Struthers Memorial Church and the abomination sermon


Our attention was drawn to one of the online sermons from the SMC website. Making these sermons available to everyone is presumably one of the "benefits to the public" the SMC charity exists to provide.


The sermon is dated '15 May 2010' and was given by one of the main SMC leaders and was made avaiable online. Therefore we – quite reasonably - assume that this reflects the up-to-date teachings and beliefs of the SMC leadership. This is an astonishing recording which we highly recommend listening to. In its first 14 minutes it provides a great deal of information about what is happening in SMC today; and reveals a huge amount about the attitude of the leadership towards its own members and attendees.


The sermon was entitled "Abominations."


We would like to make 4 points before we present our comments and questions arising from this truly remarkable recording of what was said in a meeting open to the general public.


1          This recording raises in its first 14 minutes so many important questions about what SMC leadership teach and believe that to approach it at all we have had to structure our response to it. We have set up a table showing the following:





Time on recording

Quote from public sermon


If these statements are a true reflection of SMC teaching  - what does this tell us about SMC ?

Our comments and questions



2           We have not included the name of the speaker in this article because we are not trying to criticise the preacher in a personal way or as an individual. We are much more concerned about what their public words from the SMC platform tell us about the attitude and teaching of the church and charity they publicly represent.


3           This article represents our honest and genuine questions and concerns raised as we listened to the recording of this sermon. We would like to know if the opinions expressed, approach taken, and teachings presented reflect those of the SMC leadership.


If we have misinterpreted anything in our understanding of what it says about the SMC leadership's teaching and beliefs - please e-mail us and tell us what the correct understanding of the words spoken should be and we will annotate the article on this website showing these responses.


If anything in the sermon, on reflection, was carelessly or poorly stated please e-mail us and tell us what should have been said and we will annotate the article on this website showing these responses.


If the leadership feels a close analysis of publicly given words like this is unfair to the speaker and unneccesarily places them under close accountablilty for their words, we would be surprised. One often repeated SMC teaching, at least until a few years ago, was the need for what was called the "disciplining of the thought life". This required members to spend careful and determined effort ensuring that they kept their private thoughts and minds tightly under control and on Godly, rather than undisciplined, potentially harmful, thoughts. If that is a legitimate teaching then we think it is not inconsistent to require a platform speaker to maintain a careful and disciplined approach to what comes out of their mouth – and take sufficient time in disciplined preparation to ensure they create no confusion about what the speaker is claiming are the important teachings of the Bible and what they are claiming is the directly revealed will of God for the people.


4          Please don't think that we are in any way focussing on the views expressed in this sermon on alcohol. We are not. We are focussing on whether the teachings of SMC are definable, understandable and biblically valid. So to ensure there is no attempt to say this article is driven by the motivation to allow indiscriminate drunkenness, here is our view of that topic:


  • Biblical teaching on abstinence from alcohol has long been an issue of debate in the Christian church and there are several sincerely held and perfectly intelligently argued views on what scripture teaches. As well as biblical teaching, there are also often relevant cultural arguments.


  • We think churches should take the scriptures on the rules relating to alcohol and construct a biblical case for a position they can argue for and defend. We think they should be able to peacefully co-exist, especially on non-definitive issues like this, with people who disagree.


  • We think the Christian should consider the views on drinking presented by their leadership and adopt them, as long as they can do this with intellectual and spiritual integrity.


We recommend listening to the recording of the sermon to understand the context of the comments below.


If there are any errors of transcription of quotes from the sermon please let us know. We will ensure these are corrected as soon as we are made aware of them.






on recording

Quote from public sermon


If these statements are a true reflection of SMC teaching  - what might this tell us about SMC  ?


Our comments and questions







Reading from Ezekiel  about "Secret abominations being committed by the Elders of the house of Israel"

Passages of the Bible that refer to the abominable practices of the Leaders of God's people, when preached on here seem  to be much more about the need to expose the failings, weaknesses and sins of God's people - rather than the Leaders of God's people.


Why no Revival?



I felt as if God was saying to me tonight that he wants to uncover sin amongst us

"I felt as if God was saying" is enough to base a sermon on

This is very important to clarify. Is the speaker saying God told and commanded her to deliver every word in this sermon? That is what some in the congregation believe. Is it what the leaders believe?  .


When the speaker says she "felt as if" God was saying -  what does that mean? Could that be a feeling and not a fact?  If someone felt there were wrong teachings in this sermon would they be in opposition to the voice of God or just in opposition to the feeling the speaker had that day?



