Presbyterian preachers with Scottish accents...

Scotland is seeing a radical loss of religious commitment and faith, particularly among her young adults. Why the decline?

Members of the Church of Scotland were polled and only 37% said they believe Jesus was God's son and came back to life after being crucified. Are the pastors who have been presiding over this apostasy still getting paid? If so, does it please them?

I ask because I'm remembering Kierkegaard's comment that, for many pastors, a church without people is their ideal. They want a sinecure—not a messy, smelly flock.

As goes the preaching, so goes the church; and as goes the church, so goes the nation. After years sitting in presbytery meetings listening to sermons by recent grads of my denomination's seminary... I called a man at the top of the denomination's leadership and told him the seminary and its president would be the death of the denomination; that our seminary grads' preaching was weak and faithless.

Which is to say American Presbyterians are not far behind Scotland and should expect the same decline of Christian faith unless and until God raises up men who preach the Law and the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. By faith.

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Reports a Presbyterian elder from the USA, "Last summer, when (my wife) and I were in Scotland over a Sunday, I was considering attending the dignified, stately Presbyterian Church of Scotland edifice in the centre (Scottish spelling) of St. Andrews. Before attending their service, though, I decided to Google that particular church to see if it seemed orthodox. Finding that the assistant pastor was a professor in “diversity studies” at the local university, I decided that we would instead worship at the local Baptist church (which turned out to be quite sound)."

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


Pastor Bayly,

Good admonishment and warnings... I wish it were so that you didnt have to give them.

One thing I remember from my university days was the number of Anglican priests (Lewis Carroll, Thomas Bayes, others) who more or less used their parsonages as a sinecure from which to conduct literary, scientific, and other endeavors.  I can't remember whether the same applies to the Kirk, but if it does, it would explain the desolation there as it does the desolation in the Church of England.  There was a culture where the pastorate was simply viewed as a great alternative for young men of good breeding who lacked initiative.  As a result, no big surprise that the working classes abandoned the churches.

For that matter, I guess it explains the desolation in any number of churches, mainline to fundamental, where many view the pastorate and the Gospel as a means to a living and little more.

Bert speaks of "the desolation of the Church of England." My daughter and son-in-law spent three years in Cambridge and are about to return there for further studies. The first two years were spent visiting a great number of C of E parishes which were either dead, dead, dead; or, terminally neurotic. 

I forget now how it happened, but they stumbled onto an intrepid group of British Lutherans (!), operating a seminary to which they admitted American students for a year-abroad program, as well as students from Continental Lutheran jurisdictions. It turned out that the English-language liturgy they used borrowed heavily from the Book of Common Prayer, except these Lutherans believe what that liturgy proclaims. The UK Lutherans have a concordat with the American Missouri Synod.

So, my cradle Prayer Book daughter and son-in-law (he's also my godson) are happily Lutheran, looking forward to their reunion with the British Lutherans in Cambridge when they return there this Spring. If the C of E won't use the fruits of the English Reformation properly (and sincerely), then someone else will!

There used to be a pretty good Anglican church meeting at St Andrew the Great in Cambridge, when I was there in the latter half of the 90s.  They were unfortunately the exception rather than the rule.  There is a good Presbyterian church in Cambridge pastored by Ian Hamilton.  I have a very good friend who attends there.

Evangelicalism Divided by Iain H. Murray explains a lot.

I'm going to be in London for a few days later this year. Can anyone recommend a good church there?

I'm going to be in London for a few days later this year. Can anyone recommend a good church there?

Metropolitan Tabernacle is only Reformed Baptist but they aren't liberal and have a great book shop.  They're not too far from the Elephant and Castle line.

Wait a second ... Just hold on ... Did David Gray just recommend that someone attend a Baptist Church?

Wait a second ... Just hold on ... Did David Gray just recommend that someone attend a Baptist Church?

I've attended a Baptist church on a few occasions over the last few years.  It is better than neglecting corporate worship.  It is inferior to attending a church which has a Biblical understanding of the means of grace and is overtly monergistic.

What's really scary isn't Brother Gray's unity with Baptists in corporate worship but his unity with Lutherans in Bible study. Wink wink.


Actually what is truly scary is my recipe for crockpot haggis, which has been described as Presbyterian sausage.  :)

Okay. I'm better now.

