Struthers Memorial Church and the humiliation sermon





We have committed to look at the publicly available material issued by Struthers Memorial Church and to highlight any questions this material raises about their practices and beliefs. Since the beginning of 2011 there have been 3 sermons placed online which we have noticed in particular as they contain deeply strange teachings; and also provide answers to some of the questions we have previously raised on this site.


The first of these sermons is one preached at the Glasgow Sunday night service on Saturday 12 February 2011. The speaker is also the head teacher of the fee paying church school – a fact which makes some of the content of this sermon even more inappropriate and bizarre.


In the notes accompanying the placing of this online the sermon is titled "Humiliation".


The quotes from the publicly available recording are shown in blue with the time into the recording they occur. If we have transcribed any quotes incorrectly please let us know and we will change them:





 Definition of Humiliation





In seeking to define humility the speaker decides to tell us first what it is not.


"(Humility) is also not humiliation and that's what we fear. We see situations where people are humiliated and there is something in humiliation that does not agree with any heart. And to be humiliated is to be subjected to the overpowering or the overbearing nature of one group of people on another. So that for example humiliation is what comes when one group of people decide they have a power and an authority over another group. And you can come up with your own examples as well as I can.......but there is something in a group of people that make them feel that they are superior to another group of people and that they can treat them in a way that is exceedingly embarrassing, downtrodden and so on, and so on, simply because of some characteristic which they perceive to be superior to someone else. And you will find that every human being seeks to find another category of people to whom they are superior that they can look down on......and its a horrible characteristic"


Well indeed. And we do often notice that the Struthers leadership are very poor at spotting irony in their own proclamations. But could one example of the above that we might come up with be when a group of people feel they are spiritually superior to another group? They might use that to make people feel embarrassed and downtrodden. They may humiliate them by using the church platform to announce their failings publicly to their fellow church members. The "less spiritual" may be harangued and slagged off for ideas they have (see the Abomination sermon) and banned from talking to their friends in the church for fear that they might spiritually contaminate them (see the testimony of CovLass). They may have their sincere and fruitful years of Christian service disrespected and discounted by a public announcement that now that they disagree with the leadership "they were never one of those really at the heart of things in the church".


But perhaps although it is wrong to treat people differently because of race, class or gender, it is okay to treat someone with mocking and disrespect if you have decided they are less holy or spiritual than you.


A growing number of people are now making public that they feel that during their time in SMC they have been (to quote this sermon): "subjected to the overpowering or the overbearing nature of one group of people on another."


We do agree on one thing - it is indeed a horrible characteristic. It was the way the Pharisees ensured that people heard again and again how they were failing in tests of holiness and were far behind them as leaders. This ensured the Pharisees remained seen as spiritually superior. Jesus hated this and spoke out against them.






(the speaker suggests in the western world things are better and people are not humiliated so much now) we are much more careful in how we treat people if we perceive that...or they are more able to complain if they perceive that they are treated badly in this.


This raises a small important point. We agree a huge advance for humanity in the western world has taken place now that there are routes to complain if you are treated unfairly because of race, gender or class.


Now that we are agreed on that - could the leadership of Struthers Memorial Church please tell us the procedure to follow if we wish to complain about their conduct towards individuals? We now have many cases that need addressed. We now have people who have gone on public record that their requests for explanations as to their treatment at your hands has gone un-answered, in some cases for 30 years.

  • How does someone raise a complaint?
  • How can they be assured it will be handled fairly?
  • And handled in a way that allows for a fair and just resolution which can stand external scrutiny - rather than just more humiliation by those who hold the power in SMC over those who hold no power in SMC.


Or perhaps (to refer to the quote from the sermon) has the western world succeeded where SMC has failed. The world had to change and recognise its own historical and institutional failures to make this change. Is this a road that society can take but the SMC leadership do not have the courage to face? A point made later in this sermon is that God never changes. No argument there. Bad churches however do need to change. Churches that are hurting people need to change. Churches that exist to perpetuate the power and authority of one group over another group need to change. That change starts with repentance by the leadership.


Or is this unnecessary because in this one case in all the earth - all the complaints are coming from the vile and un-spiritual and the SMC leadership are spiritual and infallible?


