General Assembly 2020

Church leaders at the 2020 GA

Watch highlights

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Church of Scotland's annual General Assembly was held online the evening of Friday 2 October and all day Saturday 3 October.

The Commissioners, Youth Representatives and Corresponding Members took part remotely—from congregations and presbyteries around the country and indeed the world.

All discussions, voting and amendments were done online, with Commissioners and Youth Representatives signing in through the Church of Scotland's website to a new Assembly Hub, where they could ask questions and put forward amendments and new ideas. Corresponding Members were also be able to sign in to the Assembly Hub through the website.

In accordance with government advice, only a small number of people were in the Assembly Hall: those running the proceedings, those reporting to the Assembly and those livestreaming and recording the event.

There was no Lord High Commissioner, although the Queen wrote a letter to the Assembly expressing her support and encouragement.

In addition, there was prayer and worship led by the Moderator, and the Commissioners made important decisions to enable the Church can move forward. Under consideration were reports from the Assembly Trustees, the Faith Impact Forum and the Faith Nurture Forum. All the reports and speeches are now available on our Reports, Speeches and Additional Documents page.

Debate ranged from church finance to the Church’s engagement with the pressing issues facing our nation and the global community.

Although the General Assembly had to be postponed due to the pandemic, the Commission of Assembly has dealt with urgent business to ensure the work of the Church continued in challenging times.

Order of Proceedings and Reports

The full Order of Proceedings and the General Assembly Reports 2020 are now available on our Reports, Speeches and Additional Documents page. Reports from previous GAs are now available on our Publications page.

May 2020 events

Service of installation

In May, a special service was held to formally install Rev Dr Martin Fair as the new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

You can watch a video of the full event below. Photo highlights are available in our photo gallery Transcripts of the major speeches from the event can be found on our speeches and additional documents page.

Heart and Soul

In addition, a special online version of Heart and Soul was streamed live on our website on Sunday 17 May. Video of the full event can be viewed on this page below. Heart and Soul 2020 includes highlights from the service to install the new Moderator, along with worship, conversation, music and all-age entertainment.

Commission of Assembly

A Commission of Assembly, formed from around one-tenth of the Commissioners who attended a General Assembly, was appointed by the General Assembly of 2019. The Commission can take decisions in place of the General Assembly in certain situations.

Certain decisions, deemed 'straightforward, time-critical and non-controversial' have been taken by the Commission, on behalf of the General Assembly. These decisions include:

  1. Elect the Rev Dr Martin Fair (Arbroath: St Andrew’s) as Moderator of the General Assembly 2020-2021
  2. Pass Acts uniting (1) the Presbyteries of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, and St Andrews to form the Presbytery of Fife, (2) the Presbyteries of Aberdeen and Shetland to form the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, and (3) the Presbyteries of Dumbarton and Greenock & Paisley to form the Presbytery of Clyde
  3. Agree that membership of the Social Care Council will, with effect from 1 June 2020, be reduced to 12 in accordance with a revised nomination process
  4. Make certain appointments to Standing Committees as proposed by the Nomination Committee, and to Trusts as requested by these Trusts
  5. Agree that the Ecumenical Relations Committee shall act on behalf of the General Assembly in the dissolution of Local Ecumenical Partnerships
  6. Amend the process for appointing the Committee to Nominate the Moderator and ask the Nomination Committee to populate that Committee, so that it can select a Moderator for 2021-2022
  7. Amend the Income Protection and Ill-Health Act (Act VI 2019) to reflect Income Protection provision commencing at 78 weeks rather than 52
  8. Consider temporary measures to alleviate blockages to filling vacancies and conducting the business of the Church during the current COVID-19 crisis

You can learn more about these decisions on our Commission of Assembly April/May 2020 page and the Commission of Assembly June/July 2020 page.

Assembly Trustees report

In May 2020 the Trustees produced an account of the work they have carried out in the year since their creation at the General Assembly 2019. The report records the trajectory being set by the Trustees prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as the new challanges and opportunities the Church now faces.

News round up

Moderator of the General Assembly 2020

Right Rev Dr Martin Fair

A minister who set up a mental health support service following the suicide of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson is the newly appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Rev Dr Martin Fair, the minister of St Andrews Parish Church in Arbroath, begins his year-long role of ambassador for the Church of Scotland in May 2020, succeeding the 2019-20 Moderator, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the 2020 General Assembly, the new Moderator took up his post following a special service at the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh.