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Changes to Youth Work Passed

Friday May 24 2019

Moderator of the National Youth Assembly, Tamsin Dingwall, addresses the General Assembly. Picture by Andy O'Brien

The General Assembly has passed changes to the Church’s engagement with young people, including the end of the National Youth Assembly in its current form after this year.

Instead a series of smaller regional events will be held, separately for young adults (18-30) and young people (11-18).

However, there was considerable disquiet in the hall about the loss of the NYA, particularly the decision-making element which reports to the General Assembly. A youth committee has been suggested to replace that, but the proposals have not been finalised.

Youth representative Fraser Borland said that the loss of a youth decision-making body would mean the Church lost the voice of young people: “Do not let our voice be silenced, not even for a moment.”

The Rev Stuart Cutler said it was ‘a damning indictment’ of church priorities that it only employs one children’s worker and one youth worker at a national level, and that the NYA had been paid for in recent years from a legacy. “We don’t pay for it. We don’t invest in it, other than in staff time.”

The Very Rev Dr David Lunan said: “If we invest in our buildings, we should invest in our young people... I think we will look back on this Assembly as a turning point, but woe betide if the young people are not part of that.”

The Rev Peter Johnston said: “I am so disheartened at the decision we are taking here and the acknowledgement of the lack of resource for young people’s work.”

However the convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, the Rev Norman Smith, said that there was ‘a huge body of evidence’ behind the proposals, which had been drawn up by a group including members of the NYA. He said: “It’s not just the Church trying to do things for less. We are trying to do things better and in a joined-up way.”

An instruction to the Mission and Discipleship Council to continue the NYA ‘until a new alternative decision making platform… is ready to be implemented’ was deemed inadmissible because of the impact on budgets already set.


The youth moderator, Tamsin Dingwall, dedicated her speech to her father, who died on January 29. She thanked the church for the kind words and support she had received, but especially the Youth Assembly: “You all truly share the love of God and shine the light of Christ, you are all an excellent example to the Church. I am so insanely proud to have been privileged to represent you all this year and I can’t thank you enough for trusting me to do so.”

She said she the Church youth representatives were excited ‘about the further opportunities available to us and future generations of young people’ and urged churches to encourage young members ‘to consider getting involved and continuing their journey with Christ alongside us’.

The Convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, the Rev Norman Smith told the Assembly that it was ‘no longer business as usual’, for the Church of Scotland and the wider church in the whole western world. He said: “Whether we like it or not, this is our world, this is the time we find ourselves in. We don’t get to choose our time, we only get to choose what we do within it…

“Our job is to help the church take its next step in discipleship. Your job, as Elders and Ministers is to help your people take their next step in discipleship. So we take the next step together, in hope.

“It may not be business as usual, but it’s still our business and we will do this together.”

There was some dismay in the hall about there being only three women among the proposed membership of the new Assembly Trustees body. The convener of the Selections Committee, the Very Rev Dr Russell Barr said that of 34 nominations for the 12 positions, six had been female. However, a motion from Dr Alison Elliot, urging that the membership from next year will have equal numbers of men and women was narrowly defeated.

It was revealed that the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, who will chair the Trustees, will step down from his membership of the World Mission Council.

The Rev Dr Karen Campbell, Convener of the Safeguarding Committee, told the Assembly: “While we have clear and appropriate policies in place, to ensure that the Church of Scotland is as safe as we can make it, we must all continue to ensure that these policies are put into practice. Safe recruitment is part and parcel of the practice of the Church of Scotland, to ensure that people, who might present a risk of harm and abuse to children and protected adults in the Church, cannot be recruited.”

An instruction was passed instructing presbyteries to ensure that locum ministers, and the interim moderators line managing them, are registered with the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act before the locum goes into a congregation.

It was revealed in this morning’s daily papers that 78 Commissioners formally dissented to Wednesday's decision not to divest from oil and gas companies.

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