22nd May 2018

General Assembly - Tuesday


General Assembly 2018 - Tuesday

by Laurence Wareing

5. Tuesday 22 May: morning

We bring you this update as, outside, many are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of

women in the Church of Scotland.

Before worship began this morning, three children from the Moderator’s parish in Dornoch

performed highland music, to the great enjoyment of everyone present. Following worship, in which

the Moderator reflected on that 50th anniversary, a commissioner spoke in praise of yesterday

evening’s youth-led evening of celebration and testimony: “Walking Together”. Mr Macgregor was

disappointed that not more commissioners were able to attend the event. On the anniversary of the

Manchester bombing one year ago, the Revd Dr Lindsay Schluter, whose island community of Barra

was directly affected by the trauma, offered thanks to the Church’s Press Office, which had given,

she said, invaluable support and guidance at a terribly difficult time.

The General Assembly is not a series of annual stand-alone events; rather, each Assembly represents

a staging post in an ongoing process. This should not be a surprise for a Christian denomination that

speaks of itself as both reformed and always reforming. The decade-long discussions around the

subject of same-sex relationships is one obvious example of this long-term process. The reports of

the Ministries Council are another – constantly taking stock of the current needs and circumstances

of the parishes and ministry opportunities for which it takes responsibility.

A key question is: how is ministry exercised today? This year’s report develops further the Ministries

Council’s thinking on how the Church defines ministry. The council believes that any definition must

consist of three things: first, Calling; followed by Understanding and Practice – practice which

requires continual change.

The Council oversees four recognised ministries:

 Parish ministers of word and sacrament

 Ordained Local Ministers and Auxiliary Ministers

 The Diaconate

 The Readership (which a later speaker described as the “unsung heroes of the Church”)

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– and it also has responsibility for just over 100 Full-time equivalent Ministries Development Staff.

This year, the Diaconate has completed a vision statement: Deacons of Word and Service. This

speaks of a ministry that bridges the institution of the Church and its service in the world. It was the

Right Revd John Armes from the Scottish Episcopal Church who later spoke in praise of deacons who,

he said, embody the injunction to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.

The work of the Ministries Council is hugely varied. Difficult decisions are being faced and the

Council is reiterating its call for a more collaborative approach to planning and the deployment of

ministries. In the Church’s 64 Priority Areas, Asset-based Community Development is supporting

local communities to recognise their own assets and strengths, fostering a “can-do” approach.

The Convenor concluded that “transformative change almost always seems to happen in the place of

vulnerable, risky, truthful encounter”. A number of later speakers said how inspirational they’d

found Mr Glover’s speech.

Amongst the questions that followed, there were a number about hub-style and flexible ministries –

and there was an urgency expressed about the need for them. Currently there are five hub-style

ministries – the furthest advanced of which is in Argyll.

The Convenor agreed with one speaker that ministers have a wide range of responsibilities, and

there is a balance to be struck. Too often ministers say they’ve called to preach and to be a pastor

but they spend too much time answering emails. He affirmed that the core task is to be “ministers of

the gospel” and hoped that central services could support them in other areas of their work. One

minister asked what is being done to encourage ministers of age 55 and over to access training for

ministry of word and sacrament. The convenor responded that there is no age restriction for

Ordained Local Ministers and that the ability retirement age for Parish Ministers is being reviewed.

In response to another question, the Convenor said the council has delayed bringing a capability

procedure, that looks at whether a minister is a “good fit” in a given situation – a necessary task. The

Council hopes to bring a report to next year’s Assembly.

The Revd David Cameron asked about the estimated number of ministers (expected to decline by 20

per cent over the next five years) and whether advisory figures about future ministries take into

account changing demographics in Scotland. The Convenor said that at the 2011 Assembly, the

Council had looked at numbers and looked at mission potential but, because the numbers tended to

dominate thinking, the unintended result had been that presbyteries found themselves locked into

conversations about attrition. The Council hopes that the new advisory approach will be more

positive and productive.

One minister spoke about the range of worship leadership in her parish. The convenor said that

training of all God’s People will be an essential element of the hub ministry initiative – and added

that the Ministry and Discipleship Council is also concerned about this area.

In response to another question, the Convenor said there was thinking about student-centred

training in the future that might have an impact on the number and location of institutions where

training takes place. Mr Alex Miller asked whether, by presenting advisory numbers, this would lead

to a fair deployment of ministries in the process of presbytery planning. Currently, there is

considerable disparity in local experience. One presbytery has 62 per cent of its posts vacant;

another has just five per cent. The Convenor said that it was difficult to ensure that in every area of

the Church posts are being created in a way that ministers will be attracted to move there.

