Why I’m in the Church of Scotland

Why I’m in the Church of Scotland….

Rev David M Clark, Minister, Retired

During Autumn 2011, I worked through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Again and again I was challenged by what was taught about ‘church’, that there was something uniquely sacred about the ‘body of Christ’ even with all its inherent weakness and failing. I suspected that as ‘protestants’ we had too often resorted to ‘splitting of’ and ‘separating from’ those around who didn’t match what we regarded as being the highest doctrinal and moral standards. Two years later I experienced at close-hand a splitting of a fellowship. It was quite evident that the breaking apart of ‘a community of faith’ was extremely painful, messy, and not God-honouring. Consequently, I’ve found myself being led to encourage people not to leave their church but to trust an all-powerful God to work out His purpose even when situations are at times deeply unsatisfactory.

Along with this, I believe in taking a long perspective and suggest that over the past 50 years there has been a remarkable growth of evangelical witness within the Church of Scotland. This, of course, is of God’s doing. I do consider it important to hold onto this big perspective especially on occasions when there are struggles, disappointments, and setbacks – all of which should be expected. I have a trust in God’s long- term purpose and intention for the Church of Scotland.

Rev Jim Dewar, Minister, Edinburgh: Juniper Green

Nearly 40 years ago, God called me to ministry in the Church of Scotland and clearly and specifically to this denomination; that deep sense of call has not gone away. At that time, one of my mentors said that he would only leave when the denomination prevented him from preaching the gospel. Today, I see two things: first, I see the Spirit of God at work in the Church of Scotland, drawing people to Jesus through the preaching of the gospel, and we’re having to run to catch up with the Spirit; second I see huge opportunities for mission, doors that are open and remain open to me to take the gospel to people and places where Jesus is not known.

Rev Mark Malcolm, Minister, Chryston

The simplest answer to ministering in the Church of Scotland is God’s call. That call has not changed and neither has the task of Gospel proclamation. Despite the issues that we are facing I believe that it is possible to remain in the Church of Scotland with integrity and in obedience to scripture. The Church of Scotland I believe is crucial to the Church in Scotland, not least in that it stretches to every part of the country and into every community. We are in need though of renewal and reformation. To that end I remain committed to the task God has called us to and I am grateful to groups like COSEN that seek to proclaim the Good News.

Rev Alistair May, Minister, Rutherglen: Stonelaw

I entered the Church of Scotland ministry not because of the faithfulness in doctrine or practice of the denomination, but because God called me to serve here. There may very well be a less compromised denomination out there, but God called me to this troublesome one. More specifically he called me to the people of Rutherglen. I cannot leave either of those callings unless he calls me elsewhere.  Thankfully that calling isn’t about my adequacies, or about the adequacies of those to whom I am called. Certainly working out that calling in the current situation is difficult, and I can think of many easier, less conflicting, situations I’d rather be in. But, then, who said it would be easy? For me, the decision to remain is as simple (and as difficult) as that. 

Rev Lynn McChlery, Associate Minister, Cambuslang: Flemington Hallside

I’m in the Church of Scotland because it’s the best boat to fish from. I believe that church is a mercy ship for the needy, not an ark for the saved. In Scotland today the Church of Scotland is still the most widespread, credible and accessible entry point to the Kingdom for the vast majority of our population who have little time for faith and even less time for church quarrels. At our best, we have unrivalled opportunities to present Jesus through funerals and bereavement care, chaplaincy in schools and elsewhere, and a pervasive presence in serving our local communities. Like the New Testament churches, we are mixed, flawed and imperfect: wheat and tares, sheep and goats. We should not rejoice in that but repent of it – yet somewhere in “the sacred boring and holy ordinary” faces of our congregations, the face of Jesus is seen.

Rev Dave Rankin, Minister, Perth: Riverside

I fell into the Church of Scotland. I believed God wanted me to become a minister and, after many years avoiding this notion, eventually I applied to the Church of Scotland. I grew up in this denomination and it seemed like the obvious place to test my calling. I had mixed feelings about being accepted to study for ministry but I have found that this is where God wants me.

It is a challenging time to be part of the Kirk, but I am encouraged that God continues to call people to serve here. I have met many faithful and inspiring, Spirit filled, disciples of Jesus Christ through my work in the denomination. I am grateful for those who have mentored and discipled me. I have also seen God continue to bless the life and growth of the Kingdom through the Kirk.

One of the things I value about the Church of Scotland is the commitment to share the Gospel amongst the poorest and most marginalised communities in Scotland.

Rev Alan Reid, Minister, Kinross

Having been brought up in the Church of Scotland, I came to faith in Christ in my home church as a teenager and was called to the ministry. Although I experienced a variety of church traditions while I was a student and realised that there was often more spiritual life in other denominations than in the Church of Scotland, my calling was to be a parish minister with the particular challenges and blessings that brings.

In my first charge, I served for nearly 20 years in a rural context and during that time was involved in local ecumenical projects with the Congregational Union and then with the United Free Church. During that time, I saw at first hand the pros and cons of the workings of those two denominations at local, regional and national level but I came increasingly to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ exists primarily as the universal, invisible Body of Christ and in visible, local expressions of that and that no denomination is perfect. While there is unquestionably a great deal requiring to be reformed in the Church of Scotland at this time, I believe that there is a stronger spiritual life within the Church of Scotland now than at any point in my lifetime.

My call is to serve the Lord among the people to whom He has sent me which, for better or for worse, is a congregation of the Church of Scotland with an active mission to its parish.

Rev Norman Smith, Minister, Edinburgh: Granton

I have remained in the church of Scotland because this is the denomination into which God called me and which he has not called me out of. Since the age of 14 I have witnessed God moving in the lives of many people within this denomination. Right from the time they encountered God, through lives of dedicated service and finally to their passing on. This is still the case today. I see God at work. I see lives transformed. I see the action of the Spirit. Until such a time as all the evidence points to God leaving this denomination I will continue to serve within it for the building up of his kingdom. My staying does not depend on the GA or any other body making decisions I agree with; it depends on the presence of God. To date that presence is very much alive within the denomination so within it I shall also remain.

Rev Stuart Smith, Minister, Glasgow: Partick Trinity

Having grown up in the Church of Scotland, I have long been aware of its organizational and theological weaknesses, as well as its many blessings. Recent decisions that contradict the Bible’s moral teaching and seem to undermine its authority certainly make it a more challenging context for Gospel ministry. However I also know that the real struggles I have in ministry are with my own failings as a human being, and with the hardening attitude of Scottish society to the Good News about Jesus. Leaving one denomination to form or join another will not change that, and would undoubtedly distract me from my core tasks and calling. Instead I want to strengthen fellowship and share prayer, Bible teaching and practical support with the still growing network of evangelical Christians within this branch of Christ’s church. As we renew our commitment together to the tasks of worship, mission and service, I believe the Father will continue to honour and bless what is done by the power of his Spirit, in the name of his Son.

Rev James McNay, Minister, West Kilbride Parish Church

When I was young and started going to church, I went with my two older sisters to the local church just north of Glasgow. It was the only church in the area apart from the Roman Catholic Church. The church happened to be a Church of Scotland congregation. It was in that congregation that I came to faith in Christ, grew in my faith and began to feel the stirrings of a call to the ministry. It was in the Church of Scotland that I explored that call and trained to be a minister. And I am now minister of a Church of Scotland congregation in West Kilbride where there are only ourselves and the Roman Catholic Church in the locality. The Church of Scotland is by no means perfect, but in it I have liberty to preach the gospel and many opportunities, as a parish minister, to reach out with the good news into the community. And that is a wonderful thing for which I am thankful to the Lord.