Between home commitments, I tried to watch as much of the debate as I could today. As I knew would be the case, and this I lament, nearly the full day was taken up with procedural discussions, while the debate over the substance of the options was condensed into less than two hours at the end of a long day. The result was that a last-minute option written by Rev Alan Hamilton (convenor of the Legal Questions Committee) and presented by Very Rev Albert Bogle, the Moderator until two days ago when Lorna Hood took over. In an aside, I thought Lorna moderated this debate extremely well and deserves credit and thanks for the way in which the proceedings took place. The communion service at the start of the day set the tone for the rest of the day. When everyone, as she had pointed out during that act of worship, has looked each other in the eye and shared the bread and wine with each other, it inevitably opens up a spirit of grace towards one another.
Without rehearsing the events of the day in their entirety, the net result was that neither of the proposals suggested by the Theological Commission were accepted despite the amendments made to them in the preceding hours. The option moved by Very Rev John Cairns was, as I thought it would be, withdrawn after a passionate speech by John about full equality. I am glad it was said, for what John spoke to was what many of us feel. However, like him, we also recognise that there must be space in an inclusive church for those who have a more 'traditionalist' view. This space was provided by the Theological Commission only in the 'revisionist' proposal which allowed for what became known as the 'mixed economy' where congregations could choose to opt out from accepting a minister living in a Civil Partnership. The premise of this proposal, however, was a 'revisionist' understanding for the Kirk. The traditionalist proposal from the Theological Commission afforded no such space, sadly, and thus it was perhaps inevitable that an alternative proposal from the 'traditionalists' within the Kirk that allowed space for difference would prove attractive to the General Assembly. This is where, despite all that hard work, the Theological Commission failed in fulfilling its remit to the General Assembly for they had not been able to find a 'mixed economy' that worked for all the members of the Commission.
Rev Dr John McPake, a colleague from nearby East Kilbride and the convenor of the Theological Commission, has just finished speaking to the Theological Commission's report and is now taking questions. I suspect it will be a long day.
Some very relevant legal questions being raised, and the procurator has been struggling to give a clear answer to what might happen in the future.
The live stream from the General Assembly is playing on one monitor at the moment as I follow on twitter the #ga2013 feed in a sidebar, and work on my main monitor. Without being present, I still am feeding my GA needs. The communion service is taking place at the moment, which is always a powerful and meaningful moment during the week. The rousing unaccompanied singing of Psalm 24, Ye gates, beginning the time of worship.
The rest of the day will be taken up with the report of the Theological Commission on same-sex relationships and the Ministry. The picture was an image tweeted this morning before the doors opened to the public gallery of the queue to get in. People across the world are watching today to see what the General Assembly will decide to do.
There are, at present, three options before the Assembly, with the most likely, I think, being the 'mixed economy' that compromises about enough to allow everyone space within the church and protecting people of different views (though there are legal issues here that I suspect still could be tested if someone was minded to do so under equality legislation).
The Moderator said in her remarks during the communion service: "Our convictions must never lead us to separate one from another."
Please keep all commissioners in your prayers today.
Carolyn and I just got home from the wedding of Gemma and Craig Mitchell, to whom many congratulations on your special day, and blessings for the future. We were treated in the evening reception to some superb covers of classic songs young and old by The James Honey Band, a band which had quite possibly the most relaxed looking bass player we had ever witnessed.
However, good as they were, the night before David Burt and I had spent at the SECC for a triple bill of classic rock with Thunder, Whitesnake and Journey, which did rather top them. David and I were truly re-living our youth! And it was wonderful!
Pictured is the American gymnast Shawn Johnson preparing herself for her beam routine in a competition back in 2011; Olympics followers may remember her stunning performance from the 2008 Olympics. Some of you will know that we have two gymnasts in the household here, Katherine in the acrobatic and Emma in the artistic disciplines. Emma, last weekend, successfully passed her first national exam and placed well amongst those with whom she was performing.
It is her artistic discipline that includes the beam, along with the bars, vault and floor exercises. It will happen frequently as you learn and train that you will fall from the beam, and we have witnessed that before. It is a heart-in-mouth moment as a parent. Even at Olympic level there are times when these superb athletes lose their focus and struggle to maintain their balance on the beam.
Today in Edinburgh the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (GA) for 2013 has begun; I write this while watching the webcast stream of the proceedings. After a brief break during the 2012 GA when the inclusion of gay and lesbian ministers and deacons who might be living in same-sex relationships was not discussed while the Theological Commission on same-sex relationships and the Ministry continued its work. On Monday that report and its deliverances will be discussed. [There's more...]
This afternoon was spent in glorious sunshine at the David Livingstone Centre where members of the team (comprising the chaplaincy team and staff at the centre, along with some keen and willing helpers) had a walk-through of the Lifepath event that is planned for the first week in June. This included an orienteering activity that began at the large fallen tree and took us hiking across the whole grounds to time how long it took - it worked perfectly, but we weren't carrying large boxes and canoes...
Now that the day is getting ever closer everything, as it always does, is nicely coming together. There are a few loose ends to tie up (like making sure we have those four canoes ready to go), but we are basically there. [There's more...]
Two films I had long been wanting to see were released on disk this past week and I snapped them up and watched them last night and the night before.
The first was, of course,Les Miserables. Despite that two of my kids saw it not once, but twice at the cinema, once with Carolyn and another time with friends, it was about time I got to watch it having missed the opportunity on the big screen. I can certainly see why the film has created so much buzz. I enjoyed the performances tremendously and the cinematography was superb. The feedback from others was that the film was a weep festival... tissues at the ready! But... [There's more...]
