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Home  >  Features  >  General Assembly 2014: Day 7

General Assembly 2014

The Lord High Commissioner and Moderator at the traditional 'clapping out' at the end of the General Assembly. Picture by Thomas Baldwin
The Lord High Commissioner and Moderator at the traditional 'clapping out' at the end of the General Assembly. Picture by Thomas Baldwin

Friday May 21

general assembly 2014: day 7

Moderator calls on church to 'stop navel-gazing'

The General Assembly closed with a strong call from the Moderator for the Church of Scotland to ‘stop navel-gazing’.

In an unusually strongly-worded closing address, the Rt Rev John Chalmers said the church had to ‘capitalise on the fact that people still want purpose and faith in their lives’.

He said: “We have dealt with our own internal struggles and we have sent to our presbyteries an overture which may pave the way for a period of church life when we will set the issue of human sexuality to one side and focus on the urgent business of mission, ministry and service to the people of Scotland.”

Mr Chalmers added: “We have heard some worrying facts this year. Four times the number of ministers will retire in the next six years than we are likely to recruit in the same timeframe. A tide has to be turned, because a generation of people out there are being invited to live a life of disbelief if not unbelief. And there’s no justification for that.”

He told ministers and members who might be thinking of leaving over decisions taken this week to: “Let us know when you have settled in the perfect church, and we will come round and inspect its credentials.”

But he praised the conduct of Commissioners during the controversial debates: “ It would not worry me if you left this Assembly and forgot the decisions you had made. But it would worry me if you forgot the mood and the tone that has been set and much of that has been due to your own good humour and forbearance.

He also called for the Church to be “more generous of heart, more liberal of love and more profligate with God’s grace.”

The Lord High Commissioner, the Earl of Wessex, said it had been a "thought-provoking" and "illuminating" week and urged the Assembly to "Go out and illuminate others with the work of the church."

The final morning’s business was largely uneventful. There was discussion of land reform and possible impact on church glebes in the General Trustees; troubles at the Livingston Ecumenical Parish during the ecumenical relations report; the Investors Trust convener said he was looking forward to discussions about whether the church should disinvest from fossil fuels; and the Moderator said that more groups in the Church of Scotland should follow the example of the Central Services Committee, which has agreed to be wound up this year, by setting a sell-by date on its work.

The Moderator received a standing ovation after the most senior of his predecessors present, the Very Rev Dr John Cairns, praised him for agreeing to take on the task at such short notice. Dr Cairns said: “It would be remiss of us not to pay tribute to work you have done, the extra stress both you and [your wife] Liz have borne in taking the role on at such short notice. You have provided a setting for that which you most wanted, which was respectful dialogue.”

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