EFAC Australia
EFAC NSW was delighted to welcome the Rev Dr William Phillip as its guest speaker for the Annual Lecture held as part of the CMS Summer School at Katoomba in January this year. William (“Oor Wullie”) was present in Australia to give the Bible studies at the Summer School. He presented a very moving, engaging and faithful exposition of the events leading up to the death of our Lord as recorded in the Passion narratives of Matthew’s gospel, entitled “The Cross and Eternity”.

So it was with great delight that 250 or so EFAC members and friends gathered on the Wednesday afternoon to hear William speak about the impact and present state of evangelicalism in the Church of Scotland. For those who, like me, were largely ignorant of that Church, it was both intriguing and encouraging to hear of the ways in which strong evangelical leadership has been exercised in that denomination in the period that William spoke about, that is, from the Second World War on. By the way, the Church of Scotland is not the Church of England in a kilt. The established Church, it is Presbyterian in polity. The Church of England has its counterpart in Scotland as the Episcopal Church.

William’s father, James Phillip, a Bible commentator and preacher, was persuaded by the Rev William Still along with several others to form a group whose activities during the late 1940s and ‘50s and ‘60s would shape the Church of Scotland in a far more evangelical direction. Deliberately encouraging young men to consider parish ministry as their calling in life and giving them support and encouragement along the way resulted in a flood of new evangelical ministers into parish churches. (Sound familiar?) One of the vehicles of encouragement was the formation of what is called the Crieff Fellowship, a group, from what we could gather, much like EFAC, which is still active to this day.

Himself a product of this movement, William was able to give an objective assessment of its successes and failures. It did indeed fill Church of Scotland pulpits with Bible teaching ministers. So from the cities like Glasgow where William is the minister of St George’s-Tron, (right in the middle of the main street of Glasgow, literally), to the far-flung parishes of the Hebrides and the remote Scottish farmlands, the gospel has been faithfully proclaimed.

William, however, felt that there have been some unforeseen problems that have arisen. Ministers had not been trained to train the laity, and the result has been that, while an evangelical call sounds from the pulpit, many congregation members are far from evangelical in commitment and belief. He observed that the inroads of liberal theology have been quite substantial amongst congregation members. Indeed, during the Summer School William alerted us to the fact that on the evening before he gave his lecture his presbytery (like an area deanery) had voted to accept the appointment of an openly homosexual Minister who would live with his partner in the Manse. This is a first for Scotland, and even though a challenge has been brought against it which will be heard in the General Assembly in May, evangelicals will have to organise and fight hard to persuade the laity of the wickedness of this decision.

Before coming to Glasgow about two or three years ago, William had worked for five years under David Jackman with the Proclamation Trust in London. He has come back to Scotland at the ripe old age of 41 with a determination not only to help train up the next generations of Bible teachers but to provide ministers and churches with the tools for ministry and for equipping God’s people for ministry.

EFAC (NSW) is very grateful to Dr Phillip for his stimulating and cautionary lecture and CMS for again allowing us to use their venue to host this event.

Deryck Howell, Archdeacon of South Sydney and a long time EFAC member.