Second Commandment Christianity in the Church of Scotland

David Cameron’s article was published in The Herald on 29th September 2023 - ‘God is not finished with Scotland’.

‘A FEW weeks ago, the Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev Sally Fosterfulton, dedicated and blessed a new church in the most westerly village in mainland Britain. The official opening of Ardnamurchan Church in Kilchoan was a momentous occasion for the congregation, ecumenical partners and the wider community. It is a living, breathing example of the fact that God is not finished with Scotland despite what some people might say. Too often we hear the words “the Church is dead and irrelevant today”, but I do not agree. That said, I recognise that we must do more to give the nation and the people of God something to believe in. The Church has become too used to not taking risks and for far too long we’ve let secular society prevent us from doing what God called the Church to do and to be. We need to be bold, radical and innovative, and never forget that Jesus told us to feed his sheep.

The last few years have been challenging as the Church undergoes the most significant structural changes in nearly 100 years. Yet, despite this, congregations continue to make a positive impact on the communities they serve. From running warm hubs, food projects, debt support projects, substance misuse recovery services and walking groups to initiatives for asylum seekers, refugees and others displaced by war, they excel in welcoming and caring for the stranger – which is what Jesus calls on Christians to do.

In South Ayrshire, Dundonald Parish Church operates Floyd’s Community Space, working in partnership with other agencies and community groups to support the most vulnerable people in the parish. Wellesley Parish Church in Methil, Fife hosts The Hope Chest community project which supplies furniture, household items and clothing on a referral basis to those most in need. Crossreach, the operating name of the Church’s Social Care Council, is one of the largest social care providers in Scotland and delivers crucial support services in over 70 locations. From early years to older age, the organisation serves thousands of people in vulnerable situations in both residential and community settings. Specialisms include work with older people, including dementia support, and adults affected by mental health, homelessness, criminal justice, learning disability, and addictions. Crossreach provides small houses for children in care, an education campus for children who struggle with mainstream schooling, early years and family outreach services, and counselling services. All of this work is built on the foundation of our worship leading to compassionate service across our communities.
In 2021, the General Assembly tasked the local church with creating five-year Presbytery Mission Plans to determine how finite resources are best used in the coming decades. We know it has been a difficult, challenging and painful experience for many but this work is largely complete and now is the time to look forward with confidence in the gospel which inspires our work as a Church in Scotland.’

My letter in reply was published in The Herald on 1st October 2023

‘David Cameron’s public relations article (God is not finished with Scotland, 28 September) reflects the second commandment of Jesus to love our neighbours as ourselves. The first commandment of Jesus is to love God with all our heart and soul and strength. The Church of Scotland Mission Plan is largely horizontal in nature, dealing with ecclesiastical organisation. A vertical solution is required to recover Christianity’s place in Scotland. Deeper, more fundamental questions need to be asked. Is Christianity intellectually credible? Is church decline a contradiction of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Why are so few men and women being called to the ministry of the Church of Scotland? Why does the Church of Scotland publicly reflect the spirit of the age, being politically correct, progressive and woke? Why does its parochial mentality still reflect Cultural Protestantism (God, Freemasonry, Robert Burns, Football) rather than Jesus Christ?

Communist Russia utilised the ideology of the ‘Five Year Plan’ to promote economic development. It was all a house of cards, a large ‘ponzi scheme’. Team leaders and sector bosses falsified production figures to give exaggerated accounts of progress. A contemporary comparison can be made with the wrong intelligence advice given to Vladimir Putin about how easy it would be to invade Ukraine and conquer Kyiv.

The Christianity of most parish churches is a mixture of inarticulate expression and nominal practice. Hot-housing the same understanding and mentality to do ‘mission’ is unlikely to work. It is just mission washing. First commandment Christianity is growing here and there in the Church of Scotland but most often in independent new evangelical congregations, from whom the Church of Scotland has a lot to learn.’

Several replies were published.

