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Covenant Fellowship Scotland is registered with OSCR as
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Trustees of the charity are:

Rev Professor Andrew McGowan 
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Mr Kenneth Mackenzie
Rev Mark Malcolm
Rev Ann McCool
Rev Hector Morrison
Rev Colin Strong

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This week we expected much emphasis on women in Ministry as this is the 50th Anniversary of General Assembly’s decision to permit women to be ordained to Word and Sacrament.  It was therefore not surprising that the Rt Rev Susan Brown was elected Moderator today, and a procession up the Mound has been arranged for later in the week.

It was good to hear Elaine Duncan give an excellent Bible Society report again, telling the Assembly about one million Bibles distributed in Cuba over the last five years, and of an elderly Malawian Pastor so excited to get a complete Bible to replace the old tattered one that started late in Genesis and finished somewhere in 1 Corinthians.

A major part of the Legal Questions Committee report was the new Discipline Overture which replaces four previous Acts.  It’s a big piece of work which will require Presbyteries’ approval before returning again next year; though quite technical, this Overture deals with Ministries and congregational Office-bearers so will be important to get right.

An additional motion was included for the debate on conducting Same-Sex Marriages – interestingly this took a minimalist line of seeking to get the Assembly to instruct the preparation of legislation for the 2020 Assembly which would only permit individuals on application to conduct Same-Sex Marriages and to seek to provide protections for those who would refuse to take part.  An early attempt to depart from the matter was easily dismissed, but an early amendment from Peter White was approved which insisted that an Act be brought only if the Legal Questions Committee felt that the legal safeguards were sufficient.

The motion as amended was then debated with calm, clear contributions from both sides. Concerns were expressed that the consequences of bringing forward such legislation would be further pressure on congregations and Presbyteries to depart from the historical and orthodox Church of Scotland position on marriage and, inevitably a further challenge to the peace and unity of the church at all levels. The point was made that the theological case for same-sex marriage has yet to be made but suggestions that this should precede drafting of legislation were rejected. A number of Commissioners were concerned about the legal position that Ministers or others refusing to take part in such ceremonies would find themselves in, despite the previously mentioned amendment. In the end, the motion (as amended) was approved by 345 to 170.

The Council of Assembly had the task of taking up the end of a warm afternoon – reiterating the need for the Church nationally to pray and confirming that there will be another National Day of Prayer later this year. Along with this was a recognition that we are called to pray week by week as we “do less with fewer resources”. The convener ended her report by drawing attention to serious financial matters: a rising national deficit and falling income from congregations giving a warning for harder times ahead.  Other matters in their report will follow on Monday.

The key points of the reports for General Assembly from the Blue Book are detailed below in the order of the draft timetable for Assembly.

You can access the deliverances only for each report by clicking here, OR download all the deliverances as one PDF here OR download the PDF of the full Blue Book here

The summary below can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking on the attachment at the foot of the article.

SATURDAY 19TH MAY:

Legal Questions Committee (5)

  1. Report back on the consultation on membership of Church Courts highlighting the responsibilities and expectations of those who are members of Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries and the Assembly
  2. Present two new acts (Ordination by Presbyteries Act and Parish Ministry Act) which will replace the Ministry Act
  3. Having reviewed the Disciplinary Acts, bring forward a single replacement Discipline Overture for General Assembly to pass down to Presbyteries under the Barrier Act
  4. Bring forward amendments to the Legal Aid Regulations which apply under the Disciplinary Acts
  5. Report back on the study of the matters requiring to be addressed if new legislation were to be proposed to allow Ministers and Deacons to officiate at same-sex marriages
    a) Including a formal “opinion” from the Church’s Procurator
    b) The Legal Questions Committee was clear that they had not been asked to draft such legislation and that there has been no work undertaken to do so
  6. Bring forward a draft Act to permit "virtual attendance" at certain church meetings
  7. Bring back an interim report on the process of Presbytery Review which is currently being trialled

Joint Report from Ministries Council and Legal Questions Committee (6)

  1. Report back on issues that have arisen while implementing the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriages Act

Council of Assembly (Part 1) (7)

  1. Report on
    a) Stewardship and Finance (no reduction in requirements from congregations expected),
    b) Work with Refugees,
    c) Interfaith Work,
    d) Gaelic in the Church,
    e) Charitable Governance,
    f) Operational Matters 
    g) Membership of Councils and Committees

  2. Intend to promote a further National Day of Prayer in the autumn

Joint Report from Council of Assembly, Ministries Council, Mission and Discipleship Council, Panel on Review and Reform and Legal Questions Committee (8)

  1. Report on resourcing the Implementation of Local Church Review across all Presbyteries – strengthening the support for the process of LCR which is recognised to impact on a range of Assembly Councils and Committees and will be essential to the progress of the Council of Assembly Strategic Plan. Recognise that there has been variable progress to date in different Presbyteries and seeking to improve the level of participation in, and benefit from the process.

