Justin Welby at the General Assembly 2016

                                           Sunday 29 May 2016


                                  a wee reflection on the week ...


Although I wasn’t a commissioner at the General Assembly this year I did watch

a little online especially one or two debates of particular interest.  There are always

the issues you know people are going to disagree over, and then the surprising

ones which catch you out, while much goes through ‘on the nod’.  ‘On the nod’

should not be regarded as a criticism of disinterested commissioners, as that can

often be an awareness of good work done by a committee over a period of time and

the work and outcome is affirmed.  Whenever there is disagreement, however, that

makes the news or the papers and becomes the debate in local hostelries off the

Royal Mile in the evening.


The General Assembly debates express a number of understandings or

interpretations of the gospel even within the one church.  We justify it by calling it

a ‘broad’ church.  The negative of that is we might end up wondering where we

stand. The positive is that it indicates  that no one person possesses the truth or

the whole truth.


Interestingly this was evident in the speech of Justin Welby the Archbishop of

Canterbury who is really a very humble impressive man, when speaking on the

day of Ecumenical Relations said, among other things:

“I want to start with an assumption. The assumption is that we are not and never can

be united by the process of doctrinal discussion and agreement alone. It is essential,

but it is not sufficient. Because we are always already united by a person, Jesus Christ,

in whom we worship the Trinitarian God and to whom we bear witness in word and

deed. Not a lot else matters if we are doing those two things (worship and witness,

and all that flows from them) – and nothing is worth doing unless its rationale and

grounding are in those two vocations.”


Because whatever separates the different denominations, whatever divides people

within the Church of Scotland – whether style of worship, sexuality of clergy, model

of local church, even our favourite hymns – what matters is our common unity in

Jesus, which is revealed in sincere worship and faithful witness both which must be

undertaken with integrity.


We can never be certain that we and our doctrinal stance is the truth and whole

truth, and especially when we walk with others we realise how much we learn,

how we catch their faith.  I felt that with Justin Welby even though I was not in

the room with him.  But then I am not even in the same church as many with whom

I am united in Christ.

                          Justin Welby:  see BBC website​