I find myself part of many groups – one of the most interesting calls itself rather alarmingly ‘Religious Leaders of Scotland’. The reality is a group brought together by Interfaith Scotland and made up of leaders of Christian churches with a wide range of other faith groups. You will know from my comments about the meeting of Primates of the Churches of the Porvoo Communion that I think that diverse groups like this are always at risk of falling back on a ‘nodding and smiling’ relationship. Everybody needs to work hard to get to a point at which issues that really matter can be discussed.
Today’s meeting was about a visit to the Scottish Parliament to discuss the ‘future of religion in 21st century Scotland’ – which became a conversation about the place of faith communities and religious expression in post-referendum Scotland, whichever way the vote goes. It was useful and there was some real engagement. But there are difficulties and complexities which need to be teased out. For example, I and some of the faith leaders are supporters of the concept of a secular society. That’s because secular society protects important freedoms and ensures a proper separation between church and state or, more exactly, between legislature, judiciary and church. But the arguments of the secularisers who wish to squeeze all faith out of society and its institutions are very different.
We need some very careful discussion about the future. Today’s meeting provided some of the contacts which will help to carry that forward.