Just before Vatican Council II began, the moderator of the Church of Scotland general assembly made history by calling on John XXIII. I commented in this journal that he who had crossed the continent to Rome might now consider crossing the street (literally) to the Free Kirk general assembly where another job of reconciliation had still to be done. With true liberal intolerance a religious weekly called my remark “mischievous.” Ecumenicity is a splendid practice so long as one follows the guidelines laid down by those who know about such things.
Of course it takes two for rapproachment. In 1965 the big Kirk’s moderator did go across the road. A substantial number of the Wee Frees had earlier opposed the visit (some of them walked out when he appeared), and it was decided he should not be allowed to speak. The visitor cunningly directed to his fellow moderator some words loud enough to be heard by the assembly he was banned from addressing.
Since then the Edinburgh street has remained uncrossed. During this year’s assembly meetings our new moderator, the Right Reverend John R. Gray, decided to look in on the Free Kirk assembly. This was entirely a personal initiative; he was prepared merely to sit in the gallery and listen to the deliberations. A bit of admirably quixotic behavior, as the Free Kirk had previously indicated lack of enthusiasm for any formal visit. The whole project fell flat. Mr. Gray had left it too late; the Free Kirkers had packed up. He did manage a ten-minute chat in his counterpart’s office, but the host insisted no conclusions were to be drawn.
The current issue of the Monthly Record of the Free Church of Scotland carries a most comprehensive editorial, reflecting that body’s ...1
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