Who's Who

These are some of the key roles and positions within the Church.

The Moderator

The Moderator for 2015 to 2016 is the Right Reverend Dr Russell Barr.

Meetings of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland are chaired by the Moderator of the General Assembly. He or she leads daily worship, keeps order, rules on points of order, and signs documents on behalf of the Assembly. The role is an honorary one, held for 12 months.

The correct title is Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, or Moderator of the General Assembly, and not 'Moderator of the Church of Scotland'.

The Moderator is not the head of the Church: the Church of Scotland holds that Jesus Christ is 'the King and Head of the Church', nor is the Moderator the leader of the Church of Scotland, or its spokesperson. When asked for an opinion on important issues, the Moderator is expected to have in mind the views of the General Assembly or the relevant Church council or committee.

After the Assembly, the Moderator spends much of the rest of his or her time in office travelling as a Church representative in Scotland, other parts of the UK, Ireland and overseas in an ambassadorial capacity. Every Moderator carries out a series of visits to several Church of Scotland presbyteries, as well as undertaking a number of international tours.

Regular features on the Moderator's itinerary are visits to one of the armed forces, a stay in London around St Andrew's Day on 30 November, which includes a meeting in Downing Street with the Prime Minister, and a visit to the Scottish Parliament. The Moderator has two chaplains who assist him or her in preparing for the General Assembly and provide support throughout Assembly week. Where possible, the Moderator's spouse is often invited to accompany him or her on official visits.

Selecting a Moderator

Every year in October, a committee of the Assembly meets in Edinburgh to nominate the person who will be presented as Moderator Designate to the General Assembly the following May. Once the nomination has been accepted on the opening day of the Assembly, the person concerned is elected Moderator of the General Assembly.

If he or she is a minister, they are addressed as the Right Rev until his or her moderatorial year ends with the election of a successor. A former Moderator, who is a minister, is referred to as the Very Rev. The Moderator can also be an elder or a deacon, and can be male or female.

Moderator of the General Assembly 2017

The Committee elected to nominate the Moderator for the next General Assembly now seeks recommendations from the Church for a person to fulfill this role. Those recommended must be a minister, elder or deacon but any member can make a recommendation using the form which can be downloaded. Completed forms should be sent to ljaimieson@churchofscotland.org.uk by 19 August 2016. The Committee expects to meet short-listed candidates in September.

Lord High Commissioner

The Lord High Commissioner, or Queen's Commissioner, is appointed by the Queen as her representative at the General Assembly, taking up residence for the week in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. By custom, he or she addresses the Assembly at its opening and closing sessions, and attends much of the daily business, but is strictly not able to influence the debates. The Lord High Commissioner also undertakes a round of official visits in Scotland and several evening engagements at Holyroodhouse.

Conveners of Councils

Different areas of the Church's work are undertaken by councils, which are made up of Church members. Each council has a convener who presents a report on the work of the council each year to the General Assembly and acts as a spokesperson. You can read more about the remit and work of each council here.

Key staff     

Principal Clerk

The role of the Principal Clerk is to act as the Clerk to the General Assembly, which includes advising the Assembly and the Moderator on church law, practice and procedure. The Principal Clerk also supports the Moderator throughout the year as well as providing training courses and advice on church law and procedures to Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, ministers and other church bodies.

Secretary to the Council of Assembly

The Council of Assembly has the authority to take necessary administrative decisions between General Assemblies and to co-ordinate the work of the Church's central administration. In addition to acting as secretary, he or she is also responsible for the implementation of its policies and decisions, and to manage the council secretaries and other senior managers.