The Revd Alan Sorenson asked about the definition of ministry in progress. How detailed and

comprehensive is it intended to be – will it be as detailed as a job specification? – to what extent will

it allow ministers to play to their strengths? The Convenor said the Council needs clarity in a number

of areas – in order to design high quality training that matches the role people are being asked to do;

clarity about the difference between roles; and to help avoid breakdown between ministers and

congregations over expectations. The definition is being built on the back of wide consultation.

An NHS chaplain based in London said he felt he had no ability to liaise in any valuable way with the

Council and asked for help. Another minister requested greater support for recruitment for the

diaconate. Financial disincentives make churches reluctant to consider linkages, was the experience

of another commissioner – could that be addressed?

A number of commissioners asked how quickly the Council will bring forward proposals on hub-style

and more flexible ministry arrangements. Vacancies are increasing faster than presbytery planning

can catch up with them, said one “serial locum minister”. There is an urgency to have clarity about

unrestricted and restricted calls, for example.

After a coffee break, the Assembly turned to the deliverance and to the marking of 50 years since

women have been ordained to parish ministry within the Church of Scotland. At the present time,

around 30 per cent of those in one of the recognised ministries are women (including the Diaconate,

which for many years was exclusively female). Dr Roderick Campbell, spoke of the Revd Mary

Levison, who had been a member of his congregation in Edinburgh. Mary was the first woman to be

ordained as a minister in the Church of Scotland. He said that she’d set a pattern for other women to

follow. He asked: “Where would the Church be if the Assembly had not made that decision 50 years

ago?” The Very Revd Dr Andrew McLellan Dr McLellan associated with Mary two words: holiness and

love – she was “a saint in the biblical sense of the term”.

The Revd Alan Sorensen followed up his earlier question, asking the Council to bring “a clearer

description of ministry”, rather than what he feared could be an inflexible job description. His

seconder said that the clarity the Council requires should happen in conversation with ministers in

the early stages of their training. The Convenor accepted the amendment, and so did the Assembly.

A counter-motion on the same topic asked for a “sharp focus on the importance of the ministry of

word and sacrament to the vitality of the Church and its implications for other tasks commonly

thought to be the work of ministers”. The proposer said what the Church requires is specifically

Ministers of Word and Sacrament, not just “ministers” – this would provide “steerage” for the

Church’s understanding of its task. He was supported by a speaker who said being a minister of word

and sacrament is all he knows how to do, and this was what he was trained for. “I’m not a manager;

I’m not a fundraiser”, he said. Opposing the counter-motion, other commissioners said that it would

“hive off” one form of ministry and give it a sense of inappropriate importance and diminish the

ministry of the whole people of God – including, said one speaker, deacons, “the greatest multi-

taskers of them all!” On a vote, the counter-motion fell.

Speaking in praise of a team of three interim ministers who have been working on Shetland, a

minister from there said they’d not brought a magic wand nor always given church members an easy

ride, but they did stand alongside the churches as they began on a radical journey and started to

think outside the box.

Mr Gordon Pennykid, a deacon, said that deacons often find themselves on the “outside” – despite

being employees of the Ministries Council. He said deacons offer a pivotal, complementary ministry

but one, he felt, that is not valued on a par with the ministry of word and sacrament. His new section

called for affirmation and employment of deacons – and was warmly welcomed by the Convenor.

In relation to the development of a five-year recruitment strategy, two commissioners raised issues

of financial and other support given to ministers in training and asked for a radical approach.

The Revd Dr Alistair May brought an amendment affirming that the Church of Scotland offers to

conduct a Christin funeral services for any person in Scotland without distinction – a personal service

without a fee. This needs to be more widely known, he said, including within the funeral industry.

The Assembly broke for lunch – many to celebrate further the 50th anniversary of the ordination of




6. Tuesday 22 May: afternoon

When the commissioners regathered after lunch, to mark the 50th anniversary of the ordination of

women three presbyters were invited to address the Assembly

The Revd Margaret Forester introduced herself as commissioner 007, “licensed to preach”. In 1963

she sat in the gallery of the Assembly Hall and watched Mrs Mary Lusk (later Levison) present her

petition to become a minister of word and sacrament to the Assembly. Margaret said that the issue

of ordaining women had been raised in every decade of the 20th century, with the Congregational

Church leading the way with the ordination of Constance Coltman a century ago. The Panel on

Doctrine, which was given the task of considering Mary’s petition, acted slowly and Margaret said

that she and other campaigners were effectively “gagged” by the Church they loved. It was the

press, she said, that gave them the publicity they required and fuelled the demand for a debate at

the Assembly of 1967.

