Position in Scottish Society

Church of Scotland
Position in Society

The Church of Scotland has around 984 active ministers, 1,179 congregations, and its official membership at approximately 464,000 comprises about 9% of the population of Scotland. Official membership is down some 65% from its peak in 1957 of 1.32 million. Note though that in the 2001 national census, 42% of Scots identified themselves as 'Church of Scotland' by religion. The Church of Scotland Guild, historically the Kirk's women's movement, is still the largest voluntary organisation in Scotland.

Although it is the national church, the Kirk is not a "state church", and in this, and other, regards is dissimilar to the Church of England (the established church in England). Under its constitution, which is recognised by acts of Parliament, the Kirk enjoys complete independence from the state in spiritual matters.

The British monarch (when in Scotland) is simply a member of the Church (she is not, as in England, its Supreme Governor). The monarch’s accession oath includes a promise to "defend the security" of the Church of Scotland. She is formally represented at the annual General Assembly by a Lord High Commissioner (unless she chooses to attend in person). The role is purely formal.

The Church of Scotland is committed to its 'distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry' (Article 3 of its Articles Declaratory). In practice this means that the Kirk maintains a presence in every community in Scotland – and exists to serve not only its members but all Scots (the majority of funerals in Scotland are taken by its ministers). It also means that the Kirk pools its resources to ensure a continued presence in every part of Scotland.

The Church played a leading role in the provision of universal education in Scotland (the first such provision in the modern world), largely due to its desire that all people should be able to read the Bible. However, today it does not operate schools - these having been effectively transferred to the state in the later half of the 19th century.

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Retrieved from wikipedia.org June 2010.
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