Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Congregation reject proposed merger

TWO Cambuslang churches are to remain separate after a vote on a proposed union was rejected.

The congregations of Cambuslang Old Parish Church and St Andrew’s Churches voted on Sunday on the proposed union.

And although the Old Parish voted to accept the notion, it was rejected by the congregation at St Andrew’s.

The split vote means that the next step will be decided by the Church of Scotland Presbytery.

The union of congregations was proposed due to a number of factors, including falling church rolls, the lack of new ministers and the cost of the upkeep of the buildings.

Elders from both kirks had held a series of meetings to try to arrange a way forward for the two Church of Scotland congregations.

Sunday’s vote took place as St Andrew’s minister the Rev. John Stevenson took his final communion before he retires later this month.

John Collard, interim moderator for St Andrew’s, said: “The majority of people in the congregation felt it wasn’t the right time and the right union and this was reflected in the vote.

“The union was what the Presbytery proposed and had been agreed by both of the groups of elders in the churches, but the congregation of St Andrew’s felt it wasn’t right.

“There was a large turnout at St Andrew’s as John Sanderson took communion for the last time before he retires, which gave him a chance to say farewell to the congregation.”

Rev Lee Messeder, minister at Cambuslang Old Parish, said: “We’re not too sure what’s going to happen next. The matter will go back to the Presbytery.

“They will look at the situation, and probably meet with both churches, to discuss a way forward but at the moment all we can really do is wait and see.”

SNP and Romans Team Up

It is reported that SNP leader Alex Salmond and Roman Cardinal Keith O'Brien have agreed a pact to campaign against the 300-year old Act of Settlement, the law which bars Roman Catholics from becoming King or Queen.

The pair will call on ministers to revoke the rule, which O'Brien has described previously as "the country's shame". Salmond and O'Brien say they will also campaign together against plans to replace Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The 1701 law bans Catholics from becoming either King or Queen and bars the monarch from marrying a Catholic.

Unlike his fellow Roman Catholic leaders in England, the cardinal has taken up the issue of the Act, insisting that only by correcting institutional discrimination within the law can the blight of sectarianism in Scotland be properly tackled. Last year, he told First Minister Jack McConnell that he should press for the Act to be revoked if he was serious about taking on religious bigotry.
A spokesman for the cardinal said that he and Salmond had now agreed to press jointly for the Act's removal from the statute book.

"The meeting will be followed up with initiatives to raise awareness about this," the spokesman said. "There was agreement that the issue had slipped into the background in recent years and that people needed to be reminded of the injustice that it represents."

A spokesman for Salmond added: "Both agreed to work at ending the poison and hatred sectarianism brings to Scotland. That is why it is so important that the Act of Settlement is abolished because sectarianism is inherent in the Act."

The agreement between the cardinal and Salmond will rekindle memories of the close ties the SNP leader forged with the late Cardinal Winning, who became increasingly sympathetic to the Scottish Nationalist cause in his later years.

SNP party chiefs have seen it as crucial to eat into the Roman Catholic community's traditional support for Labour, if they are to make inroads into their rivals' grip on central Scotland. Salmond penned an article for Winning's church newspaper and was rewarded by the cardinal's declaration that Scottish nationalism was "mature, respectful and international in outlook".

Winning first raised the issue of the Act of Settlement, a campaign which has now been taken on by O'Brien.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has conceded the act is "plainly discriminatory" and "plainly wrong" but ministers have so far refused to back a repeal, blaming the legislative difficulties in doing so.

Revoking the Act would also mean having to change dozens of other Acts, both in Britain and across the Commonwealth, which refer to it.

They insist that the law can be altered if and when an heir to the throne declares a wish to marry a Roman Catholic and that it is not discriminatory in practice.

O'Brien is also understood to have put his views on the Act to Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown, who he also met on a visit to London.

Capital of Shame

EDINBURGH has become the "gay weddings" capital of Scotland after it emerged more couples are travelling to the city for civil partnerships than anywhere else.

Tourism chiefs today said they were looking at more ways to attract gay couples from overseas to marry in Edinburgh. They believe gay weddings are lucrative way of attracting the "pink pound" because gay couples are frequent travellers and big spenders.

The first figures released on civil partnerships have shown 76 took place in Edinburgh in the first three months of 2006. Legislation making such ceremonies legal in Scotland was only passed in December last year. The second most popular destination was Glasgow, where 59 gay and lesbian couples "wed".

