Moderator urges Free Church to consider starting Christian schools

Rev David Robertson
Rev David Robertson

The Free Church of Scotland Moderator today (Tuesday) urged the denomination to consider the prospect of starting its own schools.

In his keynote address in Edinburgh, Rev David Robertson said that the current state education system in Scotland is “more about training people for jobs and social engineering than it is about educating people”.

He called on Christians to pray for teachers, encourage pupils in their studies, as well as seek to educate the educators.

Rev David Robertson told the General Assembly: “We may not yet be able to set up Christian schools, but that does not mean we should not be involved much more in the current education system.

“We should honour and pray for our teachers, encourage our pupils and seek to educate the educators.

“As a Church we need to think about running after school clubs for all, but especially the poor.

“We need to educate church children in the Christian worldview and philosophy.”

The Free Church Moderator continued: “And we need to lobby government for a more tolerant and progressive system of education in our state schools.

“If, as appears to be happening, the government is reneging on the promises of the 1872 Education Act, that our Scottish state education system would be a non-denominational Christian one, then we need to ask the government to endorse either a voucher system like the Swedes, or the Dutch system whereby churches are enabled to set up faith based schools.

“Of course our current educationalists will scream ‘we want a neutral system, not a divisive religious one’, which simply means that they want a one size fits all system, whereby the only philosophy and ethos allowed is that of atheistic secular humanists.

“Let the secular humanists have their schools, and let the Christians have theirs, and let parents have the choice.

“Or maybe freedom, choice and equality don’t quite extend that far.”

Mr Robertson added: “Education has become more about training people for jobs and social engineering that it is about educating people.

“As we have moved away from a Christian view of education to a social engineering, collectivist mindset, we now tell children what to think, rather than teaching them how to think.

“The danger is that we end up with this collectivist mindset where people are scared to think for themselves and just go along with the prevailing zeitgeist.

“I find this disturbing trend particularly illustrated in our party politicians.

“They must go along with party policy or they are out on their ear. Anyone ‘off message’ is deemed to be dangerous.

“We appear to be no longer governed by politicians who think for themselves but by those who look to the carefully selected ‘focus groups’ and opinion polls. Government by opinion poll is not democracy.”

Following the Disruption in 1843, when the Free Church was formed after leaving the Church of Scotland, the denomination set up hundreds of parochial schools across Scotland as well as a training college in Edinburgh.

However, the schools were voluntarily transferred to state-control following the Education Act in 1872.

Today, the Free Church does not run any schools, but it still boasts Edinburgh Theological Seminary for the training of its candidates for the ministry.

Other key points in the Moderator’s address included the need for Christians to engage with the culture of the day, why politicians must consider the future impact of Islam on freedom of speech, and a plea for evangelicals to unite if Scotland is to be reached with the Gospel.

Rev David Robertson said: “It is not for me to tell other evangelicals what to do, but can I agree with the retiring moderator of the Church of Scotland when he urged people to ‘play for the team’.

“The question then becomes whose team do you play for? Is it the Church of Scotland? The Free Church? The Baptists? Or just simply Christ’s? The Church that he bought with his own blood?

“Is it a team with fellow players such as the Rev Scott McKenna of Edinburgh Presbytery who posted a YouTube video of a sermon he preached in which he stated things such as “I was asked if Jesus died for my sins and I replied, ‘no, no, no, no – that’s ghastly theology, you don’t want to go there’”.

“Or is your team one that includes Baptists such as Paul Rees of Charlotte Chapel, or the Free Church, or those who have left the Church of Scotland, or others who share the same evangelical faith?”

He added: “There will be those who stay in the Church of Scotland for various reasons and I personally will want to support and encourage you for as long as you can. But can I offer this word of encouragement?

“Don’t stay in and fight believers in other churches. Stay in and fight unbelievers in your own. And we will be with you all the way.”

This afternoon the Assembly will discuss the Board of Trustees report, and there will be a guest address from theologian Rev Dr Sinclair Ferguson.