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Looking Back

Friday May 20

Looking Back: General Assembly 1966

With the General Assembly kicking off tomorrow (Saturday), we look back to reports of the gathering of 50 years ago, most notable for the decision to admit women as elders.


OVERWHELMING MAJORITY

The Place of Women

FOR THIRTY-FOUR years the Church has discussed the arguments for and against, has talked about it in Assembly, in presbyteries, and even – a little unconstitutionally – in Kirk Sessions and congregations, and slowly the climate of opinion has changed. Theological difficulties have been cleared away, and it could be seen over the years that more and more people were coming to accept the possibility of women sitting in the Courts of the Church.

Now the last barrier has fallen. By a majority which the Moderator described as overwhelming, the General Assembly accepted the decision of presbyteries, who voted 45 in favour and 17 against, to admit women to the Eldership on the same terms as men.

This, of course, does not mean that any particular congregation must have women on its Session, but from now on any congregation may elect women. So, we shall soon be seeing here and there women sitting with the minister round the Communion table, and since a uniform is not prescribed, some glorious hats may brighten the sombre hues on the floor of the Assembly Hall in 1967.

 

NEED FOR NEW CHURCHES

Stated boldly, there is no money for further church building. This is the sad fact which emerged from the Report on Church Extension.

Yet several great new towns, though they may still consist mainly of open fields, are on the drawing boards; Irvine, Waterside, Dalgety, while the needs at Glenrothes, Kilbride, Cumbernald, Livingstone and Corby in England, have not yet been fully met. What is the Church to do?

The Church Extension Committee is bound by the income it receives through the Co-ordinated Appeal. Unless there is a dramatic increase, the work must stop.

Should, then, the needs of Church Extension be placed before the Church outside the Co-ordinated Appeal? Should other sources of income be sought? Dare the Church face a stoppage of new building, leaving new communities to grow up without a church in the midst and countless children without a Sunday School? If this were to happen, we can no longer claim that we are a national church which exercises care for all Scotland.

 

RAISING THE MINIMUM STIPEND

THE MINIMUM stipend is to be £1,100 in 1967, an increase of £100 over 1966.

As far back as 1929, the newly-united Church thought an appropriate stipend would be £400 per annum. Today, the pound sterling has perhaps one-third of its value then, so even the modest aim has hardly been reached after 37 years. But the Church is grateful to all those who by their regular givings have made this possible.

 

OVERSEAS COUNCIL RE-ORGANISATION

ALL the world knows how rapidly changes are taking place in Africa and Asia. Christians know that the churches in all the countries of these continents are changing too. It therefore follows that the organisation in Scotland which deals with the work overseas must alter too.

No longer is there a “Foreign Mission” Committee, a “Colonial and Continental” Committee, a “Church and Israel” Committee and a “Christian Aid” Committee in the Church of Scotland. The old distinctions have been largely wiped out, and now there are three area committees within the Overseas Council, one for Africa, one for Asia, and the other for Europe, Israel and the Americas.

This re-organisation is necessary to keep pace with the movement of events in rapidly developing countries. But no amount of planning amongst committees in Edinburgh will improve the position without more men and money for work abroad. There are opportunities to be seized in other lands, as well as established work to be maintained.


Looking Back menu

Follow this year's General Assembly coverage here and read an interview with the Moderator-Designate here.