Scotland: Tron turfed out

On October 9, the Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland took the decision to evict the congregation of St. George’s Tron from the church building and the minister, Willie Philip, from the manse, without undue delay.

This follows the church’s stand against the denomination’s decision at the General Assembly in May 2011 to pursue a path which would allow gay ministers to take on parishes and for those in same-sex relationships to be trained for the ministry.

The leadership of the congregation felt that the report which triggered this decision by the Glasgow Presbytery was ‘very disappointing indeed’ and was marked by ‘falsehood and enmity’ towards the church and its commitment to the biblical gospel.

Forewarning the church

On the previous Sunday morning, anticipating the outcome of the meeting, Willie Philip spoke to the congregation about their being turned out of the building. He told the people that they should not be surprised at what was happening to them. He said: ‘Since the day that most of you were faced here with the delegation from Presbytery you have seen and you know what we’ve been dealing with — a perpetual enmity that rails against the living gospel of the real Jesus Christ and his true church. We only need to open Bibles and read to recognise that’.

Referring to the congregation’s ejection, he continued: ‘Now none of us can find this easy, and I think I can fairly say that there won’t be too many that find it harder than I do. But let us just together consider this: we are discovering together what real Christian discipleship means, because we are learning to tread where our Lord Jesus Christ trod. “If anyone would come after me”, he said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” [Matthew 16.24]. But he also said: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake will receive a hundred fold and will inherit eternal life” [Matthew 19.29]. We’re going to test it in a very tangible way, it seems.’

Congregation’s own money

The decision of the Presbytery came despite the fact that within the last five years the church members have given over £2.6 million of their own money to fit the building for its gospel purpose (some elderly members going without holidays and some families re-mortgaging their homes). Seemingly all this money will be lost to the church.

An example of the alleged falsehood in the report is that it claimed that offerings taken up in the Tron’s services were given to a separate trust. Willie Philip told EN: ‘This was not true, ever. We did have a separate trust which many people within the congregation chose to give to because they wanted to give to gospel work, not the denomination’s central funds. But this could only be done deliberately by choosing to do that, never unknowingly just through Sunday collections’.

Strangely encouraged

Despite the devastating blow of eviction by the Presbytery, the leaders of the Tron congregation find themselves unexpectedly encouraged. William Philip explained to the congregation: ‘It may surprise you, therefore, for me to tell you that our elders meeting yesterday morning, where we considered this report and its implications, was, I think, the most encouraging elders meeting that we have ever had. Of course, it began sombre, as we read the report together, but I must tell you that it ended with our hearts full of hope and joy, and our minds focused on the future, and our hearts thrilled at the prospects of the future because the Lord is opening up great opportunities for us through this for the advancement for our gospel outreach, for the expansion and the growth of our ministry and not for its decline. And we hope that over the next month or two we will be able share in much more detail some of that excitement with you. We truly believe that this opposition is God’s opportunity for the next stage of our corporate mission together as a fellowship. It was the persecution, do you remember, against the church in Jerusalem in Acts 7 that was the birth of the spreading missionary church? “Saul was ravaging the church”, we read, “therefore those who were scattered went about proclaiming the Word.” And it was through that that the Kingdom of God advanced and grew mightily. So, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom” — that is what the Lord Jesus said [Luke 12.32]. We don’t need to be anxious about what we are to eat or drink or where we are to live or indeed where we are to meet. Our heavenly Father knows that we need these things. Instead, “Seek first his kingdom and these things will be added to you”, says the Lord Jesus [Luke 12.31]. And we know, don’t we, that we can trust him.’

This article was first published in the November 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057B