Tourism already plays a major part in the Edinburgh economy, and VisitScotland plans to build on the Capital's attraction to same-sex couples. A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said:

"Internationally this market appears to be growing. Twenty-four per cent of gay travellers from the US took four or more international trips in the last three years. They have a high propensity to shop and take a lot of short breaks while on holiday. It is a very lucrative area."

City council leader Donald Anderson said the first months of civil partnerships had been a success.

"What we are doing in Edinburgh is obviously working and we should build on the success of the city as an overall tourism destination," he said.

However, not everyone has welcomed Edinburgh's success in appealing to gay couples.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "We as a society do a disservice to all our fellow sisters and brothers when we undermine the reality of marriage. The natural social organism of the female-male."

Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland is deciding whether to allow ministers to give religious blessings at civil partnerships. The matter is being debated by presbyteries across Scotland and a decision is expected to be made during the Kirk's next General Assembly meeting in May, 2007.

In Scotland as a whole there were 259 ceremonies involving gay couples between the start of January and the end of March. Another 84 were held in the final few days of 2005, immediately after the legislation was introduced.

Registrar General Duncan Macniven said: "Local registrars have been exemplary in introducing this new legislation, helping same-sex partners to have a relaxed and happy experience on their important day."

The Capital was the second most popular location for marriages, with 338 taking place in the first three months of 2006. It represented a slight fall on the same months of 2005, when there were 401 weddings in the city.

The figures, released by the Scottish Executive, also detail the number of births in the country. A total of 1165 children were born in Edinburgh between January and March, the second highest of any local authority area in Scotland, behind Glasgow on 1631.

In Scotland there were 13,568 births. There were more babies born than in the same months last year when there were 1087 births in Edinburgh, and 13,352 across Scotland.

Meanwhile, there were 1189 deaths in Edinburgh between January and March 2006, again the second highest in Scotland behind Glasgow where there were 1887, with 14,876 people dying across the country. This represented a fall from 15,617 deaths across Scotland, and 1213 in Edinburgh alone, during the first three months of 2005.

Unholy Row Over Prayer

GOD may well be in his heaven, but he faces a battle to hang on in the council chamber.

Traditional prayers at meetings of the Highland Council face being scrapped amid worries they may be "discriminatory".

The Inverness-based body is investigating whether the invocations break equal rights laws. A small number of councillors now stay out of the chamber, while others claim the prayers are "rambling and repetitious".

But the calls to scrap the devotions, which typically last for about four minutes, have led to a furious backlash from traditionalists in some of the strongest churchgoing areas in Scotland.

All meetings of the full council, which are held every six weeks, along with meetings of the education and culture committee, feature times of prayer. At the start of a full council meeting the convener asks a councillor, who is also a committed church member, to pray.

For education meetings, one of the trio of clerics who attend the committee is picked. Those selected are rarely warned in advance and, in the best Presbyterian tradition, must pray "off-the-cuff" rather than reading out pre-prepared texts.

But even the few minutes contemplating the Divine are too much for some, who believe the tradition is anachronistic in the increasingly multi-cultural Highlands.

Michael MacMillan, the leader of the Labour group on the council has asked for a review of whether the authority risks breaking equality laws by holding the prayers. A team of officials will now investigate the legal question and quiz other local authorities on their stance on the issue.

Other Scottish councils which share the practice are Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Western Isles. The Scottish Parliament has a weekly session for prayer which is led in turn by representatives from different religions and includes Humanists.

Dingwall councillor MacMillan, who is standing as a list candidate in next year's Holyrood elections, said: "I have come to this from a legal background and am concerned about whether we are breaking equality laws. We have to ask whether this is an issue of religious discrimination. We are likely to be in the situation soon of having councillors who might be Sikh or Muslim and we need to ask whether the prayers should continue."

The possibility of scrapping the prayers has led to a backlash from many members.

Independent Inverness councillor Jimmy MacDonald, said: "This is the Highlands, this is Scotland, and this is a churchgoing area. I have never heard any complaints about the prayers until now. I see no reason to change it."

Sandy Glass, a Church of Scotland minister and member of Highland's education committee - who regularly leads prayers in the chamber - said: "A much better answer to the question of several cultures and faiths is to allow different religions their turn, just like we do with the Christian denominations right now. I would have no problem with a Muslim, for example, praying in the chamber. I think that's the way ahead."

"Minister Apologised over Sunday Ferries"

The Lord's Day Observance Society has revealed at an annual rally that it received an apology from transport minister Tavish Scott over CalMac's plans for a Sunday ferry service to Harris, but he refused to intervene.