As a self-confessed geek, I was amused to read a blog post by another geeky minister, Mark Sandlin, from the PC(USA) contrasting geek culture and the church in the 21st century. Have a read of10 Things Church Can Learn From Geeks.
Having seen with Andrew last Saturday the new Star Trek movie which I loved for all the references to the past (which I had to explain to Andrew) Sandlin's last of his ten points made me chuckle:
My first recollection of geeking out about something wasStar Trek. Yes, the original series. One of the things I've come to love about it was the way it pushed us into new frontiers without bashing us over the head. Story and metaphor softened the blow of moral imperatives for a more fully functioning society based on equality. The further I went into the geek culture the more of this kind prophetic behavior I noticed. I like to think I'm a better "me" because of it. Come to think of it, Jesus told a lot of parables that did the same thing. I read those too. Once again, I like to think I'm a better "me" because of it.
Sure, some of these points overlap and not all of these are perfect correlations. They're not really meant to be. And sure, in some ways we are comparing reality and make believe, but let's not pretend like some of our Church practices aren't human made constructs. Some church people will be offended. Some geeks will be offended. I imagine portions of each will totally disown and disavow me for even thinking these thoughts, but who knows, maybe there was another misquote in the Bible. Maybe it wasn't the kingdom of God that was at hand, maybe it was the fandom of God.
confess I was a little frustrated last week to read the storm in a
teacup that had blown up over the publication (since withdrawn for some
edits) of a report by the Church and Society Council ahead of the
General Assembly next week. The report, titled "The Inheritiance Of
Abraham? A Report On The 'Promised Land'" was perhaps not as clear as it
should have been on the implicit assumptions within the Kirk that the
nation of Israel has a right to exist, that all violence and acts of
terror should be condemned, and that the Kirk deplores any
anti-semitism. These have been affirmed in a press release subsequently
released, but they were always implicit in the Kirk's understanding of
The brouhaha over the report does reveal both the
power and limitation of words, and the ease with which people can
misunderstand the author's intention.
Over the last few months I have had in the back of my mind the necessity to find a way to transition my personal blog, which has been hosted for the past years here on the Blantyre St Andrew's website, to a new site. Last weekend this process began as a new website for Ferryhill Parish Church was created which is now active alongside their old website (the two will run in tandem for a time while any bugs and issues get worked out of the new site).
I am now in the midst of moving some 800 blog posts... As with the two websites at Ferryhill, during this transition I will be maintaining my blog both here and on the Ferryhil website. This is one of the benefits of such a long time from knowing you are going to be moving to actually moving. So, do please continue to pop past the blog in either location.
This summer the David Livingstone Centre are hosting a "Picnic Praise" afternoon that has been organised by the staff at the centre along with Calderside Chaplaincy Team with the support of Hamilton Presbytery.
This event is open to all from across the region and particular encouragement is given to churches to make this an outing this summer. The activities are appropriate for all ages. Please bring a blanket and picnic with you.
Sunday 23 June 2013 1-4 p.m. David Livingstone Centre Blantyre
If possible, we would encourage you to use public transport. The centre is a short walk from Blantyre railway station, and regular bus services are availabe. There is limited parking in the grounds, street parking is available and plans are being put into place to arrange for more parking to be available near the Sports Centre in Blantyre.
There is no charge for attendance of the event, though if you plan to
use the café at the centre you will need to bring money for that.
Issue 8 of Spill the Beans
is now available for download. This takes us through the first half of the long post-Pentecost season. Spanning 26 May to 25 August
2013, the issue is broken into two sections. In the first we concentrate on the story of the prophets Elijah and Elisha before returning to the gospels for the second half. We are delighted to be able to reproduce the long out-of-print retelling of Elijah's story by the late actor and writer David Kossoff in this issue; a perfect means to enter the world of these ancient prophetic voices and the times in which they served God.
will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories,
prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups
you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen
If you have already used Spill the
Beans, you will know what a fabulous resource this is, created by folks
here in Scotland. If you have not yet, but are intrigued, have a look at this sample. The last issue was taken up by two hundred church leaders or Sunday School leaders, the largest number yet. Amazing. And the team have plans for the long term future... more on that another time!
Some months ago I was interviewed for the CEAS website about Spill the Beans. A series of videos is available here explaining what Spill the Beans is, how it is created and the ethos behind it. In the introduction I said:
If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 8 for use in your church or
personally, then click the button below. It is a positive steal at
You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing
its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer.
Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe
pdf file is approximately 7 MB.
You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too.
you would like a print copy of Spill the Beans, Issue 8, then this can
be arranged. The cost is £20+P&P and these can be arranged directly
with the office at Lanark Greyfriars Church. Each issue is in full
colour and comb bound for ease of use. We have had to raise the costs of
the print copy from our initial issues as we have found the original
costs were not covering the costs of producing the copies.
It was a very busy week last week, with the kids off at the moment, of course. We had a day away to Twynholm in Dumfries & Galloway and the Cocoa Bean Company which proved great fun and worth a visit, though it isn't cheap if the kids are going to do the full chocolate factory experience and create their own chocolates. None of which, it should be said, have been offered around!
In amidst putting together the next issue of Spill the Beans, which is always difficult around Easter, the week saw the final preparations for a big day on Saturday as my sister and Claus were married at Crutherland House in East Kilbride. It was such a privilege for me to be able to lead that service, with our mum providing the music and our older two girls doing the readings. A special moment for us all in the Johnston and Noel clans that doesn't come round often.
Friends from Gravesend made the trip north to be there which was really fab, bringing back lots of memories.
A good day. And every blessing for Isla, Claus, Ella and Olivia!