Prayers for the Dead in a Free Church?

The way, the truth and the life!

The death of Dr Gordon Wilson, former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who took a public stand for Christian moral values in society, was mentioned in the BCN (7 July).

A memorial service for him was held in St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, on 5 July. It was conducted by the minister, the Rev David Robertson. Prominent figures in the Scottish Parliament were present, including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr John Swinney, who gave the eulogy. The service followed the modern fashion of fulsome praise of man, informality and a degree of humour and laughter. Hymns, readings and prayers were intermingled with the tributes from the family and others but there was no sense of solemnity.

The most disturbing aspect of the proceedings was the participation in the service of a Roman Catholic clergyman, Bishop Vincent Logan. He began his read prayer by praying for the soul of the departed. Towards the end of the service, Mr Robertson spoke briefly on Christ as the only way to the Father but later, on his blog, he had to give a kind of an apology for the contribution of the Bishop as follows:

‘The Roman Catholic view of salvation is not as full as the Protestant (Biblical). Bishop Vincent Logan is a lovely man who has served Christ for many years but in his prayer, he reflected something that was really quite sad. He prayed that Gordon being called from this world would be brought safely home to God’s kingdom and that he would be cleansed and given a place at the heavenly banquet. In this he was reflecting the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and that believers don’t go directly to heaven. But the biblical view is “today you will be with me in paradise.” He was praying for something that Gordon already has. When he came to believe in Jesus he was given eternal life.’


This sad incident calls for several observations: (1) How was a Roman Catholic clergyman permitted in the first place to take part in the service? In this year of the commemoration of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 are we saying it was all a mistake? (2) How can the Bishop be described ‘as a lovely man who has served Christ for many years’ when by his teaching he has been dishonouring Christ by withholding the glory due to Him as the only Saviour of Sinners? (3) This is not the first time that Mr Robertson has revealed his ignorance of the nature of the papacy. On the 16 September 2010, on BBC radio Scotland, he welcomed Pope Benedict to Scotland as ‘a fellow Christian’ (see What Would John Knox have to Say to Us Today? (2014 p4). When will Mr Robertson’s associate ministers and colleagues in the Free Church of Scotland recover from their apparent laxity in dealing with those who deviate from the Westminster Confession? (5) The entire proceedings lacked a vertical dimension and therefore virtually no impression of the things of spiritual and eternal could have been left on the minds of the state dignitaries and others. Oh for a John Knox-like voice in  Scotland again!

(By permission of the author: Rev John Murray, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

(Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher, posted 24th July 2017)
Sermon Audio

# Footnote is mine: This is what happens to churches, denominations when they let go of their Confessional foundations.

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