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Flabby Kirk needs to regain its moral might

It’s ironic that the strongest voices of moral clarity in Scotland now should be Catholic, much in the same way as the clearest moral leadership in England now comes from the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, writes Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children. The Catholic workers who settled in west central Scotland in Victorian times, the Jewish refugees who came here at the turn of the century and the new Afro-Caribbean citizens who’ve arrived since the war have kept alive the tradition and example of moral witness in a way many of the rest of us have forgotten.

Writing as someone brought up in the Church of Scotland, I have to ask who is there now in the Kirk, or of the Kirk, who speaks with the command, force and gravity of Cardinal O’Brien or James Macmillan? I cannot think of a contemporary William Barclay or George MacLeod in the Kirk, nor a scholar, preacher or social missionary to match these men. Nor can I think of any decisive intervention in the ethical life of the nation which the Kirk has generated recently.

The Church of Scotland, throughout its life, used to punch above its weight. From the Reformation, through the Great Disruption of the 1840s, to the missionary work of late Victorian times and the foundation of the Iona community, the Kirk and its controversies have given life and spirit to Christianity and intellectual energy to the United Kingdom.

But now it seems to have lost its fighting strength; what was once muscular about its Christianity now seems increasingly flabby. And, it appears to me, the place once taken by the Church of Scotland in our national life is increasingly occupied by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

Full story at Scotland on Sunday.

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