With all the focus on the issue of same-sex partnerships and ministry at the 2011 General Assembly, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing else of any significance on the agenda. Far from it. Without wanting to downplay the importance of that discussion, there are matters before the Assembly on Wednesday and Thursday which could have major impact on the way the Church of Scotland operates.
Wednesday sees the report of the Panel on Review and Reform. It is proposing a major shake-up of how presbyteries are structured, their purpose and function. Now some may suggest that focusing on how the Kirk does business is a distraction from the church’s business, the business of Christ’s mission. But that’s a simplistic view and ignores the fact that that how the Kirk does business very much affects its effectiveness in performing the church’s business. There is a danger that already overstretched ministers and elders will have to deal with further layers of bureaucracy – although the stated aim of the Panel is to make the ‘layers’ more focused and efficient. I struggle with the concept of increased complexity bringing greater efficiency and effectiveness, but I’m just a cynic at heart. Either way, this is not a trivial issue for the Kirk either.
Then, on Thursday, another mould-breaking day (or at least the potential for it) comes through the report from the Ministries Council. This report calls for a major re-visioning of ministry provision throughout Scotland. It is, in part, a response to the financial realities faced by the Kirk. But it is also an opportunity to find enabling paths to ministry for those with the gifts to serve in this way. It’s of particular interest to me, not simply because it impacts directly on ministry, but it is the context into which my MTh research was targeted.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to follow Wednesday’s debate as I am out and about doing the business of the church. But I do hope to be at GA on Thursday to catch the Ministries Council debate. I can’t help but think you get a better view watching it online, but I’m keen to get a sense of the atmosphere as well.
And yes, the post title is ironic.