I know there are many people here tonight who are very good people, who have been following Christ wholeheartedly for a long time .....and your faces are very clean tonight and very clear. But there are lives amongst us who have secrets in their hearts.. and have not revealed the abominations of the past


The SMC leaders seem  to think that they are able to see by looking at people's faces whether they are secretly indulging in sin or not.



The preacher announces that she knows there are two groups of people sitting in front of her.


The "many good and clean"


and those who


"have (sinful/abominable) secrets in their hearts".  


Do the SMC leaders believe they have this power? If so, please could they indicate publicly which of the leaders have this ability so the people know.


Would it be quicker just to isolate the fewer people with "secret abominations" and speak to them privately? Tell them to get sorted out or leave. Then the public gatherings could be aimed at helping the "good" people become even better.


Can the leadership point us to some examples of sermons in the last year aimed at the spiritual needs and development of the group identified by the speaker here as the  "many good and clean people"? The speaker claims the majority of people who gathered on that Saturday night were in this group – so presumably most Saturday night sermons are aimed at this majority group.


Perhaps the sermons aimed at them have covered how to grow in knowledge of the Bible, how to develop a more effective prayer life, how the leadership intend to give them support in building each of their gifts and ministries, encouragement and help in using opportunities for sharing the gospel and focussing on involvement in mission.  Generally supporting and encouraging them to move into God's exciting plan for their lives -  and where they can now go spiritually from  their advantageous position.




"Throw it open – something I would never do"


Meetings in SMC are for the members and attendees to sit and listen.

That is all that is required for their spiritual growth and learning. There is no place whatsoever for asking (at least publicly) for comments or views or ideas from members.

It is always supposed to be that leaders talk everyone else listens.

This model for meetings will never change


Is this the view of the SMC leadership?




I was shocked at the reaction of about 3 individuals in that company


It is okay for an SMC leader to publicly identify and ridicule people who, when invited to participate in a discussion about a Bible teaching, gave an honest account of their views. They also attempted to present a biblical basis for those views.

A few days later they were quite horribly, nastily and abusively, publicly criticised because they did not say what the leader expected them to say. In these circumstances the SMC leadership believe it is the will of God that the leader announce to the rest of the church that their words have exposed their abominable, inner, sinful natures (the sermon was called “abominations”) and thus it was God's will that they be  humiliated, mocked, criticised, treated with no repect whatsoever and dismissed as rebels.


It may be that this leader has some control issues.



There is an unmistakably clear message here that honesty is not a character trait that will get you anywhere in SMC.




If anyone thinks this overstates the pain caused to the people publicly criticised, that may be correct. Let's not assume they felt accused and disrespected. Let's ask them how they felt.




I was shocked at not just what they said, but at their reaction of aggression and almost anger that came at the suggestion that you should not drink at all


SMC leaders do not have to present a biblical argument for their teaching. They more often just have to rubbish the motives and criticise the conduct of those who have a different view, and that proves the views expressed by these sinful people must be automatically wrong.


If you can rubbish people successfully, you don't then have to take their views seriously and do the careful and difficult job of testing their challenging views against scripture. Going to the Bible with an open mind brings the unwelcome danger that you may discover God is saying someone else's view might be right.


We think what is being done here is both disgraceful and abusive. We believe speakers should not use their public platform to harang and slag-off those who, as in this case, only disagee with them  on a couple of Bible verses which are widely debated in the Christian world.


We invite the SMC leaders concerned to calm down and ask God for the ability to set aside their own control issues sufficiently to at least always be able to speak respectfully about - and show a loving attitude to - their own church members and attendees. We think this respect should apply both from the public platform  and in private conversation.


These church members are not advocating devil worship – they just don't agree with the speaker on this point.  



I think if Paul the apostle was Scottish and was ministering in Glasgow I don't think he'd be saying to anybody take a little wine for your stomach


SMC leaders are entitled to announce changes to the text of the Bible


We think it would be better if the speaker taught people what the Bible actually says and established her teaching on that basis. We think it is wrong to decide what you are going to teach and then say "if Paul were here now he would not write what he actually wrote and God handed down to us unchanged for 2000 years  – he would write a different thing, which I am telling you now"


This is an astonishing thing for a Christian speaker to say - in any context. It is possible that these words constitute a heretical teaching when tested against Revelation 22:18 & 19.


