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Home  >  Features  >  General Assembly 2014: Day 1

General Assembly

Picture by Derek Fett
Picture by Derek Fett

Saturday May 17 2014

General assembly: day one

The 2014 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland opened with a call from the Earl of Wessex to "ensure Christianity remains a force for good" in the country.

Prince Edward, who is this year’s Lord High Commissioner (the Queen’s representative) at the Assembly, said that Christianity "helped make this nation what it is: the Church of Scotland has been a critical part of that story for 400 years and I trust you will be for a few centuries more."

His comments echoed the speech of the outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev Lorna Hood, who said that the Church was often a source of hope in difficult circumstances:

Reflecting on her year in office, she said: “So often fear and hopelessness go hand in hand. We met so many who were afraid of what the future holds, and just when you thought there was no room for hope there would be that glimmer, like a candle, fragile and vulnerable but still glowing, still lighting up dark places, and so often that candle was the church and the message of hope; not only in words but also in actions, reaching out to the weary and marginalised the lost and the lonely…

“Hope and not hopelessness remains because God has not given up on us and in the sending of His son we can be sure he never will.”

The new Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, said that it was a "privilege and honour" to be appointed and that it was humbling to stand in the shoes of ‘giants of the past’, specifically Prof John Burleigh, Moderator in 1960, whose robes he is wearing during the week.

As the business got underway, the Assembly Arrangements Committee agreed to consider whether the General Assembly meetings could be held every other year, "in order to release time, energy and other resources for deployment at Presbytery level."

Proposing the motion, the Rev Dr Kenneth Ross said: “We recognise under the current arrangements a huge amount of time and energy is devoted to annual General Assembly. We raise the question as to whether every other year those resources might be released to enable presbyteries to meet  and confer in ways that will encourage and equip their members to meet specific mission challenges that exist within their boundaries.”

That replaced an Overture from the Presbytery of Argyll which had made much the same proposal, but which was withdrawn.

A proposal to set aside the first and last days of future General Assemblies ‘to be spent entirely  seeking the will of the Lord for our church and our nation through prayer and listening to God’s will’ was defeated.

The Rev Dr Angus Morrison, who had been forced to withdraw as Moderator-Designate on health grounds, was at the forefront of the Assembly’s thoughts, being mentioned in several of the speeches. The Committee to Nominate the Moderator has been invited to approach him to ask if he is able and willing to be considered for nomination next year. Mr Chalmers said: ”One of the gifts of the General Assembly is that it has a pastoral heart. We may be surrounded by law but we live by grace.”

During the report of the Scottish Bible Society, Chief Executive Elaine Duncan announced that they would be distributing 750,000 of their Penny Gospels during this Commonwealth Games year.

Later, the Assembly approved the church budgets for 2015 during the Council of Assembly report. Last year’s congregational income grew to £93.4m, and churches’ mission and ministry contributions were £45.5m.

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