MONDAY 21ST MAY:

World Mission Council (9)

  1. An extensive report, concentrating on what it means to be a Christian in a multi-faith society across the world
  2. Highlights the need to work with other faith groups without compromising the Christian beliefs we hold while reaching out and loving our neighbour in real and practical ways, whoever they are and affording them the human dignity they deserve
  3. Practical involvement and help is highlighted as a visible demonstration of the reality of this approach

World Mission Council Special Report (10)

  1. Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Council of Assembly (Part 2) – Strategic Plan (7)

  1. Report back on the work to date on the Strategic Plan "Worshipping God, Inspiring Faith, Connecting People" (separate document) and asking Assembly to adopt it as the basis for the next ten years in the Church. Instruct Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions to study the document and to consider how best to implement its goals and recommendations, especially through the LCR (Local Church Review ) process.
  2. Acknowledge the involvement of the wider church in discussions so far
  3. Keystone “Love God and Love Your Neighbour” leading on to “Worship”, “Active Discipleship”, “Connecting with Communities”
  4. Eight overarching goals – details of these to follow in the text of the Strategic Plan text itself which will be available just prior to Assembly

Council of Assembly (Part 3) – National Offices (7)

  1. Background – very poorly utilised with far too much space for staffing and the wrong sort of space – the infrastructure is ageing and there is a generally poor state of repair
  2. Three options
    a) Basic maintenance
    b) Sell 123 George Street and keep 117-121, while rationalising occupancy on to ground plus two floors
    c) Investigate leaving George Street and leasing/buying elsewhere
  3. Additionally, consider more use of Assembly Hall – NOT COST EFFECTIVE AND NOT BEING PURSUED
  4. Note the listed status of the George Street offices
  5. Costings
    a) £3.2m
    b) Business Plan being costed taking into account potentially rental income and allowing for the upgrading of overall facilities
    c) Searches for suitable properties within a twenty-minute walk of a major transport hub are being undertaken in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth – information awaited
  6. Key areas which need to be understood regarding Option 2
    a) Culture Change and the Working Environment
    b) Detailed Design
    c) Confirming Funding
    d) Tendering
    e) Statutory Permissions
    f) Logistics
  7. Expect a recommendation to be brought to 2019 General Assembly

TUESDAY 22ND MAY:

Ministries Council (11)

  1. The definition and composition of Ministry, a celebration of Women in Ministry, Legislation to support Ministers
  2. A development Programme for 2018 to 2021 including Continuing Ministerial Development, Training, Hub-style Ministries
  3. Ongoing work including Priority Areas, the Recruitment and Discernment Process, the Diaconate, Pioneer Ministries
  4. Financial including stipend

Ecumenical Relations Committee (12)

  1. Bring forward a new Ecumenical Policy for the Church of Scotland – Local, Universal and Shaped by the Mission of God – and ask Assembly to adopt this and ensure a strategy for implementation is prepared and progressed – Theological Basis presented as an appendix
  2. Consider the interaction of the new policy with the ACTS Review which is currently ongoing
  3. Feedback responses from ecumenical partners to the Assembly decision in 2017 on “An Approach to the Theology of Same-Sex Marriage” (via Theological Forum Report)
  4. Report from WCRC, the visit to the Vatican, other churches interactions.

Panel on Review and Reform (13)

  1. Overall coordination and supervision of how the Church is managing the achievement of its Vision Statement “To be a Church which seeks to inspire the people of Scotland with the Good News of Jesus Christ through enthusiastic worshipping, witnessing, nurturing and serving communities”
  2. Key things identified:
    a) A Missional Mindset, marked by an openness to change
    b) Enabling Leadership in each congregation – not “the Minister does it all”
    c) Good support structures at the regional and national level
    d) Action – not just words – concerted action and prayer on the part of all, wherever they are serving
  3. Areas of work
    a) Local leadership roles (Commissioned Local Ministers, Focal Ministers)
    b) OLM – payment and placement
    c) Kirk Sessions
    d) Leadership for the under 50s
    e) Pioneer Ministry
    f) Widening the range of people who can administer the Sacraments – a report will come to General Assembly in 2019
    g) Path of Renewal
       i. Local teams model including Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers
  4. Considering “Reforming the Kirk – Finances” with a potential model set out

