Starting again for Christ
On December 4 2011, Trinity Church, Aberdeen was born.
The new church fellowship was formed as a result of decisions taken by the Church of Scotland. At its General Assembly in May 2011, the CofS took a clear step towards recognising same-sex relationships in the ministry as acceptable for those in leadership. Although a definitive position has still to be decided, many evangelicals feel that the die has been cast and the departure from biblical orthodoxy will not be reversed.
Money and partnership
A particular problem for many in the Church of Scotland is the giving of money, especially when this is understood not as an act of charity towards the church but as a demonstration of spiritual partnership with it. It is felt that where the gospel is absent or altered, then the very basis of that partnership is missing and money cannot be given with integrity.
These realities led a congregation in Aberdeen to a roadblock situation in their discussions with authorities of the Church of Scotland. Peter Dickson resigned as the minister of High Church, Hilton and along with David Gibson became the ministers of the newly formed Trinity Church, with 170 others joining them.
David Gibson told EN: ‘Being forced to keep the gospel central wonderfully concentrates the mind about priorities and aims for the kind of church you want to be. But the list of practical decisions we needed to make in leaving the denomination was endless’.
One practical concern for the new church was to find accommodation. A fellow elder and his wife provided a beautiful building at the bottom of their garden for a new office, and four members of staff were able to commence work in it straight away. David explained: ‘When we announced our resignations we did not know where our new church would meet. Two weeks before we were due to start, a venue we were banking on fell through dramatically and left us looking for an alternative. In the end we found ourselves in the Northern Hotel, with very accommodating staff and all our requirements suitably met. We had to move our evening service to 5.00 pm due to the hotel’s long-standing booking with other clients, but this has proved an attractive time for those with younger children to begin attending together’.
Relief and gratitude
For the first service the congregation were joined by many from other local churches who came to show their support and love. David told EN: ‘The first Sundays together were marked by tangible relief and tremendous gratitude to God for his faithfulness. Leaving one church family to start another felt like the tearing of a fabric never meant to be torn and some have struggled to understand why we have done what we have done. Others have discovered the essence of the church in profoundly new ways and have visibly grown in their faith, rejoicing to be in a living church family. From the start we have worked hard to not be defined by our reasons for leaving the national church. Newcomers have commented that the atmosphere is remarkably free of any bitterness or backward-looking focus on the past. It is the same people in a new setting with a continued focus on preaching, praying, pastoring and reaching out to those around us. The church family’s needs are still the same, the pastors’ sins are still the same, and the gospel is able to transform both. We are weak and frequently bewildered, but have found God to be strong, eternally steadfast and wise’.
Trinity Church is now beginning the search for a new building and so there are challenges ahead. But in a very real sense they feel they are not home-less and that their church belongs within the worldwide family of Christ’s people and that spiritual unity between believers exists where the gospel is treasured. The Presbyterian ethos continues in their desire to be in close and accountable fellowship with others and so they will soon become a congregation of the International Presbyterian Church. There are currently no IPC congregations in Scotland, but the newly formed Highland International Church in Inverness (pastored by James Torrens and Peter Humphris) and another fellowship in Kyle of Lochalsh, Grace Community Church (led by John MacDonald), will soon be joining the IPC as well.
Many other evangelical ministers and churches within the Church of Scotland remain in very difficult circumstances and face hard decisions in the coming months.