The Church of Scotland, the nation’s largest Protestant church and once a bastion of biblical orthodoxy, has voted to allow ministers to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. The vote was not even close.
As reported by BBC News,
“Members of the General Assembly in Edinburgh voted to change church law following years of campaigning.
“It means same-sex couples will be able to marry in church in services conducted by ministers.
“Ministers and deacons will be able to apply to become celebrants of same sex marriage, but they will not be forced to take part.
“The results of the vote were: 274 for and 136 against.”
What on earth has happened to this historic church, one that used to be deeply devoted to the authority of Scripture? How did it fall so far?
This is the church of John Knox (1514-1572), the fiery Reformer who famously prayed, “Give me Scotland or I die,” bringing transformation to the church and the nation. Now it is sanctioning homosexual “marriages” within its church buildings, performed by its ordained ministers. How can this be?
This is the church whose website still states,
“Our standards of belief are to be found in the Old and New Testament and in the Church’s historic Westminster Confession of Faith.”
But where, pray tell, does the Bible support same-sex “marriage”? It does not.
Where does the Bible sanction any marriage union that does not consist of a man and a woman? It does not.
Where does the Bible even hint at the propriety of a same-sex romantic and sexual union? It does not. (Click here for a 6-minute, animated primer on the subject of “Can You Be Gay and Christian?”)
As for the Westminster Confession of Faith (released in 1646), it no more countenanced two men or two women marrying than it countenanced a human being marrying a frog. (I’m not making a comparison between the two here; I’m simply expressing the mindset of the framers of the Confession. For a related discussion involving American Presbyterians—the Church of Scotland is also Presbyterian—click here.)
As the Westminster text states,
“I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.
“II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.”
Marriage and natural procreation went hand in hand, just as the union of a man and a woman went hand in hand.
So much for the Church of Scotland adhering to either the Bible or the Westminster Confession of Faith.
On what basis, then, did the church make its historic (and misguided) decision? According to the Covenant Fellowship Scotland, which the BBC describes as “a think tank of evangelicals within the Church of Scotland,” it came down to one reason only: “Instead of following the clear and unambiguous teaching of God’s written word, the Bible, the Church of Scotland continues to follow popular opinion.”
And so, rather than the church being a witness to the world and calling the nation to turn back to God and His Word, the church has turned to the world, at the expense of biblical truth. It is the exact opposite of what Paul wrote to the Romans, when he urged them not to be conformed to the world but rather to be transformed by the Word (see Romans 12:1-2).
As these faithful ministers stated,
“This decision contradicts everything the Bible has to say about the complementary nature of men and women, and of the character and purposes of marriage,” rightly branding the decision “unbiblical and sinful.”
And while expressing their deep pastoral concern “for those who wish to enter into same sex marriages,” they emphasized that “we must nevertheless point to the complete absence of any compelling or persuasive biblical evidence that might permit ministers and deacons of the Church of Scotland to officiate at same sex marriages.”
In short, the Church of Scotland has said no to God, no to the Bible, no to its historic beliefs, and no to its foundational ethics, choosing instead to follow the spirit of the age. The leaders have even decided to apologize to the gay community for the “history of discrimination” it has faced over the centuries.
But for those who have been monitoring the Church of Scotland over the years, all this should occasion no surprise. For years now, observers have been pointing to the church’s gradual discarding of biblical authority. This latest decision is just one more, inevitable step away from God and His Word.
After all, it was back in 2011 that The Guardian reported that, “Scotland’s largest protestant church has swept away centuries of tradition and voted to allow gay men and lesbians to become ministers, opening up the prospect of the church allowing civil partnerships for same-sex couples.”
When it comes to clergy performing same-sex weddings, the real question is: What took so long?
As for the “traditionalists” who remain within the church, fighting to preserve their heritage and minister to their flocks, they face a difficult decision. Some, no doubt, will want to stay with their ship, even if it sinks.
But if faithful ministers of the gospel within the Church of Scotland can learn anything from the painful split in the Methodist Church after years of wrestling with these very same issues, or the breakup of the Episcopalian Church, again, over these very same issues, then it is this: You should issue one final warning, and then, en masse, depart from this apostatizing church and form your own fellowship.
It will save you years (if not decades) of strife and trouble and will bring blessing to those you lead.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.