With just a few weeks to go to Scotland's Referendum on Independence, the temperature is rising on both sides of the debate. As Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond and the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling engaged in an acrimonious debate that, I'm sure, helped neither side's cause, folk are left wondering, where can answers to the questions they have ahead of the vote be found?
The Church of Scotland is attempting to facilitate respectful dialogue throughout the country. A debate was held during this year's General Assembly and, next week, the Moderator of the General Assembly is facilitating a further debate and encouraging churches around the country to become involved too. The rules of engagement are very different from those employed in the televised debates we have witnessed between our politicians. Above all, positive regard and respect is the order of the day.
When I intimated to my congregation that I would be involved in one such debate, a few people questioned the mixing of faith and politics.
Faith demands that we are political. Jesus was not crucified for being apolitical. And, especially in this historical era in Scotland, while it is possible to fail to engage with the question of independence, that would seem to be the same as failing to engage with life and with those we are called to love and to serve.
My congregation does not need to know how I will vote in the Referendum. I do not need to know how they will vote. But, together we are compelled to engage with this political moment in the history of Scotland. And, if the church can play a part in helping folk to find answers to their questions that will help them to make a decision on how to vote, then it is right that we facilitate debate.
In addition, I believe that, after the Referendum, churches will have a vital part to play in bringing folk together to make the best of whatever form of government we determine, in healing hurts and in helping folk move on and seek the best for the nation, community by community. Independent or part of the Union, churches in Scotland will continue to love and serve God by loving and serving the poor and vulnerable in our midst, for the love of Christ who never shied away from politics.