Struthers Leadership - we ask for your answer. What is the process for dealing with complaints of your treatment of people? If there is no process no one is safe. If there is no process the leaders must be infallible and perfect. If that is the case who is it that is being accused of pride in claiming to have "some way in which we are divine." in the following quote?



We have to plead with God to take away from us the pride and arrogance that abides in the human heart that assumes we are better than other people and, even worse, that we have some way in which we are divine. And we are not divine.......there is this thing within the human heart that wants to dominate, that wants to have their own way, that wants to rule. And it is this quality that needs to be broken when we want to embrace humility


People who claim divine authority placing them beyond accountability; assume they are better than others; who desire to dominate and to have their own way and want to rule - is this description recognisable to anyone?


We do agree anyone who feels like this, or uses this as a leadership approach in their church, is probably a long way from successfully embracing humility.


 Treatment of a visitor





The sermon then moves in an odd direction attacking those with a sense of humour. There is no Biblical case made for this and no link to anything in Christian literature or history. The speaker just seems to want to vent her spleen about something that annoyed her during her week.



We must make a decision ......to take life seriously. Our purpose here on this earth is incredibly serious. .........It is not without humour as long as you laugh at yourself, your own silliness and the mistakes that you make and you are not taking yourself too seriously. But life itself you have to take terribly seriously. And the whole question of humour is one that we need to really be careful about. I was in the company of someone over recent days who was not a Christian person at all, and I was in their company. It was at our school and everybody that teaches there – they're all Christians. And you know – I cannot tell you what it was like to have them there. Very eminent person. But they just made jokes and jibes and funny remarks all day long. I was wearied to death with it. I just found it utterly and completely boring and meaningless. And he said to my staff he said "and of course you'll not all be able to lift your eyes from the ground to look into the eminence of Mrs Speirs." and they were all like – huh? They weren't very sure what to say. They could have agreed but they didn't but eh it was just that come on you know? They called us the family Von Speirs. <the speaker groans loudly on the recording> And you know at first we all kind of laughed agreeingly – well you like to be nice don't you? But by the end of it we were all just – och – hurry up and go away. And see in the church of Christ that is so unacceptable. And I counsel you especially if you are younger, I counsel you against that way of being. That everything is a joke and a jibe and its all making funny wee remarks at people. People fear you when you're like that. And it is not an acceptable way to behave in the church of Christ.


 We find as we listen to this we keep thinking of Matthew 23. Jesus is speaking:


23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.


We trust that the young people in the meeting felt suitably warned about the dangers of humour. But we agree with Jesus that the law has more important matters. We trust that, like us, these young people are also now clear that it is okay for Struthers leaders and the school head teacher to be thoroughly and completely horrible on the public platform of a Christian church about a perfectly legitimate visitor who was unlucky enough to have his job send him for a few days to the Cedars School of Excellence.


Has the speaker been so cloistered and shielded from common decency in SMC for so long that she has no empathy at all for a fellow human being?


Speaker we ask you - is it not bad enough that you have (what sounds like) loathing in your own heart for an unsaved soul (because his jovial character didn't suit you). Surely you can pray through this shortcoming of yours in your private prayer time. But to bring this onto a public church platform, to involve the whole teaching staff in the derision (most presumably sitting in front of you as you are sharing this) and to demonstrate to the Struthers children sitting in your meeting that this is the respect and professional courtesy you show to those that visit your school. Presumably many of the children in the senior school met or saw this visitor and are fully aware of to whom you are referring.


Do you further not realise that this horrible derision of a visitor is going online? It is put there (presumably) so the public can benefit from knowing what is said on the platform of SMC each Saturday night.


Do you not know that? Is this an acceptable use of the Struthers church pulpit? What can you possibly be teaching people about God by doing this?

Please could we ask that all speakers in Struthers Memorial Church commit to ending this habit of using the church platform to berate and mock and, on occasions, publicly humiliate people you don’t like - both from inside and outside the church whether you publicly identify them or not.

We ask that you agree as a leadership to stop this now and stop it forever.


To repeat the sermon quote:


And see in the church of Christ that is so unacceptable. And I counsel you especially if you are younger, I counsel you against that way of being. ...... People fear you when you're like that. And it is not an acceptable way to behave in the church of Christ.