Obviously Brother Wegener just had some of Brother Grey's haggis.  ;^)

OK, seriously, sad to consider that it's awful hard to figure out good churches in a city as big as London.  That said, I've heard the same about New York, too.

What's so hard about preaching a Law & Gospel sermon today when the Reformers did it weekly (and sometimes daily) in the 16th century?


The best UK "going to church" story I know was told on himself by Alan Ross, from whom I learned Hebrew at DTS.  He is a Bob Jones grad, and in those days still "looked lit it." Knowing this, after one of his particularly mind-warping expositions of irregular defective verbs, a fellow in the class asked him where he went to church when he was taking his doctorate in Hebrew at Oxford.

"At first, I attended nonconformist assemblies," he said. "But, these were so legalistic, I couldn't stand it."

Our eyebrows crawled up to our hairlines! A Bob Jones alumnus finding someone ~else~ to be legalistic???

"So, I decided to try one of the State Churches." He meant, of course, the Church of England.

"When I showed up, there was almost no one there, and only a handful appeared before the service began. Meanwhile, I picked up the Book of Common Prayer and began to leaf through it. I thought 'This is right out of the Bible,' and 'I can certainly worship with this' and similar thoughts.

"So, I began to attend regularly, and after a while, I joined the Church of England."

At that time (mid-Seventies), Ross was the only Episcopalian on the DTS faculty. He went on to teach Hebrew at one of the last orthodox seminaries in the mainline Episcopal Church (TrinitySchool of Ministry) and wrote an introductory Hebrew grammar.

That story provided the germ for about a decade of ruminations which, along with many related factors, grew into my embrace of the English Reformation and my eventual ordination as an Anglican priest.

You know that was similar to my reaction when I started attending evensong at Ely Cathedral when I lived there.  I'd never encountered the BCP and my reaction was "it's almost all scripture."  I knew someone who worked at the Cathedral and knew most of the men who conducted the services were heterodox to some degree but the service was almost all scripture and there was little place for them to inflict their error on those worshiping. 

As someone who has lived in Scotland for several years, can I chip in here. My take on things, is that the problem with the Reformed culture in Scotland, as it percolated from the Church of Scotland, is that it has actually succeeded in inoculating several generations of Scots against the Christian faith. This has been in all sorts of ways; basically in its presentation of the Christian life as a cold and legalistic thing, more obsessed with rule-keeping than anything else. Orthodox for a while, but not very welcoming. As a result, without the life of God, it only took a generation or so for all the errors to creep in.

Our Baptist and Pentecostal friends here seem, to me, to make far more of an effort to both welcome people and get out there with the Gospel than what most of the Free Churches manage. They are perfectly Reformed, but miss the boat in many other ways.

Hi Ross,

where about in Scotland are you / were you based?


I'm in Edinburgh. You were part of Duncan St Baptist in the 1990s, as I recall?

I used to attend Duncan St Baptist when I was on leave in Scotland 1995-2000 (usually a couple of times a year).

A few years ago a friend returned form a visit to Scotland full of enthusiasm afor the church he had attended. I asked what sort of churc it was. "Why, Presbyterian. Church of Scotland, I guess." I said, "I bet it wasn't. I bet it was"wee free (Free Church of Scotland)." It was.

I took a look at the COS website and there are quite a few women pastors, maybe half.

Hi Ross,

Small world, I'm also in Edinburgh (studying until end on May). I wasn't part of Duncan Street baptist in the 1990's - I visited there once though a year or 2 ago but actually attend Charlotte Chapel. Yourself?

Ross -- 

I'm going to be in Edinburgh on Sunday, Aug. 25th. Can you recommend a church that's near public transportation? Please e-mail me "offline" with details - cblairedit at aol dot com        I may have other questions for you, as well.

Henry - I'm at St Pauls & St George's; but I helped, for many years, with the International Fellowship at Charlotte Chapel. I can be located on FB under my full name (Ross Clark) -

That' interesting, I've not been to the IF myself but know of it and think I also may have been to P&G's once a while back. (Btw I'm not an FB user... but thanks.)

Wonder why American Presbyterians assume that the Church of Scotland is the only game in town.  I was visiting St Andrews last week and attended the worship service of the Free Church of Scotland.  It was well attended, the worship was biblical, the preaching expositional and challenging, and the welcome warm.  I believe that any visitors from the States would find their visit to "the home of golf" enriched by worship with such an evangelical presbyterian fellowship.

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