Margaret concluded by saying that there are places where the Church must still speak out for and

with women – where children are refused education, where women suffer violence, where church

denominations refuse women ordination and, in the Church of Scotland, where parishes have no

women elders. Her speech was greeted with a rare Assembly standing ovation.

Two other ministers took up the story. First, the Revd Jean Montgomery, who spoke about her

journey into ministry under the influence of Professor William Barclay; and the Revd Aquila Singh,

who spoke about what she’d learned from women ministers: about building people up and never

leaving them behind; and the about the importance of integrity. “If you talk the talk, you need to

walk the walk”.

The Assembly now returned to the report of the Ministries Council, moving fairly rapidly through the

remaining sections of the deliverance. There was a plea that presbyteries deal in a pastoral way with

ministers dealing with long-term ill health issues; there was a contribution from a minister who had

moved into the Church of Scotland from overseas but had found the transition difficult, not least

financially; there was testament to the “grace, wisdom and pastoral care” of the Revd Professor

David Fergusson who is stepping down as Principal of New College in Edinburgh; and there was

concern about the care of individuals undergoing an investigation about their conduct within the

Church. A minister from the Presbytery of Stirling asked the Council to reconsider giving advisory

figures for ministries in a presbytery, which he felt created an ambiguous situation. His motion was

accepted. A number of other proposed sections were heard, discussed and, for the most part


This year, the Committee on Ecumenical Relations has brought a policy in need of a strategy. There

are reasons for this. The policy is titled: Local, Universal and shaped by the Mission of God. It takes

into account a shifting ecumenical landscape in Scotland and a desire that the committee has heard

for more support of ecumenical relations locally.

The committee was also asking the Assembly to instruct it bring a strategy for implementation next

year. The reason for the delay, Mrs McDonald said, was so the Committee could take into account a

significant review of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), the ecumenical body with

which the committee has been closely linked since 1990. That review has concluded that ACTS does

not now reflect, nor engage with, the increasing diversity of Christianity in Scotland; that its

structures need overhauled to release energy; and that churches need a clear vision of its purpose.

The committee is clear that an ecumenical understanding of the Church is not an add-on but should

be integral to the Church of Scotland’s self-understanding and believes that this new policy is

“comprehensive, comprehensible and relevant to the situation faced by the Church today”.

The Convenor said there was nothing new to report on conversations with the Presbyterian Church

in Ireland, which still feels unable to accept an invitation to send a representative to the General

Assembly because of the Kirk’s stance on same-sex relationships. The convenor said it was important

to seek out spaces for conversation and communion, and efforts were being made to that end. In

response to a question, the Convenor also said that it had asked ACTS to place the results of its

review on its website; in its absence, she said hard copies could be requested directly from ACTS.

How will the new focus on the local help local interfaith conversations? asked one commissioner.

The convenor didn’t want to anticipate the strategy to be published next year but did say how good

it always is to hear about local initiatives. At the other end of the scale, the Right Revd Christopher

Hill, President of the Conference of European Churches, was one of a number of representatives to

speak on behalf of partner churches and organisations. He spoke particularly about the urgent need

for Churches to work together across Europe, for example in response to rising nationalism and to

the flow of refugees into the continent. Another commissioner spoke of being profoundly affected

by the largely Catholic Focolare Movement, which enacts ecumenism in daily life and states: “We

must unlearn the religion we have been taught and live together the life of Jesus”.

Introducing the report of the Panel on Review and Reform, the Revd Graham Duffin said that he

belongs to a generation that believes that it can fix everything – “and if we can’t then no one else

can.” Except, he went on, when it comes to the church, despite our best efforts, we haven’t. We

need instead to trust in God. There is no silver bullet.

There are four things then that the Panel believes are needed to help the Church move forward:

1. the development of a missional mindset throughout the church

2. enabling leadership (Mr Duffin referred back to the example of God releasing women to take forward their sense of call in 1968)

3. good support structures at regional and national level . . . but finally –

4. “it is time to do less talking and more trying things out” – this means “testing, trying, experimenting in new ways so that we can learn together”.