The gathering of the Stornoway branch heard that two representatives of the society - the Rev Andrew Coghill and former Western Isles Council convener Donald Mackay - had attended the meeting in Edinburgh along with Harris councillor Morag Munro, MSP Alasdair Morrison and Murdo Gray, who represented Western Isles Council.

In March, the company announced the introduction of the new service the day before the issue was due to be debated by the Western Isles Council and despite a petition from people in Harris and Uist with 711 signatures opposing a Sunday service. CalMac then caused further anger by providing three services a day on the Sunday and also introduced it on the day of the Free Presbyterian Church communion services in April.

The Rev Coghill said it had been pointed out to the minister that six years ago the ferry company stated in a letter it would not introduce a Sunday ferry service without first seeking the views of the council.

Mr Coghill said it had been treachery by the government-owned ferry company to announce the introduction of the Sunday ferry the day before the council meeting when it was due to be debated and when CalMac already had a petition totally opposed to it.

He said: "The transport minister was respectful but made it clear he was not going to intervene in the company's operational matters. I feel he had decided what he was going to say before he came to the meeting.

"He did acknowledge that things had been done wrongly and badly.

"He apologised to us for that, and said he would look into it."

Mr Coghill said that they had been given no assurance from the minister that the situation on the Sound of Harris ferry service would be reversed or that there would be no introduction of a Sunday service on the Stornoway-Ullapool route.

He said that, while many might have felt that it was a waste of time for the delegation to meet with the tansport minister, it was important to put forward their point of view and the claims of the Christian community.

He added: "We will go on to do all we can to hold fast for the Lord's Day."

The branch secretary, Angus Mackay, said that they would consider the possibility of submitting a petition to the Scottish Parliamentary Committee on the issue.

The rally was addressed by international speaker and author Dr Joseph A, Pipa, president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in South Carolina

Rod and Penny "Baptise" Baby Son

Rock star Rod Stewart and fiancée Penny Lancaster have had seven-month-old son Alastair baptised in an Edinburgh church, doubling the normal Sunday morning turnout!

The couple joined invited guests at South Leith Parish Church for the service, followed by a celebration lunch at the Balmoral Hotel.

Lancaster, 35, and Stewart, 61, live in Essex but chose the historic church because it is in the area where Rod's late father Bob was born. Stewart has six other children but Alastair is his first with Lancaster.

After the service, Stewart, dressed in a kilt, and Lancaster left the church to a round of applause from parishioners and well-wishers who had gathered outside in the sunshine. Baby Alastair, who was wrapped in a blanket, was put into their red Jaguar car before they left. The couple did not answer questions from waiting journalists.

Lancaster gave birth to the couple's first child at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital in London in November. They chose the name Alastair because of its Scottish origins and the middle name Wallace as a tribute to Lancaster's grandfather, who died in a road accident in 2003.

Stewart's other children include Kimberly and Sean by his first wife Alana Stewart. He had a daughter Ruby with his former girlfriend Kelly Emberg and two other children, Renee and Liam, from his marriage to Rachel Hunter. The singer also fathered a child when he was much younger but was not involved in raising the infant.

Arthur Mathieson, session clerk at the church, said after the ceremony that it had been a proud moment for the church and its congregation.

He said: "We were very proud and excited that they had chosen our church to have this. Rod just acted like any other proud parent at a christening and he spent time at the end shaking hands with everybody on their way out. I think Rod chose this because he wanted to go back to his roots, with his father being from Leith. I just think he was really impressed with this church in particular.

"It was especially good that he had the service with the public at the normal time of 11am on a Sunday. We were pleasantly surprised that they wanted to go with the regular public worship because everyone had assumed they would want to do it at a different time."

Among those who turned out for the service was Stewart's daughter from his first marriage, Kimberley Stewart, and his friend Gordon Strachan, the manager of Celtic, who gave shares in the club as a christening gift.

After the service, Stewart admitted that the event had brought him to tears. Although the church service was not altered in any way from a normal Sunday service, there was a real sense of occasion and feeling of excitement from members of the congregation.

As the service started, Rev Gilmour warne the congregation that they were not to take any photographs with cameras or mobile phones during the service. Towards the end of the ceremony, Ms Lancaster became the only person to break the rule when she started filming her child as family members waved at her camcorder. With great excitement, she turned the camera on the rest of the congregation, who were singing The Christian Greeting.

When invited up to the altar for the christening ceremony, Ms Lancaster smiled widely as her son was baptised, while Stewart struggled to hold back his tears. They then stood hand in hand as their son was baptised.

