Kirk gay row: the ugly face of liberal bigotry
This is a guest post by the Rev'd Julian Mann (aka Cranmer's Curate):
The persecution by the Church of Scotland of St George's Tron, a thriving evangelical church in Glasgow city centre, reveals the ugly face of liberal bigotry. This ogre will haunt the Church of England if its militant liberal wing wins the argument over gay marriage.
St George's, now called The Tron Church, has left the Church of Scotland because of the decision by its General Assembly to accept practising homosexual ministers. The congregation has moved out of its building on which it has spent a lot of money recently refurbishing but, not content with that, the Church of Scotland has resorted to legal action over disputed assets.
Shortly before the congregation left its building, the Kirk called in Sheriff's officers over some items of movable property. The 'sheriffs' entered the building to 'serve papers' during the church family's mid-week prayer meeting. The Kirk is now complaining to the Scottish charity regulator over the transfer of financial assets to a charitable trust set up by St George's before the congregation left.
One of the ironies here is that the senior pastor of Tron, the Revd Dr William Philip, is one of the most gracious, kindly, humble Christians Cranmer's Curate has ever met. He undoubtedly shares many theological convictions in common with the magisterial Scottish Reformer John Knox, but temperamentally the two men are about as different as Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.
The legalities of the Tron dispute may be complicated but the morality is not. If a liberal congregation wishes to leave the Church of England because of its current clear stand against gay marriage, then the right response by the Anglican authorities for the cause of Jesus Christ is to let them go.
Let them keep their building and their assets. Evangelical churches would not be abandoning communities to a false gospel by supporting tolerance in this instance. They can plant new churches that proclaim the true gospel. Such 'fresh expressions of church' meeting in secular venues, experience shows, can grow very rapidly. It is surely better to let the cursed fig tree die of its own accord than to hire lawyers to pour poison over it. What would orthodox Christians achieve for the Kingdom of God and of His Christ by sending a posse of sheriffs against a liberal congregation that wants to secede?
But politically corrrect liberals in both the church and the state determinedly set their faces against such an eminently sensible and tolerant approach. They have to conquer; they cannot live and let live. They are the secular equivalent of militant Islamists in their desire to occupy every inch of their enemies' territory.
If the Church of England gives in to politically correct pressure to celebrate gay marriage, then evangelical congregations and their ministers must expect this sort of treatment. For the sake of the Body of Christ, it is necessary to be wise before the demons of liberal bigotry are unleashed in their terrible fury.
Julian Mann is vicar Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK.