd said, ‘The task before us is immense. Our resources are limited. Those opposing us are many. Our time is short. At key junctures, the church has been given passionate enthusiasts. If ever a time was
Mrs. Lizzie Leighton, 10ofThose
The Board was also delighted to have recently started a partnership with the online book retailer 10ofthose following the closure of the Free Church bookshop in January. The new store will allow people to browse and purchase a range of affordable titles including some favourites from Free Church authors.
Mrs Sarah Johnson (Mission Coordinator) and Rev. Dr. Robert Akroyd, (Chairman of the Mission Board)
needed for renewed passion, vigour and enthusiasm in the Church and among her leaders that time is now.’ In 2017 the General Assembly approved the Mission Board’s strategy document, which outlined a positive practical vision for the future of the Church. As part of this, the process has begun to plant thirty new congregations by 2030.
company called Monumentum, a new visual and verbal identity was created called ‘Generation’. A recognition was made that this was a new concept but ‘the board feels that this will be a powerful tool to help the denomination fulfil some of its aims within mission.’ The Mission Board undertakes and supports both domestic and overseas ministry activities. Part of the latter takes place in Dumisani Theological Institute, a seminary in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. In 2017 various parts of the campus infrastructure were successfully renewed and refurbished, allowing the institute to provide student and visiting lecturer accommodation. The General Assembly acknowledged and thanked the Mission Board for their continued work, as well as the ‘members and adherents of the Church who (support the church) by their prayerful interest, financial contributions and ongoing interest in the sharing of the Gospel throughout the land and overseas.’
Church planter Rev. Tom Muir
Currently, there are eight church plants around the country under the oversight of the Board: Govan G51, Stirling, Cornerstone, Esk Valley, Charleston, Christ Church Glasgow and Haddington Community Church. These plants are showing positive signs of growth and momentum within the communities they serve. The Board expressed its desire to see church plants eventually become self-sufficient and grow into healthy congregations. This year’s General Assembly granted two previous church plants, formerly described as Church Extensions, with the status of a fully sanctioned charge. The Board said they were ‘tremendously encouraged by the spiritual, numerical and financial developments’ with the Dunfermline and St Andrews Free Church congregations.
BOARD OF MINISTRY REPORT In their report to the General Assembly, The Board of Ministry made special mention of those students who had graduated this year: ‘The Board congratulates all those who have recently completed their theological studies and obtained licence to enter the ministry.
Rev. Mark Macleod, Rev. Derek Lamont & Rev. Angus MacRae
We pray God’s blessing on all those about to begin in ministry as well as those who are preparing for future ministry.’ The Board was pleased to report the admission of two new ministers to the Free Church of Scotland from other denominations: Rev. Roger Crooks (formerly Presbyterian Church of Ireland) and Rev. Jonathan de Groot (formerly Church of Scotland). Applications have been welcomed from those wishing to take part in a Ministry Apprenticeship Programme and postgraduate studies. The Board said they can ‘advise individuals and congregations interested in organising an apprenticeship and can also point to other sources of funding’. Applications have been made available on the Free Church website.
MONUMENTUM discuss new strategy 'Generation'
As part of the continued deliverance of the Mission Board’s strategy, a decision was made to review how best to communicate the vision and aims to the Church and beyond. Working alongside an external
ECUMENICAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE The Ecumenical Relations Committee, now independent of the Mission Board, has aimed to pursue more active relationships with churches in the UK over the past year. In the report, Convener Rev. David Meredith said,
undertaken many tasks, including the development of short courses for the Mission Centre in partnership with Prof. John Angus MacLeod. Dr Wilson has also taken over as Director of Postgraduate Studies from Dr McIntosh, who has retired from the position. The Board expressed their ‘appreciation of the expertise he brought to the Seminary in the area of Scottish Church History.’ The Board recorded their great ‘appreciation of the work of Principal Rev. Iver Martin in his running of the Seminary and in his many efforts at home and abroad to increase awareness of the Seminary.’
Rev. David Meredith addresses The General Assembly
‘There is a fragrance that comes from the “precious oil” which anoints the process of international efforts at maintaining unity.’ Inter-church contacts have developed through fostering relationships with denominations across the globe including churches in Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa, Sudan and North America. The Committee was pleased to send Rev. Iver Martin as a delegate to several American General Assemblies last year, where he was warmly welcomed and thanked for the Church’s renewed contact. Over the last year, the Committee has continued to build relationships with other Christian organisations such as Affinity, the International Conference of Reformed Churches, the World Reformed Fellowship and the Evangelical Alliance. They thanked these organisations for their continued partnership and look forward to working with them in the future.
Prof. John Angus MacLeod was also singled out by the ETS Board for his day-to-day running of the Seminary and its academic affairs. In the report’s closing, Mr Martin said, ‘We are grateful for our accountability and inseparable connection with the Free Church; and in turn, the support and encouragement which the Free Church continues to give, denominationally and congregationally. I would be more than happy to speak about the work of ETS in any Free Church congregation, big or small.’
EDINBURGH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY REPORT
LORD HIGH COMMISSIONER
The Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS) Board were pleased to report that the Seminary ‘has continued with its work of faithfully instructing students in the truth of the Scriptures in a relevant manner.’ The Board is currently developing a Mission Centre, located within ETS, in order to ‘to meet [the] current needs of the Church in its mission within Scotland.’ It is hoped that a wide range of people will benefit from the centre, including local congregations, outgoing pastors and missionaries, current ministers and postgraduate missiological programmes. The General Assembly commended ETS for the progress made so far and encouraged the Board to build on what has been achieved. In February of this year, ETS welcomed Dr Alistair Wilson to the position of full-time lecturer in Mission Studies and New Testament. Since then he has
His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, who was appointed as Her Majesty’s Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, was invited to address the Assembly by Moderator Rev. Angus MacRae. In his address, he thanked the Assembly on behalf of HM The Queen for their continued work and commitment. It was his pleasure to assure Her Majesty of the Free Church of Scotland’s ‘loyalty and affection’. The Moderator then presented His Grace with several gifts from the Assembly and asked His Grace to pass on the Church’s prayer support. The Lord High Commissioner first addressed the General Assembly in 1925. The position has a role within proceedings due to the symbolic connection between the secular and sacred through the Free Church’s adherence to the Establishment Principle. •
FREE CHURCH GENERAL ASSEMBLY MAY 2018
MODERATORâ€™S ADDRESS: REV. ANGUS MACRAE
My fathers in the faith, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, I address you today on THE SHALOM OF JESUS: PEACE IN A WORLD OF RAGE. The message of the gospel is a call to peace and reconciliation. Shalom (ם ׁ ֹ שלו ׁ ָ ) is the beautiful Hebrew word for PEACE, derived from shalem (שלֹום ׁ ָ ), meaning to be sound or complete. The word root is formed from three consonants, Shin, Lamedh and Mem, a form common to the Semitic languages, always meaning WHOLENESS, HARMONY and PEACE. Shalom, peace be with you, is the standard greeting on meeting and parting in modern Hebrew. A biblical example of shalom as greeting is ‘Shalom be to you, and shalom be to your house, and shalom be to all that you have.’1 Jesus promised his disciples peace as he prepared to leave this world: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’2 Shalom appears in the Hebrew Bible over 250 times. The root is found in famous names like Jerusalem, the City of Peace, or Solomon, the Man of Peace. It is a salvation word because ultimate peace is peace with God. Peace and reconciliation are also key concepts in the New Testament language of salvation.3 In this address I will apply God’s shalom to various needs.
Psalm 122 instructs us to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ and for ‘peace…and security within your citadels’. In social and political terms there must be peace with justice and security for all the peoples of that land. Antisemitism is an ugly, racist moral cancer and it is spreading again in Europe. Extremists on the political left and right are hostile to the Jewish people. Some justify their hate using pro-Islamist or pro-Palestinian rhetoric. Our political discourse needs shalom, just as Israel and her near neighbours need shalom. This year, as Moderator, I intend visiting the AuschwitzBirkenau Memorial, in Oświęcim, during a visit to a European Church Planting Conference in Poland. The Auschwitz No. 1 death camp has a metal entrance arch bearing the slogan Arbeit Macht Frei, ‘Work Sets You Free’. In an act of passive resistance, the slave labourers deliberately placed the letter B upside down. They knew the Nazi slogan was a lie. Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’4 Shalom is a weaving. It means being made whole by being mutually dependent on others. Much as a woven piece of cloth is formed from thousands of threads placed carefully together, so too the fabric of the world and the complex social, physical, psychological and spiritual threads of human life are a weaving together of many threads. To experience shalom, each thread has to go over, under, around and through every other thread. Healthy bodies enjoy physical shalom. For our bodies the ultimate unravelling of shalom is pain and death. Hearts full of anger or guilt experience an unravelling of shalom. Theologian Cornelius Plantinga explains: ‘The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in equity, fulfilment and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom…. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight...a rich state of affairs, in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts are faithfully and fruitfully employed...all under the arc of God’s love. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.’5
1) SHALOM FOR A WORLD DIVIDED BY HATRED AND RAGE 2018 is a year of anniversaries, many directly related to the theme of peace. It is 70 years since the State of Israel was founded. The Balfour Declaration, 101 years ago, stated the creation of a national home for the Jewish people within Palestine as British Government policy. Born in war, and in the aftermath of the European holocaust, modern Israel continues to live with the threat of violence and terrorism. The recent exchange of fire between Iranian proxy forces in Syria and Israeli forces on the Golan Heights is a concerning development which could easily lead to war. Israeli society exists with border fences and heavily policed crossing points where tensions can turn to violence. While many friends celebrate the founding of Israel, others, including Arab and Christian Palestinians, remember 1948 and 1967 as times of a modern Exodus, as they or their parents fled the Holy Land. 1
The words of David’s men to Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:6, NIV Anglicised edition © 1979, 1984, 2011, Hodder & Stoughton, with transliteration added. John 14:27, NIV © 2011. The Septuagint (LXX), an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, translates shalom with sózó (σῴζω), which basically means to save; as well as eiréné (εἰρήνη), meaning peace and wholeness; and teleios (τέλειος), meaning perfect or complete. John 8:31-32, NIV © 2011. Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995), p10. See also Plantinga’s Educating for Shalom,https://bit.ly/2JUem0z
My Proposal For Action: Teach our congregations that shalom is God making peace with us and calling us to bring his peace to the world. We demonstrate this in healthy churches bound together by connections of fellowship, love, mutual service and commitment to be one body in Christ.
Every village in our land has a memorial with endless lists of the dead. Today much of Africa and the Middle East is a religious or tribal war-zone. The spiritual consequences of the World Wars have been dreadful. Millions blame God for traumas inflicted by human hands. The institutional church has often looked feeble, uncritical and compliant as the principalities and powers of evil have danced over our doomed youth.7 What power will take warfare from our hearts? A modern Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, was inspired by Isaiah and Micah to write:
2) SHALOM TO END ALL WARS While the shalom of Jesus is more than the absence of war, it always includes seeking peace for the nations. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the November 11th Armistice that ended the ‘Great War for Civilization’, a war that HG Wells, without a glimmer of foresight, called ‘the war that will end war’.6 This General Assembly will hear a special address from Rev. Nigel Anderson, who will trace the impact of the Great War on the Free Church. Scotland paid a particularly high price during the Great War. In my parish of Dingwall there are four war memorials within 100 yards of the Free Church. The simplest is a rough wooden cross, a croix, erected in 1917 by the people of Fontaine Notre Dame in France, in honour of the Seaforth Highlanders. It was moved to Dingwall to commemorate the Battle of Cambrai, the first ever battle to use tanks in large formations. If you attended the General Assembly 100 years ago, the newspapers would be filled with casualty reports and nervous predictions. The final outcome of the war was uncertain. You would read of a submarine attack on St Kilda. The Central Powers were winning in the East. Fighting was stalled in the West. German planes and airships dropped bombs on major British cities, and for the first time the newly formed RAF dropped bombs on German cities. Much worse would befall Europe in the blitz and firestorms of the Second World War. By the time of the Paris Peace Conference and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, it is estimated that 20 million had died, half of them civilians. Twenty-one years later the most destructive warfare in human history occurred, killing over 56 million people. Despite the best intentions of national governments and the UN, our recent history is bloodstained and terrible. Progress in education, science and technology has not been matched by corresponding spiritual progress. The human heart is still full of war. I have walked in the killing fields of Cambodia and been awed by the mass graves of Normandy and the Marne. 6 7 8 9
Don’t stop after beating the swords into ploughshares, don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into ploughshares first. 8 I am not a pacifist. In our fallen world ‘there is a time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal’, even ‘a time for war and a time for peace’.9 But we do not have to sit back and accept all the evil in this world as inevitable. We must rise up against wars that are unjustified, and work and pray for justice and peace that endures. Every local church is called to be a showcase of reconciliation and peace. Jesus lived his life in an occupied land, overrun with soldiers. Yet he was the Prince of Peace. His church is international, inter-tribal, it welcomes all. News of his birth brought great joy for all peoples, news of peace on earth for all on whom God’s favour rests.10 So look to Jesus, not to Lenin or Lennon, for peace. My proposal for action: Use the anniversary of the Great War as an opportunity to share the gospel of peace. Use the 100 days from 4th August to Remembrance Sunday, 11th November 2018, to pray for peace. Share the gospel with servicemen and -women and support military chaplains and SASRA. Use the resources of hopetogether.org.uk to inspire 100 days of peace.11
3) SHALOM FOR SINFUL SCOTLAND As I listen to religious voices around Scotland today, there is an embarrassing confusion or silence about the true nature of God and of human beings. For too long Scotland has been offered a pale-beige deity, an allaccepting but ultimately weak and remote ‘God of love’.
https://archive.org/details/warthatwillendwa00welluoft, retrieved 15-05-2018. David Lloyd George, with greater foresight, is reputed to have said, ‘This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.’ See Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47393/anthem-for-doomed-youth See Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3; Poem, Yehuda Amichai, An Appendix to the Vision of Peace: Tosefet Lachazon Hashalom. Translated by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt. HarperCollins Publishers © 1983. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV © 2011. Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:14, NIV © 2011. SASRA holds a 100 Days Prayer Relay, www.sasra.org.uk; hopetogether.org.uk. Both retrieved 15-05-2018.
Our Good News includes some bad news. God created a world of perfect shalom, but we have fallen from that peace. Adam and Eve rejected God’s shalom.
My proposal for action: Our first duty as a Biblical Church is to be clear on the gospel. The message that humbles us also brings peace. People may be in denial about SIN, but everyone feels SHAME. Show people that shame is removed through knowing Jesus.
It is often unclear just what problem Jesus came to fix, since we humans are already such fine people. What is the News that Scotland needs to hear from the Free Church, or any other church? Our Good News includes some bad news. God created a world of perfect shalom, but we have fallen from that peace. Adam and Eve rejected God’s shalom. Their rebellion, and the continuing rebellion of each subsequent generation, has produced a broken world. Even the physical environment groans under a curse.12 Thank God that human beings cannot shake off a longing for our created shalom to be restored. One question humbles our pride and drives the narrative of the Bible forwards from Genesis 3: How can sinners possibly enjoy the shalom of a just and a holy God? God’s answer is the message of the gospel of Christ, and him crucified. Our Scottish political and social culture is hopelessly optimistic about both human nature and human solutions to social problems. Civic Scotland does not believe in the problem of sin. We cringe from the very word. But there is no healing shalom without taking sin seriously and accepting the offense of the cross. Christians need to tell Scotland a story, a narrative about Jesus, to heal our brokenness. Our hope does not rest in better education, better technology or better politics, but in supernatural shalom. Ancient Israel was burdened by violence, idolatry and evil. God’s solution was worship within a covenant of love. The priests invited sinners to come to God with a peace offering.13 God still offers acceptance to repentant sinners who come to him through Jesus our Peace. 12 13
4) SHALOM, MISSION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE Christianity has given our culture the concept and language of social justice. Followers of Jesus demonstrate love to God and their neighbours. Mission must be holistic, making disciples and caring for the needs for the whole person. We thank God for Tearfund, who celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2018, and we are grateful for the holistic vision of Blythswood Care, who last year marked their half-century caring for body and soul, for Bethany Christian Trust serving the homeless and addicted and for Glasgow City Mission.14 John Stott, an advocate of holistic mission, reminded the church to keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of our ministries. Human flourishing includes social renewal and material wellbeing, but we need to know the friendship of God if we are to enjoy peace. Stott observed, ‘Shalom is the blessing the Messiah brings to his people.’15 Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert discuss shalom and social justice in their book, What is the Mission of the Church? They argue, ‘The prime problem that the Bible sets up in its first three chapters is the alienation of man from God…. To be sure, there are enormous consequences
See Romans 8:19-22. The shelem (לם ֶ ). Fellowship offering in the NIV; peace offering in the AV, RSV, ESV, NLT; see Exodus 24, 29; Leviticus 3, 7, 9, Numbers ֶ ש 6, 7, 10. The peace offering was usually offered with a burnt offering to atone for sin. TEARFUND, the Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund, see tearfund.org; BLYTHSWOOD, see www.blythswood.org; BETHANY, see www. bethanychristiantrust.com; GLASGOW CITY MISSION, see www.glasgowcitymission.com. John RW Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World: What the Church Should Be Doing Now (IVP, Leicester © 1975) p31.
that follow from man’s sin and alienation from God. Relationships between human beings themselves are disrupted…the alienation of man from his fellow man, and the alienation of man from his world, are symptoms of the underlying problem, the alienation of man from God.’16 Pressure is mounting in our society to legalise some form of euthanasia. Bills have repeatedly been brought before our parliaments for Physician Assisted Dying. This matter was before the Parliament of Guernsey last week. Such laws exist in Belgium, the Netherlands, six US states and the state of Victoria in Australia. In these jurisdictions there are reports of children, vulnerable people and those suffering from depression dying in highly questionable circumstances. The usual emotive arguments about autonomy and self-determination are used by the advocates of assisted dying. If such laws are passed, unfair pressure will be placed on the sick, the disabled and the dying to remove themselves from being a burden on family or society. Behind these campaigns
Local churches cannot do everything that should be done in terms of social care, so the cross must be kept at the centre of our mission. We have limited time and resources. That forces us to establish our priorities with a missional focus. Our local churches must pray and plan to become more effective in bringing shalom to others. Have we adopted a church plant that we pray for and support? Have we adopted a ministry or charity that demonstrates care, mercy and justice? Do we have partnerships with the global church? My proposal for action: Each Free Church must work hard to bring God’s mission to our local community, and not simply wait for the community to come to the church. We must plan to be more missional as the heralds of God’s peace. This will often include social action in the name of Christ.
5) SHALOM FOR COMMUNITIES NEEDING LOVING DEACONS Our society has become increasingly urbanised, industrialised, globalised and secularised in the past 200 years. Yet our churches continue to operate with a parish structure and procedures developed to suit conditions in rural or village life in an era when everyone went to church. Many in our progressive society think the Christian Church is now irrelevant. But our society is chronically short of shalom. Loneliness and brokenness often hide behind a smiling Facebook or Instagram profile. The Church has much to offer our troubled urban and rural communities, for God’s Church has been dealing with poverty, grief, sickness and poor mental health from the very beginning. We can relearn basic lessons from our Scottish history and from the early church in the book of Acts. Luke, the historian of early Christian mission, tells us the Jerusalem church appointed deacons, a class of specialised ministers to organise Christian care and service in the name of Jesus.18 These ministers to widows and their dependents relieved dangerous tensions between believers from different social, religious and cultural backgrounds. The churches established by Paul’s missionary journeys typically had pastors, elders and deacons. Diaconal service seems to have been shared by deacons with their wives, or their women, or perhaps deaconesses. Diaconal service was shared by the mobilised membership of the whole church. The Apostles were not above serving.19 Jesus declared that he came as a servant, or a deacon.20
As a Christian, I know that Christ has dealt with death. We must value life, defend the weak and, through prayer and advocacy, promote shalom for the medical profession and for the dying. is an understandable and very human fear of pain, death and loss of capacity. The British Medical Association (BMA) opposes any change in the law. When doctors have been consulted, a clear majority believe that it is immoral to take active steps to foreshorten the life of a patient.17 However, it is also BMA policy to revisit this question every few years, and several high-profile voices within the organisation are mounting a campaign to introduce assisted dying. It is possible that political or public pressure will influence the medical profession to soften their principled opposition to euthanasia and assisted dying. Shalom is found in relieving fear, in palliative care that fights pain and distress and in helping the dying to accept and prepare for death with dignity and faith. As a Christian, I know that Christ has dealt with death. We must value life, defend the weak and, through prayer and advocacy, promote shalom for the medical profession and for the dying. 16
17 18 19
Kevin DeYoung and Greg D Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway © 2011) pp73-4. https://bit.ly/2M4OSya, retrieved 15-05-2018. διάκονος, diakonos. Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. As they replaced Judas with Matthias, it is clear they understood the role of apostleship as service (Acts 1:17,25). In Acts 6:2 the deaconing of the Word (service by teaching) was suffering because of the pressure to deacon tables (service by feeding the poor). The solution was not to devalue serving the poor but to appoint more servants so both the Word and tables were properly served, meeting spiritual and physical needs. Mark 10:45, ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’
Loneliness and brokenness often hide behind a smiling Facebook or Instagram profile. The Church has much to offer our troubled urban and rural communities, for God’s Church has been dealing with poverty, grief, sickness and poor mental health from the very beginning.
