Rev David Robertson named as next Free Church Moderator

October 1, 2014

One of Scotland’s leading Christian media commentators, who almost died in hospital back in 2011, has been named as the next Moderator of the Free Church.

Rev David Robertson, minister of Dundee St Peter’s Free Church and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, will take up at the role at next year’s General Assembly in May.

David is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s boldest Christian broadcasters, regularly taking on atheists at media and student union events, as well as an increasingly popular author on persuasive evangelism for Christians.

Speaking after his nomination for Moderator Designate, the 52-year-old said: “I did not really think when I became a Free Church minister in 1986 at the tender age of 24 that I would ever reach this stage. 

“It is an honour and a privilege to be able to serve in this way, especially at such an exciting time for both the Free Church and Scotland. 

“We are a growing and developing church, reversing the trend in a society which is becoming increasingly secularised and in a nation which is seeing significant changes. 

“My hope is that the Free Church will continue to bring the Good News to all the people of Scotland and beyond and that the Lord will use us as salt and light to help his people, of whatever denomination, and to see Scotland return to its Christian foundations. 

“There is an old Chinese curse; ‘may you live in interesting times’. We do live in interesting times but as an optimistic Calvinist I regard that as a blessing, nor a curse.  I am looking forward, God willing, to an interesting year!”

At one point such an appointment would have been unthinkable, because Rev David Robertson was given a 50-50 chance of survival by doctors and surgeons in Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital back in 2011.

After collapsing in a pool of blood outside his church following a wedding, the St Peter’s minister spent nine weeks in hospital – five of which were in intensive care – as the nursing team performed surgery firstly on his stomach and then his lungs.

Thousands of Christians across the world prayed that his life would be spared, and David made a near miraculous recovery in the early part of 2012 and is now restored to full health.

David became a believer in his teens, and after graduating with a Masters in History from the University of Edinburgh, went onto study at what is now the Edinburgh Theological Seminary.

As a 24-year-old his first charge was Brora Free Church, Sutherland, in 1986, where David saw considerable fruit, before he accepted a call to Dundee in 1992.

Come the end of October he will have been minister in Dundee St Peter’s for 22 years. When David arrived, the church had eight people. It now attracts over 200 worshippers every Sunday. It also has a thriving sister church plant in St Andrews, and St Peter’s hopes to plant another church in the City of Discovery soon.  

Smithton minister and former Moderator Rev David Meredith said: “Warmest congratulations to my friend and colleague David Robertson on his appointment as Moderator Designate to the 2015 General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. I am delighted that the Church has decided to honour him in this way.

“David represents so many of the qualities which are central to the DNA of the Free Church: commitment to Bible-centred Christianity, obsessively Christ focused, politically radical and outward looking.

“He has been one of the chief architects and visionaries behind the energy and growth which seems to have characterised the Free Church in the last few years.

“David has often been viewed as controversial but his various battles have rarely been over side issues. He has the uncanny knack of speaking about the 'elephant in the room' and his recent illness, which brought him to the very gates of death, have made him impatient with cant and bluster. He is a man who realises that life is brief and eternity is endless.

“I have no hesitation in saying that he is one of the most godly people I know.”

Rev David Robertson has always had a desire to resist the intolerance of secularists and atheists and this led to his writing The Dawkins Letters a response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. He also wrote a response to Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great entitled Magnificent Obsession. 

Prior to that, he authored Awakening – The Life and Ministry of Robert Murray McCheyne as the church building of St Peter’s was the place where McCheyne preached.

David continues to serve as chaplain of the University of Dundee, and his online blog has been nominated for an award by the UK Christian Media.

As well as giving evidence on behalf of the Free Church at the Scottish Parliament on the redefinition of marriage, Rev David Robertson debated Peter Tatchell on the issue live on Revelation TV – and also contributed to programmes on the BBC, STV and Channel 4.

Although he has debated many high profile figures, including MSPs Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie, one person who has escaped his debating clutches is Richard Dawkins – who declined an invitation for a debate in Stornoway back in 2012 whilst speaking at a local book festival.

David’s efforts to advance the cause of the Gospel in the public square have not gone unnoticed – previously Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said that the Church of Scotland “desperately needed” a public spokesman like him if the Kirk was to re-engage the nation with Christianity.

David is married to Annabel, a mental health social worker, and they have three grown-up children: Andrew, 27, who works with Chalmers Church in Edinburgh, Becky, 25, who is married to Pete an Anglican Youth Worker in Australia, and Emma-Jane, 16, who is a student.