Reform? Not today thanks!

Today was another fascinating day at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.

I’d love to be able to write about the discussion about Israel / Palestine but I was out and so didn’t see what was by all accounts an excellent discussion.

I did see the Panel on Review and Reform have their plan for renewing presbyteries rejected.  It was a strange discussion during which the convener never really made the case for the changes they were proposing.

The Panel had proposed:

7. Affirm the need for a mechanism of devolved authority to reform the present presbyteries so that they may become the regional areas of proclamation, support and oversight as envisaged in the report.
A Model for Change
8. Affirm that Local Area Groupings and Presbytery Assemblies would present the Church with an exciting opportunity to develop and strengthen its capacity to celebrate and collaborate.
9. Agree the principle of the creation of Local Area Groupings, Presbyteries, Presbytery Assemblies and Presbytery Councils.
10. Welcome the formation of Local Area Groupings as the place where presbyteries encourage, support and resource missional initiatives of congregations and promote the core commitment contained in the Church of Scotland’s Vision Statement.
11. Call upon Presbyteries to become the primary levers of change for their own re-formation.
12. Instruct Presbyteries to establish dialogue groups as set out in Appendix 7 to facilitate the implementation of the proposed presbytery structure.

Resources Necessary to Facilitate and Sustain Such Change
13. Welcome the commitment of the Ministries Council to devolve a ministries budget2 to a reduced number of betterresourced presbyteries and note the intention of the Council of Assembly and the Ministries Council to develop pilot schemes for this purpose.
14. Note with approval that the Panel on Review and Reform and Ministries Council will work in partnership to facilitate and monitor all aspects of the process of transition towards a reformed presbytery structure through the creation of an Implementation Management Group, chaired by a member of the Panel.

Instead a conter motion won on a fairly close vote.

Replace Sections 7 to 17 with a new 7:

7(a) Affirm the 3 key functions of Presbytery:
— proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through worship; witness, nurture and service;
— encouraging, strengthening and supprting the people of God;
— supervision of the work of the Church within its bounds including appropriate oversight of congregations and ministries
7(b) Encourage Presbyteries to engage imaginatively with their neighbours to develop and strengthen the life and work of Presbytery, supported by the Councils of the Church.
7(c) Thank the Panel on Review and Reform for their work

The question that leaves is ‘what now?’.

There was no argument that presbyteries don’t work as places that encourage mission and fellowship but people wondered if that was more about the attitude than the structure.

I’ll watch with interest to see what happens next…

2 thoughts on “Reform? Not today thanks!”

  1. This was a curious one… Presbyteries are not always known for their vitality of worship and fellowship, usually quite the opposite. The trouble with this refoem, I think, was that not everything had been thought through. The sheer logistics of some of the meetings would have been horrendous, and it did look like there was going to be yet another layer of meetings foisted on the church with this.
    The Kirk famously set up a committee to look into the viability of merging tow other committees and ended up with three viable and self justifying committees as a result instead of the desired unification !
    On the Monday note..there has been at least one minister indicating that he was going to leave the church. According to the Scotsman email news update, a man from Lochcarron and Skye Presbytery indicated that this was his course of action, and, you’ll remember, it was that Presbytery that sought to have only single ministers, of married ministers in the manse, and certainly not civil partnerships.

  2. The events of Wednesday 25th May at the GA will mean that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will benefit! They get it! What the Church of Scotland doesn’t get is how bad a shape it’s in at Presbytery level, very clearly set out in Section 1 of the Report to the GA.
    The seeds are sown, meticulous spadework has been done, and the severe difficulties of unviable presbyteries remain. All the weaknesses identified unless addressed, will only get worse, and in time the church will again have to sort it out.
    The Panel can take pride in the work done over these years, plain to see by anyone not blinkered by dogged resistance of some to anything new which might disturb their complacency.

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