Somehow the Church of Scotland seems to have lost the office of deacon between the era of the Second Book of Discipline (1578)21 and the era of the Disruption.22 It was a mark of the social concern and organisational genius of early Free Church that it immediately revived the office of deacon. Church planting went hand in hand with social care. Thomas Chalmers worked from the 1810s to transform poor parishes such as St John’s in Glasgow, the West Port and The Water of Leith in Edinburgh, and St Andrews. Diaconal work targeted women, the poor and uneducated, and those unable to work. There was a stress on the poor helping themselves and helping each other. Every effort was made to build community and avoid a dependency on poor relief. The historian Callum G Brown argues that the early Free Church responded to the end of the Established Church monopoly on poor relief with ‘a new vision of a godly urban society’, bringing shalom to unchurched and working class people.23 Urban churches had thousands of Sunday School 21
23 24 25
volunteers, tract distributers, home visitors, pennybanks, and youth clubs. Strenuous efforts were made to restrict the availability of cheap alcohol. The Free Church and United Presbyterian Church won the middle and working classes by campaigning for slum clearance, clean water, street cleaning, urban renewal and better housing. The Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow had a Housing Committee in the 1850s. The living waters of the gospel flowed into Glasgow along with clean waters from Loch Katrine, thanks to the efforts of Free Church ministers and members working to improve their city.24 The 19thcentury Free Church tackled famine conditions in rural and Highland Scotland by sending ships and foodstuffs to areas affected by poverty. In the hunger years, when millions starved or emigrated from Ireland, the infant Free Church helped to bring shalom to the hungry and needy of Scotland.25 Are our local churches committed to love our towns and cities? Do we identify with the needs of the elderly, the lonely and the poor? In some deprived parts of
The Second Book of Discipline (1578), Chapter 8, Of the Deacons and Their Office, section 3. ‘Their office and power is to receive and to distribute the whole ecclesiastical goods unto them to whom they are appointed. This they ought to do according to the judgment and appointment of the presbyteries or elderships (of the which the deacons are not), that the patrimony of the kirk and poor be not converted to private men's uses, nor wrongfully distributed.’ (https://bit.ly/2I0W6kB, retrieved 15-05-2018) The Disruption of 1843 was heralded by the influential publication, in 1842, of The Deaconship: A Treatise on the Office of Deacon, with Suggestions for its Revival in the Church of Scotland, by Rev. John G Lorimer of Glasgow. Dr Lorimer was associated with Dr Chalmers and with St David’s Free Church, Glasgow. Callum G Brown, To Be Aglow with Civic Ardours: the ‘Godly Commonwealth’ in Glasgow, 1843-1914, p177. Scottish Church History Society ©1996. Callum G Brown, op cit, p 182. The central accounts for 1846 include monies spent on the yachts Betsy and Breadalbane to aid both preaching missions and famine relief on the west coast and islands.
21st-century Glasgow, the average male life expectancy is now less than 60 years, worse than corresponding figures for India or war-torn South Sudan. This is a spiritual as well as a social and political problem. Our cities, towns and villages need shalom. Tim Keller argues that the three basic dimensions of biblically driven mercy ministries are relief, transformation and reform.26 Relief limits the suffering caused by basic unmet needs: think of the Good Samaritan. Transformation is a process to restore a person to self-sufficiency while avoiding a culture of dependency. He links this to Old Testament principles for equipping released slaves to enter into a productive life free from debt.27 Keller speaks of reform seeking to change social structures that are unfair or keep the poor in poverty. He notes that in times of revival Christians have a heightened awareness of social evils.28 Has the 21st-century Free Church lost the diaconal ministry seen so clearly in the book of Acts and in the vision of our founding generation? Tim Keller reassures those who may feel inadequate: ‘We have no more cause to be overwhelmed by the ministry of mercy than by any other ministry!’29 In our immediate context, local churches must be ready to deal with the social consequences of significant benefit changes, high rates of unemployment and financial pressure on those in uncertain jobs. Scotland’s economy is adversely affected by deindustrialisation, rural depopulation, urban poverty, poor health, the continuing impact of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 and present uncertainty over Brexit. Scottish Government reports indicate that school leavers and those aged 24 and under have been most adversely affected by economic pressures. As churches we must support and care for believers and their families in difficult circumstances. Then we must look to serve our surrounding communities. We must be generous and sacrificial in responding to spiritual and economic poverty and need. We all value our National Health Service and recognise the pressures on staff and patients. Resources are stretched with many people falling through gaps in provision. There is much that the Church can do to demonstrate love and support those with mental health and emotional problems as well as carers and health professionals. This should be a matter for regular prayer and for our collective action. If our Deacons’ Courts are mainly a work-party to maintain church property, or mainly a meeting of charity trustees discussing accounts and projects, 26
29 30 31 32
we are missing out on our calling to serve others. It should be standard practice to have on the agenda of our deacon meetings Christian care for those in need. Diaconal ministries could include a church-based Job Club, assisting people with benefit forms and employment applications, and practical help to obtain and manage a tenancy. Perhaps volunteers could be trained to give money advice using the skills of Christians Against Poverty?30 Could your church build links with your local high school? Can you respond to the epidemic of suicide among the young? Can you support the elderly, especially those who live alone or far from family support? Can you connect the elderly to new friends or bring them the Word of God? Can your church develop a counselling ministry or a support group for the bereaved? Sometimes we can support existing community groups who care. At other times we will provide a specifically Christian response to local needs, because so often it is spiritual sadness and emptiness of heart that feeds self-harm or addiction. My proposal for action: The Free Church needs to rediscover and value God’s call to diaconal care. I call on elders and deacons to prioritise the wellbeing of people, families and the elderly. This will require practical care, teaching and discipleship to help marriages, parenting and family life and efforts to contact the lonely or elderly. I call on churches and Deacons’ Courts to adopt at least one ministry that brings shalom your local community.
6) SHALOM TO OVERCOME DEFEATER BELIEFS Everyone longs to be loved, valued, and respected, but many people are suspicious of the Church and the motives of Christians. There are often unrecognised barriers making it difficult for us to connect with those outside our churches. Tim Chester gives helpful advice on diaconal work and evangelism in working class and deprived areas in his book Unreached.31 He argues that working class people do not need a different gospel from middle class people, but that there are particular hurdles that need to be overcome. These barriers to understanding the gospel include assumptions which Timothy Keller has termed ‘defeater beliefs’. Chester writes, ‘There aren’t many atheists on housing estates...but people do have defeater beliefs that prevent them from putting their faith in Jesus Christ.’32 Defeater
Timothy J Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Second Ed. Ó 1980, 1997, pp179-80. See Deuteronomy 15:13-14. Keller cites examples from Mississippi where farming and housing cooperatives and credit unions were more effective in helping poor rural communities than financial handouts. Transformation is aimed at keeping dignity, life, jobs, money and resources in poorer communities. For example, William Wilberforce campaigned against slavery, the Earl of Shaftesbury campaigned for labour laws to protect exploited children and John Howard reformed barbaric prisons. Timothy J Keller, op. cit., p207. See https://capuk.org, retrieved 15-05-2018. Tim Chester, Unreached. IVP, Nottingham, © 2012. Tim Chester, op. cit., p77.
beliefs create an ingrained suspicion of church, or of any organisation perceived to be run by experts or professionals from outside the community.
At their core these are spiritual problems needing spiritual solutions. Broken communities need money, resources and opportunities. But without hope and love nothing ever changes. God must come back into our broken society, and church must act like a family once again. It is time we all treated alcohol abuse as a national emergency in modern Scotland. I commend the Scottish Government for taking the excessive consumption of low-cost alcohol seriously by introducing a per-unit minimum pricing policy. Our society is storing up huge health and social problems due to dangerous levels of drinking and drug abuse. Finding shalom for the addicted will be difficult and demanding, but Jesus is with us. Our churches are not powerless to help the hurting. We can pray with people, read God’s Word and proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. As we do so God will bring his shalom.
To those of us who preach the gospel, how good are we at entering into the lives of people in our communities so that we really communicate and apply the gospel to the needs around us? Chester lists some ‘Key Gospel Themes’ needed to overcome defeater beliefs commonly found among the unchurched and socially disadvantaged. He includes: The Fatherhood of God (countering negative views of abusive or absent parents); The Family of God (church as community and adoption into God’s family as a way to explain the gospel); The Sovereignty of God (trusting God to bring good out of evil and to hold back from taking justice or vengeance into our hands); The Lordship of God (for example, in urban black culture many grow up thinking that because they acknowledge the existence of God they are ‘cool with God’, when a real gospel must challenge sin and call for repentance and submission to Jesus as Lord); The Grace of God (not a call to be a good person, or to wait till they are good enough to belong to a church, but simply to accept Christ’s invitation and welcome, ‘Come to me’); The Justice of God (leaving room for God’s wrath but also advocating for social justice and any rights that have been denied).33 Chester often quotes Mez McConnell and the excellent work being done in Scotland by 20schemes.34 Chester also has helpful things to say about doing evangelism in a non-book culture, including giving proper attention to the public reading of God’s Word. The Free Church would do well to learn from Chester and McConnell as we work to build and plant shalom churches serving all types of community in Scotland. To those of us who preach the gospel, how good are we at entering into the lives of people in our communities so that we really communicate and apply the gospel to the needs around us? In many of our communities shalom is missing because of poverty, poor literacy, lack of educational attainment, broken family life, debt, addiction, poor health, poor diet, distrust of the justice system, distrust of authority, violence, gang culture, racism and extreme politics.
My proposal for action: The Church must recognise and challenge defeater beliefs, making disciples shaped by God’s Word, and bringing God’s peace into the whole of life including attitudes to money, work and family.
7) SHALOM FOR DIVISIVE IDENTITY & SEXUAL POLITICS Our age is shaped by identity and sexual politics, often combined with a victim narrative demanding action against an oppressor. Some claimed identities seem to exalt personal sexual choices and preferences in a way that ultimately dehumanises people or celebrates sin. People are much more than their sexuality. We should look for our true identity in Jesus. In this fallen world there are real victims and oppressors. We can learn from the example of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., murdered fifty years ago, as he fought racism and injustice with peaceful and non-violent means. I find it insulting to hear his struggle for justice compared to the actions of activists promoting extreme aspects of queer theory. Racism is always wrong, always an attack on our common humanity. By contrast, it should be perfectly possible to disagree with the sexual morals or choices of an individual or group without denying that person their humanity or their personal dignity. I deplore unkindness or violence against anyone because of their religion, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. I defend the civil rights of religious and other minority groups in society. I deplore violence or aggression shown towards homosexuals or transgender people. However, I find that I must question the aims of campaigns such as Time for Inclusive Education.35 "Educate to Liberate’
Tim Chester, op. cit., p77. Tim Chester, op. cit., pp78-81. 20schemes website: https://20schemes.com/uk/about/, retrieved 15-05-2018. See www.tiecampaign.co.uk, retrieved 15-05-2018.
