Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Month: May 2014

General Assembly continuing on path towards ordaining gay ministers

The minister writes-
The General Assembly today voted 369 to 189 to accept a proposal from its Legal Questions Committee on a possible way forward in the ‘gay ministers’ debate.
Last year’s assembly had accepted a proposal from former Moderator the Very Rev Albert Bogle which, while affirming a traditional view of sexual relationships as the norm in the church, sought to allow Kirk Sessions to ‘depart’ from tradition if they were willing to induct a minister in a civil partnership.
A report was accepted from the Theological Forum which spoke of the possibility of a ‘mixed economy’, in which a church might accept exceptions from normal practice in the case of issues which are not central to the Christian faith. They pointed to examples from the early church, the reformation and in recent years where congregations and individuals were given the freedom to deviate from the majority of the church. A fascinating debate, in which the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance fielded complex theological questions with grace and thoughtfulness on behalf of his Panel, prepared the way for the Legal Questions debate after lunch.
Moderator John Chalmers led the assembly through three amendments and a countermotion, as well as the original’ ‘Overture’. The final vote, following prayer brought to an end hours of sometimes painful and passionate debate, from which the Overture survived unchanged.
The Overture now goes to presbyteries across the country to vote on over the next year. If a majority of presbyteries vote in favour, the legislation will come back to next Year’s assembly for final approval. Presbytery approval is no means guaranteed. However, the size of today’s majority, and the support the Overture has received from across the theological breadth of the church, may mean it has a good chance of receiving the presbytery approval, perhaps making it into law as early as next year.
Since the Overture deals only with civil partnerships, the Acting Principal Clerk, the Rev George Whyte, asked and received approval for the Theological Forum and the Legal Questions Committee to also consider whether the provisions of the Overture should also apply to ministers in same-sex marriages, which should become legal in Scotland in the course of the next 12 months.
Reports on today, as usual, are available from Life and Work and Douglas Aitken. There is also press release from the Church.
The big report tomorrow is from the Church and Society Council, of which I have been a member for the last year.

Tuesday at the General Assembly

The minister writes-
The assembly began on Tuesday with prayers for the family of the Rev Tom Sinclair, Clerk of the Presbytery Lewis, who had tragically died in a road accident following the previous day’s sitting.
The Mission and Discipleship brought a report which included a survey from the Highlands of of non-churchgoers who consider themselves Christians, and the first major report on interfaith matters for many years. I was happy to speak in support of a successful motion from the floor instructing the council to provide materials supporting ministers running new members’ courses. We also heard of the work of the National Youth Assembly, and of the Guild.
On the World Mission report, we heard that the plight of the Christians of Pakistan continues to be a major concern. The Very Rev David Lunan spoke powerfully about people trafficking, which he said was modern-day day slavery, encompassing hundreds of women in Scotland victims, not of prostitution, but multiple rape. And there was a moving moment as the Assembly remembered, with prayer, Jane Haining from Dunscore, who defied an instruction to leave the Jewish children she cared for children in Hungary and died in Auswitch with them 70 years ago.
Finally, there was a special, session, billed as a ‘respectful dialogue’ on the questions raised by the independence referendum. Douglas Alexander MP and the Rev Dr Doug Gay gave the opening speeches for a session which was thoughtful and lived up to its billing. We were reminded that there is no them and us, only us. For anyone who believes that religion brings only conflict and division, this example of the church at its best would have been an eye-opener! It was certainly the best debate on the subject I’ve ever heard.
Hopefully there will continue to be respectful dialogue today as we take up the issue of gay clergy.
Douglas Aitken’s excellent reports can be read or listened to here.
The Life and Work reports on the Assembly are here.

Methodists to celebrate at Old High Church Wesley's first visit 250 years ago

Inverness Methodist Church this year celebrates the 250th anniversary of the first visit of its founder, the famous evangelist John Wesley, to the town for the first time, when he met an already thriving Methodist Society, founded locally only three years before.

