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Doctrinal debate
 

Should the Church of Scotland keep the Westminster Confession of Faith?

The moves could see the Confession being removed, replaced or changed in as little as 5 years - a significant development for the minority group of evangelicals who remain in Scotland’s national Kirk.

AUTHOR Alisdair Smith EDINBURGH 31 MAY 2018 11:38 h GMT+1
A general view of the May 2018 Kirk gathering.

The Church of Scotland has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.



The moves could see the Confession being removed, replaced or changed in as little as 5 years. It is a troubling and significant development for the minority group of evangelicals who remain in Scotland’s national Kirk.



The Westminster Confession of Faith was adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1647 as its subordinate standard of faith and it is the clearest statement of Presbyterian belief on major doctrines and practices. Many Protestant denominations around the world recognise it as a helpful and precise declaration of what they believe the Bible teaches.



All the Ministers and Elders of the Church of Scotland are required to signify their agreement with the teaching of the Confession as a whole. If someone denied the doctrine of God’s election, for example, they could not subscribe to the Confession.



A former Principal Clerk, the Very Rev. Finlay Macdonald recognised the widespread apathy of many Liberal ministers towards the Confession by saying, “We fear that the church is not well served by a subordinate standard which, let’s be honest, is taken less than seriously across the church.”



In reply, Rev James W Aitcheson asked, “Is it not shameful that many of us would stand and affirm such a thing without even having read it and tried to understand it? And, if we all affirmed it, why do we now wish to throw it away?”



Although the vote confirms a reality that has been well known for a long time, this decision will leave many evangelicals in a difficult position. Rev Mark Malcom said, “Is this a hill to die on? For some it probably is.”



This matter is likely to come back to the Assembly again in 2020. In other matters, the Assembly also voted to begin the process of changing church law to enable Church of Scotland ministers to conduct same-sex marriages in as little as three years’ time.


 

 


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