Published: Tuesday, 24 October 2017 14:02
Written by Ian Brown
Read the reflections of Pamela Scott - our Parish Assistant
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place from the 19th May to the 25th May. It was a time of worship and discussing the future direction of the Church. Although I was not a commissioner this year I followed as much as I could online, with a bonus this year of being able to watch debates that had already happened. I watched with interest to the Council of Assembly’s report, especially as they had a Strategic Plan for the future of the Church of Scotland in this difficult time of declining numbers in congregations as well as a decline of those in Full-time Parish Ministry.
They saw the challenges as:
· Sense of uncertainty about the future
· Missing generations, especially young people
· Falling numbers of people and ageing congregations
· Rapid decline in numbers in paid ministry
· A tendency to be inward-looking
· Too many inadequate buildings
· Falling income
· Ineffective structures to support mission in local communities
The Council of Assembly thought this ten-year plan was important as we are called to “Love God and Love our Neighbours” through Worship, Active discipleship and Connecting with Communities.
They thought the main areas to be enhanced were:
· People confident in faith serving in Communities
· Thriving Intergenerational churches
· Growing congregations
· People engaged with local and global concerns
· Well-supported Ministry teams
· Well-equipped spaces in the right places
· Sustainable finances
· Effective local, regional and national structures.
After the ten years it was suggested the following would have been implemented and much more besides:
· The national offices will be fit for purpose and sustainable, either in a renovated George Street building or in alternative premises
· There will be clear signs of congregations becoming sustainable and growth-orientated with multiple generations and backgrounds of people present.
· New congregations will be planted and established reflecting the communities which they serve in terms of background, age, gender and variety, especially in new areas of opportunity.
· We will ensure an appropriate level of contribution from the Church locally, nationally and internationally, to debate and activity in the public square.
· Well-prepared ministry teams, drawing on experience from experimental programmes, will be in place across the country, offering excellent local leadership.
· All Presbyteries will have drawn up and begun implementation of a plan for the use, development or disposal of all buildings within their bounds.
After much debate this was thrown out and the Council of Assembly have to bring a much more radical plan to the General Assembly of 2019.
There were other motions also passed, which instructed the Council of Assembly to:
- Bring forward proposals to the General Assembly of 2019 that will allow more funds for mission work... and to reform the Ministry and Mission allocation process
- Instruct Presbyteries to create robust, imaginative and courageous Presbytery Plans, to reduce the number of charges, create ministry hubs, enable new pioneer and new church planting opportunities, and new reformed pathways into ministry
- Instruct Kirk Sessions to work with Presbyteries to reflect on the state of decline of the national Church and in particular how that affects the Church locally and determine what their vision and mission is for the next three years
- Instruct the Council of Assembly and the Mission and Discipleship Council to include the views of elders younger than 40 in the radical action plan
With this uncertainty in the local and National church we have to remain focussed on the Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28: 19-20a)