We feel this manipulative warning and condemnation is very much more relevant to what the speaker has said here in public rather than to young people making a wee joke together.


Speaker - we think your conduct in the church of Christ is so unacceptable and we counsel you, especially if you are seeking to model leadership to those who are younger, against that way of being on the platform. People fear you when you’re like that. They know now that whenever it suits you, you can turn on this disdainful verbal violence and publicly humiliate them. And it is not an acceptable way to behave in the church of Christ.


Can we say to this man who visited the school if you have heard the recording  – please try to not feel bad at the treatment they have dealt out to you. Many of us have had the same thing and it is not just you they publicly use the platform of a Christian church to mock. When we were part of their church the leaders made it clear to us we "wearied them to death". They made it clear to us they "found us completely boring and meaningless". In the end we felt they could not wait for us to "hurry up and go away". We know exactly how you feel.





 The Fatwah






As the anti-humour spleen venting continues we are given a remarkably useful piece of information:


and its something that I remember many years ago Miss Black had a total Fatwah against. She hated it. And at that time we had a lot of young men who were very into ha ha and laughing and joking making jokes about people, making jokes about the leaders of the church and desperate to find something to laugh at. And she really would not have it. And we are now the happy recipients of the fact that she wouldn't have it because I seldom, seldom hear it.....but I worry that it could grow up again amongst our younger group – that that's how we relate to one another its all having a laugh at him, having a go at him. And I noticed that that man that I was speaking about earlier he was constantly on about his contemporaries – making a joke about them......and bringing up name-dropping and criticising people and it is so disagreeable and it is utterly and completely proud.

.....and some of you young people need to take that on board


Now we didn't choose this word – we merely quote it – but for those who don’t know – a fatwah is a decree made by an Islamic religious leader – a Mufti in fact – which offers a non-binding opinion of what Islamic teaching is on a subject. We suspect the speaker is using it in the more colloquial sense of a religious death sentence being pronounced for blasphemous conduct – but if she wants to she can let us know about that.


Thank God for the answers He gives us. You see we thought for a long time it was something we had done wrong. We felt guilty in some cases for years not knowing what it was we did to let God down and why we had no place in Struthers Memorial Church. But now we are told it wasn't us. It was the fact that, according to this speaker, Mary Black just didn't want men like us in the church. And in the same way as those in the church are "now the happy recipients of the fact that she wouldn't have it", we are now the "happy recipients" of a public admission of the fact that she decided to drive a generation of young men out of the church because one aspect of their character was not sufficiently like she wanted it to be. If we were inclined to humour we might point out that if you don’t want young men who liked a laugh and a joke in your church - you might be better not to open your church in the west of Scotland. But now we have a confirmation that insofar as we could not successfully impersonate nuns there was no place in Struthers Church for men like us. Thank you for letting us know, albeit after far too many years, that there was an intentional drive openly discussed among the leadership – a "total Fatwah" in fact - to get rid of us. It worked.


No other church in the whole wide world does this. In churches SMC would see as “lesser” – as far as we know that is all other churches - men with a sense of humour are encouraged to direct that life characteristic into their developing spiritual gifts and ministries. They can get involved in evangelism and speak to people on their level in a way that reaches them for Jesus. They can become trained preachers who can use their humour and help people new to the message of Jesus to understand and digest difficult Biblical ideas and concepts. They can be used in counselling or helping young men from all backgrounds integrate into the life of the church. They can use humour to help diffuse difficult and complex issues that arise in all healthy churches in the biblical roles of local church elders and deacons.


Or you can decide as a leadership "these men who like jokes aren't the kind of people we want" and conspire to chuck them out.



We will spread this information that there was a "Fatwah" as far and wide as we can among our contacts to let as many former members of SMC as we can find know that the reason they are not in SMC any more is because people (especially men) like them were not wanted. And war was declared on this aspect of their character by leaders who still declare their belief that their own actions cannot ever have been wrong and whose motives cannot be questioned. Many of these people will derive great comfort from knowing about this.


