The ecumenical body Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) was formed in 1990, consisting of seven churches and religious organisations including the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church. It took a lead in organising a millennial project which was launched by Roman Catholic Archbishop O’Brien at an ecumenical gathering in St Andrews, a highlight of which was a festival celebrating the bringing of the alleged relics of “Scotland’s patron saint” from Greece in the fourth century. The theme throughout was to be a Millennium Resolution offered by the Churches as a message of hope: “Let there be respect for the Earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness for past wrongs and from now on a new start”. ACTS is currently involved in ecumenical activity in the community.
Professor Donald Macleod of the Free Church College took advantage of his column in the West Highland Free Press on 27 July 2001 to express his “regret and shame” that his own denomination does not participate in ACTS, and so would not be involved in the first-ever Ecumenical Assembly of the Scottish Churches. By this Assembly, he informs us, ACTS seeks to advance a vision which Cardinal Winning shared with the Church of Scotland General Assembly in 1995, when he said: “My vision looks to a day when the entire Christian family in Scotland will gather together in an assembly such as this”. Professor Macleod regards this as a noble vision, although he suggests that Winning would have found it hard to be a member of such an assembly unless he, as the Pope’s representative, were its president.
Professor Macleod is also bothered by ACTS’ explanation that the crisis in the Churches is due to the fact that they are not giving people what they want and asserts that “the one great essential is that the Church exists to tell a story; and not just any story, but God’s story”. But he sees an antithesis between those denominations with which the Free Church cooperates: “a host of tiny little churches, all of them furth of Scotland, all ferociously self-righteous and separatist, and all of them totally irrelevant to their own communities and cultures,” and those whom he would expect to meet at a Scottish Ecumenical Assembly – “who worship Christ with all their hearts, serve run-down parishes (and live in them), work with drug addicts, prostitutes or rough-sleepers, tend the AIDS sufferers of Africa or write pioneering theses on Christianity and post-modernism”. He would clearly prefer association with those who, whatever their beliefs, engage in such social action, than with those whose professed primary concern is to maintain the truth of the gospel.
ACTS proceeds on the basis that the “Christian family” consists of those who engage in “Christian social action”, whether or not it is inspired by faith in the Christ of the Bible. Faith will promote active concern for others (Jas 2:15-17). But action on behalf of others, however useful, does not make one a Christian when it is not motivated by grace (1 Cor 13:3). Truth is foundational to Christianity and to being a Christian. Bodies and individuals who are indifferent to truth, or regard as truth what the Bible identifies as falsehood, are not Christian in any Biblical sense of the term. What we need in Scotland is renewed commitment to the infallible truth of the Bible, received in the power of the Spirit and lived out in the manner indicated, for example, in the Epistles. In this way we must seek to respond to the divine injunction: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
The persecution of those professing Christianity does not belong only to a past age. A recent reminder of this was a report that eight American, German and Australian aid workers in Afghanistan had been arrested by the ruling Islamic Taleban for allegedly promoting Christianity. Bibles were discovered in the house of Afghan staff, and police from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice allegedly found two young Americans promoting Christianity in a house in Kabul.
The report commented that this charge carries the death penalty. It was thought likely that the foreigners would be released and deported in view of the Taleban’s need for economic help from the West but the future of the 16 Afghan staff working for the aid organisation was much less certain. Islamic nations do not grant the freedom to others which they demand for their religion in this land. While we are unaware of the Christian credentials of those referred to in this report we should be mindful of the conditions under which many professing the name of Christ live in Islamic and other repressive nations. Our fellow-feeling for them should find expression in prayer to God and, when appropriate, in representations to the authorities in our own land and to the official representatives of these other nations.
Learning Swearwords in School Classrooms
Schools are teaching their pupils swearwords in an attempt to stop them using bad language, reports The Daily Telegraph. “Children as young as 11 are asked to write down as many swearwords that they can think of. Teachers then graphically describe what each one means in the hope that the children will not use them again.” This repulsive programme is part of a Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) module introduced to teach children about growing up. Mr Phil Gibson, the head of PSHE, defended the classes, saying that “the whole object of the exercise was to get young people to look carefully at their language and see if they really meant to say what they did”.
Shocked and upset parents are right to describe it as “absolutely disgusting”, and to say, “Children learn enough bad language on the streets without the teachers teaching them more; it just gives them a wider variety of curses to use”. Such reasonable concern is ignored by, for example, the Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman who said, “If a school thinks the children don’t know what swearwords mean and perhaps they should be taught them, that is up to them”.
We welcome any moves to discourage swearing, but this immoral programme is likely to achieve the very opposite. It is also a reminder to parents to show a consistent example to their children, and also to teach them what is acceptable in speech. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6).