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Home  >  News  >  Church to Study Assisted Dying Issues


Church to Study Assisted Dying Issues

Wednesday May 25 2023

  • Church to apologise for slavery

  • No quota for church closures, General Trustees insist

The Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum was this afternoon instructed to work with the Theological Forum and other groups to explore the range of theological views and opinions around the issue of assisted dying.

The Forum had brought a section of its deliverance restating the Church’s long-held opposition to assisted dying, but this was defeated by a countermotion from the Rev Jonathan Fleming recognising ‘that there exists a range of theological views and ethical opinions’ on the subject.

The Rev Tara Granados brought an initial motion moving the Church ‘to a pastoral position of liberty of opinion’, although she withdrew this in favour of Mr Fleming’s proposal. Mrs Granados said she had watched her mother die of cancer as a teenager, and was now seeing her father’s slow decline from Parkinson’s dementia. She added: “I personally do not believe that our God wishes us to suffer, and that with appropriate safeguards society should allow people to choose to end their own suffering through assisted dying.

“There exists a range of biblical interpretation and ethical opinion. I am not seeking to reverse the church’s position, neither am I seeking to move to a position of neutrality. I am simply seeking to acknowledge the diversity of views.”


The Church of Scotland is to apologise for its role in the historic slave trade.

During the report of the Faith Impact Forum, the General Assembly commended a report which lists a number of Church ministers, elders and members who benefited from the slave trade or received compensation following the abolition of the slave trade.

The report also lists nine churches (some now closed) which were at least part financed by slave owners or are known to be the place of worship for merchants who benefited from the trade; and several more churches which contain memorials to people connected to slavery.

The Assembly accepted a Faith Impact Forum proposal that the Forum, ‘in partnership with the Theological Forum and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group, prepare a statement of acknowledgment and apology for the Church’s involvement with and connection to historic chattel slavery, to be considered for adoption at a future General Assembly’.

The Rev Karen Hendry, convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said: “We are part of a world-wide Church, our prayers, and our actions, are thus informed by the shared, lived experience of people in many places, including some represented in our midst at this Assembly, for which we are more than grateful.

“These wider partnerships, as well as bringing opportunities for mutual support and co-operation, also afford us the possibility of informed reflection, and the acknowledgement that there are aspects of our past, as a Church, that we look on now with deep regret.

“The Legacies of Slavery report gives substance to such a part of our history. And we seek to humbly acknowledge this and think about how we apologise.”

The Rev Sandy Horsburgh said: “Racism is an ongoing, daily, pernicious legacy of slavery which permeates every part of our society… You have shone a light on things that were hidden in plain sight, but things which we need to see and understand. Through this report, we know our cities, our society, our Church and ourselves just a little bit better.”


There is no quota for the number of church buildings that should be closed, the General Trustees assured the Assembly.

As some Commissioners expressed concern about the number of churches that are earmarked for closure under Presbytery Mission Plans, the Rev Scott Rennie, vice-chair elect of the Trustees, said: “There is no quota. There has never been a quota, in any presbytery.” Adding that buildings could either be an asset or a drain on mission, he added: “The point of the exercise, in partnership with presbyteries, has been to try and find that middle balance, alongside affordability.”

The Trustees accepted a new section from the Rev Dr Grant Barclay confirming that ‘the Church of Scotland seeks to have adequate spaces in as many places as are properly affordable’. Dr Barclay said that closing churches too quickly was impact on communities and the groups that use the church, especially in deprived areas. “The Church should only become isolated from communities where that’s entirely unavoidable.”

The Rev Gary Peacock said: “If the church is not there, and with every larger parishes, my fear is that many of our smaller and more remote communities will be without any ministry. Let’s do what we can to honour the legacy we received.”

Dr Barclay also said that the Church was in danger of applying overly strict standards for buildings, saying it ‘aspiring to have a handful of Rolls Royces when Scotland needs the church have a fleet of Fords’. Dr Rennie replied ‘we have quite a lot of bangers’.

The Assembly approved the section of the General Trustees’ motion welcoming progress on the Presbytery Mission Planning Act, despite the Rev Doug Gay saying he didn’t think that reflected the feelings across the Church about the Mission Planning process: “I think we have gone about this in a way which has been disempowering to congregations and harmful to our mission.” The Assembly passed the section by 165 votes to 119.

The Trustees were also told to explore allowing the use of consolidated fabric fund money (money currently ringfenced for buildings) for projects and programmes that fulfil the Five Marks of Mission, the principles behind the Church’s work.

The Trustees accepted a new section permitting congregations which are attempting to sell historic or listed church buildings to keep using them until a sale has been agreed.

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