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Looking Back

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Looking Back

May 1952

Assembly Opening

The Significance of the “Courtesies”

After writing the paragraph in the April issue about the place of the State, in the person of the Queen’s Commissioner, at the opening of the General Assembly, we turned through old files of Life and Work to see what Dr Mair, the author of the long-standard Digest of Church Laws, had said in his series of articles on the Church in this magazine in 1890. On one point we think his words should still have a certain thrill for Scottish churchmen who remember Andrew Melville’s claim that there are ‘two Kings in Scotland’ and the first of them is not King James.

Why does the Queen’s Commissioner bow to the Assembly before the Assembly bows to him?

This is not courtesy-bowing; nor is the response a bowing of loyal subjects to their sovereign. It is an act, if its inner meaning is realised, which might bring tears to the eyes of the martyrs of former days for its solemn recognition of the supreme “crown rights of Christ” above all the earthly powers. Dr Mair says: “Speaking of the Queen’s representative, it may be interesting to give a few details. He is called the Queen’s Commissioner. Whatever the honours accorded to him outside, he takes his place in the Assembly Hall as reverentially as any man, and his first act is to bow to the Moderator and General Assembly.

The meeting is constituted with prayer by the Moderator of the last Assembly. Then the Moderator for the present Assembly is elected. It is only after this that the Commissioner presents his commission from the Queen authorising him to represent her. So that in point of fact the Assembly had met and was constituted a Court of the Church independently of him.

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