We also notice that SMC speakers quite often give a list of their problems – in this case with humour - and it is somewhere in the middle of the list that the real reason the leaders are deeply bothered is given. As in this case in the middle of the list is:  making jokes about the leaders of the church


We entirely believe that the Struthers leadership have never liked anyone being in the church who did not treat them with the deference and reverence in which they held themselves. That is not the same thing as people being flippant or inappropriately funny in a way that offended God. No doubt that can happen – but it didn't happen here. Not at all. To seek to drive people out of the church because the leaders don't like the way they are is an appalling abuse of position. These unwanted men attended lots of meetings, prayed in lots of meetings, evangelised for the church and went to all the conferences and camps and handed over lots and lots of money for years. They liked to laugh together and took their Christianity very seriously. Yet were still not "right" in character as the SMC leaders chose to define it then – although we realise what is considered "right" in Struthers changes from time to time.


 The constant desire for change


Having lost the way in this sermon from defining humility as a leadership attribute to slagging off the character and pride of people she doesn’t like in the outside world, the speaker now turns her “critical spirit” onto the children in her school and adults in the church foolish enough to think they have worthwhile ideas:



Another characteristic of people who are proud ...is this constant desire for change. ... You will find it again and again. I find it all the time with my school council in the school. They want to change something. I'm like:

"right what would you like to change?"

Hmmm- they're not very sure but they’re certain of this. They want something to change but they're not very sure what it is they would like to change but they've got a feeling there ought to be change.

"Things need to be different"

"What would you like to be different?"

"I'm not awfully sure"

But it can come like a driving thing – things have got to be different.


Well Okay. It is pretty common for head teacher to take a limited view of what a school council does but the wise ones keep that to themselves. But here, once again, the Christian pulpit is the place chosen to make a bizarre public declaration – that then goes online. The speaker not only shares that she thinks the school council is a pointless gimmick. (Who, we wonder, set it up and portrays it as a positive benefit in the school handbook?). And then she seems to mock the school council and attributes their incoherent requests for changes as being – astonishingly - based on pride.


Is that a reasonable conclusion from what she is teaching here?


She seems to be saying that her school council are incapable of expressing anything other than idiotic requests for unspecified change (which she playacts out for us) and only want to change the school because they are full of pride? Seriously?


But then it would be more surprising if a junior committee in any part of Struthers had any real chance of changing anything. Better get used to this kids.



In the Bible it says, "God is the God who never changes." Never changes. There is no shadow cast by turning. ... and this desire for change is often not a desire for change it a desire to have things done my way. To change so that things will be done the way it suits us for them to be done. Whoever us happens to be. And it is one of the things of humility that we just accept things as they are.


Are we hearing the speaker correctly? Is she saying that because the Bible says “God never changes” Struthers Memorial Church will never change in any way or in any part? Her next pronouncement denies that. It is the idea of anyone but the leadership believing they could be hearing from God that is abhorrent and proud:



And it is one of the things of humility that we just accept things as they are.


We are not sure we have words for what has been said here – but let’s give it a go:


  • Was Jesus humble? Did he accept things as they were? Or did he change the world for God and all mankind.
  • Was Paul humble? Did he accept things as they were? Or did he challenge the early church to change to bring the gospel to the Gentiles in defiance of those who hid from the need to move forward by hiding behind verses like "God never changes?"
  • Was Peter humble? Did he accept things as they were? Or did he accuse the Pharisees of hypocrisy and declare he would follow God rather than men?
  • Was Moses humble? The speaker seems to think so. Did he accept things as they were? Or did he demand the release of the people of God from tyranny and slavery to a cruel and absolute monarch?


  • Did William Wilberforce accept slavery?
  • Did Martin Luther accept the way the church was must remain unchanged?
  • Did John Wesley look at the nation of Britain and decide to accept it as it was?
  • Or is the speaker claiming the fact that they changed the world was a sign of their lack of humility? Were they not really humble enough for God to use them?


This teaching is utterly and completely false. It is not one of the things of humility that we accept things as they are.


