IT is disappointing that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has chosen to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism ("Church adopts anti-Semitism definition and back Holy Land Work", The Herald, May 23). The Kirk is rightly committed to condemn all forms of racism. Statistics suggest that all forms of racism are on the increase and not only anti-Semitism. To adopt this document in isolation is to suggest that anti-Semitism is somehow more important or of a higher order than others and does discredit to the Church’s intended impartiality.

Those who produced the document considered it unfinished and a work in progress. Eminent QCs have questioned its lack of clarity and many of the Jewish community have expressed their concern about its general acceptance. The Kirk might have done well to consider longer.

One of the concerns about the document is that some aspects have the potential to stifle criticism of the actions of the Israeli government. In one of its reports the Kirk admits that it has failed to speak out about events in Israel/Palestine when they occurred. Adopting this definition will do nothing to reassure Palestinians both within Israel and the occupied territories who suffer under Israeli discrimination and occupation and also the brave Israelis who pay a heavy price for challenging the actions of their government.

The Church of Scotland has considerable presence in Israel/Palestine and a responsibility to speak truth to power. One hopes that the above decision will not undermine this obligation.

Kate Aspinwall,


LIKE many others, as evidenced in your Letters Pages, I have been following with considerable interest the current debate covering the problems facing the Church of Scotland, our national church. There can be no doubt that, within the people of Scotland, there has been a significant decline in individuals declaring a serious relationship with religious beliefs. One need look no further than how important ceremonies in the lives of people are being conducted today in relation to marriages and funerals.

Figures indicated in 2017 that the Humanist Society in Scotland conducted 3,283 marriage ceremonies, stated to be a growth of eight per cent on the year before, whereas the Church of Scotland conducted 3,166, a fall of 14 per cent on 2016 figures. It is understood that there has also been significant growth in recent times in the number of funerals conducted by the Humanist Society. What this helps to show is that more and more individuals, at important times in their lives, are not inclined to follow the religious path when religion has effectively played little or no part in their life's journey.

All of this, of course, does little to mitigate the much-publicised problems of the Church of Scotland. However, it does help to underline the magnitude of the task in addressing these problems and attempting to stabilise the situation to prevent it from getting worse.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.