may sound like a harmless soundbite, but it could also represent a harmful indoctrination of children. The Free Church must be ready to defend parental rights against extreme propaganda, and we must defend freedom of conscience and freedom of religion as enshrined in our Confession of Faith. It is now difficult to discuss controversial issues without any note of disagreement being mischaracterised as hate speech, bigotry, Islamophobia, transphobia or homophobia. In a free society respectful disagreement and debate must be protected. Holding a traditional biblical viewpoint is becoming difficult in many professions. The ‘no-platforming’ of a feminist speaker such as Germaine Greer, on the grounds that she does not accept transwomen as women, is an alarming example of intolerance
depends. Our society has redefined marriage so that it is no longer a public bond involving two people of opposite sex. I do not believe that this redefinition will lead to greater shalom for individuals or society. Two of the largest Protestant churches in Scotland have, sadly, accommodated themselves to the changing sexual values of society. They have moved away from mainstream catholic biblical teaching on sexual holiness, marriage and even what it means to be human. I was distressed to read the incoherent advice issued by the Church of Scotland to their congregations on diverse gender identities and transgender issues.37 Statements which I regard as dangerously wrong, offensive and manipulative are published without comment or biblical balance. I am also saddened by the recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to change their canons defining marriage in order to offer so-called ‘equal’ Christian marriage.38 I have friends in these churches and know that God is working in both these churches. However, I believe their recent (majority) decisions accommodating the new morality are disobedient to Jesus and betray God’s plan to bring shalom to all people. However well-intentioned, a decision to overturn the Bible ends up denying people the love of God and his healing peace. These changes have driven away thousands of biblically aware people and have split or emptied scores of churches. They drive a wedge between compromising churches and the global Christian Church. Free Church congregations include lesbian and gay folk and people with gender identity issues. Our churches should welcome everyone and share the gospel with all. We invite all people to follow Jesus and to belong to God’s family as committed members of his body, the church. Being a person ‘in Christ’ should then be our primary identity, not our sexuality or our gender. The followers of Jesus come under his lordship in every aspect of life. For that reason, many lifestyles and attitudes are incompatible with a faithful Christian life. It is impossible to enjoy God’s shalom while using the gift of human sexual relations outside God’s plan revealed in scripture. For some of us God’s plan is a call to celibacy; for others it is a call to a biblical marriage within God’s shalom. It is part of our fallen nature to claim we are victims of injustice. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, if there was a ‘victim’, it was God. Yet the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the snake and in the end they all blamed God.40 A victim mentality excuses our desires or our bad choices by saying, ‘it’s just the
Being a person ‘in Christ’ should then be our primary identity, not our sexuality or our gender. The followers of Jesus come under his lordship in every aspect of life. For that reason, many lifestyles and attitudes are incompatible with a faithful Christian life that threatens free speech and freedom of religion.36 Our schools, universities, and parliaments should be places where ideas are exchanged and challenged — not silenced or excluded. Shouting loudly or waving a victim card should not silence a reasoned debate or shut down the perfectly valid social anthropology of the Bible. I understand humanity to exist in two biological sexes, and that these are matters of fact, not matters of personal choice. That understanding has shaped our civilisation from prehistory until the present. I believe in the sexual ethics of biblical Christianity. These are loving and reasonable ethics which have shaped Western civilisation, designed to protect people from exploitation. An unreasoning undoing of our Judeo-Christian civilisation is already well underway. Our society seems to place no great value on marital faithfulness or the exclusive promises on which the covenant of marriage 36 37 38 39 40
I reference but do not endorse all in this article: https://bit.ly/1O8hsO0, retrieved 15-05-2018. https://bit.ly/2lmQU1D, p.7, retrieved 15-05-2018. https://www.scotland.anglican.org/church-votes-allow-equal-marriage/, retrieved 15-05-2018. Genesis 3:12-13, NIV 2011. Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2005, pp137-8. The context of the quote is helpful: ‘We’ve come to believe that, for the most part, we don’t need to use condemnation to pluck the weeds of evil deeds from our gardens. Rather, by receiving abundant affirmation, we feel we can water our noble plants, our fair dealings with others, our generosity towards those around us, and the weeds will take care of themselves. Affirmation, not condemnation, is the cure for misbehaviour. A God who condemned our deeds would be a bad God, or at least a psychologically unsophisticated God. An acceptable God is the one who leaves our wrongdoing alone and takes care of our wellbeing. A good God is the one who gives us all we need and affirms us and all our deeds.’
way I am’, or ‘I couldn’t help myself.’ The theologian Miroslav Volf has written in critique of our culture, which demands affirmation and acceptance of all our choices, even craving affirmation from God. Volf says that to the egotistical person, ‘a good God is the one who gives us all we need and affirms us and all our deeds’. The answer to a heart that wants something outside God’s revealed plan is not to call God bad, or to reject the Bible, or to feel judged by Christianity and victimised by the church, but rather to look together for the good God’s healing shalom.
offer is an Associate Status to independent Presbyterian congregations and Reformed groups of churches who may wish to partner with our Presbyteries and Assembly Boards, but who may not yet be ready for full union with us. In such a case we could help with training, the credentials of ministry candidates, ordinations, or overcoming difficulties,
I believe that Scotland needs a Free Church with the vision of its founding generation. We should care more about the Christian good of Scotland than our own particular denomination.
My proposal for action: The Free Church must follow the Bible, not the cultural moment, in our understanding of marriage and sexuality. We must build churches welcoming and hospitable to women and men who experience same-sex attraction or a confused gender identity.
disputes and matters of discipline. I invite brothers and sisters in other churches to talk to us. Together let us bring shalom to the fractured Body of Christ in Scotland.
8) SHALOM FOR OUR DIVIDED SCOTTISH CHURCHES Another 2018 anniversary is the 175th birthday of the Free Church of Scotland, formed at the Disruption of May 1843, an event that tore the Scottish Presbyterian church in two. Can a Disruption ever bring shalom? For all the startling church planting, missionary activity, scholarship and educational work of the Free Church in the 19th and 20th centuries, our history began with a division among Christians. The evangelicals of the 1830s and 1840s wished to protest against a totalitarian state and the localised abuse of wealth and privilege which hindered the gospel in urban and rural parishes. Their protest was justified, but it is still sad that the church was divided. I believe that Scotland needs a Free Church with the vision of its founding generation. We should care more about the Christian good of Scotland than our own particular denomination. The Free Church, or its successor, if God should allow us to see a new and reunited Reformed Church being formed, must be a Church that is unashamedly biblical and reformed, committed to bringing the gospel to all the people of Scotland. A Confessional Church will not quickly drift away from the gospel. I love so many things about the Free Church, and I owe it so much, but I will gladly give it up if God puts something better in its place. May I say respectfully to brothers and sisters in other churches who share our vision to reach this whole land, we need to talk and listen to each other, we need to form gospel partnerships and we need to come together. The Free Church can offer resources such as theological training, local fellowship and local accountability, ongoing professional development of ministers, central office administrative services and practical support on charity law, safeguarding, payroll and pension provision. One step that I believe the Free Church should be ready to
My proposal for action: Gospel-centred churches must work together wherever possible in local gospel partnerships. All who cherish the authority of the Bible and Presbyterian church government are under an obligation to seek greater unity with a view to being united together as one in gospel mission.
9) SHALOM THROUGH FEEDING AT GOD’S TABLE Temple worship was about shalom. That worship finds its fulfilment in the priestly ministry of Jesus, in his saving sacrificial death and in the eucharistic words and actions with bread and wine that he has mandated for the church, until he comes again. Jesus’ broken body and shed blood restores shalom. The fall of Adam and Eve involved taking and eating, in defiance of God. By their sinful taking and eating they lost shalom and they died. When we preach the gospel and portray the gospel at the Lord’s Table, we rebel sinners are invited back from the curse, to once again enjoy table fellowship with God. Derek Kidner wrote perceptively in his Tyndale Commentary on Genesis 3, ‘God will taste poverty and death before “take and eat” become verbs of salvation.’41 In our gathered worship we are to take bread, bless God, share with one another in memory of Jesus, eating and drinking in the presence of God. We do so looking backwards, relying on his sacrifice at the cross. We do so as an act of faith, looking forwards in anticipation of our future peace. We will eat and drink with Christ again in the renewed cosmos. So many of the redemptive Psalms and great hymns of the cross come alive as we gather around the Lord’s Table. Alec Motyer puts it well in the closing verse of his communion hymn:
Derek Kidner, Genesis: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Leicester, IVP Tyndale Press © 1967), p68.
rebuilding God’s Kingdom after exile. ‘You will keep in perfect peace (literally in shalom, shalom) those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.’45 Like the exiles in Babylon, we also live in two Kingdoms. We live as God’s subjects in the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, members of Christ’s brand-new world, a world which is more than glimpsed in the life of the Church. But we also live in the social and political realm of our messed-up tribes, nations and human cultures. Jesus is our Lord in both those spheres and he expects us to live distinctively as his subjects in both Kingdoms. Our loyalty to these two Kingdoms will often collide. We have duties and responsibilities as citizens in both realms. We have a duty to render to Caesar, and to his successors in office, giving them all the respect and honour they deserve. But we do not expect to find much peace with God from Caesar. So, we render to God the higher loyalty and higher obedience that he demands. In the chaotic days of the Judges, Gideon lived a life of shame and humiliation. Israel had no king, was constantly at war, and had all but lost touch with God. While Gideon was hiding, God heard the prayers of Israel and appeared in the form of an angel. He called Gideon to liberate and save the people. He promised to be with him and accepted his worship. Gideon was terrified that he had looked upon the face of God’s Angel. But the invisible God, who has become visible to us in Jesus Christ, spoke to him in his fear, ‘“Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it Yahweh Shalom — the Lord is Peace.’46 We know that one day we will live in a world of perfect peace. The way we cope with the world as it is, and the way we work and pray to build the world as it shall be, is always by faith. Richard Lovelace says, ‘The faith that is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually the root of peace.’47 Christ’s all-embracing future Kingdom has already begun. Despite all appearances, it will one day replace the failing and passing kingdoms of this world. That is why you must keep going, enjoying peace with Yahweh Shalom, and sharing that peace with others. One day soon our battles with sin and Satan will be over. Our struggles with war, sickness, sin and death will be no more. Among Jesus’ last words is the shortest version of the Great Commission. I end my address with these words of promise and commission: ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 48
My proposal for action: Each of our churches should aim to celebrate communion at least once a month. Usually that will be with their own pastor, conducted reverently and simply without the need for preparatory services and without any unhelpful traditions.
10) SHALOM BOTH NOW AND IN THE COMING AGE OF PERFECT PEACE The City of Peace, Jerusalem, was defeated and destroyed by an invading army in 586 BCE. Shalom was shattered as the citizens of God’s city were taken in chains as exiles to Babylon. But the God of Peace was with the exiles. He continued speaking to them while they lived as dual citizens of Zion and of Babylon. Jeremiah wrote a letter explaining that God would limit their years in exile and bring them home again. In the meantime, far from their homeland and temple, he urged them to live in peace. As citizens of their temporary city, living in exile, they had a job to do. They had shalom to share. Jeremiah wrote: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity (the shalom) of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers (it has shalom), you too will prosper (will have shalom).’44 Similarly, the prophet Isaiah promised peace to those in exile and to those 42
43 44 45 46 47 48
From the hymn, O God, Your Mercy Moved by Love, by J Alec Motyer (1924-2016). © Mrs C Motyer-Lowndes. It may be sung to Church Triumphant (LM). Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24, NIV ©2011. Jeremiah 29:5-7, NIV © 2011, transliteration added. Isaiah 26:3, NIV © 2011, transliteration added. Judges 6:23-24, NIV © 2011, transliteration added. Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979), p. 213. John 20:21, NIV © 2011.
Photos courtesy www.roddymackay.com
One loaf, one cup, one body shared, one faith, one mutual accord, one precious blood, one death declared, one Jesus loved, one coming Lord.42 Most Sundays, in most of our churches, it seems to me that we are being disobedient to Jesus’ repeated commands to ‘take and eat’, to ‘take it’, and to ‘do this in remembrance of me’.43 Most Sundays we are simply not taking, eating and doing what he said and are missing a God-given opportunity to remain centred on the cross and resurrection in our regular rhythm of worship. I cannot defend our infrequent celebration of communion from scripture or from the Reformation. A communion season lasting over several days may be helpful occasionally and may be desired in some places. But it is not, and it never was, a fixed biblical pattern. We have no excuse to continue neglecting and side-lining the supper as an infrequent or an over-elaborate ritual.
We know that one day we will live in a world of perfect peace. The way we cope with the world as it is, and the way we work and pray to build the world as it shall be, is always by faith.
BEHIND THE SCENES - MORE PHOTOS FROM THE ASSEMBLY... Pictures courtesy of Roddy Mackay (www.roddymackay.com) and Evan Macdonald Its not all serious! Rev. Robert Akroyd, Re. David Meredith and Mrs. Ann Macrae laughing together.
Rev. Derek Lamont feels right at home...
Andrea Chang presenting flowers for Lord High Commissioner
How good and pleasant... Psalm 133:1
Re. Andy Pearson and Rev. Neil Lachlan MacDonald looking good.
Missions Co-ordinator Sarah Johnson catches up with friends
Discussion between Principal and Assistant Clerks of the Assembly
Rev. Malcolm Macleod making his point!
Neil DM MacLeod and Rev. Colin Macleod
Evan MacDonald Looks for photo opportunities
Re. Benjamin Wilks makes a point from the floor
The Moderator delivering his address
The Lord High Commissioner recieving a gift bag from the Moderator
Rev. Duncan Macleod and Norman Smith share a laugh
The Moderator and his wife. Rev. Angus and Mrs. Ann MacRae
ETS REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2018 BY REV. THOMAS DAVIS
the wider church in Scotland and beyond. Prof. John Angus also paid tribute to the Free Church as a whole for the ongoing support given to the Seminary. The final speaker was Rev. Nigel Anderson, who is the minister of Livingston Free Church and is also a part-time lecturer in Church History at ETS. Nigel gave a special lecture to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, entitled ‘The Free Church and the Great War’. In a fascinating address, Nigel described the Free Church’s response to the outbreak of war, and he highlighted the contribution made by several individuals connected to the denomination. After the war began, the Free Church participated in interdenominational initiatives that focused particularly on prayer, although as the war went on, this inter-church cooperation lessened. The Free Church sought to maintain a firm witness to Reformed truth in the midst of all the trauma of war, and emphasised that salvation was through faith in Christ alone, and not through death on the battlefield. Coupled with this was a desire to formulate a theological understanding of war which recognised that God is sovereign and that turning away from God leads us down the path towards trouble. Nigel also mentioned various individuals who served both as soldiers and chaplains to the armed forces. It was fascinating to hear about the trials and sorrows, but also the hope and blessings, that came in the midst of such difficulties. It was a powerful reminder of both how damaging and destructive sin is, and yet also of how the gospel brings comfort and hope even in the darkest of situations. Along with these four main speakers, several others spoke to the Assembly about their appreciation for the Seminary. These included both former and current students who were serving as commissioners. They expressed a great sense of gratitude for the opportunity to study at ETS, and also conveyed a sense of excitement about all the future opportunities for furthering the gospel that we hope will lie ahead. Looking back over the past year of life at ETS gives many reasons to be thankful and encouraged. But above all, the blessings that have come through ETS are testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God. It is only through the ongoing grace and provision of God the ETS has reached this point, and it is in complete dependence on him that we look to the future. So while the Assembly rightly gave thanks to many people who have helped ETS, the greatest thanks, now and always, goes to God. •
wee bit of a tradition has developed at the general assembly in recent years:
Wednesday night is ‘ETS Night’! The 2018 Assembly was no exception to this pattern, and, in what was a very encouraging and informative session, various people spoke as part of the report of the Seminary Board. The first speaker was Rev. Malcolm Maclean, Chairman of the Seminary Board. Malcolm highlighted many of the encouragements seen in the past year at ETS, and he paid tribute to the hard work of the staff at the Seminary. He spoke of the importance of theological education, not just for ministers, but for all aspects of Christian service. He also expressed gratitude for the many students across the different courses, and for those who have graduated from the Seminary and gone on to various spheres of service. Malcolm also paid special tribute to Prof. John McIntosh, who is retiring after many years of faithful service at the Seminary. The next main speaker was Rev. Iver Martin, who every year gives the Principal’s Report. Iver gave a very enthusiastic and encouraging report about the ongoing life of the Seminary, but at the same time he highlighted some of the needs and challenges that will arise for ETS in the coming months. Perhaps the greatest of these centres on the question of teaching Church History. With the retirement of Prof. McIntosh, there is a need to find a replacement full-time lecturer in this department. Of course, a full-time appointment places an inevitable strain on finances, which are already stretched. However, Iver presented a very persuasive argument that the additional cost of a full-time Church History lecturer would actually be a worthwhile and wise investment. This is particularly due to the additional income that could come through more students, especially in the postgraduate programmes in Scottish Church History and Theology. Like Malcolm, Iver also expressed his sincere thanks to all the staff, both teaching and administrative, who help at the Seminary. The third speaker was Prof. John Angus MacLeod, who gave a very informative presentation about the new Centre for Mission at ETS, which was featured in detail in last month’s Record. Prof. John Angus highlighted the various levels of courses that will be available through the Centre for Mission, from local church training all the way through to postgraduate studies in mission. Some courses are already about to begin, and a new website for the Centre for Mission is about to be launched. We hope that, under God, the Centre for Mission will be a wonderful resource for the whole denomination and for
THE RADICAL CHURCH? T
met from Sat 19th– Friday 25 May 2018. The theme was ‘peace be with you’, and this was an Assembly that on paper looked like it could be reasonably quiet and straightforward; no one told the commissioners what was coming and the result was an Assembly far more radical. In amongst the published papers before the Assembly was the ‘Strategic Plan’ from the Council of Assembly: a glossy publication based on their consultations with members of the church about what the priorities should be for the next ten years. It sounded good, even mentioned the Holy Spirit and set some tough targets. Surely, since this was what the members wanted, it would go through? Nope, on the crest of an unusual wave of reality, reform and radicalism it was thrown back to the Council to be reworked because it wasn’t radical enough. Why? Well, it didn’t answer the crisis in the Kirk, it didn’t address the falling numbers, the buildings, falling finances or failing structures, so back it went. The question on everyone’s lips was: what does ‘radical’ actually mean? Whilst the Assembly didn’t seem to know what ‘radical’ meant in terms of a plan, it seemed to know what it meant in terms of the hobbyhorse amendments and overtures that came to the floor of the Assembly. One commissioner wanted the choice to conduct marriage ceremonies for people in same-sex relationships, so it was agreed to ask the Legal Questions Committee to write law that allows that to happen whilst safeguarding those who do not want that choice. There was a small glimmer of hope for evangelicals, with an amendment added that if the safeguards could not be given then the Church would not proceed to give that option. The Assembly was also ‘radical’ in its treatment of a hobbyhorse overture from a previous Moderator through the Presbytery of Melrose and Peebles. The overture asked the Theological Forum to review the role of a continuing subordinate standard, i.e. the Westminster Confession of Faith, to look again at the wording of the formula signed by ministers and elders, and explore the possibility of a book of Confessions as a teaching guide. All these points were presented as just asking the question, but the ensuing debate gave the game away as most laughed at the Westminster Confession — but a minority wept. Will the Theological Forum come back saying that the subordinate standard is still suitable? Some say there is hope, others say it doesn’t matter, some fear any alternative. Given the way the Church of Scotland has moved over the last years, the questions being asked will inevitably result in a church that is really ‘radical’ in what it believes and confesses.
he general assembly of the church of scotland th
There were also the usual reports from the World Mission, Ministries Council, Social Care, Mission and Discipleship, General Trustees and so on. All these reports detailed some of the great work that is being done in the Church of Scotland, some of it quite visionary, but most of it doesn’t get the press because it is not ‘radical’, just necessary. By the end of the week the wave of reform and radical thought was dissipating somewhat; another hobbyhorse amendment about trying to get the Church of Scotland Pensions Funds to disengage from investing in oil and gas was rejected. The week ended with an imam speaking graciously about how he felt at home in the General Assembly — now perhaps that is radical! The irony was, in the midst of all this wake-up-and-smell-thecoffee sentiment, all the talk of being radical and wondering how to fix the Kirk and how to plan for the next ten years, was the gem of a 2nd report of the World Mission Council. The General Assembly of 2016 had agreed to look at the growing African church to see if the Church of Scotland could learn from them. Here was their answer to the Church of Scotland. Six key themes had come from meetings with the partner churches in Africa and were written about by six African-based scholars. The themes were Bible Study; Prayer/Testimony; Discipleship/Evangelism/Commitment; Repentance/Reconciliation; Faith in Social Action; Worship/Lay Participation. Did the General Assembly of 2018 learn any of those lessons? Well, evangelicals were impressed and empowered to go and use it; not sure anyone else was. The Assembly had the answer staring them in the face but couldn’t see how these six key themes would really result in a ‘radical’ Church of Scotland. Shame. •
©Asvolas - stock.adobe.com
AN INSIDERS REPORT ON THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY
THE LATE JOHN MACKAY (1929-2018) BY REV. CALLUM IAIN MACLEOD
(iain) was born on 5th october 1929. Brought up at 64 North Tolsta, Iain was the youngest of four siblings. Tragically, his mother died when he was only two years old. Iain’s own passing, sadly, drew a line under his own lineage. Iain was a seaman at heart. He served in the merchant navy for seventeen years and subsequently worked with the local council’s roads division across the Island’s road network. Iain married Murdina Macleod from Outend Coll in 1959. They were blessed with two children, Margaret and John Roddy. Following a short stay in the Poleigan, Back, they made their family home at 54 Outend Coll. Iain worked tirelessly all his life, ensuring his family were well provided for. He loved the outdoors and, like many of his generation, enjoyed loch fishing when time allowed. Murdina’s sudden passing in March 2000 left a great void in Iain’s life. Upheld and sustained by the God of all grace in his grief and sorrow, he gradually adapted to life on his own, supported at all times by his family. Iain was very fond and proud of his grandsons — Alastair Iain, John Murdo, John, Angus, Warren and Connor — and was much loved by them. Iain was a mature Christian and had been an office bearer of long standing in our congregation. He became a communicant member in 1972. In 1981 he was elected as a deacon and in 2001 he was ordained as an elder. Iain fulfilled his offices faithfully, dutifully and cheerfully. He regularly attended local communion weekend services and was held in high esteem within the fellowship of the wider Presbytery throughout the Island. Iain was a man of prayer. He loved the Word of God and engaging with Scripture. Often he spoke of his Christian faith in nautical terms. He left a lasting impression at a fellowship meeting in our congregation several years ago when he referred to his Heavenly ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) as imminent. He sensed his life’s journey was coming to an end and that he was nearing his ‘desired haven’. It was both a privilege and a pleasure to have had fellowship with Iain during this time. He was an avid reader who embraced technology, making the most of his Kindle on which he had his Bible and a library of classic Christian books. Iain thoroughly enjoyed gospel fellowship by his kitchen stove and latterly by the window of his front room overlooking Broadbay. He was a native Gaelic speaker but could also converse freely and perceptively in English as he discussed and debated the doctrines of grace. He knew many passages of his Gaelic Bible verbatim — passages which brought him much comfort and cheer in his failing health. God’s Word spoke tenderly to his soul in his latter days, bringing him consolation and solace.
