Consultation on alternative presbytery structure

Over the last two years the Church's Panel on Review Reform has been working on its General Assembly remit from 2008:

"Instruct the Panel on Review and Reform to bring to the General Assembly of 2010 proposals for an alternative presbytery structure including, size, devolved powers, staffing, appropriate budgets, along with the resources necessary to facilitate and sustain such changes."

The Panel has prepared a background pamphlet highlighting the key elements of its recommendation to the 2011 General Assembly. Reform of the presbytery structure would represent a significant change for all of us. The pamphlet outlines the purpose of presbytery, the need for reform and a proposed alternative structure.

You can also find a summary of the proposals on YouTube at or type 'Presbytery Reform' in the search field.

Our March 2011 newsletter outlined where the Panel had reached so far, and its proposed new structure.

In March 2010 we sent out a newsletter offering some preliminary ideas and model outlines as a basis for discussion. In the autumn we carried out follow-up information-gathering by holding Consultation Days in Ayr, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth and Edinburgh. In addition, questionnaires were circulated to all the presbyteries and congregations of the Kirk.

One of the key points which emerged from the material gathered, was a desire amongst the people of the church to put mission at the top of the local presbytery's agenda.

Consequently the Panel saw that it was important to ensure that mission had a key strategic position in the planning of any 'alternative Presbytery structure' that might be presented to the 2010 Assembly for consideration. Thus we are pleased to say that Mission and Discipleship Council and the Panel are willing partners in this task.

The Panel would like to warmly thank those who took the time to travel to the Consultation Days and/or return the Presbytery and Congregation Questionnaires. These have been the foundation of subsequent discussion and planning.

What are we reporting here?

The following statement appeared in one the feedback forms received by the Panel:

"The Panel should circulate a summary of responses nationally, rather than circulate prescribed action points, selected by the review group to support its vision." (Newtonmore)

In order to feel our way towards suggesting a new Presbytery structure, it was important for the Panel to assess the condition of the present structure. We did this by inviting presbyteries to respond to a range of questions about their current work giving their views of its effectiveness and benefit.

We are happy to publish below the collated and summarized results of that enquiry. Sections 1.2 to 1.7 show the level of interest in each of the discussion models while Sections 1.8.2 to the end collate the themes that emerged. This gave the Panel a clear idea of the thinking of those who replied to the questionnaires.

Returns from Presbyteries

Sixty-two completed questionnaires were received from twenty-six presbyteries, which included a summary of responses, and which presbyteries favoured each of the models for discussion.

Returns from Congregations

Three hundred and thirty-five completed questionnaires were received from congregations, which included study the summary of responses, and specific comments made by congregations.

The Panel's next step

With the benefit of all the information it has gathered in, the Panel met for a two-day conference in Perth from 3rd - 4th November 2009. The agenda and discussion focused on the tension between the views expressed in the questionnaires and the consultations, and the task given to the Panel by the General Assembly. The instruction is to prepare 'proposals for an alternative Presbytery structure' and while it is clear from the feedback that re-structuring has significant support, it is also clear that many systems would benefit from assessment and improvement, and that improvement may inform the nature of any new structure proposed by the Panel.

After careful discussion the Panel decided that, taking into account the concern of many presbyteries and congregations over the issue of quinquennial visitation/superintendence, and having experience of the Future Focus programme and work done by the Panel in the same area, a pilot study of what it would call Local Church Review would be planned.

At the same time the Panel would seek an area of Scotland willing to pilot a new proposed presbytery structure which would be devised in consultation with that area and the central Councils of the Church. This planning would create a workable proposal which would seek approval to operate from the 2010 General Assembly, through two financial years, and report to the General Assembly of 2013.

Members of the Panel are working on these strategies and the Panel's Communication Group will produce a more detailed News Update of this work in the Spring of 2010.

Consultation papers

For information and papers about the proposed presbytery structure, see our consultation papers.