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'We demand to share in the privilege'

Saturday May 19 2018

The Very Rev Dr Browning installs The Rt Rev Susan Brown as Moderator of the General Assembly


The outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has mounted a strong defence of the right of the church to be involved in Scottish public life.

The Very Rev Dr Derek Browning told the opening morning of the 2018 Assembly that it was "Beyond wearying to be given the impression that some parts of civic Scotland find it difficult to work with us because ‘they don’t do God’".

“It’s not simply about doing God, it’s about doing humanity. The church is happy enough to do God, but for goodness’ sake take us seriously when we ask to work in partnership in our nation and ask to play our part in helping the vulnerable, the forgotten and the poor of our land.

“We do not demand participation from a place of privilege, we demand to share in the privilege of serving others alongside national and local government and charities and NGOs, and not to be excluded because faith is part of our profile. The church has so much to offer in partnership.”

However, he challenged the church to ‘change the narrative’ of decline, saying "Times may be tough… but we do ourselves no favours if in reports and other means we buy into the stories of despair and decline punted by others as if they were the only stories to tell. They are not."

He also said that serving as Moderator had been ‘a huge privilege, that goes without saying… (but) it has also been absolutely outrageous fun’. Picking out his favourite moments, he remembered blessing the Queensferry Crossing, meeting the Pope and chatting to a young service user at a CrossReach facility in Kilmarnock.

His successor as Moderator, the Rt Rev Susan Brown, told the Assembly ‘you have absolutely no idea how humbled I am by the honour this assembly has bestowed upon me, and how moved I am’.

In her letter to the General Assembly, the Queen referred to the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Church of Scotland, which will be celebrated on Tuesday. She wrote: “It is good to see the church is celebrating the contribution women have made in this role. We are encouraged that in the Church of Scotland women and men play a full and equal part in leadership and service.”

The Lord High Commissioner, the Duke of Buccleuch, also referred to the anniversary in his opening speech, adding: “May we pay tribute to some of those here today for their wisdom and dogged determination, who achieved such progress so that today women can be properly and fully at the heart of the church.”

There was laughter round the hall during the reading of The Queen’s letter in which Her Majesty spoke of being unable to be present at the General Assembly because of her other ‘weighty affairs’; and applause during the Lord High Commissioner’s speech as he wished Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ‘all happiness in years to come’ on their wedding day.

There was a warm greeting for the Rev Rola Sleimann, the first female Christian minister in the Middle East, who was unable to attend last year because of visa issues. Offering thanks on behalf of all the overseas delegates, Ms Sleimann said that women in the Church of Scotland had been role models for Christian women in other churches around the world.

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Comments

Rev. William Habib Steele, MA, MDiv, - Sunday, May 20th, 2018

“The demands of the departing Moderator, Dr. Brown, that the Church "... share in the privilege of serving others alongside national and local government and charities and NGOs, and not to be excluded because faith is part of our profile" is rather magisterial.

Dr. Brown does not seem to realise that Christendom is passé, and the Church is no longer in a position to make demands. Dr Brown does not seem to recognise that everyone has faith, and lives life out of faith commitments. The church making demands is in itself to assert a position of privilege that does not recognise the reality of a multi-faith nation and society.

The three or four proposals being drawn up for a written constitution for independent Scotland, advocate that Scotland be a secular state and nation. Neither the Church of Scotland nor any other Christian Church, nor any other religion, are envisaged as having any place in the civic and public life of the nation. Rather, religion is envisaged as being relegated to the private life of persons.

This vision of a Secular nation in which religion is relegated to the private realm, is dangerous. For to be Secular is not to be non-religious, but to have unacknowledged religious beliefs and values as assumptions in public life. A Secular state would impose an unacknowledged state religion on its citizens, and would actually deny freedom of religion to its citizens. France, with its denial of Muslim women the right to dress as they wish in public, is an example!

A vision of a religiously pluralistic state and nation accords with the reality of modern life, the plurality of religions in the nation, and freedom of religion.

The Church of Scotland would do well to take its place as a denomination of one religion, Christianity, along with other Christian denominations, and other religions, from Islam and Hinduism and Wicca, as welcomed and embraced by the State. Each ought to be given a place in the life of the nation.

A Multi-religious council could be established for the Government and Parliament to consult on legislation and policies that impinge on the spiritual and moral life of citizens. Secularists and Secularist organizations would be included at the table, but not in a position of privilege.

The above does not assume religious relativism, nor the denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life, society, state, etc.. It acknowledges that how Christ's Lordship is exercised in Church, is markedly different from how it is exercises in state, society etc.. It acknowledges that Jesus Christ does not force His Lordship on the world.”


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