Proposal to move General Assembly to June to attract young people
Published on 19 May, 2016
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland could be moved to June in the future under new proposals to try and encourage more young people to attend.
Commissioners are being asked to consider the plans on the basis they would not interfere with university and college exam times and also give more time to councils and committees of the Church to prepare reports.
But research carried out by the Assembly Arrangements Committee suggested that there is no appetite to move the General Assembly, the means by which the councils, committees and courts of the Church are held accountable, from its current meeting place on The Mound in Edinburgh and the role of Moderator should remain a one-year post.
The committee established a working group in 2014 to examine the shape, size and frequency of the annual event which opens on Saturday.
A wide-reaching consultation was carried out across many sections of the Church, including the National Youth Assembly which raised the question of timing and ecumenical partners, with around 750 questionnaire responses submitted.
A report in the General Assembly Blue Book, which will be discussed on Saturday, states: "Consideration was given to moving the date of the Assembly to different times of the year.
"The Committee recommends that the General Assembly should move to meet in the second week of June and that the implications of such a move be explored more fully.
"This slightly later date would allow some additional weeks for preparation of reports by Councils and Committees.
"It would move the Assembly out of the general exam times at universities and colleges, and the possibility of a wider range of halls of residence accommodation for commissioners becoming available.
"The second week in June is also prior to the major holiday season.
"The Committee seeks permission to explore this possibility further with universities in Edinburgh and with other relevant bodies."
The Assembly Arrangements Committee is asking commissioners for permission to "further explore the implications" of moving the General Assembly with the intention of bringing a recommendation to the General Assembly of 2017.
The General Assembly comprises around 850 commissioners who are ministers, elders and members of the diaconate.
The first meeting was held in December 1560, which was the year of the Scottish Reformation and which marks the beginning of the Church of Scotland as we now know it.
The General Assembly
The report stated: "The Committee believes that an increase in the period of office served by a Moderator would make it difficult for him or her to be able to return to duties laid aside in a parish or other church employment; it would be equally difficult for chaplains, elders and deacons at work in the secular world."
It added that there would also be a significant change in the 'representational' role of the Moderator if there were a longer period of office.
"Whilst the Committee is aware that there may be benefits in a longer period of office in relation to dealing with external bodies, and the media, other questions about the Moderator being more than a figure-head would need serious consideration and the committee is not sure that the Church of Scotland would desire such a significant change," stated the report.