General Assembly 2016

General Assembly 2015 Very Rev John Chalmers Moderator for 2014-15 hands over to the Moderator Designate Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison.

The Church of Scotland will hold its annual General Assembly from 21-27 May 2016 at the General Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh. More than 730 commissioners from congregations across Scotland and beyond will come together to take part in the event, a unique mix of debate, tradition and worship.

Over the course of the week they will be joined by more than 150 people from associated partners and other organisations who work with the Church. The public gallery is open each day for any members of the public who are interested in observing the proceedings.

First held in 1560, the General Assembly is the Kirk's highest court, made up of commissioners who are generally ministers, elders and deacons, as well as youth representatives and around 40 international emissaries from partner churches around the globe. The General Assembly considers reports from each of the Church's councils, discusses issues of national and international importance, and makes decisions that help set the Church of Scotland's direction for the coming years.

People of the Way

This year the theme of the General Assembly is 'People of the Way' which celebrates the Church of Scotland's Christian community and the contribution it makes within Scotland and the wider world.

Rev Dr. Grant Barclay, Convener of the Council of Assembly, says:

"Followers of Jesus have been known as 'people of the way' since the time of St Paul. Then, they were notable for their worship, the generosity of their welcome, and the care they provided. They still are."

This year will be the final year of service for several Council Conveners and Church Officials:

  • Dr Barclay will cede his role as Council of Assembly Convener to Dr Sally Bonnar
  • Dr Bonnar will be replaced as Convener of the Church's Social Care Council, Crossreach, by Mr Bill Steele, who is leaving his current role as Convener of the Central Services Committee
  • Rev Sally Foster Fulton will hand over as Convener of the Church & Society Council to Rev Dr Richard Frazer, minister at Greyfriars Kirk
  • Other retiring Conveners include Rev Colin Sinclair from the Mission and Discipleship Council who will hand over to Rev Norman Smith; and Mrs Linda Young from the Church of Scotland Guild, who will hand over to Mrs Rosemary Johnston
  • Mrs Pauline Weiybe, Secretary to the Council of Assembly is retiring after the General Assembly
  • Rev Dr Martin Scott will replace her in this senior administrative position
  • Mrs Janette Wilson is retiring as Solicitor of the Church and Law Agent of the General Assembly. She will hand over to Ms Mary Macleod, currently Depute Solicitor to the Church

Decisions made at the General Assembly can have an historic and long-standing impact on the future of the national Church. However, the Church of Scotland values thoughtful, well considered decision making, and seeks consensus whenever possible, so contentious issues are usually debated for several years before a final resolution is reached.

The Mission and Discipleship Council has created a People of the Way prayer resource for use throughout the coming year. People of the Way: Pray Now Devotions, Reflections, Blessings and Prayer Activities is available from St Andrew Press.

Lord High Commissioner

Each year HM the Queen appoints a Lord High Commissioner as her personal representative to the General Assembly, unless she attends herself. This year, she has appointed Lord Hope of Craighead KT PC, a distinguished retired Scottish judge, who assumes the role for his second year in a row.

Lord Hope has served as Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General in Scotland, and was one of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and its first Deputy President. Lord Hope will observe the proceedings and report back to Her Majesty what has been debated at the Assembly.

Lord Hope's first official duty will be to take part in The Ceremony of the Keys, held at Holyrood Palace the day before the General Assembly convenes -- which this year is Friday, 20 May. The colourful tradition marks the handing over of the keys of Holyrood Palace from the City of Edinburgh to the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.

Lord Hope will also take part in the ceremonial procession that opens the General Assembly and will attend the Heart and Soul festival in Princes St Gardens on Sunday, 22 May.

The Blue Book, available for download here contains all the reports and documentation commissioners need to take part in the General Assembly discussions.

A mobile app is available for Apple iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. This allows users to access publications produced from the Assembly and provides other useful features including the order of business, as well as local information on travel, accommodation, entertainment and places of interest. It can/will be available for download from the General Assembly Publications website.

