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Thursday is Chaplains’ Day, when the uniformed ranks of Armed Forces Chaplains gather to be celebrated by the Assembly.  It’s an easy section of the agenda, as Chaplains, and the service personnel and their families supported by them, are warmly appreciated by the Assembly.  This year particular emphasis was again laid on the need for more Chaplains and especially Reserve Chaplains with the growing use of Reservists in the Forces.  The Committee was instructed to work on the format of the Armed Forces Covenant to which the General Assembly can subscribe next year.

Following an address by the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE, the Assembly moved on to the report of the Mission & Discipleship Council.  For the past four years this has been ably led by Rev Colin Sinclair, who has done a powerful job in turning the Council round from a difficult place.  Colin spoke about the resources produced by the Council, and the work done on the Invisible Church.  He noted the tragic statistic that 20% of our congregations have no children’s work going on at this time.

A Notice of Motion had been printed in the Daily Papers to instruct the promotion of congregational learning and awareness of the issues transgender and gender non-conforming people experience.  This could have been seen as a means of starting another liberal/evangelical ding-dong, but instead was supported across the spectrum as an important means of providing pastoral care to a particularly vulnerable group of people, in spite of the Convener’s reluctance to add to the Council’s workload.

It was a long report that stretched on into the afternoon, with many comments and questions, along with quite a few extra sections to the deliverance.  Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions were encouraged to make use of the wide variety of resources produced by the Council; funding is to be offered by Sessions and Presbyteries to help young people attend the National Youth Assembly.

Finally Colin was allowed to finish his term of office and hand on to Rev Norman Smith, who should receive the support of our prayers for a continually challenging post.

After the report of the National Youth Assembly, with predictable calls for youth delegates to be given voting powers, the report of the Theological Forum finished another long day.  Rev Professor Ian Torrance made a defence of his position on restricting who can preside at the Lord’s table.  Rev Professor Andrew McGowan took up his anxiety about the lack of an evangelical voice on the Forum and was given a guarantee that the Convener would work out a strategy with him.

Rev David Torrance attempted to get the Assembly to instruct the Forum to depart from the intention of bringing a report on Same Sex Marriage to next year’s Assembly in order to give the Church some breathing space, but this was defeated by 230 votes to 131 – the low numbers indicating the decline in attendance by 6 pm, as the Session of Assembly was closed.