A leading Kirk minister has said conducting funerals for non-believers is a time-wasting burden on the church and that non-religious services should be provided by the state.
Rev Johnston McKay, BBC Scotland’s former editor of religious broadcasting, said ministers were conducting more than 70 funerals a year and at many of them there was “no interest whatsoever” in the Christian faith.
McKay said one funeral he conducted was marred by constant noise from the congregation, one of whom shouted a stream of swear words before rushing behind the curtain with the coffin.
The minister, writing in the Church of Scotland magazine Life and Work, said state-run funerals would be welcomed by many mourners, who feel their presence in church is “at best inappropriate and at worst hypocritical”.
As the recognised national church, the Church of Scotland routinely conducts parish funerals for all, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Kirk minister Rev Fiona Mathieson said McKay’s views went against the church’s guiding tenets. The minister of Edinburgh’s Carrick Knowe Church said: “If we take the view that we will not work with some people then are we not going against the articles declaratory?
“They state that it is the church’s call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry. It is part of the mystery of the Christian faith that it is not for human beings to decide who is worthy of God’s grace and who is not.”
A Church of Scotland [spokesperson] said: “As the national church part of our mission is to serve the whole territory of Scotland and the people within it. Everyone who lives here lives within a particular parish and is entitled to approach their local church in connection with the funeral of their nearest and dearest.”
Full story at Scotland on Sunday.