June 2019

I am sure many of you will be aware that major reforms to the governing structures of the Church of Scotland have been approved by the General Assembly. Details can be found on the Church of Scotland website; however, I thought I would include a brief summary below.

Significant and long overdue changes to the structure and governance of the church were presented to the Assembly by
the convener of the Special Commission, who said:“Our recommendations respond to a growing sense of urgency and attempt to kick start the process of radical reform. Doing nothing and continuing as we are is not an option.”

The General Assembly also voted in favour of reducing administration costs within the central organisation of the Church by 20%-30% within two years. The number of presbyteries will potentially be reduced from 45 to 12 in the coming years and better resourced with decision making powers devolved to them. The convener said:“The strategy is one of devolution – empowering the local church, support for its forms of ministry, stimulating mission in our parishes and beyond, planting new churches and a regional reorganisation that will better facilitate these processes.”

Commissioners agreed to merge the Church and Society Council with the World Mission Council and the Ministries Council with the Mission and Discipleship Council by January 1, 2020. CrossReach, the operating arm of the Social Care Council, will become a more self-sustaining and financially viable arms-length organisation but will retain close links with the Kirk.
The convener said:“It is a programme of establishing a strong trustee body at the centre of the Church but also devolving power and resources to the regions and parishes. “We have to act responsibly in relation to the money that people give very generously”. He added: “We have taken some very necessary steps that I hope will encourage people to feel that their concerns are being heard and we are committed to regenerating local congregations around the country.” He also said "The new trustee body that is proposed has its work cut out to reform presbyteries and deal with new church plants and a surplus of buildings. Plans were approved to ensure Kirk Sessions are able to operate more efficiently".

There is no question that proposals agreed by the Assembly are some of the most radical in the history of the Church of Scotland. There is a lot of detail to be gone through and worked out in the structures of the church - including Kirk Sessions and parishes.

With every good wish
Shaw J Paterson

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