Entrails and other body parts

In his final blog Evangelical Christian Alex Monro explains how he sees priesthood

Medieval Europe’s clergy were a powerful bunch with little to hold them in check – except the Pope and the king. I sympathise with Denis Diderot, who wrote in the eighteenth century that "man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest".

For England, it was a return to biblical theology that helped achieve the beginnings of such a liberation, at least from the clergy’s long-standing monopoly on truth. The bible had been kept out of lay hands and parents were expected to teach their children the Lord’s Prayer in Latin (or were burned to death for doing so in English), while the established church presented itself as the only means to salvation. The distribution of the scriptures in English made it possible for ordinary English people to read and interpret God’s word for themselves, and to see which teachings of the established church were at variance with scripture.

The difference of these two approaches to God’s word underpins how an evangelical church is built. Evangelicals can be found in many denominations in this country and around the world, such as the Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, United Reformed and house church movements. An evangelical church can vary somewhat in its structure according to denomination and culture.

But all such churches will share a belief that the word of God is their ultimate authority, not man. Moreover, all evangelicals believe that God has chosen Jesus to be the only go-between for man and God. There is no other priest who can act as mediator – all believers have direct access to God through Jesus.

Jesus himself appointed twelve apostles as the founders of the church and the apostles appointed leaders in the churches they founded. Bishops provide valuable help as overseers, but power rests with the local churches (the people, not the places), the nerve centre of God’s family and of gospel work. Within the individual church, the pastor is charged with teaching the word of God, but the congregation must test his teaching against the words of scripture and dismiss him if he refuses to teach faithfully. The pastor is also charged with care for the congregation, particularly for their spiritual welfare, though this should be shared with others.

The bible describes the church as a body, with Christ as the head and each person having a function within the body. The emphasis is on the different individual roles contributing to the successful working of the body, rather than on any hierarchy of believers. This is because all are sinners, all are under Christ and all are part of Christ’s body. One biblical writer imagines a hand that wishes it were a foot and an ear that wishes it were an eye, as he tries to encourage his readers to serve God with the gifts they have. If the whole body were an ear, how would it hear, he asks?

There is but one body of Christ and it is made up of many parts – elders, teachers, encouragers, the exceptionally prayerful, musicians, administrators, those skilled in hospitality and many others besides. Over them all, even the pastor, is the word of God.

Alex studied French, then Chinese before pursuing a career in journalism. He now works for Trusted Sources, a political and economic risk consultancy, where he is a China analyst
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Winning Scottish independence will be even harder than before - but it may be the only choice

Independence campaigners will have to find answers on borders, currency and more. 

The Brexit mutiny has taken not just the UK economy and its relationship with Europe into uncharted waters. it has also imperilled the union between Scotland and England. From Sir John Major to the First Minister, both Unionists and Nationalists had warned of it. The outcome, though, has made this certain. The Leave vote in England and Wales contrasted with an overwhelming Remain vote north of the border.

That every region in Scotland voted to stay In was quite remarkable. Historically, fishing and industrial communities have blamed the European Union for their woes. That antagonism was probably reflected in lower turnout - an abstention rather than a rejection. 

The talk now is of a second referendum on independence. This is understandable given the current mood. Opinion polls in the Sunday Times and Sunday Post showed a Yes vote now at 52 per cent and 59 per cent respectively. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests even arch No vote campaigners, from JK Rowling to the Daily Record, are considering the option.

The First Minister was therefore correct to say that a second referendum is now “back on the table”. Her core supporters expects no less. However, as with the economy and Europe, the constitutional relationship between Scotland and England is now in uncharted seas. Potential support for independence may be higher, but the challenges are arguably bigger than before. The difficulties are practical, political and geographic.

Of course the Little Englanders likely to take the helm may choose a velvet divorce. However, given their desire for the return of the Glories of Britannia that’s improbable. They’re as likely to wish to see Caledonia depart, as cede Gibraltar to Spain, even though that territory voted even more overwhelmingly In.

Ticking the legal boxes

Practically, there’s the obstacle of obtaining a legal and binding referendum. The past vote was based on the Edinburgh Agreement and legislation in Westminster and Holyrood. The First Minister has indicated the democratic arguments of the rights of the Scots. However, that’s unlikely to hold much sway. A right-wing centralist Spanish government has been willing to face down demands for autonomy in Catalonia. Would the newly-emboldened Great Britain be any different?

There are no doubt ways in which democratic public support can be sought. The Scottish Government may win backing in Holyrood from the Greens. However, consent for such action would need to be obtained from the Presiding Officer and the Lord Advocate, both of whom have a key role in legislation. These office holders have changed since the first referendum, where they were both more sympathetic and the legal basis clearer. 

Getting the EU on side

The political hurdles are, also, greater this time than before. Previously the arguments were over how and when Scotland could join the EU, although all accepted ultimately she could remain or become a member. This time the demand is that Scotland should remain and the rest of the UK can depart. But will that be possible? The political earthquake that erupted south of the Border has set tectonic plates shifting, not just in the British isles but across the European continent. The fear that a Brexit would empower dark forces in the EU may come to pass. Will the EU that the UK is about to leave be there for an independent Scotland to join? We cannot know, whatever European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may be saying at the moment. The First Minister is right to start engaging with Europe directly. But events such as elections in France and the Netherlands are outwith her control. 

Moreover, currency was the Achilles heel in the last referendum, and hasn’t yet been addressed. George Osborne was adamant in his rejection of a currency union. The options this time round, whether a separate Scottish currency or joining the euro, have yet to be properly explored. A worsened financial situation in the 27 remaining EU members hampers the latter and the former remains politically problematic. 

The problem of borders

Geography is also an obstacle  that will be even harder to address now than before. Scotland can change its constitution, but it cannot alter its location on a shared island. In 2014, the independence argument was simply about changing the political union. Other unions, whether monarchy or social, would remain untouched. The island would remain seamless, without border posts. An independent Scotland, whether in or out of the EU, would almost certainly have to face these issues. That is a significant change from before, and the effect on public opinion unknown.

The risk that's worth it

Ultimately, the bar for a Yes vote may be higher, but the Scots may still be prepared to jump it. As with Ireland in 1920, facing any risk may be better than remaining in the British realm. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister would certainly encourage that. 

David Cameron's lack of sensitivity after the independence referendum fuelled the Scottish National Party surge. But perhaps this time, the new Government will be magnanimous towards Scotland and move to federalism. The Nordic Union offers an example to be explored. Left-wing commentators have called for a progressive alliance to remove the Tories and offer a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s constitution. But that is dependent on SNP and Labour being prepared to work together, and win the debate in England and Wales.

So, Indy Ref The Sequel is on the table. It won’t be the same as the first, and it will be more challenging. But, if there is no plausible alternative, Scots may consider it the only option.

Kenny MacAskill served as a Scottish National MSP between 2007 and 2016, and as Cabinet Secretary for Justice between 2007 and 2014.