Praying with him by his hospital bedside shortly before he died, we concluded with the words air sgàth Chriosd — ‘for Christ’s sake — Amen.’ Iain paused and, although somewhat breathless, he said clearly and distinctly, ‘How precious beyond words are these very words “for Christ’s sake”! Everything,’ he said, ‘hinges on these words — absolutely everything.’ ‘Are you trusting in him?’ Iain was asked. ‘Oh yes,’ he said with a burning conviction in his eyes. And he did — to the end. Iain was particularly fond of Simon Peter. Like Peter, Iain would say of Christ, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:68). Ultimately, Iain longed for the storm to be changed into a calm and for the raging waves of infirmity to be stilled. He passed away peacefully on the Lord’s Day, 1st April 2018, and entered his Sabbath rest, to be with his Lord, which is better by far.
Then are they glad, because at rest And quiet now they be: So to the haven he them brings, Which they desired to see. Psalm 107:30 Iain’s passing has left a gaping void in our fellowship and Kirk Session. We thank God for his life, testimony and witness. We also praise God for the significant contribution he made to our congregation over many years. Iain is greatly missed by his immediate and extended family. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to each of them. We convey our sincere condolences to Margaret and John, along with John Roddy and Hazel, and their respective families as we commit them to the God of all grace and comfort. •
NEPALI CHRISTIANITY: ON THE VERGE OF PERSECUTION N
BY SURAJ KASULA
epal is a yam between two stones — a tiny country
by the vandalism and burning of churches. Worse still, one famous religious leader had himself shot by his own follower while speaking in public. He was to be shot in his right arm, but by mistake he was shot in his chest. He did not die but he had to remain in the hospital for a week. According to the news, their plan was to blame Christians for this murder attempt so that they could instigate violent persecution on churches. In God’s providence, their plan was wholly overturned because the police arrested the shooter, who admitted their evil plan. They would have wrought havoc on churches if their plan had worked out. Later on, the religious leader was arrested at the airport while he was boarding a flight to India! Worst of all is that a church in Dhangadi, a western border of India, was bombed just after Modi’s return to India. Some windows and furniture were smashed, but there were no human casualties. At present in Nepal, some anti-Christian groups are becoming more violent than before. They seek to put a halt to all ongoing Christian activities in Nepal. They are threatening persecution if Christians share about Christ and his gospel. However, the very essence of Christianity is to share the gospel; it is a Christian’s prime religious duty as well as the great commandment of Christ (Mat. 28:16-20). In other words, the Christian faith is impossible without the preaching of Christ. The Hindu extremists say it is Christianity that is destroying Hindu religion and culture. Moreover, they falsely accuse Christians of promoting cow-slaughter and beef eating (in Nepal the cow is sacred and worshipped as the goddess of wealth!). This is why they are not only seeking to marginalize Christians, but also want to uproot them from the land of Nepal. However, in every era, powerful and wise people have tried their best to stop the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth, but none has been successful! The Jewish authorities, the Roman emperors, the great philosophers, the mighty kings and queens have sought to eradicate Christianity, but they are all long vanished, and Christianity still stands invincible and Christ still reigns! God’s kingdom must continue to grow in the land of Nepal at any cost, no matter if persecution or martyrdom await! Please continue to pray for Nepali Christianity. We greatly appreciate your prayers. •
sandwiched between two of the superpowers of Asia. China lies to the north, and India locks the east, west and south. Nepal is believed to be one of the Christian faith’s fastest-growing countries in the world. On the one hand, the transformative power of the gospel is sweeping across the country. Many national and international missions and ministries are being mobilized into remote villages, sharing the good news and planting many more churches. But on the other hand, anti-Christian movements are arising. Their radical activities against churches show that Nepal is on the verge of persecution. It seems that Nepali and Indian anti-Christian extremist groups have merged together and are making massive efforts to restore Nepal as a Hindu nation. Their propaganda has put huge pressure on the government. As a result, the government suddenly passed an anti-conversion law that would impose up to five years in prison for converting people, while harming religious sentiments would be punishable by up to two years in prison. It is ridiculous that this law has been designed to target Christians, since it only applies to them! A dozen Christians have already been arrested so far for preaching Christ. Four, sentenced to five years in prison on false charges of witchcraft and violence, were released. Three have been recently arrested on charges of conversion. This proves that the Nepali government is genuinely prejudiced against Christianity. This is why it is curtailing the religious freedoms of Nepali Christians one after another. As has happened before, the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has skyrocketed the anti-Christian activities across Nepal. Modi’s party, namely Baratiya Janata Party (BJP), also known as the Hindu Nationalist Party, publicly promotes Hindu supremacy. The BJP is directly or indirectly playing a prominent role to restore Nepal as a Hindu state with the Hindu monarch as its head. BJP wants to impose their religious view and philosophy in Nepal. It seems that Nepali ministers are more or less puppets in the hand of the BJP! The newly elected Prime Minister of Nepal spoke publicly against Christianity after a recent return from India. Another Prime Minister made a similar comment after India’s visit when he publicly declared, ‘Christians are a big threat to India and Nepal!’ Three Christians were arrested for evangelizing some days before Modi’s visit, followed
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Matt. 6:10
DUMFRIES BAPTIST CHURCH:THEN & NOW BY REV. ALISTAIR PURSS When I arrived at DBC in 2010 the church had been seeking property and land for a few years, without success. People were a bit weary and discouraged as, every time something was found, we always seemed to lose out in the end. Vision requires not only clarity to see what to do but also courage to not give up and perseverance to keep moving forward. A little under two years later things began to change and move forward. Just over six years ago we found and purchased a 3.2-acre green field site in the Georgetown area and began the process of designing our new church centre. Our new centre has extensive facilities including a 500-seater auditorium, sports hall, eight meeting rooms and the Cornerstone Café. The vision for the use of the building is fourfold: Church, Community, Commercial, Café. We officially opened and dedicated the Dumfries Baptist Church Centre to the glory of God on Saturday, 12th May 2018. It was a day of fulfilment and at the same time the beginning of a new chapter!
‘The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy’ Psalm 126
n the late 1870’s christian believers belonging to the baptist tradition in dumfries built a church that was a
scaled replica of spurgeon’s tabernacle in london. This was a remarkable step of faith and an incredibly visionary thing to do! The building our forefathers built was our spiritual base until the closing service Sunday, 18th March 2018. In the 1960’s DBC was on the brink of closure. A handful of ladies, with the support of the Baptist Union of Scotland, decided to pray and see if God would revive the church. He did! Once again, this demonstrated remarkable faith and vision. Through the 70’s-2000’s God has built the church up, and today we have about 300 adults and 50-plus children and young people who consider DBC their church family. Over twenty years ago a group of people from DBC had a vision to plant a church in the Georgetown area of Dumfries. This is mainly an owner-occupier estate built in the 70’s and 80’s, which has never had a church building or any significant community facility within it. The area also includes the second most socially challenged area in Dumfries. Although the vision was right, the timing was wrong!
The journey over the last six years has been an amazing one. We are thankful to God for his incredible grace and provision and for those who have stood with us in prayer and in giving, which includes friends and churches both within and outside our Baptist family in Scotland, other trusts and grant-giving organisations, as well as the remarkable people of DBC, who have and still are giving sacrificially through finance, time, gifts and Christian service. We raised over £4,850,000 to build the centre through financial gifts and interest-free loans, and we have a bit over £850,000 of interest-free loans to pay back over the next few years.
About 13-14 years ago we decided that we either had to renovate and extend our existing building, find a new, bigger building or build something new to accommodate our growing congregation. About 11-12 years ago we moved our Sunday morning services to Dumfries High School. The decision to move services to the High School was a significant and strategic step forward.
As a church we believe that we have been Created to Worship, Commissioned to Reach and Compelled to Serve (Romans 12:1-3; Matthew 28:16-20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Colossians 3:17). This is our Godgiven vision. This is what drives us as we seek to give ourselves first to God through the daily offering of our lives in worship to him; to be a missionary church through our reaching out and proclamation of the good news of Christ; and to be a serving church through our gifts, programmes, ministries and the use of our church centre by all sorts of groups including the NHS, educational authorities, badminton group and even a karate class...and so much more! God is touching people’s lives and opening up the eyes of their hearts to understand Christ and get to know him better.
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:6-9 In this present age faithfulness to God’s Word seems to be optional for many Christians and local churches. Without complete faithfulness to God’s Word the church will die! Finally, Nehemiah knew that he needed others working with him to restore Jerusalem. Leading a church through a building programme is hard; it requires more than one person and there are opposition and obstacles along the way. Some people directly oppose what is being done, others seek to undermine it in more devious ways, and still others make things up in their heads like Geshem did in verses 6:6-9. However, the vast majority of people, with the right direction and encouragement, get on with the task: ‘So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart (Nehemiah 4:6).’ I love the second part of that verse, ‘the people worked with all their heart’. I’ve witnessed this in action and it humbles me. Our story as a church is something to be shared, not because we think we’re special and certainly not because we think we are smart! We are a very ordinary church who trust and believe in an amazing God! Whatever God is calling you to do in your life or as a church, please remember the lessons that Sharon and I have learned. Rely on God — Be faithful to God — Work for God with all your heart! •
The other evening, three thoughts came to me from the lives and examples of Paul, Joshua and Nehemiah. Leading a local church is not an easy task; unless you have a robust theology of suffering, you will struggle. When Sharon and I arrived in Dumfries eight years ago we were 19 years into pastoral ministry and had just gone through a period of intense personal suffering. Leading a church through a huge period of transition and change is not the ideal remedy! We have learned two things about suffering and they are summed up in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 8b-9. ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.... We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.’ If your theology of suffering is a biblical one you will grow in compassion and rely on God more! There is great blessing to be found here. Joshua (and Caleb) had to wait forty years to see God’s promise come to pass! When the time came for Joshua to lead God’s people he required strength and courage and, above all, faithfulness to God and his Word.
Senior pastor Alistair Purss with his wife Sharon.
South Korea BY CALLUM BOWSIE
happened after all, and only a month after the North and South Korean leaders met. Both summits are significantly symbolic. But they’re symbolic in very different ways and thus the reception in South Korea to both summits has been distinctly different. But why? Why was the international community more interested in the Singapore summit, while the Koreans were more interested in the Korean summit?
powerful man in the world. South Koreans understood what the Korean summit was about, they know the history and culture, which many foreign commentators don’t, and it seemed like a natural next step after competing together in the Winter Olympics. The Singapore summit on the other hand was held for unknown political intentions. Symbolism isn’t always bad — it can express and guide aspirations in new ways — but for South Koreans symbolic is all they are…for now.
six parties that make up the current National Assembly are all under three years old because party splits and merges are so frequent here. It means when new political events occur on the Korean peninsula, unlike the West, they don’t become hysterical. Instead, they’ve learnt to welcome these kinds of milestones with reservation. It can be easy to presume SK must be even more fixated about NK, and thus the summit, than the West is, given their close proximity and ties. But actually,
USA and North Korea take part in Singapore summit.
