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CHURCH OF SCOTLAND: Kirk doomed if squabbling doesn't stop, minister says

CHURCH OF SCOTLAND: Kirk doomed if squabbling doesn't stop, minister says

By Marc Horne
December 2, 2019

The Kirk registered a deficit of £4.5 million last year and membership is dwindling by an average of more than 100 people a week. It is estimated that the church has lost 80 per cent of parishioners since the 1950s.

In an effort to address its declining fortunes it has approved wide-ranging cost-cutting measures, including merging parishes and closing a number of churches. Earlier this month the Kirk agreed to integrate a number of its policy making councils and significantly reduce the number of meetings.

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, a former moderator and principal clerk of the church's general assembly, urged members to put aside their differences and work together. Speaking of the reforms he said: "If we do not change the way we think of our colleagues or learn to speak well of our brothers and sisters in Christ -- even those we disagree -- it may all be for nothing. Ours is a culture that needs to change".

In recent years divisions have emerged in the church between reformers, who support gay rights, and their conservative opponents.

Dr Chalmers claimed that the Kirk could not afford to be held back by internal wrangling at such a critical time. He told The Scotland Times: "We need to overcome a blame culture which sets congregations, Presbyteries and the central administration against one another. There should be no 'us' and 'them', we are all in this together.

The other obvious area of tension is around our theological differences and we need to remember that we are a broad church where we have to learn to live better with one another in spite of our differences."

Writing in Life and Work, the church's social magazine, Dr Chalmers insisted that doing nothing was no longer a viable option. He described the Kirk as a "Church which has allowed itself to continue with ways of functioning which may have worked in the past, but which are hardly relevant now. A church where staffing levels in the central organisation are the same as they were 20 years ago, when the membership of the Church of Scotland was more than double its present size."

He urged an end to a "micromanaging mentality", adding: "We have talked before about this kind of radical change across every element of our church's life but we have never succeeded in pulling all of the levers for change at the same time."

The Kirk has registered half of its 30 churches in Aberdeen as surplus to requirements. It has also announced that 20 of its 31 churches on the Shetland Islands will close.


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