The Future of Scotland
On 18 September 2014, you will be asked to vote in a referendum on the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ There will be many factors that will influence your decision as to whether you vote 'yes' or 'no' in answer to this question.
The White Paper, “Scotland’s Future”, looks to express the Scottish Government’s view on this issue; and seeks to answer many questions on the topic of independence. The Church is mentioned only a few times in the Paper, mostly with reference to our significant place in Society and the historic place of the Church of Scotland.
Question 590 asks, “What will be the position of churches and religion in an independent Scotland?”. The answer given is, “We propose no change to the legal status of any religion or of Scotland’s churches.”
An issue of particular importance to Baptists is that of religious freedom for all. The answer to question 608 speaks of, “freedom of speech, association, conscience and religion”, as being protected through the European Convention on Human Rights in an independent Scotland.
There are, in addition, a number of issues spoken of in this White Paper that are of great importance to us, as members of Christ's church. As a people who pray, “Your Kingdom come”, we look to be as 'salt and light' within our culture, introducing and supporting Jesus-centred, Biblical themes to the society in which we live. Our partners at Jubilee Scotland have already welcomed the commitment that debt relief has been highlighted as the second priority in the international section. This is just one example of how, as Christians, the wider report is important to us all.
The White Paper shares vision, hopes and aspirations in many areas, including those of economy, environment, education, justice and health. At the beginning of this New Year, I want to encourage all within our churches to prayerfully engage with this significant debate in our Nation. As we do so, let us bring something of Christ’s willingness to serve and to consider the needs of others.
I would want us to heed the words of our First Minister in this report; but probably not in a way imagined by him. Alex Salmond wrote, “The year ahead should be a national celebration of who we are and what we could be.” It would be good for our churches to remember who we are, as Jesus Christ's disciples, at the beginning of this year; and not to lose track of it as the year unfolds.
In God's Word, the letter of 1st Peter reminds us that, although at times we may feel like aliens and strangers, we are the living stones built together by Christ and on Christ, our cornerstone. We also need to be reminded of what we could be. Jesus said, “I will build
my church”. In the last couple of years, we have begun to see small signs of growth in our churches, across the nation. We believe that this is simply the beginning of a growing fruitfulness that stems from faithful witness.
I pray that we will all grow in a vision, not just of what Church can look like in the coming years, but also what it will mean to see Christ’s Kingdom come in increasing measure in our nation of Scotland in the years to come.