One reason is because there is a fundamental difference between meeting your long-lost family and meeting the most
South Koreans are politically astute. They live in one of the most volatile and scandal-ridden political landscapes in Asia. The
it is these very factors which reduce their fascination with NK. NK isn’t material for newsflashes, it’s their enduring reality, their
national subconsciousness; they are South Korean because of what is north. But one must also remember that SK has been an independent country for 70 years. In that time, it has become the world’s 11th largest economy, an entertainment powerhouse and reared three generations through five very different republics. So while the North/South situation may not have changed much, attitudes have. The young live in a very different era. Only a tiny minority have grandparents who remember one Korea; hence they
Christians, have thoughtlessly aspired for unity without thinking about the reality of the situation, and prayed for a constitutional solution that God may not see fit for his kingdom. The day after the Singapore summit was Election Day, which is another reason why the summit wasn’t Korea’s main focus. But regardless of the election’s timing, SK has long had its own domestic political mess to sort out first. In 2016, former conservative President Park Guen-hye was impeached for ‘influence-peddling’ and imprisoned in April for 24
Former South Korea Park Geun-hye President imprisoned for 24 years
don’t miss something they never knew. Their focus is elsewhere: getting into the top universities, getting the latest technology, or getting their National Service over with, which is only required because of the divide. I’m privileged to teach 100 young Koreans every week and it’s been fascinating hearing their unscripted views on NK. In their naivety they’re delighted about the summits, and liberal President Moon Jae-in has become their new hero. Like their forefathers they want peace, but where they differ is that the old want reunification, while the young generally don’t. I asked my students why: ‘Because we are different,’ ‘It will cost us money,’ ‘We won’t understand them,’ ‘We are a democracy.’ I was initially disappointed, but at least their priorities are right; peace is the most important goal and often Koreans, particularly
years, along with her cohorts and then her predecessors. It caused the political right wing to split into pro and anti-Park parties. This is because Koreans are more captivated by the politics of the person than of the party. Therefore, when Park (the daughter of the beloved military dictator of the
60s-70s) was impeached, each party’s NK policy became less important to winning votes. Since the recent summit there’s a strange paradox in SK politics because both the left and right wing support the NK-USA summit — but for different reasons. The political left is often characterised as being sympathetic towards NK and against the USA’s military presence in the region. The political right, on the other hand, is characterised by their support of the USA being a military deterrent in SK. The Singapore summit not only recognises — and arguably legitimises — NK’s right to determine Korea’s future, but also justifies the influence of the USA in Korea’s future too. Last weekend I hiked up Cheonmasan Mountain. As I watched the sun set upon North Korea’s Ahobiryong mountains, the beauty of an endless mountain range glowing in the sun’s amber suddenly made the politics happening down below irrelevant in the grand scale of things. When we ‘stop and consider God’s wonders’, just as Elihu instructed Job to do (Job 37:14-16), we realise just how much we do not and cannot know, and it humbles us. There’s a new dawn coming in ‘The Land of the Morning Calm’. We don’t know what it will look like, but God does, and that’s all that matters! •
The sun sets on North Korea.
B ONH O EFF ER Record columnist DAYSPRING MACLEOD reflects on the subject of her first book
that, this May, Christian Focus published my first solo book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel. This is part of their Trailblazers series for 8-14-year-olds about important figures in Christianity. Soon after I announced the book on social media, someone responded that, because of Bonhoeffer’s liberal theology, it was misguided to think he was a Christian at all. While I think the article he attached trumped up the charges a bit, I do have real reservations about Bonhoeffer’s theology. He was a broad enough individual to be claimed by both the conservative and liberal camps of Christianity; to read Eric Metaxas’ book Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, one wouldn’t know Bonhoeffer was anything but evangelical, whereas to read Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory, he was an academic with a strong ethical side, and was probably gay(!). Choose your Bonhoeffer. Personally — in the same way I think of Simon Peter — I like Dietrich Bonhoeffer better for his complexities and weaknesses. Like Peter, fear was a weakness he had to overcome. Like Peter, he staked his all on something he at first only dimly understood. Granted, he was more educated than the fisherman, but some of that education was an actual handicap — he had to overcome the liberal German seminaries’ insistence at that time that God did not even exist, and the German churches’ insistence on compromise, paying lip service to heretical Nazi doctrines. Speaking against these doctrines, running ‘unofficial’ seminaries, supporting Jewish friends and family, publishing a book on the (Jewish) Psalms, and finally joining the Resistance as a double agent in the Abwehr (then the military intelligence agency) were all steps down his final path. He has a reputation as the ‘pastor who plotted to
kill Hitler’. I think of him as the ‘chaplain to the Resistance’. Bonhoeffer had a way out of the War. He had secured a position teaching theology in New York in 1939, when a major persecution of German Christians as well as Jews was inevitable. He stayed in New York for three weeks before giving in to his conscience and accepting that Christ was calling him back to Germany. He left America seeing no future other than imprisonment or death — but he was a captive to Christ. He had recognised the voice of the Saviour in a black church in Harlem ten years before, and now he recognised the Call. One of the reasons why I think Bonhoeffer was a truly saved person is the way in which God has used him to bolster my spiritual life (and many others). I believe we are entering an era when we are on the verge of a new wave of anti-Christian persecution. We need the examples of those who have gone before. So how does Bonhoeffer help us to stand, and to overcome? When he’s getting on that ship in 1939, the last passenger ship to leave America for Europe before the War shut down the Atlantic, knowing he’s going to a future that’s certain only of suffering, but going anyway because ‘I could have no part in rebuilding Germany if I do not share in her suffering.’ When he’s desperately ashamed of refusing to preach at a funeral service for a Jewish relation, and agonises ‘I can’t think what I was so afraid of’ — but funnels that shame into repentance, and uses it to fuel his support of the Jews. When he’s in prison and continues his work on his book Ethics, knowing that the Nazis and their evil restrictions wouldn’t be there forever, and the Work must continue. When he’s in prison, and sends letters rejoicing with friends who are getting married and having children, delighting that ‘even in
this midst of suffering God gives us his great yes.’ When he’s in prison and writes home that he was afraid he would break under torture and interrogation, but has found that God always gives him the strength just as he needs it. When he’s just finished preaching his last ever sermon, and two guards enter the room and say ‘Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.’ Bonhoeffer knew that, even when God doesn’t rescue, God is good. He knew that, even when God doesn’t rescue, he still rescues. For those of us who have not lived alongside it, ‘life in death’ remains a paradox. I rather think that for Bonhoeffer, ‘life in death’ was the only sanity in a world gone mad. He once said, ‘No one has ever become a Christian who has not from that time forth longed to go home.’ He said, ‘We spend our lives shuddering and trembling at death, and who knows but for a Christian it might not be the most glorious experience in the world?’ This was not empty theology from the safe distance of a seminary. The guards said ‘Come with us,’ and Dietrich turned to a fellow prisoner and said ‘This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.’ Without the suffering, Bonhoeffer would be a controversial theologian, the writer of The Cost of Discipleship but also of the liberal tome Ethics. If he had stayed in New York, that would be his legacy. God let him suffer, and that suffering is a grace to us, because it is an example of one who laid his life down trusting that his life was safe in God. These are the things that give context to the controversy of Bonhoeffer’s writings. These are what give me hope that I’ll meet Dietrich in heaven one day, and we’ll rejoice together at what God has brought us through. This is why our children should know about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. •
POETRY PAGE JESUS MINDS AND UNDERSTANDS (TO THE TUNE KIRKCONNEL LEA) BY IRENE HOWAT IN SCOTS Lord Jesus, yince ye walked this earth, kent love an’ loss, kent tears an’ mirth, tae widden cross frae humble birth ye mind an’ understaund. Ye war lyke us tho’ did nae sin, sae whit an’ ever state A’m in ye mind an’ understaund.
Lord Jesus, whan A cum tae dee haud up yer cross in front o’ me, in ma last meenits let me see ye mind an’ understaund. Ye deed a human deeth yersel’ tae save the lykes o’ me frae hell – may that blest thoucht ma fears dispel ye mind an’ understaund.
Lord Jesus, whan A’m temptit sair, an’ feart A cannae fecht nae mair, ca’ tae ma thoughts an’ kep it there ye mind an’ understaund. Ye tae war tempted by the deil, bit foucht and bet thon sleekit cheil, e’en though ye’re God ye’re man as weel sae aye ye understaund.
When lost in wunner at yer grace, an’ lost in love afore yer face, wi’ the redeemed A tak ma place in heiven’s glory land, E’en then, dear Jesus, whit it cost for ye tae lea’ yer heavenly host tae save puir sinners that war lost A’ll never understaund.
Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash
Mar dhealt air Hermon (Like the dew of Hermon) LE JANET NICPHÀIL
©patcharaporn1984 - stock.adobe.com
g èisteachd ri searmon air tìr-mòr o chionn
Bha caithe-beatha den t-seòrsa-sa a’ toirt buaidh mhòr air an t-saoghal a bha ag amharc, agus iad a’ tuigsinn gu robh nì sònraichte mu thimcheall nan daoine-sa. Bha an sluagh-sa aoibhneach, agus iad a’ tuigsinn gur ann bhon Chruthaidhear a bha gach deagh thiodhlac a’ tighinn. Faodaidh sinn seo a chuimhneachadh gu h-àraidh nar là fhìn, agus A mhaitheasan den h-uile seòrsa gar cuartachadh. Chaidh ar cur air ar faiceall, agus an teachdaire a’ toirt gur n-aire gu faod sinn spiorad an aoibhneis nar slàinte a chall, agus cuideachd, faodaidh uiread a bhith againne den h-uile càil is gu bheil sinn a’ dìchuimhneachadh gur e tiodhlac a th’anns gach nì a th’againn. Bu chòir a-rèist do chlann a’ Chruthaidheir a bhith an-còmhnaidh a’ moladh, agus a bhith a’ dèanamh gàirdeachas. Eadhon anns gach freastal cruaidh, tha E Fhèin a’ toirt oirnn’ a bhith a’ faicinn A chaomhthròcairean, ann a bhith a’ toirt luchd ar gràidh dhachaigh teàrainte. Feumaidh sinn a bhith eudmhor a thaobh an t-Soisgeil; feumaidh gràdh a bhith againne do shluagh Dhè, agus is còir gu cinnteach, gum biodh spiorad taingealachd nar cridheachan airson na tha E air a dhèanamh dhuinn. (B’e an t-Urramach Pòl Gibson a bha a’ searmonachadh agus tha sinn a’ toirt taing dha.)
