what is it?

I took a trip to Edinburgh today to meet with some friends, old and new, and to take in a little of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.  Lunch was great.  Good conversation with good people.

I’ve blogged my displeasure at the Assembly below but it was interesting to hear the thoughts of those who have been ‘in the room’ for the week.  In particular they felt that the decission not to further affirm the Church’s position on homosexual orientation was a gracious act which will do more good than harm.  It sets a context where conversation and listening can happen without anyone feeling that decisions have been made and lines drawn.  If that is the case then that must be a good thing.

Earlier in the week someone requested that St Andrew’s Press, the church’s publications wing, produce a guide to the Church of Scotland.  ‘I know what it is’ he said, ‘but others don’t.’  This struck me as it is similar to the kind of things the United Reformed Church has been saying and trying to address through its Catch The Vision process at a UK level and our Synod through our Intentional Church process.

We discovered that we actually didn’t really know who we were, at least not in ways that we could easily define.  I wonder if that is where the Kirk finds itself?  I have had a real sense that the Church of Scotland has lost its way.  There are many good things happening, good people doing great work both locally and nationally.  Some of the people I respect most in the church are in the Church of Scotland but as an institution I can’t help feel that it is hindering rather than helping the work of God.

That might sound harsh, but little that happened this week, or indeed at previous Assemblies will or has made any difference at all to the life of the church.  Jonny Baker has linked to an article about Ethos which is worth a read.  He has also posted the Grace Confession.  Grace is the worship community Jonny belongs to and the confession is based in their ethos; create / participate /engage /risk.  This is their confession:

When our thoughtless criticism stifles the creativity of others,
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy

When we keep a tight hold on power and deny others the chance to participate.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

When we prefer the safety of our holy huddle to the wideness of God’s world.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

When we decline to take risks for fear that we might fail.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

But when we praise the gifts of others,
share the power that we are given,
engage with communities beyond the boundaries of our comfort,
and risk everything we have for the sake of others,

then, God rejoices in us.

Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
Have mercy upon us,
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us is all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace sounds to me like a community that knows what it is and what it is for.  The man who asked for a book on ‘what the Kirk is’ was right to ask.  The move was resisted, not because there is no market for the book, but rather that no-one really knows the answer, just like we in the United Reformed Church are unsure.  We are exploring who we are, I wonder when the Kirk will get round to asking the same question out loud?

Wee beautiful pict has some powerful thoughts on where Christianity in Scotland is now and where it is going here and here