General Assembly approves Radical Action Plan

A three-year radical action plan to reform the Church of Scotland has been approved by the General Assembly.

Dr Sally Bonnar, convener of the Council of Assembly, described the decisions as “far reaching” and a demonstration that the Kirk is listening and facing up to reality.

But she said the message sent out by the General Assembly was also one of “we are not content to manage decline" and open to change.

Dr Sally Bonna
Dr Sally Bonnar addresses the General Assembly

Dr Bonnar said the 17 actions of reform agreed represented a strong commitment to grow the Kingdom of God on earth in a more effective way.

The most significant proposal approved by commissioners is to establish a Growth Fund of £20 million to £25 million for the period 2020-2027.

Equipping and resourcing

The money will be taken from reserves and allocated around criteria focused on growth, impact and sustainability with clearly agreed targets.

Applications will primarily come from individual congregations, groups of churches and presbyteries to fund church planting and projects working with children, young people and families.

The Growth Fund will replace the Go For It Fund which has spent millions on supporting community projects the length and breadth of the country.

Yesterday, the General Assembly approved plans to reduce the number of presbyteries from 45 to around 12.

Addressing commissioners, Dr Bonnar said: “In terms of the values which underpin this plan, first and foremost it is intended to be about equipping, supporting and resourcing the local church.

“This has to be the core outcome of whatever we decide.

“This change cannot happen overnight but we can and should make a start.

“The Growth Fund will allow substantial funding to be made locally to enable congregations and presbyteries to take forward their ambitions in mission, community engagement, church planting and working with young people.

“Equipping new models of church is about being flexible to local circumstances, needs and opportunities.”

The debate, which had devolution of power at its core, lasted most of the day.

Excitement

Speaking afterwards, Dr Bonnar said she hoped commissioners would return to their parishes with a sense of excitement for the future.

“The Church has made some far reaching decisions, not all those actions will be put into place straight away obviously and a lot of work is needed to flesh out what was decided.

“The General Assembly this year has really got the bit between its teeth in terms of moving the Church forward and modernising.

“I hope they have a clear message to take back that we are a Church that is not content to manage decline.

“The decisions made over the last two days tells us that this is a Church that is listening, facing up to realities and is ready to change.

“We are a Church that wants to grow the Kingdom of God and take the messages of the Gospel out to people of Scotland in a more effective way.

“I hope people will go away from this General Assembly with a sense they have achieved something and made a difference.”

The Council of Assembly will soon be replaced with a new trustee body which will appoint a new chief officer.