Latest reports on the General Assembly

The minister writes-
At the assembly on Monday, perhaps the most surprising occurrence was the Assembly’s enthusiastic backing for a series of reforms to the recruitment and training of ministers proposed, from the floor, by Dr Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College, at Glasgow University, in spite of some opposition from the Ministries Council. This will see the church embark on a ‘Decade of Ministry’, with the aim of recruiting 30 candidate for ministry training, and 100 church members for training in mission.
Near the start of the day there was vociferous condemnation of discrimination against women, following retiring Moderator Lorna Hood’s speech on Saturday night in which she said she had been told she would be unwelcome in the pulpits of some churches in a Highland presbytery.
The Very Rev David Lacey asked, “What action can this Assembly take about this flagrant disobedience of its own Acts, or is there some conceivable reason that we should just let it pass?” The Acting Principal Clerk replied that church law allowed anyone who felt discriminated against to make a complaint.
On Sunday, this congregation member enjoyed the service at St Giles’ with a sermon by the moderator which began with a story from American humourist Garrison Keillor. He then spent the afternoon manning a photo booth at Heart and Soul to publicize Imagining Scotland’s Future.
Elsewhere, the BBC reports that around 250 members of the Western Isles’ largest Church of Scotland are leaving for the Free Kirk over the issues of gay clergy. The issue will be debated here on Wednesday.
The main business tomorrow will be the report of the Mission and Discipleship Council and an informal debate on independence.
Douglas Aitken’s reports on Saturday and Monday at the General Assembly are now online. You can read or listen to them here.
There are also excellent reports from Life and Work here.

Monday at the General Assembly

The minister writes-
Monday at the General Assembly traditionally begins with Holy Communion.
The main business of the day is the report of the Ministries Council.
They report that the numbers entering parish ministry is at its lowest in a generation. 80% of current ministers are aged over 50, and only 2 younger than 30. Church of Scotland will be short of over 200 parish ministers by the early 2020s. Among other responses to these challenges are new initiatives to encourage members to consider calls to ministry.
More on the 2014, including the daily timetable, here

Daily report on the General Assembly

The minister writes-
Every evening during the Kirk’s General Assembly there are excellent daily summaries of the day’s businnes posted to the Church of Scotland website at
http://stream1.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/general_assembly/news_updates. This is a great way to hear about what’s happening each day. You can either read or listen to Douglas Aitken’s reports.
Tomorrow, it’s General Assembly service at St Giles’ High Kirk in the morning, and Heart and Soul will showcase the Kirk and it’s activities in the afternoon. I’ll be helping out at the Church and Society stall!

Day 1 at the 2014 General Assembly

The minister writes:
It’s day one of the General Assembly here in Edinburgh.
We’ll start with the usual ceremonial, including the installation of a Moderator, Rev John Chalmers, who was nominated later than usual when the original nominee had to pull out due to ill health.
A controversial subjects this week will include the latest attempt to legislate to allow those Kirk Sessions who wish to appoint a minister who is in a same-sex civil partnership.
Inverness Presbytery has objected already two items in the report of the Church and Society Council, of which I’m a member.
The first is a proposal to change the name of school assemblies to ‘Time for Reflection’.
The second is an objection to some of the theology in a report about violence against women.
There’s also a surprise late addition to the programme- an informal debate, led by guest speakers, on Scottish independence. The Kirk is taking no formal stance om independence, and the debate- on Tuesday- will make no binding decisions.
I’m here with another commissioner from Old High St Stephen’s, our presbytery elder, Christine Mackenzie.
You can keep up with the assembly live, and read daily reports, on the Church of Scotland website.

Christian Aid Week 2014

J2450-CAW-120x90-banner-gifThis week members of our congregation are collecting round the streets of our parish for Christian Aid.
On Saturday, they already raised lots of money at a coffee morning for Christian Aid.
To find out more about Christian Aid week, visit the Christian Aid Week website. You can also make a donation to Christian Aid there.
Here’s the film about Colombia which we watched at St Stephen’s today.

Here’s a film about work with refugees in South Sudan, mentioned in the sermon on Christian Aid Sunday.

Here the text of the leaflet our collectors are taking with them.

For a growing number of people across the world, the horror of war is a part of daily life.
Right now, fuelled by the devastating violence in both Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the numbers of people driven from their homes by war is on the rise. It stands at 42 million people- an appalling statistic and a stain on the conscience of humanity. We can’t turn our backs. We must act now.
Could you provide the gift of hope?
£15 could provide blankets for refugee children to protect them from bitter night-time temperatures.
£40 could provide enough good quality and nutritious food for two refugee children for a month.
£150 could help provide specialist emotional support for a child deeply traumatised by the horror of war that they’ve witnessed or experienced.
The money we raise during Christian Aid week goes to partners helping those displaced by war. They help people regardless of their religion.
Last year, 20,000 churches across the country helped raise £12m for Christian Aid Week.
This week, hundreds of people from Inverness churches are once more collecting for Christian Aid because we know their partners do so much to help those in need.
Thank you for supporting Christian Aid, and helping the victims of war.
Rev Peter W Nimmo, Minister of Old High St Stephen’s Parish Church
www.oldhighststephens.com www.christianaid.org.uk

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