See after you’ve mentioned a topic once, it’s hard not to get dragged in and keep coming back to it. So: psalms.
But this time just two general things.
1) Something to read. Mr Stewart, minister of Dowanvale FC, has written a detailed, lucid, and comprehensive response to the decision of November’s Plenary Assembly. It is available here as a pdf. I found it gripping, strange perhaps to say, and its conclusions compelling. If you’ve only seen the jubilations of people who don’t see what all the fuss is about, this is the breath of fresh air you’ve been waiting for.
2) Reactions in the FPs. At least, the ones I’ve been hearing.
(a) People are very, very saddened by November’s decision. Not angry, not scornful, not judgmental. Overawed by the enormity, perhaps, but very, very sad.
(b) People are constantly (independently) drawing comparisons between Kenny Stewart and Donald MacFarlane. Being placed in a horribly difficult situation as a result of an outrage being perpetrated on your conscience by church courts is something that FPs, if they know their history, understand.
(c) People are praying. People are praying first of all that last November’s decision would be repealed. It doesn’t seem to be a decision that the majority of the church are happy with. It places ministers, elders, and members not just in an awkward position, but an awkward position that was scarcely expected and which becomes more and more evidently awkward as time goes by. (In 1892, there was just the possibility that the declaratory act would be rejected at the next Assembly. It wasn’t till the decision of the 1893 Assembly that Mr MacFarlane’s position became untenable, but just think: how immeasurably better things would have been all round, if the ’92 Act had been rejected.) Meanwhile, it’s in everybody’s interests to have the FC internally united around scripturally warranted doctrines and practice – for the Christian good of Scotland, we want to see it as healthy, as thriving, and as biblical in its practice as possible.
But praying too that, if there is no repeal, the FPs would be open to receiving friends from the FC who would find it impossible to remain there under the new regime. People are not sanguine about how easy it is to leave the denomination of your birth, upbringing, and Christian profession. People are not sanguine about the cultural differences that exist between the FPs and the FCs. But attitudes and the general atmosphere in the FPC has been changing in the last decade or so. Even on some practical issues, where previously the FP position might have been too strict for an FCer to realistically contemplate, now (as a friend delicately put it) they might not have all that much to worry about.
The truest, surest unity between believers in the FPC and believers in the FC has always consisted of their shared experience of grace, their shared commitment to the doctrines of the Confession, and their shared commitment to Reformation-heritage purity of worship. The threat of disunity loomed so large over the Plenary Assembly that it seems many men voted contrary to their own position – not on the rights and wrongs of a capella exclusive psalmody, but on the political question of what seemed to best guarantee organisational unity. But if the FC doesn’t move to recover the ground it has lost, the real ‘unity option’ might well end up being a gathering around these shared essentials under the auspices of the FPC. Do we have the convictions, FP and FC folks, for this to happen?