Thursday, March 29, 2012

The realignment of churches in Edinburgh

Following on from the purchase of Methodist Central Hall by Morningside Baptist Church, Charlotte Chapel are now attempting to buy St Georges West Church from the Church of Scotland. Both of these moves have been caused by increasing congregations for these larger evangelical churches. Carrubbers Christian centre is in a similar predicament being unable to accommodate all their worshippers at the one service in the same building.

Although these churches appear to be growing I think there are a number of factors at work here:

  • Evangelicals are fed up worshipping in small groups and want to feel part of something significant, so the smaller evangelical churches in the city have dwindled as people moved into the larger churches.
  • Some of the growth is evangelicals from the Episcopal Church and Church of Scotland who have moved into independent churches.
  • Although the large number of immigrants to the city in recent years have usually brought their own churches with them, some have migrated into the existing evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

All of this has led to growth of these independent churches while mainstream churches are generally declining. Within mainstream denominations any growth is in their evangelical and charismatic congregations (e.g. St Mungo's Balerno).

What we are seeing is a major realignment by stealth rather than by a schism in the church like the 1843 disruption. As was said in a rhyme of that time:

The auld kirk the cauld kirk, the kirk with nae people.
The wee kirk, the free kirk, the kirk with nae steeple.

Although this time round the "disruptors" are getting the rather grand buildings.

Its a fairly gloomy picture for the other churches who have responsibilities for local funerals, school chaplaincy and other duties, but with ageing congregations and reducing income.