‘I AM much in agreement with Rev Dr Robert Anderson’s letter (September 30) on the Church of Scotland. While his comments are apt in many respects, it would have been good to learn of a constructive solution.
Those who are grieved by the present situation face the three-fold dilemma of remaining to support the local congregation, of realigning with a spiritually-active congregation or attempting to become a church independent of hierarchical control. This is not an easy choice, especially in rural locations.
At the recent Guild National Gathering the theme of “New Wine in New Wineskins” was discussed. Have we realised what the “Old Wineskins” might be, and how the system of the 16th century might be hampering progress? How good it would be if the heavy controlling of the Higher Courts could be removed, and churches allowed to look after their own affairs, while any higher authority would exist to help, support, advise and educate. Our desperately-struggling society needs to experience a love that is Christ-centred as well as neighbour-reaching.’
Alistair Macleod, Elie.

‘I READ with surprise Dr Robert Anderson's letter about the Church of Scotland. I could critique the church on theological grounds but to say that its troubles emanate from an interest in God, I would have thought that a fundamental, but then to bring in Rabbie Burns, freemasonry and football seems to me rubbish.’
Robert Ferguson Gibson, Blanefield.

DR Robert Anderson (Letters, September 30) asks: “Why does the Church of Scotland publicly reflect the spirit of the age, being politically correct, progressive and woke?” I suggest the reason is that among the church’s objectives are “to respond to human need by loving service, to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth”. Unlike Dr Anderson I welcome the fact that “the spirit of the age”, at least to some extent, reflects the teaching of Jesus, thereby giving us some hope for the future.
I do not want your readers to be left with the impression that Dr Anderson's ultra-conservative, judgmental version of Christianity is all that is on offer. In fact I suggest his interpretation is what turns many away from listening to what Jesus has to say. After all, Jesus is the ultimate in “wokeness” used in its original sense, “being awake to social and racial injustice”, before it was captured by the Right and used as a term of abuse.
John Milne, Uddingston.

I replied to John Milne's 4 October reply to my letter of 1 October?

A circular was recently sent out from 121 George Street. Here is an extract. ‘The Church of Scotland is forming an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group as we strive to shape strategies and tailored projects fit for the whole Church in this very important area. This group’s focus will be to ensure that the culture, policies and practices of the Church reflect our values in general, and the values of equality and inclusion in particular, based on the “protected characteristics” set out in the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation).'

The circular mentions ‘our values in general’. What are these? Are they based on the Church’s Declaratory Articles? Do they reflect the founding principles of the Reformation? Are they Biblical? Are they moral, spiritual? Do they connect with and reflect Christianity of the centuries? Are they faithful to Jesus Christ? The Church of Scotland’s exercise of political correctness has damaged it irreversibly. Founding principles have been abandoned. Little distinct Christian identity remains. The Church offers no alternative, no Gospel, no Christian challenge to contemporary understanding and mores. And here it is again immersing itself in post modern cultural wokery. It offers no theology, no spirituality, no confession and no disagreement with nor even any evaluation of the extremities of intersectionality, critical race theory, post colonial theory and queer theory.

Kirk's principles are sound

Rev Dr John Harvey replied

CONTRARY to what the Rev Dr Robert Anderson (Letters, October 6) would have us believe, the Kirk’s principles are very firmly in place.

In this month’s issue of the Kirk’s magazine, Life and Work, he can read some of them in the article by the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, this year’s Moderator of the General Assembly. She argues passionately that the Kirk must always stand alongside the poorest in society - not only through its wide-ranging charitable activities, but above all in campaigning for justice. In her article, she writes that “the Church of Scotland and others join the Poverty Alliance to call on the Scottish Government and our communities to actively support those living in poverty in this country” and instances the need for “fair pay for social care ... fair funding for the third sector, adequate incomes; food; housing and transport”.

She quotes Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor”, and takes that to mean, as I do, that this is stating his vision: “ a world where everyone has enough and can live a dignified life.”

For me, as for millions of Christians, these are Gospel principles, and Sally’s words set them clearly before us all.

Rev Dr John Harvey, Glasgow.

Robert Anderson 2017

To contact Robert, please use this email address: