Church leaders speak truth to power

Church leaders met with the Scottish Government this week to challenge them on climate change, Brexit and the way they engage with churches as key stakeholders in Scottish society.

Representatives and church leaders from ten of the main Christian denominations in Scotland met with Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for and Communities and Local Government, and government officials to discuss issues of importance to churches at the Scottish Parliament.

Concerns were expressed regarding Scottish Government consultation on funeral poverty and loneliness and isolation where churches had not been adequately considered given their expertise in these areas, and a hate crime campaign at the end of last year where Christians felt that they had been misrepresented.

Better and more effective ways of working between the Government and Scottish churches were discussed with the Cabinet Secretary who offered further opportunities for discussion with Government ministers to explore the issue.

Irene MacKinnon, research officer at the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO), said:

“It is vitally important that church leaders and representatives from the Christian denominations in Scotland have the opportunity to encourage and challenge those who represent us in Government, and to partner in solutions where people in our local communities are affected.”

Church leaders were united in their desire to bridge divides as the Brexit process continues to create disquiet and fear within local communities, and there was deep concern that the ongoing experience was leading to distrust in the political system and political representatives.

The Scottish Government’s stance on the climate emergency was welcomed along with the new targets set to make Scotland a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2045, and the creation of a Just Transition Commission.

But they were challenged on commitments to oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and if the administration would consider taking the approach of the Norwegian Parliament who are looking at stopping further oil exploration near the Lofoten Islands.

The meeting was organised by the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) and the following church leaders and representatives took part in the discussions: Rev Alan Donaldson (Baptist Union of Scotland), Bishop Hugh Gilbert (The Bishop’s Conference of Scotland), Anthony Horan (Catholic Parliamentary Office), Joyce Taylor (Religious Society of Friends), the Most Revd Mark Strange (Scottish Episcopal Church), Joan Cook (Scottish Unitarian Association), Rt Rev Colin Sinclair (Church of Scotland), Rev May-Kane Logan (The Congregational Federation in Scotland), Major Carol Young (The Salvation Army), Rev John Fulton (United Free Church of Scotland), Revd John Bremner (United Reformed Church), and Rev Ian Boa (Action of Churches Together in Scotland).

They were joined by Parliamentary Officer Chloe Clemmons and chairperson John Wilson of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO).