The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland opens

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland officially opens in Edinburgh today for a week of debate and decision making.

The first official act of the annual gathering will be to install Rev Susan Brown, the minister of Dornoch Cathedral in the Highlands, as Moderator.

General Assembly
The General Assembly is the highest court of the Church of Scotland.

The 59-year-old, known for having been the minister who married Madonna and Guy Ritchie in 2000, will chair the General Assembly then later act as the Church’s ambassador at home and abroad for 12 months.

Exciting

Mrs Brown, who grew up in Penicuik in Midlothian, said she was “deeply moved and honoured” to be chosen for the role.

Speaking last night, she said: “The prospect of becoming Moderator is slightly scary but incredibly exciting.

“It will be a challenging year but I am really up for it.

“As the ambassador for the Church, I am really looking forward to meeting people and hearing their stories as my theme for the year is ‘walking with’.

“I also want to highlight how important walking, which is an ancient spiritual tradition, is for our physical and mental health, an issue that I plan to raise with political leaders.”

Mrs Brown succeeds Right Rev Dr Derek Browning and will be the fourth woman to hold the title of Moderator.

Around 730 commissioners from Scotland and countries where the Kirk has partners such as Syria and South Sudan are expected to attend the event at the General Assembly Hall on the Mound.

The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry has been appointed as the Lord High Commissioner this year, the Queen’s personal representative.

Moderator
The General Assembly debates issues of importance to the Church of Scotland.

The theme of the 2018 General Assembly is “Peace Be With You” and a related art installation has been fastened to the floor of the famous Black and White corridor in the Assembly Hall.

One of the highlights of the week is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of women in the ministry.

Hundreds of female clergy and their supporters are expected to take part in a parade up The Mound on Tuesday, exactly half a century on from an historic decision to permit women to become ministers.

Other issues that will be discussed is a 10-year strategic plan, fossil fuel divestment, children in communion and human sexuality.

Today, commissioners will debate whether to allow ministers who wish to perform same sex marriages.

Festival of faith

Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark, has put forward a motion to be voted on, telling the Legal Questions Committee to draft a Church law that would permit such a move.

If passed in its current form, the motion would give the panel two years to come up with the draft law, with a final vote expected in 2021.

The annual Heart and Soul festival of faith is taking place in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens tomorrow.

With over 60 exhibitors, two stages for music and dance and around 5,000 expected visitors, this year’s diverse line-up is bigger and better than ever.

As well as celebrating the life and work of the Church, there will be a particular emphasis on children and young people, as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.

Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, “The General Assembly is a chance for Church people from all over the country to meet each other and help make decisions on Church law and set priorities for Church life.

“We are discussing a wide range of important issues and at the end of the week we are listening to the Church of Scotland’s young people and their hopes for the future.”