I have waited for the dust to clear a little before commenting on the case of the Rev Richard Cameron.
Mr Cameron, Church of Scotland minister of Scotstoun parish in Glasgow, hit the news last week after calling Jeremy Corbyn a ‘terrorist sympathiser’.
On a rare visit to Scotland, the Labour leader was campaigning in Glasgow when he was interrupted as he explained that the tartan scarf he was wearing had been given to him by the Who Cares Scotland charity.
Mr Cameron, with the use of a megaphone, shouted at Mr Corbyn: ‘I thought you’d be wearing your Islamic jihad scarf. Who’s going to be the first terrorist invited to the House of Commons when you’re prime minister?’
During his noisy encounter with the Labour leader, Mr Cameron also asked: ‘Do you think that the man who is going to be prime minister of this country should be a terrorist sympathiser, Mr Corbyn?’
The Church of Scotland’s first reaction was to rebuke Mr Cameron for the manner in which he approached the situation, saying: ‘Whilst we may occasionally robustly challenge policy issues with which we disagree, we always intend to do that in a way that is polite and measured and allows for reasoned debate.’
After footage of the encounter hit the television news that evening, Labour activists pointed to a series of controversial tweets it said were posted by Mr Cameron, including remarks that ‘homosexual behaviour is a sin’ and ‘allowing children to change their gender is wicked’.
The Church of Scotland’s response the next day was to decide that an inquiry was merited and that while it takes place Mr Cameron would not be allowed to undertake any pastoral duties as a parish minister.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said: ‘In accordance with our procedures, Rev Richard Cameron has been administratively suspended.
‘This is to allow us to carry out an inquiry in relation to the incident which took place earlier this week and the subsequent complaints about his social media use.’
The church will appoint an assessor and if a case is adjudged to be merited there will be a hearing where Mr Cameron will likely be represented by a lawyer. There is no word as to when a hearing might take place. In the meantime Mr Cameron is left hanging.
The church move was welcomed by Scottish Labour. A source said: ‘We’re very glad to learn this incident is being treated with the seriousness it deserves by the Church of Scotland and we look forward to continuing to engage with the Church and Society Council.’
What were the social media posts which the Church of Scotland thinks merit a parish minister being suspended?
A post on Mr Cameron’s Twitter account in September read: ‘Christ has the power to help and change anyone. Obviously many gays hate this because want to carry on in their perversion.’
On Tuesday of last week he retweeted a post which read: ‘How can raising a boy as a girl not be child abuse? It is emotional, mental and sexual abuse surely? We must get serious about praying for a society, such as ours, which has plumbed such depths in parenting and care for our children. #prayer #children.’
Mr Cameron’s Twitter account also shared a series of views on Islam, describing terrorism as ‘a problem Islam needs to deal with’, a full face veil as ‘oppressive and unBritish’ and the prophet Muhammad as ‘a violent man’.
This is not the first time that Richard Cameron has come under fire from progressive bodies. The Humanist Society raised a complaint regarding his social media use nine months ago. This was closed by the Presbytery of Glasgow, who said they had given ‘advice’ to Mr Cameron over his future behaviour online.
It is not only the CofS who have taken action. Parents at Scotstoun Primary School where Mr Cameron has been school chaplain have been told Mr Cameron would ‘no longer be engaged’ with the school.
A letter to parents from head teacher Gill McKay read: ‘You may be aware of some social media posts currently circulating over the last 24 hours involving our school chaplain Rev Richard Cameron and I wanted to write and inform you that he will no longer be engaged with Scotstoun Primary School.’
Mr Cameron has been banned from entering the school. His Scripture Union group has been closed and Scripture Union themselves have cancelled his volunteer status and banned him from all SU events.
The action taken against Mr Cameron by the CofS can be described as draconian. He has been told that he is not allowed to enter his church building, even to worship on a Sunday, and he must not speak to members of his congregation, even if they wish to express support for him and assure him of their prayers. The congregation at Scotstoun were warned on Sunday by Glasgow’s Presbytery Clerk that they should not speak to their minister.
In Scotland we have a national church which allows its ministers to deny the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement and the bodily resurrection of Christ, and even to deny the deity of Christ Himself. This same church which takes no action against such serious doctrinal errors has chosen to suspend a minister from his pastoral duties whilst it investigates him because of comments regarding homosexuality and Islam’s terrorist problem and the need of Muslims for Christ.
By this latest action we can see clearly where the priorities of the Church of Scotland lie, and it isn’t with Christ.
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand possil.wordpress.com where he looks at the Church and the world and wonders ‘Why?’
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