Attending the General Assembly

P1040677This week I was in Edinburgh, with two of the elders, Calum Macleod and Donnie Buchanan, on ‘official business’. The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) met from 18 to 21 May 2015 at Liberton Kirk, Edinburgh, and it was our duty to be present as commissioners.

It was a joy for us to see a fellow-Rudhach, Rev Kenneth Macdonald, Scalpay, originally from Upper Bayble, take the chair as Moderator.

Mr Macdonald’s Address to us as Moderator focused on the influence of the Church upon society. He emphasized the advantages of the Reformation heritage of the Church in Scotland, and urged active engagement with a hostile world. He particularly pressed on the ministers present the need for active commitment to pastoral work within their local communities.

We all observed that the Assembly was marked by a peaceful and united spirit throughout, and was a highly encouraging week. The key decision was the admission of a new minister, Rev Dr Jorge Ruiz Ortiz (pictured), of Miranda de Ebro, Spain.

Dr Ruiz Ortiz is an experienced and highly qualified minister. He teaches theology to students throughout the Spanish-speaking world, and is actively engaged with Trinitarian Bible Society in preparing the new Spanish translation of the Scriptures. He ministers to groups of believers in Miranda, in Bilbao, and near Barcelona, but was forced to terminate his prior denominational link due to his embracing the Regulative Principle in Worship.

He has formed a close friendship with a Spanish-speaking minister of the Free Church (Continuing), Rev Bill Scott, formerly a missionary in Peru. Mr Scott and Dr Ruiz Ortiz hope to work to develop their contacts in the hope that an indigenous Spanish denomination can eventually be formed on a solidly Reformed and confessional basis.

Other positive reports to the General Assembly concerned the development of the missions work in Zambia and Sri Lanka, new manses purchased for the congregations of Beauly, North Uist, Partick and Dores, two new ordinations of ministers in the past year, and a further application for admission, from Rev Iain Smith (another Rudhach!), expected later this year.

The Assembly gave permission for the Church to develop further its electronic ministry through Facebook and Twitter, and also instructed the Missions Committee to work with Christian Witness to Israel in developing proposals for the Church to actively engage in Jewish evangelism. On hearing of the adverse judgment given against them, which came on the Tuesday, the Assembly agreed to send a letter of support to the owners of the Asher’s bakery in Northern Ireland.

I can’t speak for the elders, but I looked forward to the General Assembly with some trepidation, conscious that it can be an event charged with controversy. However, I am glad to say that the week was mutually encouraging and strengthening, based not on differences, but on shared fellowship in the Gospel.

There was one low point: on the Monday I had some free time, and sat in the public gallery of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I was deeply saddened to see this large gathering so evidently committed to a retreat from the truth of the Scriptures. I saw women, who call themselves ministers, speaking proudly of their ecumenical links with the Church of Rome. I heard applause as they quoted the Pope of Rome, after his meeting with last year’s Moderator, commenting that what divided their churches was far less than what united them – a tragic indictment if indeed it is true. I read that just the Saturday before, they had voted that practising homosexuals in civil partnerships were eligible for ordination to the ministry.

And saddest of all, on the podium, in red and black robes like a Roman Cardinal, a living embodiment of the tragedy of compromise: the presiding Moderator, Rev Angus Morrison, originally ordained into the ministry of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

May the Lord preserve each one of us from bringing shame on His Cause.

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