I NOTE with interest your report with regard to the upcoming meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ("Mission impossible? Kirk looks at radical shake-up after £4.5m loss", The Herald, May 15).

Some of us past the Psalmist's three score years and 10 can remember the days when our grandparents, parents and most of our relatives attended Church of Scotland services on a Sunday. For some, it has to be said, such attendance was not out of deep religious conviction, but rather because it was the expected thing to do, like a family tradition.

The problem today for the Kirk is a complex one, including losing money, lack of ministerial resources, and falling congregations. The profound problem, however, with which it is faced, is that it has failed to appeal sufficiently to at least one generation. Some would say two generations. More and more people see no need in their lives for overt or private religious observance. It can only be cold comfort to realise that this problem is shared with many other Christian denominations in this country.

The Radical Action Plan to be submitted to the General Assembly, sets out ideas to build up a £25 million growth fund which could be used to develop "new ways of doing church". I say good luck and Godspeed with that.

There is a sometimes-difficult balance to be found in finding these ways between upsetting the existing membership and attracting those not already involved. However, I believe that it is clear, and has been for some time, that new ways are needed, otherwise the Church of Scotland is heading for a very bleak future. What should be getting discussed seriously and at length now is how change is to be effected, not the need for it.

Ian W Thomson,


PROPOSED managerial solutions will not help the Church of Scotland to survive. The Church of Scotland continues to pursue business solutions rather than Christ-focused ones. Christianity as understood and practised in the Church of Scotland is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Why is this the case? For more than 400 years the Church of Scotland represented a type of faith which was existential in nature. God and People, People and God met together. The model was found in the Old rather than the New Testament, and there was a sense of community, identity and history similar to that seen in Judaism, rather than that of the first centuries of the Christian Church with its Jesus Christ-centred consciousness. There is something desperately second-hand about the phrase "the ordinances of religion" which were to be dispensed throughout the length and breadth of Scotland by the national church on a territorial basis. Centuries of nominalism resulted and its heritage informs the Church of Scotland’s current predicament.

The Church of Scotland remains a "God-centred church" rather than a "Jesus Christ-centred church". God, history, Jesus Christ was the order of understanding at the Reformation in Scotland which had a strong political dimension, and the Covenanting struggles of the 17th century, which were political and violent as well as spiritual in nature, strengthened that sense of identity and calling. But Protestantism’s individualisation leads logically to secularism. The Church of Scotland has been marginalised largely due to its own fault. It has validated secularism and political correctness rather than having continued to call people to Christ and to Christianity. This helps to account for the inconclusive content of its contemporary message.

Folk religion is practised as part of Church of Scotland congregational life and parish ministry. Members’ conversations are social in nature, before and after worship and even during worship at the taking up of the offering. The Church of Scotland is not a clearly identifiable Christian entity. It is a social organisation which reflects the values of contemporary life and offers little distinctive alternative interpretation of events.

The structures and proceedings of the Church of Scotland are not Christian. They are the superimposition of late medieval legalism over the souls of many who aspire to Christian life and witness.

Centralised management has taken the Church of Scotland away from its Presbyterian roots. The annual Gilbert and Sullivan opening to the General Assembly will take place on Saturday. A week of hand-wringing will follow. The real issues about the Church of Scotland will not be addressed. The loss of evangelicals since 2009 has seriously damaged the Church of Scotland. Even more rapid decline in ministerial vocations and reduction in finances have followed. There are enough gifted and able people in the Church of Scotland to re-Christianise the land. But it is now a hostile environment for Christian piety, the wellspring of renewal and revival throughout Christian history.

Rev Dr Robert Anderson,


THE Scots prefer their whisky neat and their morals religion-free. Next week the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland will once again address its membership crisis. Membership has fallen by around 20 per cent in five years, from 413,000 in 2011 to 336,000 at the end of 2017. Can I respectfully suggest that they remove the pews from their empty kirks, install modest toilet and shower facilities and do the Christian thing by making them available to Scotland's growing number of homeless?

Doug Clark,