The 2016 Heart and Soul festival, featuring a diverse programme of music and entertainment will be held on Sunday, 22 May at the Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens. Church councils, congregations, presbyteries and service groups will host booths, share their stories and offer youth and children's activities. The event closes with an uplifting open-air service at 5pm. More details at Heart and Soul 2016 website.

General Assembly timetable

Saturday, 21 May - 9.30am - Opening of the General Assembly

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Roll of Commissioners laid on the table
  • Election of Moderator and Prayer of Consecration (Members of Assembly stand when Moderator enters)
  • Commission to His Grace the Lord High Commissioner to be read, and order given for recording it (Members of Assembly stand)
  • Her Majesty's Letter to be read, and order given for recording it (Members of Assembly stand)
  • Address by His Grace the Lord High Commissioner, and Reply by the Moderator (Members of Assembly stand)
  • Appointment of Committee to prepare Answer to the Queen's Letter
  • Report of Standing Committee on Commissions
  • Submission of Standing Orders
  • Appointment of Committee for arranging Order of Business
  • Appointment of Panel of Tellers
  • Appointment of Committee to prepare Minute on Deceased Ministers, Missionaries and Deacons
  • Intimation of arrangements for the celebration of Holy Communion on Monday, 23 May at 9.15am
  • Suspension of business - 10.30am - 10.45am (approximately)
  • Nomination of the Solicitor of the Church
  • Report of the Assembly Arrangements Committee
  • Report of the Scottish Bible Society and Presentation of Bible to Moderator
  • Report of the Delegation of the General Assembly
  • Minutes of the Appeal Hearing before the Appeals Committee of the Commission of Assembly – August 2015
  • Report of the Committee on Overtures and Cases
  • Report of the Committee on Classifying Returns to Overtures
  • Report of the Council of Assembly
  • Report of the Legal Questions Committee

Saturday, 21 May - 7pm

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Address by Retiring Moderator
  • Presentation of Delegates and Visitors

Sunday, 22 May

  • 10.00 am Assembly Service (St Giles')
  • 12.30 pm Gaelic Service (Greyfriars Kirk)
  • 1 - 6pm Heart and Soul 2016 (Princes Street Gardens)

Monday, 23 May - 9.15 am

Holy Communion

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Report of the Business Committee
  • Report of the World Mission Council
  • Report of Social Care Council
  • Report of Panel on Review and Reform

Tuesday, 24 May - 9.15 am

Order of the day - Stevenson Prize 2pm

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Minutes
  • Report of the Church and Society Council
  • Report of the Church of Scotland Guild
  • Report on the Iona Community board

Wednesday, 25 May - 9.15 am

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Minutes
  • Report of the Ecumenical Relations Committee
  • Report of the Safeguarding Committee
  • Report of the Ministries Council

Thursday, 26 May - 9.15 am

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Minutes
  • Report of the Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty's Forces
  • Report of the Mission and Discipleship Council
  • Report of the National Youth Assembly 2015
  • Report of the Theological Forum

Friday, 27 May - 9.15 am

  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Minutes
  • Report of the Housing and Loan fund
  • Report of the General Trustees
  • Report of the Church Hymnary Trustees
  • Report of the Church of Scotland Trust
  • Report of the Church of Scotland Investors Trust
  • Report of the Church of Scotland Pension Trustees
  • Report of the Central Services Community
  • Report of the Nomination Committee
  • Report of the Selection Committee
  • Protestations called for
  • Report on the Printing of Acts

    Closing Session
  • Constitution of Assembly
  • Report anent Deceased Ministers, Missionaries and Deacons
  • Draft Minutes of Sederunts not yet submitted to be read if required
  • Appointment of Committee to revise Minutes
  • Act Appointing Commission of Assembly
  • Act Appointing diet of next General Assembly
  • Presentations to the Moderator
  • Moderator addresses the General Assembly
  • His Grace, the Lord High Commissioner, addresses the General Assembly

    National anthem
  • Dissolution of the General Assembly
  • Benediction