Ecumenical audit

The Church of Scotland acknowledges its distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry.

This is what the Church of Scotland believes it is about. As recently as 2010, the General Assembly received a report from its Special Commission on the Third Article Declaratory, the words of which affirm that the Kirk is about caring for the whole of Scotland and, at the 2010 General Assembly, the Church reaffirmed this calling and duty.

However, it was also clear that the Church of Scotland could not go on as it had done in the past, through a parish system with a minister in each parish.

It has neither enough finance nor enough ministers to do that now. The General Assembly asked the Ecumenical Relations Committee and the Ministries Council to look into the possibility of our sharing this responsibility with other churches in Scotland.

After preliminary discussions with representatives of other churches and some soundings in Presbyteries, it was decided to undertake an audit of the current ecumenical activity in every parish.

This is the first time such a comprehensive survey has been carried out and is ground-breaking.

The Committee and Council express their gratitude to all those who participated in the study and in particular to Rev Dr Fiona Tweedie who processed the information for us. Put alongside a survey of the use of buildings done by the College of Bishops in the Scottish Episcopal Church, there is a very full picture of ecumenical activity available to us.

The report of this ecumenical audit is available so that congregations can see the results of the survey. Some of the results are heartening – there is good local activity. But there are also many challenges – not least confusion about cooperation between congregations within the Church of Scotland (linkages and parish groupings), on the one hand, and ecumenical cooperation between congregations of different denominations (covenanted partnerships and local ecumenical partnerships) on the other hand.

As well as sharing the information on line, the report has been circulated to the Members’ Meeting of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).

ACTS has recently affirmed local ecumenism as an area it wishes to make a particular focus of its work.

It is our hope that both local churches and the denominations together will face the challenges of working together across Scotland to ensure that the ordinances of the Christian religion are made available to all who need and wish them, wherever in Scotland they live.