The Moderator

The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2017. He succeeds the Very Rev Dr Russell Barr.

Righ Rev Derek Browning
Right Rev Derek Browning

Dr Browning, Minister of Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh, said he was “humbled, thrilled and not a little daunted” with his nomination to be Moderator of the General Assembly.

“I am very conscious of the stature and amazing contributions my predecessors have made to this significant position within the Church,” he added.

“During my year in office I will seek to explore and promote issues around hospitality and welcome.

“How we treat the stranger and the vulnerable person in our communities, particularly those with poor mental health, is key to how we express our Christian faith.

“Do we belong to a Church that builds bridges, or one that maintains barriers?

“Throughout my ministry I have attempted, whenever possible, to make the Church accessible to those who find faith easy, those who find faith difficult, and everyone in-between.

“During the debates at the General Assembly we say that questions are always in order.

“The same ought to be true within the Church at large.”

Dr Browning was born in Edinburgh in 1962. He attended North Berwick High School before going on to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he read History and graduated with honours.

He had considered a career as a BBC Radio announcer, but found himself called into Church ministry, and attended St Mary’s College, St Andrews, where he graduated in Divinity with honours.

Dr Browning specialised in Ecclesiastical History.

He gained his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States in 1997, the first Church of Scotland minister to gain that degree from Princeton.

Dr Browning served his probationary period as an assistant minister at Troon: St Meddan’s, before being called to his first charge of Cupar Old Parish Church, in Fife in 1987, aged 25.

He served as parish minister there for fourteen years.

During that time Dr Browning was chairman of the Lighthouse, an ecumenical bookshop, coffee shop and resource centre.

He was chaplain to Bell Baxter High School and Elmwood College, and honorary chaplain to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.

Dr Browning was instrumental in establishing the K2 project – a joint project between the Church and Scripture Union providing a full-time youth worker in the three secondary schools in North East Fife.

In 2001, he was called to his current parish in Morningside – the church where the funeral of former Labour leader John Smith took place in 1994.

In this large Edinburgh parish, Dr Browning has also served as a team chaplain at Napier University, and also Chairman of the Eric Liddell Centre, a community centre which carries out pioneering work with care for people suffering with dementia and also support for their carers.

Dr Browning has served the Church of Scotland in a number of capacities during his ministry:

  • Moderator of St Andrews Presbytery 1996-1997, aged 33.
  • Business Convener of St Andrews and Edinburgh Presbyteries.
  • Convener of the Prayer and Devotion Committee of the Panel on Worship, where he was responsible for producing Pray Now, with a team of writers.
  • Member of the Education for the Ministry Committee, the Panel on Worship, the Stewardship and Finance Committee, and the Special Commission on Ministerial Tenure.

Dr Browning has been a supervisor to many enquirers, candidates for the ministry and probationers in his Cupar and Morningside Parishes.

“One of the ways of keeping one’s own ministry fresh is to work alongside those taking their first steps in ministry”, he said.

More recently Dr Browning has been a long-term member of the Assembly Arrangements Committee, and was first vice-convener and then convener of that committee.

He has been a familiar face at the ‘top table’ as convener of the last two General Assembly Business Committees.
Within Assembly Arrangements, Dr Browning has chaired the Heart and Soul Board.

He said: “Heart and Soul has been one of the significant developments in the recent history of the Church.

“What a terrific opportunity it has been to showcase the astonishing work and witness our Church offers across the country, and across the world.

“It has been a privilege to have helped shape this adventure, with a team of very talented and committed individuals."

Dr Browning has been published in several journals and prayer books.

He has also broadcasted regularly on BBC Radio, most recently with the Pause for Thought slot on Radio Two.

Dr Browning retains an interest in history, and is a Council Member on the Scottish Church History Society.

He is also a keen amateur cook, enjoys the Arts in general and the theatre in particular and relishes trips to London’s West End whenever it is possible, as well as supporting theatres in Edinburgh.

Looking forward to his moderatorial year, Dr Browning said: “I will be fortunate to make a number of trips overseas.

“I will visit Wittenberg for the 500th anniversary of the German Reformation, before going on to Sweden.

“The treatment of refugees is one of the defining issues of our time, and Sweden has important lessons to teach the world about what has been easy, and difficult, in welcoming the refugee.”

In the New Year, Dr Browning will visit Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

In Scotland he will be visiting the Presbyteries of St Andrews, Glasgow, Dumfries and Kirkcudbright, and Ross.

Dr Browning said: “Few people get the opportunity to have such a widespread view of what the Church is doing well, and maybe not so well, in the space of a year.

“I hope to be able to listen and encourage wherever I go, and to remind Christians everywhere that the Church is not dying, it is reforming.”