  • It is one of the things of slavery that we are forced to accept things as they are.
  • It is one of the things of coming under the false control of evil men that we accept things as they are.
  • It is one of the symptoms of being a total coward that we accept things as they are.
  • It is one of the things of being paralysed by fear that we accept things as they are.
  • It is one of the things of those who have no hope of anything better that they accept things as they are
  • It is one of the things of ignoring the voice of God and what is written clearly in His Word that we accept things as they are.


  • It is one of the things of false control and abuse of authority in churches that people are told they are in rebellion to God and He will punish them if they do not submit to the leaders - even when they speak and teach nonsense and damage lives. Yet even then they say you must "accept things as they are".  


To “accept things as they are” you must ignore the voices of the people being hurt. You must ignore things that happen and which are said that seem to contradict clear Bible teaching. You must call your God given, and entirely proper, desire to be involved in the work of God “pride” and accept condemnation for it. You must accept it when the few leaders with access to the churches money call questions about the use of finances invalid as they only indicate pride and arrogance in those concerned enough to ask. If the church is in debt that must not concern you. You must accept the church platform is a place from where you and your fellow Christians can be humiliated and criticised whenever the leaders feel like it. Some will be spoken ill of when they are still there, and some when they are gone. Don't ask why so many people leave feeling so hurt. Don’t seek a Biblical basis for what is done. Don’t seek to know why this church is not growing (in the healthy and Biblically expected way) like so many other Scottish churches are. Don't seek to understand why the vision for revival has been replaced by the vision for private education. Just accept things as they are.


The teaching here could not be more clear. If you think any of these things are wrong you are guilty of pride and speaking up will only confirm that. You are caught!


 What would happen if we changed at your volition ?






It doesn't mean that things never change, that’s not the issue. But it’s why they change? At whose volition do they change? Is it at the volition, as it is in so many churches, that a group of young people come in and things are going to be different and in a bizarre attempt to keep them people will change everything that they do. Is it at your volition? If it is we might as well put up a for-sale sign because that will just never ever work. Is it at the volition of people who've been around for years and years and years and think it's time they had a say in it? I hope not. Because that will not work either - and its the same for-sale sign.


As we have looked at SMC material we have looked for some of the answers to the questions that exist. There is a very clear answer here.


The speaker indicates here that the ideas of young people if implemented will bring the church to its knees – in the bad way – and end its existence. She evidences this by pointing out that in “so many” other churches where they take the “bizarre” step of changing things they do to keep young people from leaving the church they can only possibly fail.


That seems a bit self-serving and untrue. A few points:


  • We suspect she doesn't really know about "so many churches". That seems to us like a fake bit of window dressing to make it seem like she knows more than she does. If she can properly identify even one church where listening to the ideas of young people has led to the collapse and sale of the church that would be a surprise. That this has happened in "so many churches" is clearly nonsense and an attempt to make something up to scare people into doing what she wants.


  • We think it is a bit sad to admit that in her view to change what a church does to help keep young people who have come in to remain in attendance constitutes "a bizarre attempt to keep them". Why is it bizarre to want to keep young people in the church? Why is it bizarre if we change things to help achieve that? How much effort should a church be prepared to make to ensure that young people who come in to contact with the gospel have whatever they need from the church to maintain their relationship with God? Or is the SMC view that it is only okay to have have young people in the church as long as the church doesn’t have to change anything they do - or inconvenience the leadership too much?  


  • Is the church there to meet the needs of the people (young or otherwise); or the wants, traditions, comforts and pet projects of the leadership?



Having told the young people their ideas are not wanted, the speaker then moves on to those who have been around for years and years and years. Lo and behold  – their ideas are just as dangerous and terminal to the good of the church. Only the leaders know what is good. We suspect this may have come as a bit of a blow to many who have sat there loyally and obediently for 30 years or longer hoping that one day their input would matter to someone. You heard it in this sermon – hang on in for another 10 or 20 years and your views still won't matter.


In fact this teaching could not be clearer:


  • Young people

Accept things as they are

We do not want your ideas

Your ideas would destroy the church


  • People who have been here for years and years and years

Accept things as they are

We do not want your ideas

Your ideas would destroy the church


  • The tiny top group of leaders must decide what happens or disaster will befall


  • You are only required to accept things as they are


  • And to pay for everything the leaders decide to do


As we say - this teaching could not be any clearer.