Governance and Administration

Church of Scotland
Position in Society
Governance
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Theology

The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian in polity and Reformed in theology. The most recent articulation of its legal position, the Articles Declaratory (1921), spells out the key concepts.

Courts and Assemblies As a Presbyterian church, the Kirk has no bishops, but is rather governed by elders and ministers (collectively called presbyters) sitting in a series of courts. Each congregation is led by a Kirk Session. The Kirk Sessions in turn are answerable to regional presbyteries (of which the Kirk currently has over 40). The supreme body is the annual General Assembly, which meets each May in Edinburgh.

Moderator

Each court is convened by the 'moderator'—at the local level of the Kirk Session normally the parish minister who is ex officio member and Moderator of the Session. Congregations where there is no minister, or where the minister is incapacitated may be moderated by a specially trained elder. Presbyteries and the General Assembly elect a moderator each year. The Moderator of the General Assembly serves for the year as the public representative of the Church—but beyond that enjoys no special powers or privileges and is in no sense the leader or official spokesperson of the Kirk. At all levels, moderators may be either elders or ministers.

Councils

At a national level, the work of the Church of Scotland is chiefly carried out by "Councils", each supported by full-time staff mostly based at the Church of Scotland Offices in Edinburgh. The Councils are:

  • Church and Society Council
  • Ministries Council
  • Mission and Discipleship Council
  • Social Care Council (based at Charis House, Edinburgh)
  • Support and Services Council
  • World Mission Council

The Church of Scotland’s Social Care Council (also known as "CrossReach") is the largest provider of social care in Scotland today, running projects for various disadvantaged and vulnerable groups: including care for the elderly; help with alcoholism, drug, and mental health problems; and assistance for the homeless.

The national Church has never shied from involvement in Scottish politics. In 1919, the General Assembly created a Church and Nation Committee, which in 2005 became the Church and Society Council. The Church of Scotland was (and is) a firm opponent of nuclear weaponry. Supporting devolution, it was one of the parties involved in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the setting up of the Scottish Parliament in 1997. Indeed, from 1999-2004 the Parliament met in the Kirk's Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, whilst its own building was being constructed. The Church of Scotland actively supports the work of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office in Edinburgh.

Other Church agencies include:

  • Assembly Arrangements Committee
  • Committee on Chaplains to HM Forces
  • Church of Scotland Guild
  • Committee on Church Art and Architecture (part of the Mission and Discipleship Council)
  • Ecumenical Relations Committee
  • General Treasurer's Department
  • General Trustees (responsible for church buildings)
  • Legal Questions Committee
  • Panel on Review and Reform
  • Principal Clerk's Department
  • Safeguarding Office (child protection)
  • Stewardship and Finance Committee

Church Offices

Flag of the Church of ScotlandThe Church of Scotland Offices are located at 121 George Street, Edinburgh. These imposing buildings - popularly known in Church circles as "one-two-one" - were designed in a Scandinavian-influenced style by the architect Sydney Mitchell and built in 1909-1911 for the United Free Church of Scotland. Following the union of the churches in 1929 a matching extension was built in the 1930s.

The offices of the Moderator, Principal Clerk, General Treasurer, Law Department and all the Church councils are located at 121 George Street, with the exception of the Social Care Council (CrossReach). There is no "chief executive", but each Council has its own Council Secretary. The Principal Clerk to the General Assembly (since 1996) is Finlay A. J. Macdonald, who in 2010 will be succeeded by the Rev John Chalmers.

Next page:   History of the Church of Scotland
Retrieved from wikipedia.org June 2010.
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Church of Scotland | Position in Society | Governance | History | Theology