Shopping for Believers; the Kirk Should Halt Its Slide by Taking Worship to the Malls, Says Moderator-Elect
Grant, Graham, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: GRAHAM GRANT
CHURCHES should be set up in shopping malls to entice worshippers back to the Kirk, its Moderator designate said yesterday Professor Iain Torrance said such radical and imaginative measures were needed to boost dwindling congregations.
The Kirk, he said, had to recruit new believers in city-centre precincts and shopping malls rather than waiting for members to join.
Professor Torrance, 53, master of Christ's College, Aberdeen, added: 'There have been some very good initiatives aimed at providing an opportunity for people to find their spirituality in recreational places.
'Shopping is an important recreational activity and a lot of people who would not ordinarily go to a church might consider worshipping in a city centre area. The Kirk can never return to the way it was in the past, that is impossible. So we have to look to the future and find new ways of attracting members.' His call will be seen by some observers as a desperate bid to win back disillusioned worshippers who are turning their backs on the Kirk in droves. A report by the Board of National Mission earlier this year warned the Kirk will cease to exist within 50 years unless it is prepared to undergo radical reform.
It is losing 17,000 members a year and is on course to have none at all by 2050. Membership levels have been declining since a peak of 1,292,000 in 1961. By 1984, this had dropped to 887,000 - and by the year 2000 there were only 600,000 members.
In a ballot on Tuesday, Mr Torrance was voted Moderator-elect by two votes ahead of the Rev Margaret Forrester, 64. This sparked criticism of the Kirk hierarchy for snubbing a female candidate. His election was seen by some critics as a blow for campaigners who had lobbied for a woman to be elected for the first time in the Kirk's history.
Mrs Forrester, minister of St Michael's Church in Edinburgh, took part in the blessing of a lesbian couple in 1993.
Insiders believe she paid the price for her part in the controversy - it was her third unsuccessful contest to become Moderator - and claimed Kirk chiefs had voted instead for a 'safe pair of hands'.
Last year, the Kirk accepted recommendations from its own gender attitude project that it should help women to break through the 'stained glass ceiling'.
Although female ministers were first ordained into the Kirk in 1968, the committee of the General Assembly has never elected a woman to the role of Moderator.
Mr Torrance said yesterday he fully expected a woman Moderator in future and had no ideological objection. …