Chief officer calls for inspirational leadership at every level

In a historic move the Church of Scotland's first Chief Officer, Dave Kendall, has addressed the General Assembly outlining the current state of the Kirk and calling for inspirational leadership at every level.

Picture of Dave Kendall
Dave Kendall is the first Chief Officer of the Church of Scotland.

The Chief Officer's role was created at the 2019 General Assembly as part of a radical restructuring and financial accountability plan aimed at helping the Church of Scotland meet the challenges of achieving its mission in the 21st century. With the Assembly Trustees, Mr Kendall had already made strides towards these goals when, just four months into his tenure Covid-19 brought a new set of challenges and a new urgency for change.

Speaking alongside Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, convener of the Assembly Trustees and Norma Rolls, the vice-convener, Mr Kendall said that delivering the changes agreed at the 2019 General Assembly requires "a clear focus" with careful consideration of the priorities of the local, national and global church.

"This is not just about financial numbers," he said. "It demands more effective oversight, stronger governance, robust accountability, streamlined infrastructure and processes, learning from our own and others' experiences, high quality internal communications, and performance management and coaching."

"The foundation in delivering this is the fantastic staff that we are blessed with - a hugely talented, experienced, professional and passionate group committed to do all that they can to support those in ministry, volunteers, congregations and Forum members advance the goals of the Church."

Mr Kendall, who is himself a Kirk elder, said that whilst some reserve funds will be used over the next year in response to a reduction in income due to the pandemic, the long term finances of the Church must be closely managed.

With the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic he said it is "even more critical to be sure that spending other than on stipends, ministry and salary costs is focused on the essential and that what is non-essential at this time or truly peripheral is stopped and put to one side".

"We have a duty to make the very best use of the sacrificial giving of members and congregations."

Three of the aspects that Mr Kendall believes are crucial for carrying out changes to the church are Our Values, The Faith Action Plan and The Operational Plan.

Our Values are a set of governing principles to inform the way national office staff work, and include grace, integrity, respect, professionalism, collaboration and innovation.

The Faith Action Plan, which stems from the need to set common priorities as raised at the 2019 Assembly, is focused on the purpose of the Church and its vision of seeking "to inspire the people of Scotland and beyond with the Good News of Jesus Christ." The plan places an emphasis on the need for inspirational leadership across all levels of the church. Its areas of focus which will continue to evolve include worship, witness, nurture and training.

Meanwhile, the Operational Plan aims to set strategic goals and objectives, which Mr Kendall said "will enable us to describe milestones and conditions for success and explain how, or what portion of, our strategic plan will be put into operation during a given period."

Working at a time of immense challenges both for the Church of Scotland and the wider world itself, over the last 11 months the actions of Mr Kendall and the National Office team have highlighted the important role they will have in supporting the reform of the Kirk and enacting change in the future.

The role of Chief Officer is brand new to the Church of Scotland with a unique remit that has not existed previously in 440 years of the Kirk's history.

Mr Kendall closed his remarks with a uplifting view of the Church: "People ask me if I see a positive future for the Church - and the answer is a resounding yes."