THE SUMMER OF 96 will remain long in the memory for the day in June when Professor Donald McLeod ~ he of the brilliant theological brain and the keening bagpipe-like preaching voice – was publicly vindicated in court in Edinburgh. His fellow-ministers and accusers were routed and humiliated by Sheriff John Horsburgh who threw out five charges of sexual assault by the Professor against women.
Having access to the Scottish dailies, the Press and Journal, and the Herald, with the weekly Stornoway Gazette and the West Highland Free Press (the latter the only publication where one can read a column by Professor McLeod since he was unceremoniously dumped from the pages of Evangelicals Now) gave total, if less then dispassionate, coverage of the court proceedings and the, outcome. The Herald published a moving interview with Mrs. McLeod the day after the verdict, alongside a piece by son John a regular columnist in the Glasgow- based paper. Both spoke of the pain and anguish of the decade of vilification and pursuit, and the sense of burn-out with no desire whatsoever to take things further.
The conflict in the Free Church of Scotland between Professor McLeod and his colleagues was seized on by the Scottish, media with undisguised glee. Was it really true that a fellow-professor, seated at the staff meal table in the Free Church College, in Edinburgh, would refuse to acknowledge MacLeods existence even when he asked for the salt cellar?
The Rev Angus Smith, of Cross Free Church, Lewis, dubbed Pope of the Isles, and scarcely believably, the Professors brother-in-law, was a chief conspirator; his influence is waning fast in the Islands. Since, June 25 a growing convoy of cars leaves Cross on the Sabbath seeking spiritual nurture elsewhere. The Murrays of Edinburgh (the unrelated John and Iain) have like-wise shot their bolt Can the prestigious Banner of Truth publishing house have any viable future so long as the driven and now discredited Iain Murray remains linked with it?
But this unspeakable clerically-collared tartan army had willing recruits south of the border and from them nothing has been heard. Big names associated with the Evangelical Alliance and the Proclamation Trust moved against Professor McLeod in knee-jerk response to pressure from the north. Their reaction to Sheriff Horsburghs judgment has been muted to the point of unholy silence. When a brother-in- Christ is vindicated by his own Church Assembly and then in open secular court, how should those who connived in side-lining and ostracising him respond? What does Scripture say, and how should those who teach us to live under Scripture have reacted themselves in obedience to Scripture? It cannot be, surely, they will continue to support and hold the hand of those who accused Professor MacLeod and who were exposed so ruthlessly as liars and conspirators? These teachers are our popes yet they have been dabbling in this sordid business behind our backs for years, while standing in our pulpits with their Bibles open lecturing us!!
Would it not be appropriate for them to write an open letter of apology and contrition to the Professor, for our benefit. One presumes they have already written to him in that vein privately? Evangelicals Now could assert its own volte face by giving the open letter front- page treatment, and then promptly issue an invitation to Donald MacLeod to resume his superb monthly column. Should not that abruptly withdrawn invitation to the Professor to be keynote speaker at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly several years ago be reissued now, with the prayerful hope that the Professor would graciously agree to come. and teach 600 and more ministers the Bible in his own inimitable and gripping style?
This much is certain. Until ancient as well as recent wrongs against Professor MacLeod have been put right from south of the Border, those in the Free Church of Scotland who threaten to continue campaigning for his downfall will have an unassailable pretext to prolong a hideous crusade which dishonours Christ and His Church and gives a whole generation in Scotland’s Lowlands, Highlands, and Islands cause to sneer at His Gospel.