We would ask the SMC leadership to seriously consider this matter and make a dertermination whether these words, as spoken here, constitute a heretical teaching and if so, to take whatever action they deem appropriate. Alternatively we would ask them  to confirm that these words, as spoken here, would be fully acceptable for any SMC speaker to repeat in any SMC church.


By all means say 'we don't think it is right to drink for cutural reasons.' Just don't ever – ever – ever claim  to be a Bible-based church, then argue that the Bible as it stands has got it wrong. To spread that heretical teaching would be far more damaging to God's work in Scotland than all the drinks ever taken.  



I felt like getting up at the end of it and saying " I will never ever have anybody in a place of responsibility if he touches a drop of alcohol in my church - ever"


You can draw no conclusions whatsoever from this statement. It is bound up in obfuscation and seems designed to create utter bewilderment and confusion.


The SMC leader tells us what she felt like saying but didn't actually then say. So - Is she saying it now? Not in any clear way. She is only telling us that she felt like announcing a leadership requirement in her church – then didn't bother.


Is it any wonder the people are confused with such bizzare non- information being spoken -  in this case shouted - from the pulpit?


Let us try to help understand what she is saying:


  • She doesn't think people should drink.
  • She felt like standing up and announcing a leadership policy on it, applicable to her church.
  • She didn't actually do that.


What on earth is the policy? What are people now expected to do? Is abstinence a requirement of leadership in her church or not? As this is a combined SMC meeting, does this teaching now apply to all the churches? Does that mean the many in leadership in other SMC churches who do drink alcohol will be expected to step down?


All the people know for sure, 10 minutes into the sermon, is that they will be sharply and harshly  criticised, probably in public, for failing to live by a policy that hasn’t been explained.


The SMC leadership needs to get its act together.




In less that 10 minutes, one of its 3 main leaders has been publicly critical of members' conduct on a teaching where she feels there is no room for doubt or error. She then makes this bewildering statement ensuring that the membership remain utterly confused as to the SMC churches' position on alcohol.


We don't believe pastors should use the platform to belittle members and tear people down for their "failures". However if they are going to indulge that habit, they better be much clearer than the present SMC leadership are, about what the expectations and requirements are.



If people are confused about, for example, the policy on alchohol as practiced in the SMC churches, perhaps instead of shouting at them, the SMC leadership should ask itself if they have ever given members

  • a clearly wirtten document,
  • or an article to read on the church website,
  • or a published book

in which they share carefully and clearly what their teachings are on important matters.




To me it reveals something in the hearts of some, a rebellion, a disobedience, an independence to God, and a blindness to the culture of our society....I think the abomination is the independence and the pride and the arrogance that thinks that we know better


The SMC leaders believe that even a small difference of opinion to theirs, if expressed in anything more than a flat, calm, verbal tone, reveals the presence of vile and insidious rebelliousness, which needs to be publicly rather than privately confronted.


We think this is probably not the case.




We wouldn't stand for any excuses so she went to another church where the minister said "its alright hen to have a wee swally. On you go. A wee drink now and again won't matter " ... that woman is back in the gutter tonight.



Other churches have lower and ungodly standards and do not even have enough basic knowledge to help an alcoholic.


The alcoholic woman (who received deliverance ministry) backslid because she left SMC to seek a lower standard of conduct.


Her failure to follow God is due to her failures and the bad (almost criminally negligent) advice from another church's leader.


If it is a sin to criticise God's "anointed leaders" as has been often and passionately taught in SMC, surely the SMC leadership teach that this also forbids them  from  publicly criticising other Christian leaders?


Unless they believe that other Christian leaders are not "God's anointed" in the way that SMC leaders are? Perhaps they could clarify their position on this? Was the speaker here wrong to do this? Or is the teaching only applied to save SMC leaders from having their own conduct and words questioned? If so please help us understand how that is anything other than hypocritical.



I was shocked on Tuesday night. I went home and my head was reeling. I think my spirit was reeling -  at the sense of this compromise that is within us


Discovering someone in a congregation holds a differing view on a passage of scripture can send an SMC leader into a nauseous state.


We ask again – is the speaker describing here from the public platform the symptoms of her own control issues?




It was a minority. It was  a few only, and it was a few that I would regard to be on the edges of our church group. But even still I couldn't understand why they could take such an attitude.


If you do anything we don't like we anounce that you are not really spiritual, or not "in the heart of what God is doing" or, as here, "on the edges" in our church.


It is part of the SMC leaders' role to decide who in their congregations to regard as either the satisfactory spiritual elite or the unsatisfactory "on the edges of our church group."


