News & Events
Plenary Assembly Live Update
November 18, 2010
We are reporting live from the Free Church Plenary Assembly in Edinburgh on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th November. Report is found below:
(Please hit the reload button every 15 mins for updates.)
Thursday 18th November evening
6:00pm Assembly begins.
Moderator opens Assembly by giving a 10-minute talk on John 16
Three marks of the Spirit-filled Church
Pslam 119: 33
Papers are being given out
Discussion about voting procedure
Vote is taken on a change in standing orders re: voting.
Report of Board of Trustees - Mr Iain K. Macleod
We all love psalms and agree that we should sing them.
We agree indeed on a vast amount.
On this issue, our temperaments and tastes are irrelevant. We have all come to our views, not because we follow our temperaments.
The report: we propose that we don’t change present practice. The Board believes this is the unity option and best option.
Board does not believe there is any point in repeating the arguments in one paper.
We took into acocunt the impact that change or no change would have on FC. No one has produced a case that has convinced everyone.
Impossible for us all to get what we want. There we must find a way forward. Of 95 UK sessions, 13 did not express preference. (57 for option A and 25 for D
IE. 70% favour option A). These figures could be misleading, but that is as we have them. This assembly may not reflect the Church as whole.
Gives some stats about sizes of presbyteries.
We hope that there will not be hint of separation!! But overblown rhetoric might cause disunity. We have to be careful what we say. So much binds us.
Can’t put it off any longer. Board feels that A) is unity option.
Good cases have been made, but Board was not convinced.
Our form of worship has been broadly same for many years. Onus of proof for change not discharged
Option is is the scriptural option.
Strong historical views are that instruments were not used in NT
Argument that option A is forcing option on everyone : the essence of the permissive is protest of the oppression of the minority. But argument proves too much.
If Assembly gives permission, but Kirk Sessions are divided on matter, what about that minority? What if session unanimous, but cong is not?
Has been hinted that change will save us from decline: that has not been shown.
Ordination promises are easy to understand.
Change of the sort desired would have difficulties with barrier act.
Option A is flexible and generous, and accommodates much of what D) wants.
Alasdair I.‘s paper has been much admired and rightly so. He calls “huge step forward” his preference 3 - ths is what deliverance recommends.
We do tolerate more than the psalms, although lots assume psalms only. Vows do not explicitly state psalms. Those who coined the phrase “uninspired materials of praise” knew what they were doing.
Option A) means that current promises are wide enough to allow more than psalms in public worship. Other scriptural passages can be used! Current position is flexible and generous.
Deliv does not give option D people what they want, but this is unifying approach.
Again, reference to Alasdair I.‘s paper: where he says that musical instruments are the less important issue. We agree.
History: it was a long time before ch allowed MI in worship. 8th century. If the NT had avoided instruments in worship, it is understanable that the Church afterwards would avoid it. However, if the NT Church HAD used MI in worship, it is inconceivable that Church should want to avoid them.
Public worship? The 1910 and 1932 Acts make clear that we are speaking about public worship - this allows flexibility. If a minister organises outreach etc, that in his view do not amount to PW, then why criticise the minister for doing that?
1910 Act is product of a time of tension and hence, language is unhelpful. So we are abolishing it. We are also abolishing 1932, which appeared to give too much attention to form of worship.
Disruption allowed what was formally authorised. The amendment of 1905 retains the use of this phrase:
Summary: can we sing Worthy is the Lamb? - yes! Please accept this unity proposal. It would be wonderful if we could now commit the same resources to outreach in our church.
1)Where did the figure of 70% of sessions come from? Answer - this was the deduction the Board made from session returns.
2) Do we have returns from presbyteries? No
3) Why be flexible with materials of praise, but not instruments? This is historical position.
4) What evidence can you present that the exortation in psalms to use instruments have been rescinded? Mr Maciver will deal with that in seconding.
5) What impact will the report have on the wider unity of the Church in Scotland? If that means we can provide a home for disaffected folks, we can’t be certain.
6) Why has the Chairman of Board not presented report to Assembly? We thank James Fraser for his work. He did not feel he could present the report with normal enthusiasm.
7) Why does the report not have the scriptural base for the deliverance? We didn’t feel it would serve a good purpose to commission another report.
8) Report defines public worship and then builds on that. Is there scriptural reason for that definition? The origin of the phrase goes back to 1781. Crept into Church. Used by men in 1910. Not sure if I would point to definition, but perhaps should go by definition in Confession. But can’t point to test in scripture.
9) Are we saying that God started to distinguish worship in 1781? No. Definition should be helpful.
Deliverance is moved.
Seconder: Rev. James Maciver -
No intention of delving into papers, but pay tribute to those who wrote the papers. Applause!
