Same-sex relationships in the ministry, solar panels on church roofs and an incentive scheme for newly qualified ministers to go to rural congregations are just some of the topics to be debated at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, starting today.
On Saturday 21 May 2011 the General Assembly is formally opened, with Moderator Designate the Rev David Arnott succeeding current Moderator, the Rt Rev John Christie.
The events take place in the Assembly Hall and New College on the Mound, in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital.
The General Assembly is the supreme court of the Church, and is its annual national business meeting. It has the power to make laws and set the agenda for the coming months or even years for the administrative councils, committees and departments of the organisation.
Moderator Designate David Arnott, who has ministered in St Andrews, Glasgow and the Lothians, commented: “This promises to be a very full Assembly with several important issues for commissioners to decide."
He continued: “The topics at this year’s Assembly reflect how the Church interacts with society. Several debates show the Church’s great concern for those on the margins on our society.
“Several debates will concentrate on the constant need there is in the Church to be re-examining how we can be ‘church’ in the 21st century," he said.
“The showpiece event Roll Away the Stone in Princes Street Gardens, on Sunday afternoon, will offer a wonderful opportunity to showcase so much of what the church is about We hope Church members and passers-by alike, will take time to enjoy this exciting event,” Arnott added.
Running from Saturday 21 to Friday 27 May inclusive, commissioners will gather for worship and fellowship as well as deciding upon matters of Church business.
Discussions on the first day include proposals on how the Church should engage with the 90 per cent of the Scottish population who currently do not attend worship.
On Sunday there will be the usual morning services at St Giles’ Cathedral and Greyfriars Tolbooth, and an innovative event showcasing the best of the Church of Scotland begins at 1pm in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, which is free and open to all.
Commissioners will devote the Monday session to discussing the Special Commission’s report and recommendations on same-sex relationships and the ministry.
On Tuesday the Church’s social care arm CrossReach will urge local authorities not to cut vital funding despite difficult financial times for all, as well as calling for prison visitor centres to be set up at every Scottish jail. The Church and Society Council will discuss the role of young people in the Church, Scotland’s attitude to the travelling community and how the internet is used in today’s society.
The following day, commissioners will hear the need for a change in presbytery structure and the possibility of the devolution of certain powers from the Church’s Edinburgh offices to a regional level from the Panel on Review and Reform.
Two petitions from the Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley and the Presbytery of Ayr will be considered on Thursday, appealing against the Ministries Council 20:20 Vision scheme which was approved by last year’s General Assembly.
The Council itself is bringing forward proposals for a new form of ministry, an incentive scheme for newly qualified ministers to go to remote rural parishes, and also proposes a special commission to investigate the issue of tenure.
On the final day, commissioners will hear from the General Trustees, who have commissioned a team from Heriot Watt University to investigate the potential payback from solar panels on church roofs.
This year’s Lord High Commissioner, the Queen’s representative at the General Assembly, is Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.