We expect the elite to agree with us on every point. Inevitably some will fall into foolish and false beliefs counter to our own showing that they are only "on the edges of our church group"  


Perhaps if the speaker told them  sooner that she saw them as less valuable, successful and important to her than favourites in the church, they would have realised there was no point looking for a biblical standard of loving, pastoral care from her. They could have left to get the real thing elsewhere.


The speaker would win too - because the only people then around to speak up in a discussion on alchohol would be those who agreed with the speaker - and those who knewthey are supposed to pretend to agree with her.


As long as the members can all pretend right, then the  speaker doesn't have to go home upset.


There can be within us a rebellion, an independence that we think is acceptable that we know better than our leaders. We know better than those who have been ministering to us for years....and we hold an independence within our spirit and as a result of that we never really come in. We never really bond. We never really amalgamate with the Church of Jesus Christ. ... I'm not just going to bleat like a sheep because that’s what they want me to do. I've got my own thoughts and my own opinions.


The SMC leaders believe utterly and totally that they know what is best for every one of your lives. There is no possibility that they will ever accept that your view of what you need from God might be better that their's.


They don't need to be in any way involved with you one-to-one or personally, in anything other than a casual way, or even speak to you in any depth, to know this – it is just the way it is.


They know from their long experience that they are always right about what people need and if a person is rebellious enough to even question them, that is a sign that they are proud and "independent." If you disagree in any part you are going to be wrong.




We believe this is not the case.



We believe the reason the SMC leadership are not automatically, instantly trusted on matters is


1     some people aren't mindless puppets, but are mature, healthy, well-adjusted and can think and make sensible decisions.


2     it may be that some people feel they have seen the SMC leaders have been so often wrong, arrogant, unloving, uncaring to the absent, uncaring to the present, publicly nasty about those who have recently left the church, elitist and spend their time indulging in their own interests and hobbies rather than pastoring the church.



and there can even be a pride in being a wee bit different –

(doing an impression of what a rebel would say)

"I'm not just going to bleat like a sheep because that's what they want me to do. I've got my own thoughts and my own opinions".


The SMC leadership teach that wanting to be even a wee bit different from the leadership is an indication of pride.



If a SMC leader says bleat like a sheep you should bleat like a sheep.


The SMC leadership will provide you with the  correct thoughts and opinions.


May the Lord deliver His Church from such corrupt and false teaching. Or perhaps this was a mistake? If so the SMC leadership should say so clearly and quickly.


If in a public sermon you are doing an impression of a pride-filled sinful rebel, it would be more usual to have them say something that a normal, sensible Christian person would understand to be proud, sinful or rebellious. Strangely the speaker here does an impression of a sinful rebel who seems to say what a perfectly well-adjusted, well-balanced, wise Christian person, free from any kind of inappropriate human control would say:

"I'm not just going to bleat like a sheep because that's what they want me to do. I've got my own thoughts and my own opinions"”


We believe that what is presented here as "rebellion" is in fact the only appropriate condition a person can be in if they are to be free to understand and follow the will of God for their life.


Godly preachers give us things to think about – they don't give us our thoughts. Godly preachers present us with biblical teaching in fear, trembling and humility, in case they make mistakes rightly dividing the word of truth and mislead a life. They should teach wisdom which makes it more likely that people will develop helpful and Godly opinions.


The right to form and have opinions different from those of their leadership is never taken from a Christian by God.



A quote we think is relevant here comes from one of the articles on www.batteredsheep.com


From - When Has Authority Gone Too Far? by Jon Zens


Some (things that indicate a leadership problem):


  1. the claim of direct authority from God, rather than testing things by the Word;

  2. the command is to "submit to me," rather than "I will serve you";

  3. the method of leadership is to "order" people around, rather than to appeal for them to do the right things;

  4. there is a dominating, "pushy" drive instead of a dependence on God to direct;

  5. there is a sense of control, rather than a sense of support;

  6. a gift is exploited so that others are made to feel dependent on it;

  7. there is an inflexibility--"don't question me"--"don't touch the Lord's anointed";

  8. there is an un-approachability and intimidation--the "aura" around the leader keeps the followers in "awe";

  9. there emerges an organization built around a man and his peculiar emphases instead of around Christ and His Word;

 10. there will be cyclical challenges to the authority figure (which are immediately and forcefully purged);

 11. there is more concern for maintaining the authoritarian structure than there is for caring about the people in it.