About three hours ago the Free Church of Scotland convened their 2015 General Assembly in St. Columba’s Free Church in Edinburgh. The meeting will run until Thursday. Certainly looks like it will be an interesting meeting so here is some info about following along and what you might expect.
- The Assembly is being live streamed through the St. Columba live streaming service.
- There is now a docket for the week available online
- The advanced set of reports are available on the Reports page and Supplemental Reports may be released throughout the week.
- Daily updates are being posted in the news stream.
- If you need the polity documents you can check the Acts of Assembly and Free Church Practice.
To follow along in social media you should be checking the official Free Church Facebook page as well as their Twitter feed @freechurchscot. The host church can be followed at @stcsfreechurch and the hashtag will be #fcga.
The new Moderator of the General Assembly is The Rev. David Robertson of St. Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, a pastor who is well known within the Free Church as well as around the world through his writing, speaking and internet presence. While the Free Church has moved away from the nickname The Wee Frees, Rev. Robertson has embraced the title The Wee Flea and can be found by that title on both his blog as well as on Twitter (@theweeflea). He is also a co-founder of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and you can hear him on the Centre’s podcast, Quantum of Solas. Update: Rev. Robertson is writing about GA on his blog this week.
Other individuals to watch on Twitter are Iain D. Campbell at @revdridc, Martin MacLean at @shug_1980 and Gordon Matheson at @JediRev. I will update as others appear active at this meeting. Update: Rev. Matheson was kind enough to let me know that he would not be following GA closely this year but he recommended following Robert Macleod at @macleod_robert.
Reading through the reports there is a lot of important business coming before this assembly but none that struck me as being of the nature to attract a lot of outside press coverage. For those concerned with presbyterian polity it will certainly be interesting. One of these items is from the Board of Trustees report where they suggest that the size of the Assembly be increased – nearly doubled – so that decisions reflect more of the members of the presbyteries and there is a better connection to the presbyteries.
Acknowledging the paradox, this is immediately followed by a section talking about the shortage of ruling elders and the General Assembly. The report points out:
Over the past decade it has become increasingly difficult to identify sufficient elders with availability for the duration of the Assembly. Many of the younger men are not able to take time off their regular employment so as to attend the whole Assembly. This has meant that some Presbyteries have been unable to commission men from within their own bounds and in some cases have had to make do with fewer elders to represent them than should have been the case.
The proposed solution is to allow presbyteries to rotate elders around so that they always have the allotted number but it could be a different individual each day. I look forward to the discussion of the polity, administrative and operational points made in that debate which is docketed for tomorrow morning.
The Board of Ministry in their report is bringing a new scheme for paths into ministry in response to requests from last year’s Assembly. In this day and age individuals approach the ministry from a variety of angles and the proposal includes acknowledgement of previous training, flexibility for those getting their theological education part time as well as a path through apprenticeship training. Again, an interesting discussion we can look forward to on Thursday.
Convening the General Assembly today is a bit auspicious as it is the 172nd anniversary of the 1843 Disruption that formed the Free Church. However, it is worth noting that the branch meeting now is just a small portion of the original church as most of the churches merged first with the United Presbyterians in 1900 and then that branch merged with the Church of Scotland in 1929.
But the Free Church Assembly is always interesting and I look forward to a stimulating week. And in the case you are trying to juggle both live streams, remember that in the evenings the Free Church usually has no competition.
So best wishes to the Free Church on their Assembly and we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your discernment throughout.