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Home  >  Features  >  General Assembly 2014 - Day Four

General Assembly 2014

Tuesday May 20 2014

General assembly 2014: day 4

Assembly condemns destruction of trees at 'Tent of Nations'

Review of funding of National Youth Assembly

Guild seeks to combat falling numbers


The Church of Scotland General Assembly has strongly condemned the Israeli military's destruction of trees at the 'Tent of Nations' near Bethlehem.

It was reported earlier in the day that 1500 apple, apricot, peach and plum trees had been uprooted on the farm, run by Christian Daoud Nassar and his family. Daoud was a guest of the General Assembly three years ago and spoke of his struggles to keep the farm, which he runs as a witness for peace in Israel/Palestine.

During the report of the World Mission Council, which was debated this afternoon at the General Assembly, convener, the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, introduced a new section which condemned the destruction, offered the "love and prayers" of the Church to the Nassar family, and to work with "other partners and the Tent of Nations in a coordinated response in which the whole Church can engage."

Dr McLellan said: "The symbol of the Kingdom of God is a tree bearing fruit. What good does it do to destroy apricot trees?

"Here is a man who seeks to live by peace and by faith. I think we should respond by expressing our outrage but secondly by learning from Daoud Nassar ourselves."

Another former Moderator, the Very Rev David Arnott, added: "In Deuteronomy, the Lord says when you attack a city you don't cut down the fruit trees. Out of generosity you leave something for the people you are attacking."

During the World Mission debate, the Council also heard from representatives of churches in South Sudan, Nigeria, Malawi, South Africa and Thailand, among other places.

In addition to the published Deliverance (which can be found here), new sections were added committing the Council to engage with other partners to develop strategies to combat human trafficking; and remembering the service and sacrifice of Jane Haining, the Scottish missionary who defied orders to return home from Nazi-occupied Budapest and later died in Auschwitz. Mr McLellan said: "We were proud of her 70 years ago and we are proud of her now."

Earlier, the Mission and Discipleship Council was instructed to hold a review of funding of the National Youth Assembly (NYA), after this year's National Youth Moderator raised concerns about budget cuts for the event.

Lynsey Martin said that, since 2009, funding for the NYA had been cut by 60% and that the number of young people attending had dropped. Her motion called for the affirmation of the importance of the NYA in fulfilling the priority of empowering young people, and for the review to secure "sufficient budget for its ongoing development and... its place as an integral part of the national Church."

During her own report, Miss Martin said the NYA was "much more than a youth residential weekend", flagging up its work in collaborative discussion and exploring different models of leadership. One Commissioner, Thomas Macintyre, said: "I would happily put my trust in the youth assembly to lead this church into the future, not this assembly."

The Mission and Discipleship Convener, the Rev Colin Sinclair, said in his speech that "every congregation has a parish, a place and a people. In each situation we are resourcing and empowering congregations to make a difference. Our aim is to connect, resource and inspire, helping ordinary people do extraordinary things."

Among the aspects of the council's work he drew attention to were Fresh Expressions, research into people with "churchless faith" and the Statistics for Mission project. He said: "Don’t be afraid of statistics. They are an essential tool in preparing for mission, for each statistic has a face. Statistics are no more than human beings with the tears wiped off."

The Very Rev Bill Hewitt moved, and had accepted, a section encouraging congregations to be involved in Commonwealth Games; and David Locke requested the Council look into producing materials for people wanting to join the Church of Scotland.

The Guild report included the presentation of Lt Col John Charteris, great great nephew of Archibald Charteris, founder of the Guild (and Life and Work, and the Diaconate). The Moderator said to him: "The name of Archibald Charteris reverberates wherever there is anyone who knows anything about the history of the Church of Scotland. It's a delight to have you here, a privilege to be able to pay tribute to your great great uncle, in Church of Scotland terms a true giant."

The Guild is also to address its problem with falling numbers. Membership of the organisation has halved since 2000, and the Guild has appointed a focus group to investigate. A new section instructs the Guild to create a strategy 'underpinned by an action plan, using the insights of the focus group recommendations'.

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