Safeguarding Committee (14)

  1. New Safeguarding Act brought to Assembly for approval

Iona Community Board (15)

Guild (16)

  1. Highlight the new Guild Strategy, Themes and Projects for the period 2018-2021

WEDNESDAY 23RD MAY:

Church and Society Council (17)

  1. A long report with 22 deliverances under the following headings:

    a) Flourishing Local Communities

    b) Building an Economy Driven by Equality
       i. Ethical finance

    c) Caring for Creation
       i. Low carbon economy
       ii. Church of Scotland Investment policy

    d) Doing Politics Differently
       i. Participatory Budgeting

    e) Building Global Friendships
       i. Nuclear Weapons
       ii. Refugees
       iii. Relationship with Europe and the EU

    f) Ensuring the Health and Wellbeing of All
       i. Alcohol
       ii. Long-term future of the NHS

    g) Investing in Young People
       i. Young People Education and Action Group

Registration of Ministries Committee (18)

General Trustees (19)

THURSDAY 24TH MAY:

Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty’s Forces (20)

  1. Highlight an unintended consequence of the “Registration of Ministries” Act which has left many feeling marginalised

Social Care Council (21)

  1. The report, as in previous years, details the work being carried out by CrossReach, working in the three areas of Children and Family Services, Adult Care and Services to Older People against a background of increasing financial pressure from pension and living wage requirements.
  2. Examples of the work carried out in each area are given, highlighting the real difference that the work of CrossReach makes.

Theological Forum (22)

  1. The report from the Theological Forum this year concentrates on four main strands of work, stemming from the General Assembly of 2017

    a) Some detail on the relationship between baptism and admission to the Lord’s Supper, both for children and adults, concluding that the normal practice should be for baptism to precede admission to the Lord’s Supper but that, on occasion, unbaptised children or adults may be permitted to take communion – noting that this should be accompanied by clear offering of instruction and the offering of baptism

    b) A very short paragraph on the responses received from other churches to the Forum’s report of 2017 “An Approach to the Theology of Same-sex Marriage” with no indication of the content of such responses but a very general undertaking to take the feedback forward into further thinking on the topic of…

    c) The urging from the 2017 General Assembly to “investigate theologically the theme of reconciliation, with particular reference to the divisions within the Church of Scotland, Scottish Churches and Scottish society with respect to same-sex marriage”. This work has started but a final report will not be presented at this stage – indeed no expected date for this is given.

    d) Noting that early work is being undertaken with the Panel on Review and Reform on potentially changing the types of people within the church who can be involved in Sacramental Ministry

Overture on the Westminster Confession of Faith

  1. Brought by The Presbytery of Melrose and Peebles
  2. This overture, in a lengthy preamble, retraces the debates that there have been since the late 1960s and asks that Assembly instruct the Theological Forum to revisit this ground again while reviewing the need for the continuing role of a subordinate standard.
  3. It cites the decision of the 1974 General Assembly that, before such changes should be considered, a new Statement of Faith acceptable to the General Assembly should be drawn up – in the deliverance of the overture, however, this requirement is notably absent; instead it is replaced by the option of drawing together a collection of different statements of faith, creeds and affirmations which could be used as a “resource” for the church

A Number of Further Reports including Pensions Trustees (23), Housing and Loan Fund (24), Church Hymnary Trustees (25), Church of Scotland Trust (26), Church of Scotland Investors Trust (27), Nomination Committee (28)

FRIDAY 25TH MAY:

Mission and Discipleship Council (29)

  1. Focusing on Discipleship and aligning with themes from Strategic Review
  2. Learning about our faith
  3. Elders as Disciples
  4. Pastoral Care as Discipleship
    a) Includes mention of “Diverse Gender Identities” Booklet
  5. Young People as Disciples
    a) Developing a theological framework for Ministry with Children and Young People
  6. The Year of Young People

National Youth Assembly (30)

  1. This is a narrative report with no deliverances which details the topics covered at the National Youth Assembly which in 2017 were Young People and Discipleship, Interfaith and Priorities of the Church
Attachments:
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Download this file (General Assembly 2018 Key Points from Blue Book.pdf)General Assembly 2018 Key Points from Blue Book.pdf 60 kB