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Moderator Hails 'Significant Progress'

Thursday May 27 2021

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, told the Assembly that ‘significant progress’ had been made during this week.

Speaking at the Assembly's closing ceremony, Lord Wallace said: “The (Church of Scotland’s) challenges are very real and five days of debate, deliberation and deliverances do not make them disappear. But our prayers and our hopes must be that as we emerge from this assembly we are better equipped and better prepared to deal with them.”

He said that the Assembly had demonstrated: “An awareness of the need for flexibility, a can-do rather than a ‘it’s never been done this way before’ attitude, that must surely augur well for the future."

He paid tribute to the technical teams who had helped the Assembly go ahead in its blended format, and said that, while everyone longed to meet again in person, he hoped that the Church would not lose sight of positive aspects of meeting online. “I hope that from wherever you joined in you will each have memories to cherish,” he said.

The Earl of Strathearn, Prince William, spoke again of his personal affection for Scotland as he recalled some of the people he had met during his week as Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly.

He said to the Church: “We thank you for the work you have done and the witness you have offered and the service you have given during this pandemic.

“Over this past year local communities across the entirety of the UK have experienced a period of profound loss, challenge and change. They have found support in the values of community life that perhaps we may have previously taken for granted. These values provide us with the strength and ingenuity to adapt and meet the challenges we place now and ahead.

“And that is why I believe we can be confident about the future. A future embracing change yet holding those values close.”

Earlier, discussions around the Faith Nurture Forum report continued into a third day. Today’s debate centred around when church vacancy procedures will be suspended as Presbyteries begin the process of allocating their reduced numbers of ministries under the new plans. It was agreed that no church will be granted permission to call a Minister after June 1, except with the agreement of the Forum. Churches going through the process will have until December 31 (amended from the Forum’s preferred date of September 30) to find a sole nominee before the process is stopped.

The chairman of the Pension Trustees, Graeme Caughey, said he was ‘delighted’ to announce that all the church’s pension schemes are in surplus. “This is the gold standard… It’s the news we have been waiting for and a significant milestone,” he said. "The positive impacts will endure for decades.”

The chairman of the General Trustees, Raymond Young, admitted he was repeating himself as he urged the Church to get to grips with its oversupply of buildings. He said: “Every year we say that the Church has too many buildings, too many of poor quality and too many in the wrong place, and every year the General Assembly agrees. But over the last 10 years we have sold 162 churches or halls – an average of 16 a year, less than one per cent of the churches we have.

However, he pointed to Shetland, which has radically reduced its number of buildings, as an example of what can be achieved.

In paying tribute to the work of the Military Chaplains, Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, said that despite technological changes, people would remain vital to the UK’s military capability. He said: “I cannot over-emphasise enough the role of chaplaincy… in over 30 years’ experience, I have seen at any moment of need soldiers, sailors and airmen turn to their chaplains to provide morale, camaraderie and spiritual wellbeing.”

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