The Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament recently applied for an off-sales licence for a shop in its new premises. This would add to the over-provision of intoxicating-liquor licenses in central Edinburgh, which is a source of great nuisance by day and night to those who live in or near the city centre. It is bad enough that MSPs cannot survive during their limited time at the Parliament building without access to such facilities, but it is even worse that a body which assumes responsibility for the social well-being of the nation is to the fore in increasing the availability of a substance, the abuse of which causes so much personal, family and social misery. The evil is compounded by the fact that this facility is to be available on the Sabbath Day. Objections from outwith the immediate neighbourhood have been ruled out of order and no account has been taken of the fact that the Parliament is a national institution, in which all citizens have a legitimate interest.
Meantime, the First Minister is intent on promoting consideration of multi-faith assemblies in schools “to reflect Scotland’s multi-cultural society”. This is supposed to be because chaos is caused in the classroom by teenagers disgruntled at having to sing hymns first thing in the morning! Instead of dealing with the situation where many secondary schools are openly defying the requirement for “religious observance of a broadly Christian character”, latest guidelines advise that the aim of religious observance is “to promote the spiritual development of all members of the school community”. Mr McConnell regards the four-minute “Time for Reflection” observed weekly in the Scottish Parliament – with speakers from all manner of faiths – as a potential model for schools.
The situation in the schools no doubt partly reflects the state of society, but instead of taking a lead in restoring the Christian faith to its proper place in the curriculum and activities of the schools, the First Minister and those who support him in this policy are intent on reducing even further the promotion of the faith which is fundamental to the morality and real well-being of our nation. When no MPs, MSPs or political parties are standing on a Christian platform on matters of religion, morals and education, concerned citizens may feel disfranchised and disillusioned. We should, however, persist in communicating our concerns to these persons and bodies, and seek to commit our case to Him by whom kings reign and princes decree justice, and in whose hand is the heart of the king (Prov 8:15;21:1). Perhaps we need to be awakened ourselves to realise that the judgements primarily to be feared are not economic or military, but being given over to prospering in sin – a judgement which we are increasingly experiencing as a nation.
The question of women in ecclesiastical office has received attention recently on account of the failure for the third time of Mrs Margaret Forrester to secure nomination as Moderator of the Church of Scotland Assembly. In the Church of Scotland, women became eligible for ordination as elders in 1966 and as ministers in 1968. The 1968 Act states that “women shall be eligible for ordination to the Holy Ministry on the same terms and conditions as are at present applicable to men”. Dr James L Weatherhead, editor of The Constitution and Laws of the Church of Scotland, comments that “it is not unreasonable to infer from the report” of the Committee sponsoring this legislation “that the purpose of this was to implement the doctrinal statement that, in virtue of their baptism, men and women, as members of the Church, have equal rights and status”. The Assembly has subsequently ruled that “while every Kirk Session is not required to have women in its membership, no Kirk Session has the right to decide as a matter of policy or principle that it will appoint no women. The declared mutual eligibility of women and men in the matter is not to be infringed by failing to give the same consideration to individual women as is given to individual men in considering their suitability, as distinct from eligibility, for appointment.” In 2001 15% of charges were occupied by women.
Whatever accounts for the failure of Mrs Forrester to receive nomination as Moderator we are afraid that it cannot be attributed to concern to uphold Biblical principle with regard to eligibility for office, for that principle has been abandoned by the Church of Scotland. The Lord had no more devoted followers than the gracious women who ministered to Him, but He chose only men as His apostles. The Bible specifically identifies those eligible for office in the Church as men (for example, 1 Tim 3) and, in its instructions for the conduct of the Church’s life, prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men (for example, 1 Tim 2) or from participating vocally in Church meetings (1 Cor 14: 34, 35).
The inspired apostle provides theological reasons for this position, but apart from any investigation of the reasons it should be sufficient for us that this is the position of the Word of God. It was the same inspired apostle who declared that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal 3:28). He frequently and cordially acknowledged his debt, and that of others such as Timothy, to pious women in home and in Church. Our denomination, as the pages of the Free Presbyterian Magazine over its entire history bear witness, has not been slow to recognise the significant contribution made in their own sphere by women professing and practising godliness. The exclusion of women from Church office is not due to misogyny or failure to appreciate the equality of men and women in relation to Christ as that is signified in baptism. It simply recognises the authority of God’s Word and the superiority of God’s wisdom to ours.
The existence of women elders and ministers is only one symptom of the national Church’s rejection of the infallibility and authority of Scripture and is no doubt also a factor in that body’s self-confessed serious numerical decline. The various diagnoses of the problem and methods proposed for halting this decline fail to recognise the basic trouble as rejection of Christ’s Headship and a general failure to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God.
On October 27, scheduled Sabbath flights in and out of Stornoway were inaugurated. Members of the management board of Loganair, the company concerned, went ahead with their plans; they paid no attention to representations made to them by the many island people who are opposed to this further encroachment upon the sanctity of God’s holy day.
Now another airline, British Midland, has started flights between Edinburgh and Stornoway on the Lord’s Day. It remains to be seen whether or not there really is a demand for this service, for that is what is claimed by these airlines – and whether sufficient passengers will use the service to make it commercially viable. It was a sad, sad day in the history of the island of Lewis when, according to press reports, over 300 people were present in the terminal building to welcome and applaud the first arrivals on the inaugural flight, including one man ostentatiously carrying in his arms packages of “Sunday” newspapers!
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was one of the saintliest ministers that ever graced a Scottish pulpit and when, in his day, the directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway decided to initiate the running of trains on the Lord’s Day, this was his manner of reproving them: “Guilty men, who, under Satan, are leading on the deep dark phalanx of Sabbath-breakers, yours is a solemn position! You are robbers. You rob God of His holy day. You are murderers. You murder the souls of your servants. God said, ‘Thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy servant;’ but you compel your servants to break God’s law and to sell their souls for gain. You are sinners against light. Your Bible and your catechism, the words of godly parents, perhaps now in the Sabbath above, and the loud remonstrances of God-fearing men are ringing in your ears while you perpetrate this deed of shame, and glory in it. You are traitors to your country. The law of your country declares that you should ‘observe a holy rest all that day from your own words, works and thoughts;’ and yet you scout it as an antiquated superstition. Was it not Sabbath-breaking that made God cast away Israel? And yet you would bring the same curse on Scotland now. You are moral suicides, stabbing your own souls, proclaiming to the world that you are not the Lord’s people, and hurrying on your souls to meet the Sabbath-breaker’s doom.”
Who knows? Perhaps these words may come to the attention of the men responsible for the introduction of the Sabbath flights? Our hope is that, as a result, they would be moved to reconsider their decision.