07 (July 2016)

A Sad Departure

A Sad Departure
Gavin Beers Gavin is a native of Northern Ireland and pastor of Ayr Free Church (Continuing) in Scotland, since 2006. He is also a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at the Free Church (Continuing) Seminary, In
30 June, 2016 2 min read

Written by a former Church of Scotland minister, this is an account of the secession of 40 ministers from that church due to the acceptance of homosexuality in its ordained ministry.

It is graciously written and far from triumphalist. It is more a lament on behalf of those who reluctantly left the denomination, as well as for the denomination itself that has tragically departed from the Word of God.

A concise review of events and decisions of recent General Assemblies is presented. This includes the climactic decisions of 2013-2015, which reaffirmed the historical teaching of the Church of Scotland on human sexuality, while leaving it open to individual congregations to ignore this if desired. Astonishingly, this self-contradictory proposal was made by a professing evangelical.

Readers will appreciate Mr Randall’s clear defence of biblical authority and teaching on homosexuality. The final chapter records testimonies of ministers who did leave, affording a window into their struggles.

The author’s central aim is to defend their secession. An explanation is also given as to why they remained in the denomination until that point. The argument is that even though there were unbiblical practices in the church and false doctrine was taught, the church itself had not sanctioned these at its Assembly or formally rejected the Bible. But that line was crossed when the General Assembly affirmed the teaching of Scripture on homosexuality and, in the same breath, decreed that congregations could ignore it.

While sympathetic to those who have chosen the difficult path of secession; yet gladdened by their conviction to stand on principle, and mourning with them the departure of the Church of Scotland from the Word of God, readers may find weaknesses in aspects of the argument.

For example, 15 of the 40 men who left did so before 2013 when the above proposal was made to the General Assembly. This highlights a diversity of opinion and lack of concerted action or direction.

Moreover, the plain teaching of Scripture on the ordination of women has been officially rejected by the church courts for many decades, but there is little engagement with this issue in the book. The failure of William Still’s ‘quiet infiltration’ method for evangelical, denominational renewal is also evident.

The book’s concern for the lack of church discipline over homosexuality raises the uncomfortable question of why evangelicals in previous years were unwilling to pursue discipline against other public denials of cardinal truths of the Christian faith.

This is a significant work on a contemporary Christian scandal. It gives readers insight to a tragic period in the church’s history. We pray God’s blessing on those who have taken this stand and that he will give the same spirit to others still in a ‘broad’ church.

Gavin Beers

Hollybush, Ayrshire

Gavin is a native of Northern Ireland and pastor of Ayr Free Church (Continuing) in Scotland, since 2006. He is also a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at the Free Church (Continuing) Seminary, In
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