Friday, June 3, 2011

Church of Scotland Assembly reflections

Last week I attended the Church of Scotland Assembly.Here are a few unsystematic, non-comprehensive reflections:

  • the daily worship was unashamedly traditional Presbyterian - unaccompanied metrical psalms, beautifully worded formal prayers, thoughful reflections by the Moderator. Not sure if worship is usually so traditional or whether it reflected the preferred style of the Moderator who conducted all worships. It may also have reflected the marking of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible from which we read exclusively during the week.
  • singing 'Your hand o God has guided' prior to the sexuality debate. It set a wonderful theological basis for the subsequent discussion. The refrain lifted the roof: 'One Church, one faith, one Lord' said it all - goosebump stuff!
  • the respectful tone of the sexuality and leadership debate even though they were mainly debating whether or not to set up another Task Group.
  • the various formal receptions for guests in exotic locations!
Common themes with Uniting Church
  • how to address ageing/declining membership and ministry profile
  • size and sustainability of Presbyteries
  • justice and community concerns (including Israel/Palestine)
  • sexuality and leadership
  • emerging church
Quirky things

  • proposals are called 'deliverances'
  • youth delegates can speak but not vote
  • the presence of the Queen's represenative, the Lord High Commissioner (this is clearly a State Church)
  • the grand formal entrance of the Moderator each day
  • the electronic voting/counting system
  • I appreciated the strengths of the 'parliamentary process' although came away more attached to our concensus processes, especially at voting time.
  • mobile phones have to be switched off (not just to silent), saw no laptops (and only the odd surreptitious i-pad)


  1. Many thanks for sharing these reflections Al. Any observations about the age and gender make up of the GA? And do you know if presbyteries are required (or at least guided) to take into consideration age and gender when electing delegates?

    It's interesting, too, to see the church wrestling with many of the same issues popping up around the world, and facing them in some different ways.

    I'm yet to experience a churchly body - or any body in fact - who does these kinds of gigs in a way more satisfying than does the UCA. O that the PCANZ might follow our cousins across the ditch on this! Our most recent GA revealed that the church here still has much growing to do in terms of fostering any constructive and healthy debate.

    Thanks again.

  2. Alexander DrysdaleJune 27, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    The Church of Scotland is not a State Church by any manner of means. It is traditional yes and it welcomes the Queens Representative but as a guest not as a member of some hierarchy keeping an eye on the General Assembly