Panel on Review and Reform

Our remit

The Panel on Review and Reform was established in 2004 and is charged by the General Assembly with articulating God's vision of what a Church in need of continual renewal might become and is committed to offering pathways by which congregations, Presbyteries and Agencies of the Church might travel towards that vision.

A fundamental task for the Panel is a very simple one but important one – to listen! The Panel seeks to listen to the voices of congregations, Presbyteries, Agencies and those beyond the Church of Scotland.

The 2013 General Assembly agreed to amend the Panel's remit as follows:

Through such interaction, consultation and discussion with congregations, Presbyteries, Councils and Agencies of the Church as may be decided upon by the Panel, formulate and bring before successive General Assemblies:

(a) a clear statement of the long-term vision of the Church, and

(b) paths and developments which might be followed by congregations, Presbyteries, Councils and Agencies of the Church to make such a vision a reality.

In seeking to consider the changing needs, challenges and responsibilities of the Church, the Panel is tasked with having a particular regard to the Gospel imperative of priority for the poor, needy and marginalised..

Church without Walls

At the heart of the Church without Walls report of 2001 was the aim to change mind-sets:

  • From Church focus to Christ focus
  • From settled Church to a Church as a movement
  • From a culture of guilt to a culture of grace
  • From running congregations to building communities
  • From isolation to interdependence
  • From top down Church to upside down Church
  • From centralised resources to development resources
  • From faith as security to faith as risk

The Panel continues to endorse the key principles behind this report.

Ongoing Work

The Panel has now begun work on the new section of the remit as given to it by the 2013 General Assembly. This is a major and exciting task and the Panel will be consulting widely in order to bring it to fruition.

The Panel has also been exploring the following areas:

Path of Renewal

From the pilot programme of 30 congregations in 2016, the initiative has since (2018) expanded to include 52 congregations and 32 presbyteries across the Church of Scotland

In partnership with Ministries Council and the Mission & Discipleship Council the Panel is working to develop a process which will help churches move from using a maintenance approach to a missional one. Rather than sit and create this on paper, a pilot process with 30 congregations was set up and started in 2016.

Through this the Panel hopes to discern the kind of support which will best support congregations as they seek to make appropriate changes and re-focus on our core calling.

Understanding Missional Church was written by the previous Convener of the Panel and can be used to support congregations on the Path of Renewal pilot – full and summary versions available

In 2018 a further 25 congregations will join the initial group. Further information will be available shortly on a dedicated Path of Renewal webpage. In the meantime, the Path of Renewal blog is available at the following link:

Read the final research report on Path of Renewal Tranche 1 (December 2018). This will be reported on to the General Assembly 2019 by the Panel on Review & Reform.


The Panel have reviewed previous reports which have been presented to the General Assembly on Leadership in particular the Ministers of the Gospel Report and the Church without Walls report. The Panel have concluded that it is not more reports which are required but discernment about how to implement what has already been written about and agreed. The Panel will work further with Mission and Discipleship and Ministries Council in an effort to ascertain the 'levers of change' which can be used to bring the desired changes.

Read the Panel's report on this to the 2016 General Assembly.

Administration of the Sacraments

The Panel is co-ordinating a group from its own members, as well as from the Theological Forum, Ecumenical Relations, Legal Questions, Ministries, Mission & Discipleship (including Priority Areas), to consider whether there should be a widening of the practice of Sacramental Ministry in the Church of Scotland. This group will consult with others and report to a future General Assembly.

Review of Ordained Local Ministry

The Panel is currently working with Ministries Council on a review of two key areas with regard to Ordained Local Ministry:

  • Whether OLMs might be paid for all or some of the work they do
  • Whether OLMs might train and serve in their own congregation

Pioneer Ministry and Church Planting

The Panel is jointly funding research into Pioneer Ministry and what might be most fruitful in Church planting. Rev Alexander Forsyth is carrying out this research with an Interim Report to be presented to the General Assembly in 2018.

Kirk sessions/local Leadership structures

The Panel is undertaking research into churches where Kirk Sessions or local leadership structures are providing good strategic leadership for the local church.  It is hoped that the findings of this research will help inform changes to local leadership structures which would help the positive development of local churches.

Previous Work

Church Growth

In 2012 the Panel undertook "to seek both to understand where growth may come from and to present the Church with possible pathways towards achieving it." In this endeavour, the Panel is conscious that growth comes fundamentally from the Holy Spirit; with the Church's role being to faithfully plant seeds and tend the growth that God provides. The Panel recognises that it is at an early stage in its work on this extensive and important area of Church life.

In connection with this thread of its work, the Panel commends the recent research carried out by Steve Aisthorpe, Mission Development Worker, Mission and Discipleship Council. The aim was "to develop a better understanding of the experiences and perspectives of Christians in the Highlands and Islands who are not engaged with a local congregation."

Read a summary of Steve's research:

Major research was completed by the Barna Group in 2015 and is published under the title Transforming Scotland – the state of Christianity faith and the church in Scotland

Scenario Planning

In many fields of enterprise the tool of scenario planning has been highly effective in presenting organisations with a range of probable options regarding their future and so provides them with the ability to respond effectively to change.

Basically, through gathering together those who understand the organisation and the environment in which it operates, a series of stories is created. Through continual monitoring of these stories against present conditions it becomes possible for the organisation to identify which stories begin to correspond to them and so make appropriate changes quickly to safeguard its future. The Panel secured the services of a leading academic in this field to facilitate such an exercise for the Church and focussed on responses to the digital age. The Panel brought together a group of 20 people from across the wide spectrum of the Church to take part in producing four scenarios which might help the church consider how it might respond appropriately to the challenges faced...

Four scenarios were drawn up for use by Kirk Sessions and others in leadership.

Four scenarios resources

Consensus and Communication

The General Assembly of 2012 instructed the Panel to explore issues of consensus and communication across the Church. The Panel had indicated that it wished to consult the Church to determine how the present process of decision-making affects the vision of a Church being shaped for mission in the twenty-first century. Following a pilot study, the Panel embarked on further research into this area and brought a full report to the General Assembly of 2015.

Read the report for the Panel on Review and Reform

Our membership

The Panel on Review and Reform is made up of 10 members appointed by the General Assembly. The Ecumenical Officer attends panel meetings on behalf of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations, but does not have the right to vote or make a motion to the panel. The Convener is the Rev Jenny Adams and the Vice Convener is Ms Christine Cavanagh. In common with other departments, the Panel is able to co-opt others to assist with particular areas of work as appropriate.

Contact for more information

For more information please contact the Department of the General Assembly at the Church's offices in Edinburgh, 0131 225 5722


The Panel usually meets on the first Wednesday of June, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April and May. Unless otherwise stated, all meetings will take place at the Church offices at 121 George Street, Edinburgh.