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Home  >  Features  >  General Assembly 2013: Day four

General Assembly 2013

The Moderator (second right) with David Livingstone's descendants.
The Moderator (second right) with David Livingstone's descendants.

 

Tuesday May 21 2013

general assembly 2014: day four

 

General Assembly Tuesday was another long day, taking in many disparate topics brought by three councils and the Church of Scotland Guild.

The day began (after worship) with the World Mission Council, and a happy moment when three great-grandchildren of the missionary David Livingstone, and the widow of a fourth, were presented to the Council.

World Mission always brings contributions from visitors from across the globe, and today’s speakers came from as far afield as South Korea, Pakistan and Australia.

Dr Mary Mikhael, of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon gave an emotional speech, speaking of the immense human cost of the conflict in Syria and its impact on churches that now face persecution, even as they attempt to alleviate the suffering: “What they do to help those displaced and refugees has met at least some human needs, but sometimes it is not possible to do more. The churches are exhausted.”

The Moderator told her: “You can be assured of the thoughts and prayers of everyone in this church and anything we can do we will.”

The church is to write to the UK Government, urging it ‘through the UN and international community to seek a just and peaceable end to conflict in Syria and to seek protection for minorities in any new political settlement’.

Earlier in the day, the Moderator remembered the people caught up in the tornado in Oklahoma in prayers.

The Council fought off an attempt to force a review of the Church’s ownership and operation of the Scots Hotel in Tiberias. Moving the motion, Jo Elliot compared the hotel to the Edinburgh Trams or Scottish Parliament projects, both of which cost a lot more than had been planned.

He said: “If we had known how much it would cost, we would not have gone ahead in the first place. The idea was we would run the hotel at a profit to support World Mission’s other work, but in fact the opposite has happened and I very much doubt this five star hotel is delivering the benefits it was intended to.”

However the World Mission Convener, the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, argued that the presence of the hotel by the Sea of Galilee was important to the church’s ministry in the Holy Land, that it was valued by the local community and partners in the area, that it was moving towards profitability and that it was constantly under review in any case.

Other motions which passed included one in support of garment workers in Bangladesh, following the high-profile disasters there in recent months; and another urging the US to end its blockade of Cuba.

The Convener of the Social Care Council, the Rev Syd Graham, emphasised to the General Assembly that despite facing serious financial challenges CrossReach (the operating name of the Council) would not be reducing the quality of services across Scotland.

Rev Graham, in his last speech as convener of the Council, said: “Let me make clear that our commitment remains that the Social Care Council and staff refuse to dumb down the quality our service. Caring in Christ’s name demands excellence.”

There was much praise for CrossReach’s service, particularly the Heart for Art project, which is also one of the Guild’s projects.

Pensions came up again and Mr Graham accepted an instruction to ‘enter or re-enter discussions with the Council of Assembly to find out whether it might be possible to increase the contribution made by the church to the council’s work, to repair some of the damage already caused to the pension fund to the council’s staff’.

The Guild Convener, Mary Ford, reported on a year of many cakes, as the organisation celebrated its 125th anniversary. There was praise for the Guild’s ongoing work on domestic violence and the success of its partnership projects; and support for a call for congregations with no Guild to form one, and for men to join.

Steve Fennell said: “I’d like to encourage every man in the hall to join the Guild. I have been a member of the Guild for many years and I have had nothing but encouragement from the Guild.”

Lastly, with teatime approaching and the hall emptying (a fact lamented by the Rev Martin Fair, a member of the council), the Mission and Discipleship Council reported on the vast range of its activities: the National Youth Assembly, Church Without Walls, the Resourcing Mission website, Different Voices, Future Focus, Fresh Expressions, Statistics for Mission, the Committee on Church Art and Architecture, the Pray it Forward cards, Life and Work and so on.

The convener, the Rev Colin Sinclair, said: “We seek to equip the Church for mission on our doorstep and to work with the Church to make that happen.”

Among the questions were one on young people and decision-making, on which the convener said there would be ‘reflections and possibilities’ next year and proposals by 2015. A new deliverance instructed the council ‘to work with other councils, youth workers, young people and experts to think strategically about youth and children’s work and to create a network of people who work with young people’.