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Church Structures to be Reviewed

Wednesday October 3 2018

A review is to be held into the governance structures of the Church of Scotland, in a bid to make them ‘lean and fit for purpose to lead reform’.

At a Commission of Assembly (a meeting of about a tenth of this year’s General Assembly commissioners) in Edinburgh this morning, it was agreed to form a Special Commission that will make recommendations for a governance structure that would conform to best practice and charity law ‘while being true to Presbyterian church polity’.

It will also make recommendations on how the church’s national structures can best support the mission of the local Church.

The Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, the Rev Dr George Whyte, said after the meeting: “It’s about how do we make the best use of the money and resources we have.”

The Special Commission will also examine the role of voting members of the Council of Assembly as charity trustees.

The decision follows this year’s General Assembly, when the Council of Assembly’s proposed 10-year strategy was thrown out amidst severe criticism. The Council is now developing a more radical plan, to be presented to next year’s Assembly.

In the report to the Special Commission, the Council of Assembly admits that it has ‘become increasingly aware of tensions and difficulties within its own operation. It has sought ways to mitigate the inherent stresses and strains but these have not been completely satisfactory’.

It states: “The Council of Assembly share the view expressed by the 2018 General Assembly that reform is “much needed” within our Church and presented its Strategic Plan in that spirit. However, the rejection by this year’s Assembly of the CofA’s Strategy proposals and also their initiative on reviewing pensions trusteeships has caused the CofA to reflect on its remit, membership and working patterns and the broader structure of governance and authority within which it sits.”

The commission will be convened by the Rev Prof David Fergusson, Professor of Divinity and Director of Research at the University of Edinburgh. The other members are James McNeill QC, an expert in charity law; Sarah Davidson, director general within the Scottish Government; Morag Ross QC, a former trustee of Christian Aid and convener of the former Church and Nation Committee (now the Church and Society Council); and the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester.

The full remit is:

  1. To review the governance structures of the Church of Scotland Charity number SC011353 and make recommendations for a trustee body which would conform to best practice (including the avoidance of conflicts of interest) in terms of charity law while being true to Presbyterian church polity.
  2. To recommend key principles for a national structure which is “lean and fit for purpose to lead reform” (GA 2018) and which would ensure that the General Assembly can effectively and efficiently direct its Councils and Committees so that they prioritise their work and resources to support the mission of the local Church.
  3. To recommend what further work should be done to embed these principles and review the current pattern of Councils and Committees in order that these might better focus on the Church’s understanding of its vocation to be a national church engaged in mission.

It will report to next May’s General Assembly.

Views Sought on Church Governance

Views Sought on Church Governance

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David Logan - Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

“Why do we we need a Church of England bishop to tell us how to run our church? How and why were these people selected? ”

DR BRENDA H GALLOWAY - Saturday, October 6th, 2018

“Always 'reforming' structures when it's attitudes that need changing. The Church is too minister focused and needs to learn how to release the laity”

James Inglis - Thursday, October 11th, 2018

“Having Googled all the Committee mentioned, they are all excellent in their sphere but very busy. Of course if you want a good job done you go to a busy person . However a further person is required, preferably one of the top individuals of the very best company with expertise in Business Restructuring. I would say that it is impossible to achieve a final outcome from its deliberations over a period of six months. They will only be able in that time to bring draft proposals and if found viable to continue the programme for another 12 months and fully report to the General Assembly in 2020.”

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