Scotland and The Next Church

muslim-tartanYou know those Presbyterian Churches who celebrate a “Kirkin-of-the-Tartan” each October in the United States to honor their Scottish roots? Actually that ‘tradition’ was created by Peter Marshall after World War 2. We Presbyterians in the United States are hardly Scottish anymore. Our congregations are comprised of every heritage and ethnicity on the planet.

Nevertheless, the land of The Mother Church, intrigues me, if for no other reason than JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter books there.

I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the Scottish Independence movement, but what I do know is that – just as the culture of Scotland has changed, the Church of Scotland has changed dramatically. Or at least it needs to change.

– While the national church of Scotland is Presbyterian, only 9% of the current Scottish population pledges allegiance to the Kirk. The Church of Scotland is not an established church and citizens are free to choose their own personal faith.

Only 53.8% of the population of Scotland self-identifies as Christian, according to the 2011 census. This is down from over 65% ten years before.

The newest registered tartan in accordance with the Scottish Register of Tartans Act of 2008 is The Islamic Tartan, established officially as Tartan #10644. This is not your grandfather’s Hunting Stewart.

We who love history and we who (try to) love Jesus even more than history find ourselves in conflict with some of our brothers and sisters. Imagine trying to convince long-time members with names like Campbell and McDonald to cease and desist on the whole Scottish rites business for the sake of members with zero connection to Scotland. I’m thinking about all those with last names like Okoro and Kang and Bishara and Saaed and Golovkin and Babaighian and Estevez who sit on our boards and in our pews.

The Rt Rev Lorna Hood, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, has stated that the Church is neutral on Scottish independence. She is trying to steer the conversation away from money and towards social justice. (Thank you, sister.) And we U.S. Presbyterians would do well to follow her lead.

The U.S. considers Church and State issues on a regular basis, and it’s often more about money than social justice. No wonder people reject the institutional church.

But a new time is coming when pastors might lose our tax free housing allowance and pastors might lose our ability to be agents of the state in terms of officiating at weddings. These things don’t freak me out. How about you?

Image of models wearing the Muslim Tartan. I’m pretty certain there is no ‘kirkin-o-the-tartan’ in their local mosque.

One response to “Scotland and The Next Church

  1. This is an important point. I got introduced to “Scots Sunday” a few years back while serving as an interim…in a congregation set squarely in the midst of a community that had changed decades ago. The need to move forward becomes more urgent as time passes. Thanks Jan.


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