Rev Gilmour said: "Alistair will be brought up in California but Penny and Rod have made the commitment to bring him up within the Christian framework." (Editors comment - "whatever that might mean !)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Condoleezza Challenges Christians

United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister, challenged Christians to remain engaged in what is happening around the world.

In a 30-minute address to around 12,000 delegates at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention kast week, she encouraged attendees to continue what they are already doing, including "digging wells and building dams and strengthening communities in the fight against AIDS."

She said Americans must choose to either lead the way in the world or withdraw, to rise to challenges or shrink from them. "If not for America, who would rally other nations to conscience to the international defense of religious liberty?" she asked.

Condoleezza opened her speech with several lighthearted stories about her family and ended it by thanking the audience members for their commitment, dedication, compassion and faith.

World Cup Fever ?

The international football association FIFA closed and sealed chapels in two world cup venues, only to be forced to reopen them.

The Olympic stadium in Berlin and the arena Auf Schalke in Gelsenkirchen are the only soccer venues with chapels in Germany. According to reports, FIFA cited security concerns and respect for those of non-Christian religions as the reasons for the closure.

However, in response to widespread Christian protests FIFA reopened the chapel in Berlin shortly before the Ecuador v Germany match on Tuesday.
Operation Mobilization is a part of the Kick Off 2006, an evangelistic campaign centered around the World Cup. OM's Martin Bateman says having chapels in football stadiums is just German culture.
"To close them was almost like over the top political correctness I think from the authorities in football, worrying about what the world would think. There's been a bit of an outcry about it and people have been a bit shocked that they could go so far. It's good to know they opened up."

MNN talked to Martin Bateman at Joshua Church in Hamburg where they're telecasting the games as part of their World Cup outreach. He says literature distribution is key to what they're doing.
"We've been distributing brochures and information which has testimonies of some of the Christian players. You may notice in some of the more famous teams, in Brazil, there are three players in the starting 11 who are strong believers in Jesus and give witness to that."
He says just wearing a national shirt gives you opportunity to share your faith.
"People will see your shirt representing Sweden, or England, and want to talk to you. And, you have great opportunity just to share why you're here -- the international volunteers come to serve Jesus."
Being non-German also helps, says Martin, especially when they're talking to students at a nearby school.
"They're willing to hear something about Jesus from somebody who's a foreigner, rather than hear it from a German. They say, 'Oh, you're a German you work for the church, you're supposed to say this, but the foreigners -- oh wow!' It's more interesting to hear it from us."
In the meantime, Christians worldwide are being asked to pray for this outreach because the potential is incredible.
"Nine of the nations that are in the World Cup have less the one-percent Christians in their nations and yet they've sent thousands of supporters to these championships. And so, we want to interact with those as well and have a chance to share our faith with people who sometimes in their own country won't hear about Jesus."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sheila Walsh meets Bono

from the Sheila Walsh Newsletter of 11th May 2006

Last Friday, Mary Graham, Luci Swindoll and I drove to a wonderful, old hotel in downtown Dallas to meet with an amazing man - Bono, the lead singer from U2.

For some time Luci has been involved with DATA (Debt, Trade, Aids, Africa) an organization started by Bono. Their new campaign is The One Campaign. This is an effort to rally Americans one by one to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty.

We had an amazing afternoon as he shared his passion to be involved with the things that God cares about. He told us,
"Some time ago a pastor friend of mine told me to stop asking God to bless my projects and to join in with what God is doing for it is already blessed."
What a call for all of us.

This is a God-given opportunity for the Church to be out front in leading the fight against the things that break the heart of God.

You can go to and sign the petition and order the ONE armbands. I'm ordering them for all my friends and for Christian's school. We can make a difference. We can be known not as those who stand against so many issues but as those who love in Jesus name. Please sign up today and pass this on to your friends.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Falling Congregations and no Priests

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland will be forced to close church buildings according to an article in Scotland on Sunday.

The paper reports that Cardinal Keith O'Brien has laid out a radical restructuring plan involving the scrapping old parish boundaries and creating new clusters of churches which 'share' priests - all as a consequence of the two factors of falling congregations and a halving in the number of priests in some areas.

With the average age of priests in Scotland now above 60, and with few new vocations, the Church has been forced to choose between radical change or the prospect of dozens of parishes without priests.

The dearth of RC priests is currently most serious in the east of the country. A spokesman for the Glasgow archdiocese - Scotland's largest - said there was no need yet to contemplate similar radical measures as those suggested in the east.

View the article at

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Church of Scotland plans to set up a four-bedroom halfway house for troubled youths are under attack by residents of the village of Torrance in East Dunbartonshire.