The basic question at issue: divine authority. What are we authorised to use? What has God authorised? We find answers in scriptures, but there are differences in opinion. How does Church act when there are differences? Not by personal preference. We need to give way to others, even when we think we’re right. Sessions, Presbyteries and majority of BoT stated their preferences. I trust that the integrity of our elders that they would not deal with these matters lightly.
The key issue is transition between OT and NT: are instru an inherent part of OT ritual or are the injunctions to be taken literally? The maj of Board and Sessions are not persuaded.
The call for intruments in NT is unconvincing.
Materials of Praise: James gives several arguments, which have been stated in the papers.
The psalms are full of the person of Jesus - not just from pre-incarnation, but post-incarnational perspective!
Confessional: ch 21:5 - the word “psalms” meant psalms (but perhaps some other paraphrases).
History: again - reference to historical events and figures, and issues relating to instruments.
All of us want to do what is right in the eyes of God: all the Board and the ruling officers of the Church have stated they believe the current practice is right. So should we.
Dr Donald MacDonald.
This does not seek to expand the category of materials of praise in FC, but improve on its contents. Disruption allowed singing of paraphrases. They were never rescinded.
But these are not satisfactory or accurate. This addendum wants to modernise and improve them. We should also use materials based on NT, where we have the full revelation of Christ.
There are also materials in OT which could be used. There is a function, also, where materials can be used for edification.
We need not be bound by our strict tradition of metrical form. Psalmody Committee has lots of experience in constructing the new psalms.
1) Where does a paraphrase end and a hymn start? A para adds a lot to what is there in scripture, but it is also possible to accurately put scripture to metre.
2) Is the Committee willing? Yes.
Seconder: Rev. John MacPherson. I need say very little. This is an uncontroversial addendum - everyone should accept it. Only inspired scripture. Would enrich our worship.
1. Addend useful because many have agreed that what is important is that it should be inspired scripture. Here is something that can be done.
2. When is a hymn a paraphrase? We do not see what is being produced here as paraphrases, which are portions of praise which follows loosely the scripture. We are talking about an accurate reflection.
Rev. Callum Macleod
This does not add anything to the report, but it is necessary. 3 main reasons:
1) Unity of the Church, which is threatened by ongoing issue.
2) Need for closure.
3) Need for connectivity. Link between 1905 and now.
1) What impact will this have on freedom of FC ministers to participate in other denominations? None whatsoever
2) Do you believe that ministers and elders can hold views contrary to agreed practice? It is - as a matter of personal conscience.
3) If in 20 years’ time every minister changes their position, could they change the position of the Church? If there was clear biblical mandate.
4) What happens to someone who can’t maintain etc? Not for me to say.
5) Is there precident to seek closure on such matters? Possibly in 1999, in respect of FCDA.
Mr Roderick Finlayson
Purpose for ADDENDUM IS : the wording in pt 4 is open to misinterpretation in separating public worship from other meetings. So I’ve tried to define this in terms of Confession of Faith. We live at a time when there is much confusion on many things. Impt to be as specific as poss in definitions. The men at Confession did good job at writing very clearly. The directory for public worship also defines specifically for us what should be included in worship and it is wrong to depart from it. Our reformed heritage teaches us that worship is defined in terms of the acts which we perform. Not just stating that we are meeting for worship. Hence I move.
Alex MacDonald suggested that this should be an amendment and not an addendum. Much discussion of what category it falls within.
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Amendment - Rev. Alex MacDonald
Alex MacDonald, speaking for his amendment, said that he had kept his vows over many years and had advocated the singing of psalms. Indeed, he still did. But in recent years, he had changed his view on the place of hymns. His amendment did not come out of any emotional consideration or that he played guitar, but purely scriptural grounds. He had serious misgivings about not being able to sing the name of Jesus. He also wondered about why our church allowed diversity in other things, such as Baptism, but not in this matter. He was disappointed that the report did not give scriptural direction as was expected and in the absence of clear scriptural mandate, he felt that liberty should be given to those who were convicted that we should sing material other than the psalms. He said that the report sought to please both sides, which was unsatisfactory.
He then spoke about vows and said that vows did not prevent questioning them in the light of scripture, which was our supreme rule. He then rehearsed the historical arguments, before challenging the Assembly that this was a major historial moment and to consider carefully which way they would vote.
The main thrust of Alex’s motion is that in the absence of clear biblical direction, liberty should be given.
He was then asked a number of questions, mostly of a practical nature.
The proceedings were brought to a close at 10:00pm.
(Editor’s note: Despite the potentially contentious nature of the issue, there was a good, harmonious atmosphere at the Assembly, which we hope and pray will continue throughout.)
Proceedings begin again at 10:00am on Friday 19th November.
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