General Assembly week in Edinburgh gets into full swing today as two addition GA’s convene this evening. One of these is the Free Church of Scotland 2019 General Assembly meeting at St. Columba’s Free Church in Edinburgh. The meeting will run until about noon on Thursday.
One of the features of this meeting is that it meets for business in the evenings so when the Church of Scotland meeting adjourns you can walk across the street to St. Columba’s Free Church and sit in on their meeting. You think I exaggerate? Here is St. Columba’s, and I took the picture from the public gallery entrance to the Kirk’s Assembly Hall. [One of my favourite lines from Doug Gay’s book Reforming the Kirk says “The Secession Church planted strategically while the Free Church planted competitively.” In my wanderings around Scotland last year it was not unusual to find a Church of Scotland building across the street from a Free Church building.]
So, to follow along here are some helpful starting points:
- Live streaming is available. And the word is the recordings will be available on the St. Columba’s YouTube channel.
- There is a draft programme for the week available online
- The advanced set of reports are available on the and Supplemental Reports may be released throughout the week.
- Daily updates are expected 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 #fcga19, although sometimes tweets slip by with #fcga or #fcga2019. In addition, I would suggest also keeping an eye on the Twitter account for the official bookstore, Free Church Books (@freechurchbooks) who will have a pop-up bookstore at the Assembly. Also, the seminary, Edinburgh Theological Seminary (@ETS_Edinburgh) and the principal Iver Martin (@IverMartin), although he has not been active on Twitter recently. And I can add the new Mission Initiative “Generation” which tweets at @GenerationM18.
Regarding other individuals and churches tweeting the GA I am at a bit of a loss at the moment as the hashtag has been very quiet. One account who has mentioned that they will be present is Rosskeen Free Chuch at @RosskeenFC. I will stick my neck out and mention “Neil DM” who is an Elder at St. Columba’s and has the handle @neilbriogaisean.
Much of the business before the Assembly seems like the routine but necessary work of a connectional denomination. The reports include updates on two initiatives approved at the 2018 Assembly, the Generation Vision launch for mission work, and a recognition of the need for rural church planting and development. In another response from last year, the Board of Ministry reports on their consultation with the presbyteries about the Ordination Promises or Vows. While a variety of views were found, they noted a consensus that the current wording could be clarified or shortened and asks the GA to pass this along to another group currently revising the church’s Practice. There is also an item to send to the presbyteries under the Barrier Act an overture to dissolve the provincial synods. The 2009 GA suspended the meetings of synods and with presbytery reorganization, the synods are now seen as a redundant layer of judicatory. And I had to smile a bit at the deliverance from the Psalmody and Praise Committee that included the item:
6. The General Assembly remind congregations that where praise items are projected on screen or printed on orders of service, copyright acknowledgement must be made for each item, for all Sing Psalms, Sing Scripture and for all hymns. Scottish Psalter items do not require this, being out of copyright. Further guidance is available on the Free Church website, including links to PowerPoint slides.
I know a few churches, including my own, who need to be reminded of this.
Having been the recipient of their generous hospitality last year, I will be watching from afar this year to see how several of the items I saw debated last year are moved along by the body this year.
So our best wishes to the Free Church on their Assembly and we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your discernment throughout.