The church currently operates Ballikinrain school in Balfron, Stirlingshire, which houses troubled boys aged eight to 14, but has nowhere to put older youths. The house planned for Torrance would be a four-bedroom house for three teenagers and a staff member.

No planning application has yet been lodged for the site on Rosehill Road, currently home to unused council-owned lock-up garages. A Church of Scotland spokesman said no final decision has been made over the Torrance proposal and that the views of the community will be listened to.

Around 100 locals packed a meeting in Torrance this week to voice their opposition, the third meeting the community has held over the plan. Their view was quite clearly "not in my back yard" !

they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark ch10 v14-16

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Religion features at the Fringe

Religion has emerged as a theme in this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including two shows which feature Jesus as a stand-up comedian.
"Clearly it's a very personal subject that artists and writers currently feel a particular need to explore," said festival director Paul Gudgin.
The annual Fringe, now in its 60th year, will put on 1,867 shows in 261 venues between 6-28 August 2006.

Plays include
  • We Don't Know Shi'ite, about the ignorance surrounding Islam.
  • According to Jesus, and Jesus: The Guantanamo Years both feature Jesus Christ as a comic.
  • Bible Babel Live! will give Fringe-goers the opportunity to see the Bible read from start to finish in 80 hours over 10 days including readings in English, Greek and Chinese.
  • Petrol Jesus Nightmare, from the Traverse Theatre Company, is about violent consequences of faith .
  • Breaking the Pope centres on the infamous Magdalene laundries, essentially religious-run workhouses for women in Ireland that are said to have existed until the mid-90s.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Painting Returns to Kelvingrove

One of Scotland's best loved paintings is returning "home" to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

Salvador Dali's Christ Of St John Of The Cross will be re-hung at the Galleries more than 50 years after it was first unveiled. Bought for £8,200 in 1952, it is now said to be worth tens of millions of pounds.

The painting has been shown at another Glasgow museum since 1993 but will return to Kelvingrove to mark its reopening. The painting, depicting the figure of Christ on the cross from above, was voted Scotland's best loved painting in a recent poll in The Herald.

The title of the painting was said to have been inspired by a drawing made by a Spanish Carmelite friar, canonised as St John of The Cross in the 16th Century, and made after he had a vision in which he saw the crucifixion from above.

Dali painted his crucifixion scene set above the rocky harbour of his home village of Port Lligat in Spain.

Kelvingrove art gallery and museum will reopenin July after a three-year refurbishment programme.


Braehead Prayer Room

Shoppers will be able to take time out and pray at Braehead Shopping Centre.

A prayer room for visitors of all religions has opened on the lower mall of the shopping centre to "provide moments of peace and solitude" away from the crowds.

Religious leaders praised the move and described it as "a very thoughtful initiative" and a "welcome and a considerate action".

Braehead's chaplain, Church of Scotland minister Rev Elisabeth Spence, said:
"This is a place where people of all religions can come to pray.

"Or it can just be a place staff and shoppers can come to for some quiet contemplation and take a few moments away from the hustle and bustle."
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said:
"The need for a still and calm space in the busy lives people lead is greater than ever."

New Provost for Episcopal Cathedral

THE UK's youngest church provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, age 39, has taken up his post in St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.

Mr Holdsworth was previously rector of St Saviour's Episcopal Church in Bridge of Allan and a chaplain to the University of Stirling.

Mr Holdsworth was installed by the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones at a special service attended by representatives of civic, academic and church communities in the City of Glasgow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marriage and the Family Devalued

English proposals which will further devalue marriage and family life could bring pressure on the Scottish Executive to follow suit.

Unmarried couples could win the right to a share of each other's wealth in the event of a break-up, under plans being published today. The Law Commission in England will publish a consultation document setting out possible improvements in the rights of the two million people who "live in sin".

A key proposal is likely to be changing the law to recognise contracts drawn up between live-in lovers and setting out how property should be divided if a relationship falters.

The commission may also propose that couples who live together for a certain period of time should get legal and financial rights. The plans may even go as far as proposing divorce-style payments when cohabiting couples split up in some circumstances, particularly when children are involved.

Critics of the current law point out that homosexual couples have been granted the right to legal protection under the Civil Partnership Act.

But the same critics seem blind to the fact that there already exists a remedy for those want to create some sort of protection to themselves within a relationship - it's called marriage. Simply fill in the forms, turn up at a registry office with witnesses and take your vows/oath/whatever.

Given that there already exists a remedy for such couples, this new proposal can only be seen as a further attack on the Christian basis of our country.