bheachdaich sinn air na Crìosdaidhean a bha beò goirid an-dèidh Là na Caingis, ’s iad cruinn còmhla, ‘ a’ buanachadh ann an teagasg nan abstol, ann an co-chomann, agus ann am briseadh an arain’. Chaidh a ràdh rinn gum b’iad sin fìor bhunait airson beatha agus ministrealachd na h-eaglais’. Is e sin gum biodh fir agus mnathan a’ sìor dhol air adhart ann an nithean Dhè. Bha iad a’ dèanamh feum de dh’ùrnaigh, agus iad a’ tuigsinn gur e tiodhlac a bha seo. Bha toradh air an saothair, oir, ‘thàinig eagal air gach anam’. Bha buaidh an Uile-Chumhachdaich ri fhaireachdainn. Bha an Cruthaidhear air a thighinn faisg, agus iadsan a’ faireachdainn mar a bha am fàidh, Isàiah a’ faireachdainn, nuair a thuirt e, ‘Mo thruaighe mise, oir is duine mi aig a bheil bilean neo-ghlan’. Feumaidh sealladh àrd a bhith againn air a’ Chruthaidhear. Tha E àrd os ar cionn. Is e sealladh àrd air a’ Chruthaidheir aon nì a dh’ fheumas duine airson fìor adhradh. Nach e tùs a’ ghliocais eagal Dhè a bhith oirnn’? Bha an searmonaiche ag ràdh gum biodh e gu mòr fheum nam bitheamaid beò gu h-iriosal am fianais Dhè. Chì sinn gu robh na Crìosdaidhean-sa an-sàs ann an obair Dhè len uile chridhe; nochd an Cruthaidhear A chumhachd oir, ‘rinneadh mòran de mhìorbhailean’. Bha iadsan a’ searmonachadh an Fhacail, agus thàinig an Cruthaidhear Fhèin le làthaireachd. Sheall E A chumhachd ann an dòigh air leth, oir bha E a’ tighinn le bheannachd. Mar a leughas sinn san treas Salm, ‘Is leis an Tighearna an fhurtachd; air do shluagh tha do bheannachd’. Is e Dia a theàrnas a tha nar Dia-ne, agus is sinne na daoine a chleachdas E airson Adhbhar air an talamh a chur air adhart, an aghaidh na th’ann de chumhachdan an dorchadais. Is sinne, mar gum biodh, teachdairean Dhè aig am bheil Sgeul Mhath ri roinn do dhaoine acrach a-bhos an seo. Bha spiorad-carthannais eadar sluagh Dhè. Bha iad a dh’aon inntinn agus bha an t- aon rùn aca san amharc. B’e sin a bhith a’ dèanamh seirbheis don Rìgh-sa ann an dòigh a bhiodh taitneach leis. Bha na Crìosdaidhean-sa air am bheil sinn a’ beachdachadh, cùramach mu chàch a chèile. Ma bha feum air neach, dhèanadh iad na b’urrainn dhaibh airson seo a leasachadh. Ma bha aon bhall a’ fulang, bha iad uile a’ fulang. B’e seo an Spiorad a bha follaiseach anns an eaglais andèidh Là na Caingis. Tha sinne beò aig àm glè eadardhealaichte ann an eachdraidh, ach faodaidh sinn a bhith a’ strìth gu bhith a’ fòghlam bhuapa.
Taing Taing airson do choibhneasan is taing airson gach tiodhlac a fhras Thu oirnn’ air thalamh, Is e gun tuigeadh sinn a’ mhìorbhail. Eilean beag cho iomallach ’s do chridhe mòr le truas ris dèan èasgaidh sinn mar Chrìosdaidhean gu bhith taingeil son na fhuair sinn.•
he poll results are in.
Having asked some of the other Christian mums at church in an aggrieved tone how they manage to have a spiritual life in the midst of household chaos, most of them replied with, ‘Erm, I get a surprising amount out of the kids’ picture Bible…’ I think I may have met this news with a Chewbacca howl of despair. It’s not enough! I wanted to, and probably did, shout. Where’s the time for soaking in God’s Word? For dedicating myself to prayer? For learning new things from the Bible? For even listening to a sermon online? Where’s the time for God? Of course, there is always time for God. What I’m really more concerned about is time for me. Time for me to worship the easy way, with what in America we call ‘devotions’, rather than the hard way — taking
because, like many other mums, my work is what keeps me sane. It’s where I can use my brain on the same level I used to before it was taken over by Paw Patrol catchphrases and eczema regimes. And our expectations have changed too in terms of our spiritual lives. We get so frustrated by the distraction of our children in church, by having to go on the crèche rota, by the impossibility of speaking to people while chasing toddlers around during coffee time, by having to stay home during the midweek prayer meeting — forgetting that, in the past, women just didn’t go to church when their children were babies. There weren’t crèches and they knew small children couldn’t sit through a service, so they stayed home. It isn’t that our lives are particularly tough, but we are tough on our expectations.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE EXPECTING TOO MUCH
BY DAYSPRING MACLEOD
I was reminded by a dear lady in Inverness last year that the Good Shepherd ‘gently leads those that are with young,’ and that new parents (and those around them) should be careful of their expectations. It’s a season — one that can feel challenging and even isolating — but when the days feel long it’s tempting to forget how quickly they pass, and how much they will be missed. So I’ve been trying to consciously appreciate the children’s innocence and lack of reserve and this great reservoir of cuddles while I’ve still got them. And whither my spiritual life? Well, I have to say it really is amazing how much you can get from a good picture Bible (Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible is lifechanging!). And it’s amazing how much you can grow, if you allow yourself, by making your home and life one of active, conscious service to Christ. Getting up and making breakfast without shouting at anyone after a long night of children waking up, that is practical theology! Yes, there are still times when I manage to soak in God’s Word and spend time with Jesus without any agenda. But he knows that what I lack more than time is concentration. I find it much easier to write with a task ahead of me than to just sit and read and meditate. So what did God give me to keep me learning new things from him? He gave me this. Columns and books and articles and deadlines — he gave me work to keep me learning from him. And that was something I never could have expected! •
all that I’ve learned from Jesus in the past thirty years and using it to live out grace in the midst of exhaustion. First, while many of you are parents and grandparents, there are others who will no doubt still be wondering ‘What does a stay-at-home mum do all day, other than watch Come Dine With Me? Surely it can’t be that hard to read the Bible for half an hour while the kids do colouring in?’ I think the answer to that is the word ‘toddler’. A three-year-old can entertain herself for a while. A one-year-old doesn’t really leave you alone. Ever. So even without the lineup of play dates, Gaelic playgroup, nursery drop-offs and grocery runs, you are flexible but you’re never really free. Saying that, my mother’s advice was to stay home more, and I find that it really does help not to be on the run all the time. Another element is that mums expect so much more from themselves and their lives than they did a generation ago. I can’t think of a single full-time mum that isn’t also a part-time something else. Sometime in the past few decades women decided they were ‘free’ to have careers as well as kids, and of course that ‘freedom’ ended up an obligation, partly due to their expectations of fulfilment and partly due to the fact that, for most families, surviving on a single income is no longer plausible. When I’m not actively with the kids, I’m sending emails or making appointments or frantically typing. And I’m not complaining about this
Positively Presbyterian Conference 2018 The 2018 Positively Presbyterian conference is to be held at Lendrick Muir, Rumbling Bridge, Kinross. KY13 0QA (www.suscotland.org.uk/lendrickmuir) th The programme starts with Dinner at 6.30 p.m. on Monday 20 August and finishes with lunch nd at 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday 22 August. It would be good to see you at the conference where you will enjoy the talks, times of fellowship and relaxation. Please note the dates in your diary. The cost of the conference will be ￡120 which can either be paid in advance or at the event. Day visitors are also welcome. (Fee for Tuesday will be ￡35.00 and for Wednesday ￡30.00) Do let your congregation know about this event. It is open to all: ministers, office-bearers, non-ordained workers, men and women. To book just email Clive Bailey at email@example.com as soon as possible. Programme: Monday 20th August 6.30 pm 8.00 – 9.15 9.15-10.00 Tuesday 21st August 8.00 - 9.30: 9.30 - 11.00 11.00 - 11.30 11.30 - 1.00 1.00 2.30- 4.00 4.30 - 6.00 6.00 - 8.00 8.00 - 9.30 9.30 - 10.00 10.00 Wednesday 22nd August 8.00 - 9.30 9.30 - 11.00 11.00 - 11.30 11.30 - 1.00 1.00 Lunch
Pos Pres Dinner Session 1: Rev. David Meredith “Missio Dei” Evening Worship – Rev. Angus Macrae Breakfast and devotional – Rev. Angus Macrae Session 2-Rev. Dr. John Ross- “Billy Graham-His life and legacy” Coffee Session 3: Rev. Ivor Macdonald- “Scottish Identity- a Christian view" Lunch + Free time Football Match : North v South (County v City) Session 4: Rev. Kenny Boyd- “The Italian Job … crosscultural mission in Europe today.’ Dinner Session 5: Rev. Dr. Alistair Wilson- “The other Bavinck” Coffee Evening Worship – Rev. Angus Macrae Breakfast and devotional - Rev. Angus Macrae Session 6: Rev. Daniel Sladek- “What can we do with the Imprecatory Psalms?” Coffee Session 7: Dr Calum MacKellar- “What is the debate about transgenderism all about?”
BY CATRIONA MURRAY
POST TENEBRAS LUX
©david hughes - stock.adobe.com
croft, they say, is a small patch of land in a sea of
legislation. There is a duality about land under crofting tenure, because it is indeed complicated by all the protective legislation which surrounds it, and yet it is also frequently the focus of much emotion. People can grow very attached to a croft that has been in their family for generations, and bristle at the idea that the tenancy might go elsewhere. I have, in the past, had some kind of handle on the history of crofting legislation, but decided this week to try refreshing my understanding — not least because there have been many reforms and amendments since I last read up on the subject. It’s a complex and fascinating area of study, and I passed a few stifling hours trying to navigate my way through the information available, armed only with a list of questions. As the time passed, I obtained answers to some of these questions, and had the odd gratifying lightbulb — albeit only twenty watt — moment. The crofting system has been blamed many times for suppressing leadership qualities from emerging amongst the Gaelic population. Social commentators have cited its horizontal structure as being at fault. And the same thing has been said of Presbyterian church government. When the two major social systems are predicated upon no one person being in control, it
is tempting indeed to attribute the ‘leadership issue’ to the way that Gaelic society has functioned for the last couple of centuries. Do we lack any kind of structure which encourages the mettle and confidence required for such a skill-set to flourish? Does our supposed addiction to egalitarianism prevent us from taking responsibility, speaking up, leading the charge? One thing is certainly true of both crofting and the Calvinist theology which has so shaped thinking here in Lewis: (understatement alert) it’s quite complex. The mountain of legislation — every single piece of which seems, unhelpfully, to be called ‘The Crofting Act’ — and the Confession of Faith, including the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, are not light reading. But, oh, how we love them. We do. In their tortuous complexity, they appeal to our thrawn, unbending nature. I am no mathematician, but I really love a word problem. The arduous reading task I set myself on crofting was to some purpose; lately I have taken up a seat on the board of our community landlord in Stornoway. It makes me uncomfortable to know less than those around me about… well, anything, because I’m an insufferable smart-Alexina. So, rather than trouble anyone else with getting me up to speed (and risk admitting how little I know) I decided to take matters into my own hands. It reminded me powerfully of a time in my life when I actually thought I could read and study
my way towards knowing Christ. I believed for a time that knowing the doctrine, and devouring a lot of heavy tomes would equip me to know Him better. How I piled up concordances and commentaries. He, however, advocated our becoming like little children, that we may enter the kingdom of God. I don’t suggest that doctrine is unimportant — far from it — but every Christian knows doctrine is not what redeems us from sin. Discussion of theology is not itself wrong; usually it’s edifying and, done prayerfully, brings us closer to God. It’s just that I think our propensity to over-complicate reflects our incredulity that Jesus doesn’t need our help. I, for one, can get so caught up in gloriously complex theology that I forget the simple truth: that He has done it all for me, and I have only to actively believe in my Saviour. A plethora of Acts, passed in parliaments far from here cannot express the deep attachment the crofter feels to his land, nor capture the place it occupies in his heart merely by plotting its boundaries on a map. By the same token, doctrine or theology, however fine and Biblical, are unable to soften the heart of an unbeliever. On the same day that I trawled through the crofting library, I studied James 2 with church friends: faith, without works, is dead. The willingness of Abraham to leave his own land challenges us all: do we love words on a page, but hesitate when He asks us to step into the unknown?.•
The Record is the official magazine of The Free Church of Scotland.