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Home  >  News  >  Church Affirms Black Lives Matter and Commits to Zero Emissions by 2030


Church Affirms Black Lives Matter and Commits to Zero Emissions by 2030

Saturday October 3 2020

The Church of Scotland General Assembly this afternoon (Saturday) affirmed that Black Lives Matter, reaffirming that racism is a sin and committing to a future report on the legacy of slavery and the Church.

However, the Faith Impact Forum’s proposed deliverance was not accepted without some debate on the Black Lives Matter organisation and whether it was compatible with Christian values.

The Rev Dale London said that while he approved of the sentiment of the deliverance and condemned racism, the phrase ‘black lives matter’ had been co-opted by a political group and become associated with disorder and violence. He proposed replacing ‘Black Lives Matter’ with the phrase ‘all lives matter to God’

He was supported by Seoras Mackenzie, who said: “Of course (black lives matter)… The concern that I have is that Black Lives Matter sadly is linked to a broad organisation whose political ambitions and philosophical basis I suspect might not be wholly compatible with the Christian faith.”

However, the Rev Bryan Kerr said: “I’m saddened that this has even come up. I understand where Mr London is coming from, however we as a church have to stand up and proclaim that black lives matter, and we need to do that because until they matter, we cannot simply declare that all lives matter. When people say ‘black lives matter’, it does not mean that they have been part of civil disobedience but that they want to stand with our brothers and sisters who have been subject to incredible suffering and incredible racism.”

The Rev Dr John McCulloch added: “Christ says ‘blessed are the poor’. He doesn’t say ‘blessed is everyone’. There are times when structural injustice is such that it needs to be named and called out for what it is.”

Faith Impact Convener Susan Brown said: “We have to be very careful about the message we convey. Indeed all lives matter and all lives matter to God… but the problem is people don’t always love one another. We need to live as if all lives matter. Right at this moment, however that is not how this society is shaped.

“All lives matter, but we have not lived as though they do. We have a system in which because of the colour of their skin, some people are treated unequally. Saying ‘black lives matter’ is not about excluding everybody else. It’s about focusing on deepest need. Jesus had a particular passion for the poorest and the most marginalised and those who were suffering most, and he focused on them above all others.”

Mr London’s amendment was defeated and the original motion passed by 315 votes to 116.

Also during the Faith Impact debate, there was concern that a report on the climate emergency originally intended to be presented to the Assembly had been withdrawn, with Dr Brown, and convener of the former Church and Society Council the Rev Dr Richard Frazer, both expressing frustration. Principal Clerk, the Rev Dr George Whyte, emphasised that there had been several large pieces of work from other committees and groups which it had been decided could not be included in the short Assembly.

The Assembly did pass a motion calling for the church at all levels to work towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and to bring an outline strategy to the General Assembly of 2021; and for Faith Impact to report to next year’s assembly ‘on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against urgent disinvestment from oil and gas companies’.

Also during a marathon afternoon session, the Convener of the Faith Nurture Forum, the Rev Rosemary Frew, urged the church to build on the innovations that have been forced upon it by the covid-19 epidemic.

She said: “As we look to the future, a future with fewer buildings and fewer ministers of word and sacrament, we must continue to explore new ways of being church and build on our lockdown learnings. Be it through the development of learning communities and Fresh Expressions Incubators; or by learning from those on the edge in priority areas and rural areas; or by exploring existing initiatives such as Path of Renewal and Future Focus; or by financial investment in the equipment needed, this will be a priority for the life of the Church in these coming months and years. The potential in the new is transformative and inspiring.”

The moderator of the last National Youth Assembly (NYA), Dana McQuater, paid tribute to the former conveners and staff who had supported the NYA over 25 years. She said it had been difficult for those involved in the NYA to understand why it had been brought to an end, but added: “We look forward in hope to young people finding new ways to become involved in the decision making of this church.”

The General Trustees presented its report on ‘well-equipped spaces in the right places’, with chairman Raymond Young urging the Church to be willing to ‘prune’ its building estate, while dealing sensitively with the disposal of unneeded buildings, and to work in partnership with other denominations and community groups on new buildings.

Closing the proceedings the Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, recalled great sporting comebacks to illustrate that it was ‘not over’ for the Church of Scotland: “Yes, we’re going to have to do more with less. No, we’re not nearly there yet in terms of re-structuring. Yes, there’s pruning still to be done and planting, yes, we still lack clarity in terms of actualising the vision in its next steps. But God’s not finished with us yet.”

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