CHURCH leaders in Scotland have begun to lay out their vision
for the nation as it starts to move on from the referendum
The constitutional questions were settled by the 55-per-cent
vote to remain in the UK last Friday, but the Moderator of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd John
Chalmers, has said that the campaign to change Scotland must
continue, with the Church at its heart.
Speaking shortly after the result was announced on Friday, he
said that the Church had run events during the referendum campaign,
in which it had invited Christians to "imagine Scotland's future",
and that these would continue.
"We have already got the first meeting planned for 5 November,"
he said. "The level of participation of people in this debate
probably hasn't been equalled anywhere in the world. The key now is
not to lose that energy."
The Church of Scotland, along with all the main denominations,
remained neutral on the independence question, but worked hard to
engage ordinary people in the debate. Mr Chalmers said that
neutrality did not mean disinterest: "We knew our membership would
be as divided as the country. I initiated a project where, instead
of the rough and tumble of debate, we would hold a respectful
He said that the Church's efforts to "disagree without being
disagreeable" seemed to have helped Scotland to remain calm after
the campaign. "The first signs today are that the leaders of each
side of the campaign have been very restrained in what they have
had to say. Today, there has been no triumphalism, and an
acknowledgement that those who had a lifelong commitment and
passion for independence are feeling bereft."
Preaching at a service at St Giles's Cathedral, in Edinburgh, on
Sunday, Mr Chalmers said: "Post-referendum, there are those who are
elated . . . and there are those who are desperately disappointed.
Feelings like these will take time to heal, and I want no one to
think I think that there is a quick fix or an easy dusting
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David
Chillingworth, said before the vote: "I think some people have
found the political discourse distressing. It will take time for
those passions to fade. . . . Part of the reconciliation is to
allow people to make much more nuanced statements which allow space
for alternative views - encouraging a different kind of political
Bishop Chillingworth, who spent most of his ministry in Northern
Ireland, said, however that it was encouraging that the Church
remained a neutral voice during the independence debate.
"It is appropriate for us to be involved in values and
standards, but not about which flag should fly. [That is] akin to
sectarianism. Our faith, culture, and politics [could] become
The Scottish Episcopal Church, he said, would also be involved
in the process of change. "Who people are - will that be valued in
a new Scotland which will emerge?" he asked. "That's a praying
business and a talking business. We expect to be as vocal after
[the vote] as we have been restrained before it."
Mr Chalmers said on Friday that the referendum campaign could be
used as a springboard for the Church to begin to recapture the
country's imagination. "I want the Church to be at the centre of
public life, to be the social conscience and moral voice of the
"I want it to be that, however, not because it is there by law
established, but because . . . it has contributed something worth
Alison Elliott, the associate director of the Centre for
Theology and Public Issues at the University of Edinburgh and a
former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,
said on Friday that the Churches in Scotland deserved credit for
the part they had played over the past two years.
"They now can say, this is what people in Scotland want the
country to do; we have now got an agenda. [But] most of the things
the Churches are concerned about didn't actually make any
difference, whether you were independent or not.
"I'm unconvinced that social justice would be better delivered
under independence. I think the things that are stopping social
justice are in Scotland: they are fundamental human traits which we
have to face up to. It is not a magic wand to change the
Neil MacLeod, an elder in the Free Church of Scotland who has
been involved in the Church's debates over independence, said that
the campaign had woken Christians up to their ability to make a
"Anything that can get people interested in politics and
prepared to vote . . . is good. Christians should realise the power
they have to lobby their political representatives. The Christian
priorities we would have for the poor, or against excess, if we can
capture some of that engagement and use it to articulate what we
would like to see in society - then that would be a good thing as
Coverage of last week's referendum by Tim Wyatt in
and prayers as Scotland goes to the polls
votes 'No' and Cameron promises to deliver
calls for reconciliation in referendum aftermath