The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) met from 17th to 20th May in the lovely setting of the Liberton Kirk, Edinburgh. The weather was sunny throughout.
The Assembly opened with a sermon by the retiring Moderator, Rev John J Murray, on John 13. 34-35, highlighting love as the fulfilling of the law. This was followed by the appointment of the new Moderator, the Rev David Fraser, recently returned from Zambia. His father, Rev A R Fraser, had been Moderator of the Free Church in 1953 and was a guest at the Coronation in Westminster Abbey. After a ministry of 7 years in the Isle of Mull, David with his wife Marion, a native of Stornoway, set off in 1977 for missionary work in Southern Africa. Last year they returned home and David is ministering in Shettleston in the east end of Glasgow.
Mr Fraser had invited Mrs Isobel Scott of Dumfries to compose a Psalm tune for the occasion. She composed a tune, which she and her husband, Rev W B Scott, introduced at the Moderator’s Reception. The tune is named ‘Liberton Kirk’. The present minister was delighted to give consent for this name.
Mr Fraser’s address to the Assembly was on the Kingship of Christ, described by one theologian as ‘the dominion of the God-man, Jesus Christ, over the universe, His providential and judicial administration of all things in the interests of the Church’. The Kingship of Christ over Scotland enshrined in documents like the National Covenant (1638) has been swept aside in devolving power to a reconstituted Scottish Parliament. Much of the legislation enacted since its inception has been unbiblical and the Parliament building ‘constructed to glorify man is’ he declared, ‘ a scandal of mismanagement and extravagance that history will not forget’.
Turning his attention to the Church he declared that inward looking Christians disgrace the King. Retreat was not in the vocabulary of the Apostles. ‘Is it any wonder our churches are powerless when we are so comfortable. It may be the Lord will take all from us that we may follow him who had nowhere to lay his head. As the Covenanters climbed the scaffold they promised, “The Covenants will be the reviving of Scotland” ‘
On Wednesday evening Mr Fraser left the Moderator’s chair to become a ‘missionary delegate’ and gave an update on the work in Zambia. He shared with us the testimonies of men whose lives had been remarkably changed by the Covenant College. The College is now located at New Mission Farm and the idea is to set up self-sufficiency on the Campus. He commended to us Phil Bailey, who gave up a lucrative market garden business in England, and hopes to set up an export producing system based on the farm. The recently established Christian Community Schools Association was prospering.
The account of overseas work was followed by a moving challenge about the needs of Scotland. It was brought to the Assembly by the recently appointed home mission worker, Mr Donald John Morrison, a native of Scalpay. He spoke about the deep burden that he had been given for the souls of men and women. His main base is in Inverness where he visits and preaches in the open air. He had also been on missions in Ayr and Shettleston. Contact with ‘the man in the street’ revealed the desperate need of our land. It is possible to be doctrinally correct and yet lacking in evangelistic zeal.
In the Public Questions, Religion and Morals Report, Ness-born, Mr Alex Morrison, spoke of the crisis in our society today. He mentioned a recent report that highlighted the fact that there were 59,000 children in Scotland with at least one parent having a drug problem. The prison population was escalating. Social work vacancies cannot be filled. Those who advocate the theory that real freedom is in permissiveness do not have a single social statistic on their side. Mr Morrison went on to speak of the need to re-assert the universality of the moral law. Morality has become very selective and as a consequence some very basic freedoms are under threat.
Mr John MacKenzie, the Convener of the Legal Committee, spoke of the impending court action and although looking forward with anticipation to vindication of our stand for the truth ‘the General Assembly continue to cherish the hope that the division in the Church can be healed on the basis of reconciliation founded on Scriptural principles’.