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The Panel is seeking to build churches marked by

 people joining and staying – whether formally or not

 a growth in faith and commitment

 a growing impact on our communities and more widely

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Because such a Path of Renewal takes time to show its fruit, the Ministries Council has agreed to

extend the funding for the scheme for a further two years and is taking on ownership for Path of


Perhaps aware that time was moving on, the Assembly accepted the Panels’ report gratefully but

with little discussion.

Safeguarding is a task that everyone shares, said the Convenor of the Safeguarding Committee. She

brought to the Assembly a Safeguarding Act that contains nothing new but consolidates legislation

accumulated over the passing years. She urged commissioners to make use of their local

safeguarding officers, and she thanked volunteers for their commitment to this important work.

In response to a question, the Convenor said the Committee is hoping to develop an e-learning

resource to facilitate training. She also assured another commissioner that the Committee always

passes on pastoral in issues to the relevant departments in the event of receiving any allegation.

The Iona Community Board was established by the General Assembly when the community was

founded, to keep an eye on this “radical new experiment”. It doesn’t run the Community. This year

its report especially highlights changes in the Island Centres, including the Abbey, which has played

an important part in the spiritual lives of many Christians. The Convenor, Mr Alan Kimmitt, urged

commissioners to consider contributing to the current Capital Appeal, so that others can benefit in

the future.

The Revd Kathy Galloway, a member of the present Leadership Team, was invited to address the

Assembly. She took the opportunity to pay full tribute to the Revd Dr Ian Fraser, who died earlier this

year aged 100. He had been a member of the Iona Community for 75 years and was a remarkable

man with a truly global reach – through his pioneering ecumenical activities and through his

advocacy of basic Christian communities throughout the world. Ian was a “living rebuttal of the

heresy that religion and politics don’t mix”, Kathy said. Standing alongside ordinary people in

situations of extreme disempowerment, Ian and his wife Margaret revealed not victims but people

resisting the powers of injustice and terror and living purposefully with a different kind of power. He

wrote a good deal about tax, for example, and his commitment to evangelical confrontation saw him

withhold that part of his tax dues that went to military spending in the 1980s, fight his case all the

way to the European Court of Justice, and refuse to pay his poll-tax in the 1990s.

The Guild is coming to the end of its three-year strategy, “Be Bold, Be Strong”, and will now embark

on it strategy for 2018-21: “One Journey, Many Roads”. This will be supported nationally by

roadshows, regional gathering and Big Sings that all give support to local Guilds, some of which can

otherwise feel small, overlooked and rather lonely.

Echoing Monday’s debate about the Church in Africa, the National Convenor, Marge Paterson, spoke

of her visit this past year to Malawi, with which the Guild has developed a close connection through

the Guild there. There were conversations with Christian Aid to discuss how Bolivian solar

technology (which the Guild has supported through its projects scheme) could be used in Malawi;

with the Malawian Bible Society who explained how the bible is being used to tackle illiteracy; and

there was a visit to another past Guild project – the Livingstonia Synod’s AIDS project.

The total raised for the six projects supported over the past three years was £725,091.50

The Convenor then announced the six new projects for the coming three years, four of which have

been specifically chosen to recognise the Year of Young People:

 The Boys’ Brigade Scotland will engage in practical inter-generational work

 The Free to Live Trust’s “Seema’s Project” aims to work with children born to sex workers in the slums of Pune in India

 “Growing the Future” will see the Guild work with Malawi Fruits to train and support young farmers as they move from subsistence farming to sustainable


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 In Kanyama, Lusaka, the World Mission Council and the United Church of Zambia will help empower teenage mothers

 The Sailors’ Society project, “Port Chaplaincy in Scotland” seeks to provide a chaplain in every port

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and finally –

 “Join up the dots” – a CrossReach project to tacked issues of isolation and loneliness experienced by people of all ages across Scotland.

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Membership of the Guild has grown this past year, the Convenor also said – 600 new members

including members of the 2nd Linlithgow Company of the Girls’ Brigade – the second honorary Guild

Group, the first being the National Youth Assembly.

One commissioner said that the Guild’s report is encouraging, easy to read, and the only report in

the Blue Book to which her English teacher wouldn’t have taken a red pen! Two other

commissioners said that what the Guild has done by supporting projects over the last project cycle

was truly remarkable: “Breaking the Cycle of FGM in Kenya” has seen the incidence of FGM dropping

and awareness about the scourge increasing; while the introduction of solar ovens is transforming

whole communities in Bolivia.

On this positive note, business was suspended – though many commissioners will be returning to

the hall this evening to participate in another of the Guild’s popular Big Sings. We’ll back tomorrow

when the Church and Society Council will report.

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