Angels with dirty faces…

I have been called a lot of names in my lifetime, but one which kinda rankles at the moment is to be called niaive.  This because I believe that the church should stand up and be counted against the evils in this nation.  You see, the opponents of our words rake through the mud and mire of previous decisions & previous mistakes, and make them public once more – we would rather hide than be reminded!  I think this is church cowardice.  If we truly believe that the decisions we make as an institution (national or local, community or synod) are correct, then do not fear what others may say, and do not let them be a barrier for standing up against other injustices we face!

Yep – i have made mistakes in life, who hasn’t?  I’ve made bad decisions and good ones in the last 40 years.  I’ve also been forgiven for those mistakes, celebrated the good decisions and turned my back on the bad ones.  If we  believe in the forgiveness of Christ, if we believe the decisions we have made as a province are faithful to Christ and bring justice and freedom, what on earth are we scared of?  upsetting other provinces?   a bit of poor publicity? overloading the email servers?  I think its time to grow up here, not let the bullies rule the playground!

My colleague over in Dumbarton made a stand against Sectarianism, and did pretty well, despite the negative press, threats to person and property. The March went ahead, but with few arrests and little aggravation, partly because of the huge amount of publicity gained as a result of Fr Kenny’s work.  (it seems other areas weren’t so lucky – see here ) Kenny is now attempting to work together with the council and the other churches in his patch to get a common statement and policy in place regarding future marches and the attitude to sectarian outbreaks in his town.  His proposal:

‘We, the undersigned, welcome and admire the position which our elected representatives have adopted on behalf of the whole community of Dumbarton at the recent meeting of the Licensing Committee.  We regret the Sheriff’s decision to overturn the ruling of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Licensing Committee which refused permission for the proposed Demonstration of the RBP on our streets on 8th August 2009.

Our community has made clear that it does not wish to have these marches on our streets in the future, in view of the fact that it has caused division within the community and has brought to the surface past problems which we felt were long behind us. We, therefore, call on the organisers of any such demonstrations, from either side of the divide, to recognise the united will of the whole community.  The march passed relatively peacefully, with much relief on our part, and that was due to the dignity and restraint of the people of Dumbarton even though it is clear that a large majority of us are opposed to sectarianism in whatever guise it may appear. It was also due to the high level and competency of the policing for which we are grateful.

We shall continue to work together to build in Dumbarton a community which rises above the historic sectarianism which has blighted the West of Scotland in the past.


1)      We shall be organising a united service of thanksgiving within one of our churches in the near future, celebrating the fact that we are all one in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

2)      We shall be organising a meeting of interested public officials and clergy to determine the best way forward in combating sectarianism within our own community, without interference from outside groups or organisations

3)      We shall attempt to find a way that such future demonstrations will be deemed unacceptable to the courts, and endeavour to take all such steps necessary to lay such foundations

4)      We pledge ourselves to build a community which is strong enough to withstand influences beyond our town boundaries which seek to divide us or heighten awareness of divisions which may already exist, albeit below the surface of our community.

5)     If it is deemed necessary or constructive, we will arrange a public meeting to allow a rational discussion, within a safe environment, to allow us to progress as a united community fostering reconciliation

I think this is brilliant, and will continue to pray for Fr Kenny,  and for the people of Dumbarton and hope that this move towards growth and restoration becomes a reality.

Two years ago, Church leaders in Glasgow signed up to the following statement:

We are pleased to provide this joint statement on the occasion of Roddy Buchanan’s ‘Histrionics’ exhibition at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (Apr – Oct 07).

We are delighted that this offers us, as Leaders and Representatives of the Christian Churches in Glasgow, a fresh opportunity to witness to the growing respect, cooperation, common prayer and common action among our Churches today.

We call to mind Jesus’ words in the Scriptures when he says to his disciples ‘By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.’ (John 13:35). Later he reinforces his message, saying ‘What I command you is to love one another.’ (John 15:17). Later still he prays to his Father for his disciples, saying ‘May they all be one.’ (John 17:20).

We regret that, institutionally and individually, many of us have not always lived up to Jesus’ example, command and prayer.

We lament the sometimes difficult and painful history among our churches, especially in the language and practice of sectarianism and bigotry.

We consider sectarianism and bigotry, like racism and other similar prejudices, to have no place in our Churches today or tomorrow.

We value highly the gifts and graces of our own traditions and we recognise and respect the gifts and graces of other traditions.

We are increasingly blessed in the many ways that our Churches now work and pray together at the local, city and national levels for the benefit of the whole community and in particular for the poor.

We are grateful that God has led us in this path of growing understanding, respect and cooperation.

We encourage people to recognise and become involved in the life of the Churches. There is a huge variety in ways of living out one’s faith in Jesus: from the private to the community to the public. New and familiar churches complement one another. ‘New Scots’ from migrant worker, asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds bring us all new challenges and new gifts. We can all learn to grow together.

We look forward with confidence in the active presence of God who leads and cares for us and in our commitment to do more together to build up God’s Kingdom.

We look forward with hope that working together with all people of faith and goodwill we will make Glasgow a better place, a proud city where all may flourish.

Today is a good time to be a Christian.

Lord, help us to show how we love one another.

Such a lament, a hopeful statement and a word of courage for this city, but little movement forward – no challenging of the sectarianism divide, merely a lament of it. If Sectarianism and all kinds of bigotry have no places in our churches or society – lament its presence by all means, but then act to remove this cancer from the Scottish life, challenge it when you see it.

May the leaders of our churches live by their words and actions, be unafraid of the consequences and get on with the task of loving all people,  fighting against all forms of bigotry in this nation – and may they support their clergy and congregations doing the same.


2 thoughts on “Angels with dirty faces…

  1. Kenny says:

    Thank you Ali! I have to record that I received tremendous personal support from our new Primus in all my efforts. He is going to be good for the SEC.

  2. Ali says:

    yeah – i get that feeling about +David too – I’ve certainly found him helpful in the past

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