MY wife and I are members of St George's Tron Church and were at the prayer meeting on Wednesday night along with about 100 others.
As we arrived at the meeting we saw two men who were clearly not there for the meeting, who were asking to speak to a number of people, and handing over some papers. One member of the congregation, who was helping an elderly and frail lady negotiate the ice and snow outside to get into the building, was stopped from proceeding into the meeting so that this member could be spoken to and given papers .
About 15 minutes into the meeting, our minister was forced to leave the meeting to also receive papers from these two men. We then became aware that the Church of Scotland had instructed these men (Messengers-at-Arms) to serve a court action on a number of individuals, and must have told them to do so at the time of the church prayer meeting. It would have been possible for the Church of Scotland to serve this action at a different time, but our view they intended – and succeeded in – intimidating the members of the congregation, some of whom are frail and vulnerable. Our minister was visibly shaken.
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The whole meeting was aware of the disruption and, when told what it was about, felt shocked and intimidated; some of more vulnerable members were frightened. Our Iranian members who were there were particularly troubled, having fled Iran to avoid this type of intimidation and persecution. It was utterly disgraceful.
We understand the purpose of the papers was to prevent us from removing items from our church building when we are evicted – items we have bought over the past few years with our own money – chairs to sit on, the organ, our Bibles and so on. The Church of Scotland is currently closing 30 churches in Glasgow, and already has 17 churches for sale. It has ample supplies of the very items it is seeking to snatch from us. Why would it want to prevent us from having chairs, Bibles and hymnbooks? The Kirk is already taking our building, with £2.6 million of investment which we have paid for.
We can only conclude that the Church of Scotland hierarchy is using every method at its disposal to destroy the work of St George's Tron, and damage both the health, and the reputations, of its leaders. Shame on them.
John and Elspeth Taylor,
1 Kilmardinny Drive, Bearsden.
I VIEW as a matter of deep uneasiness and concern that the affairs of the Church of Scotland produced front-page headlines in The Herald on December 7 ("Kirk under fire as court officers disrupt prayers", ) and December 8 ("Court papers served at minister's home"). This represents more than a public relations nightmare. Anyone with the genuine interests at heart of our national church must also share these sentiments. There were occasions, albeit not of a recent vintage, when the Church of Scotland appeared in the headlines of a more edifying and uplifting nature.
The Church of Scotland has been in decline since the 1950s/1960s and it is undeniable that trend has continued in relation to manpower, finance, capability to maintain a presence in communities, and national influence. The centuries of deeply influential Scottish presbyterian culture are on the wane. Furthermore, Scotland is now unequivocally a multi-cultural society, including many of Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and other faiths.
The Church of Scotland is now faced with a disconcerting dilemma over the question of those in gay relationships and their role within the organisation of the church. The process towards making a decision to resolve that dilemma is scheduled to come to a conclusion at the General Assembly next year. It is maintained that commissioners appointed to attend that assembly by their individual churches should go prepared to listen to the debate which will take place. However, it must be very difficult for such commissioners to be opinion-free in view of the prior consultation already carried out within the church and the glare of publicity on this issue. In fact the position already taken in relation to the ministerial arrangements in a congregation in Aberdeen gives evidence of the Church of Scotland having at least adopted a provisional stance, which some would say presents difficulty in retreating from.
I consider that there are many within the church, who, while accepting that those of a gay orientation are welcome within the church, do not wish to have a gay person acting as their clergy. There are also those who look upon the fundamental break-down between St George's Tron and the Church of Scotland and fear that this is something of a preliminary bout, figuratively speaking, before the main event next year, which could lead on to a schism. This, of course, is a situation which the Church of Scotland in its reduced state does not need and can little afford.
If more and more litigation should ensue during this and subsequent years then I believe that the main beneficiaries will be the legal profession with everyone else involved sharing some of the sadness, apprehension, and distress.
Ian W Thomson,
38 Kirkintilloch Road,
AS a former member of St George's Tron, I have been shocked by the decision of its minister and Kirk Session, first to withhold many months of Ministry and Mission payments intended for use in the wider work of the church, and then to secede without being prepared to face the inevitable consequences. I have also been surprised by those who have suggested that the presbytery is somehow being unfair or un-Christian in its response.
The Church of Scotland is a charity answerable to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Suppose the manager and volunteers working in a national charity shop decided to become independent, removed all reference to the national charity from their signage, and then announced their intention to remain in the same shop, regardless of ownership, and to sell the same goods for their own benefit. And suppose they also retained, for their own use, several hundred thousand pounds of donations intended for the charity whose shop they occupied. Might not the national charity and OSCR have something to say about it?
Like all Church of Scotland congregations, St George's Tron is part of a national presbyterian church in which well-off churches support the less well-off. However, the minister and Kirk Session have behaved as if it were an independent church.
I would suggest that it is their desire to become independent which lies at the heart of their secession, and that the possible outcome of next year's debate on gay clergy was simply a convenient excuse, invoked early in case the debate's eventual outcome is not what they expect.
Rev David A Collins,
25 Ballinard Gardens,
MEMBERS of the St George's Tron congregation appear to be hurting at what they perceive as their unloving rejection and, indeed, persecution by intolerant and legalistic Church of Scotland authorities unwilling to accept their pursuing the course that accords with their conscience.
This is curiously reminiscent of the experience of homosexual men and women at the hands of Evangelical churches. Indeed, the eviction of the Tron congregation might be thought to carry an echo of cases in which homosexual couples have been turned out of boarding houses run by Evangelicals.
Given that the present dispute arises from the attitude of the Tron congregation to gay people in the Kirk, the Tron congregation may care to consider whether the events they have recently experienced are a means whereby God is conveying a message to them, comparable to the way in which the God of the Old Testament used events to convey his will.
19 Larchfield Road,