Tomorrow afternoon the 2014 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will convene in Edinburgh and will meet for the following week. This promises to be an interesting Assembly with issues important to the church and to Scotland on the docket.
Here is helpful information to follow along with this assembly.
What we all want to know of course is how to follow along on social media. You can begin with the Church of Scotland’s official Facebook page.
On Twitter the starting point is the Kirk’s main feed at @churchscotland and the hashtag #ga2014. The church’s official publication, Life and Work, is also a good source for information on the web, on Facebook and on their Twitter feed @cofslifeandwork. In addition, while it is a personal account, you can follow the editor, Lynne McNeil, at @LifeWorkEditor. Similarly, the Church of Scotland Youth will be tweeting at @cosy_nya and you also might want to follow along with their incoming clerk, John Haston (@johndhaston).
UPDATED 18 May: In suggesting personal accounts to follow, let me start with three individual accounts that are probably worth watching as the Assembly gets rolling. The first is the outgoing Moderator of the Assembly, the (soon to be) Very Reverend Lorna Hood who has just switched from an official to a personal account @revlornascot. We can only hope that the incoming moderator has as great of a change in heart as she had and begins tweeting, but don’t look for that this week. The second person is Seonag MacKinnon, the head of communications for the Kirk, who tweets for herself at @seonagm. Finally,
even though he may not actually be at the Assembly in person, the Rev. Peter Nimmo of Inverness is at the Assembly and is a good source of information at @peternimmo1. I will expand this list as the week progresses.
UPDATED 18 May: If you are now checking after the opening weekend I would suggest you can get caught up with the daily updates from the Church of Scotland website as well as updates from Life and Work on their General Assembly page. In addition, the Photo Gallery on the Kirk website is now active.
Two less-business related highlights of the Assembly caught my attention. The first is the annual festival, Heart and Soul, that the Kirk sponsors on the Sunday afternoon of the Assembly week that will again be happening in Princes Street Gardens near the Assembly Hall. For those of us not in Edinburgh we look forward to seeing pictures, probably on the Church of Scotland Facebook page. The second item is that the Lord High Commissioner this year will be a member of the Royal Household, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
And now what we all really came here for, the business of the Assembly. Here are a few of the business reports that may be of interest and will probably attract attention within and outside the church.
- On Tuesday afternoon there will be a special session to discuss the Scottish Independence Referendum. This is not a business item in the sense that the commissioners will vote on a resolution one way or the other on independence. Rather it will be a time of public discussion with featured speakers followed by comments from the floor.
- On Wednesday the Legal Questions Committee will bring their report regarding Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnership. The report includes an overture in response to the direction of the 2013 Assembly to affirm the Kirk’s historical position while providing a path for churches and sessions to follow their conscience in the employment and ordination of same-sex partnered individuals. The legislation that is passed will then be sent down to the presbyteries for their concurrence under the Barrier Act. Before this report the Theological Forum will report on related discussions that have been held in the past year.
- As always, the Church and Society Council, to report on Thursday, has a long report with a deliverance that takes up a wide range of relevant issues in 73 different points. Among the many topics covered in these points are Competitiveness in Sport, Families and the Church in the 21st Century, Food Security, Funeral Poverty and Living a theology to counter violence against women. And that is just a few of the topics the commissioners will consider.
- The Youth Assembly will bring their report on Tuesday.
- The Ministries Council will report on Monday. A centerpiece of their report is the shortage of ministers and those training for the ministry to meet future needs of the church. As their report says: 80% of the parish ministers are due to retire in the next 15 years. A variety of options will be discussed.
So there is a taste of the line-up for the next week. With the challenges facing the Church of Scotland and the Scottish people at this time it will be interesting to see what the commissioners think and what decisions they make. I will try to update throughout the week as the Assembly progresses.
So this is not just Stay Tuned, but Tune In…