The Assembly Trustees

Assembly Hall

The Assembly Trustees body was established in 2019 after the Special Commission concluded that the existing structures could not deliver the radical changes needed by the Church.

The new trustee body is more powerful than the Council of Assembly. It will have greater transparency and accountability and will answer to the General Assembly.

Members will serve for three, two and one-year terms to ensure continuity as well as change.

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.

Trustee updates

Assembly Trustees Update December 2020

  • The Trustees met on 10 December
  • Philip Ziegler has taken up appointment as an Assembly Trustee. An ordained minister associated with the Kirk Session of St Machar’s and Professor of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Aberdeen, he has many years' experience in ecumenical and theological education for ministry in the Kirk and before that in the United Church of Canada.
  • The Trustees and CSC staff had a remote coffee and chat, with pairs of Trustees in break-out groups with three or four staff
  • The Trustees have had meetings with the Forums and will have further meetings in the new year
  • The Trustees met with the Principal Clerk to discuss current priorities shared with the Office of the General Assembly. It was agreed that Presbytery reform and clarity as to appropriate funding are the most urgent areas of work.
  • The Training task group is presently focussing on education and training for full time ministry of Word and Sacrament
  • The new post of Head of Faith Action Programme, to co-ordinate the administrative work of the two Forums and to deliver the Faith Action Plan, will be advertised in January
  • Congregational sustainability remains a concern and a task group will be established to work with Presbyteries and support Priority Areas
  • Stewardship and income generation will be given particular support
  • The Trustees have approved the Budget for 2021 which will draw on reserves by £11.5m. Congregational income will be constrained through the 18% reduction and although central costs are being reduced as required by General Assembly the costs of parish ministry stipends and salaries remain substantial. The draw from reserves will support the character of the Church’s national profile, its advocacy work and overseas partnerships.
  • To contain the deficit and preserve cash flow, expenditure restrictions will remain in place during 2021 and proposed expenditure not within the budget will require to be supported by a robust business case
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 14 January.

Assembly Trustees Update November 2020

  • The Trustees met on 12 November
  • Nine applications to fill the trustee vacancy were received and three will be asked to interview
  • The New Presbyteries Funding and Staffing Task Group has commenced work
  • The Task Group charged with considering the most effective and efficient structure for delivery of work from the national base will start consultations. It will seek to identify what areas of work are essential to the Church today and which should be managed and delivered from/supported by the Church’s national base.
  • The remit of the Training task group will encompass the whole Church, both recognised ministries and the wider church family
  • The Trustees are proceeding to appoint to a new post of Head of Faith Action to co-ordinate the administrative work of the two Forums
  • M&M contributions continue to fall due to the impact of Covid-19, and it is difficult to accurately predict the outcome for both the current year and 2021. It is clear that some congregations are struggling financially, and Presbyteries will be the first point of contact.
  • Budget 2021 will have to fund a significant deficit from reserves and it will be necessary to identify what work must be restricted at this stage
  • The proposed interim system for funding pilot schemes will be progressed in December
  • The Trustees approved the formation of a Research and Analysis Department in order to develop its own evidence base to ensure that resources are used in a targeted fashion and for the best return
  • The Trustees have approved the creation of an appropriate  unit with responsibility for oversight of all grant payments through a consistent approach
  • The Trustees met with CrossReach and expressed their admiration for the work done in 2020. The Trustees, CrossReach and the Solicitor will work on the most systematic way of taking forward budgeting and delegated authority.
  • The Trustees are working with the group established to take forward work on Equalities and Inclusion to work towards a more equal, diverse and inclusive organisation
  • It is hoped that the current prohibition on the use of Zoom at a national level will be removed in early course for specific agreed situations
  • The trustees will hold a virtual ‘Away-day’ on Thursday 19 November
  • The Trustees will meet with each Forum via Teams on Friday 20 November
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 10 December, preceded by a virtual coffee-time with Staff.

Assembly Trustees Update October 2020

  • The Trustees met on 8 October
  • Steps to find a replacement for Jamie Lockhart, who has resigned as a trustee due to pressure of work commitments, will start immediately
  • The October General Assembly was thought to have been successful in allowing a restricted number of matters to be addressed and in providing helpful operational information should General Assembly 2021 need to be held remotely. Issues raised for the trustees were being taken forward.
  • A small group will start work on examination of the possible management and delivery of the national faith based work programme through a single Forum
  • The proposed interim system for funding pilot schemes will be considered in November
  • Discussions will be commenced with Edinburgh Presbytery to identify whether there are buildings or land available to house the National Offices as part of the study on the options for future office location and a small task group will be formed to co-ordinate this
  • It is unlikely that staff other than those required to undertake critical office based tasks will return to the George Street offices before March 2021
  • M&M contributions continue to fall and it is predicted that the outcome for the year may be a shortfall of some 7%-9%
  • The Trustees met with Julie Main, Safeguarding Service Manager, to receive an update on the work of the Service. The importance of having records held electronically and centrally and the shape of staffing of safeguarding as part of Presbytery planning were discussed.
  • A special task group is being set up to consider funding and employment arrangements for new Presbyteries
  • The group established to take forward work on the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy has started its work
  • The Training task group has held its first meeting and the remit will be finalised in November
  • It is hoped that the current prohibition on the use of Zoom at a national level will be removed in early course as the necessary arrangements for safe use are finalised
  • The trustees will hold an ‘away day’ in November to discuss emerging issues
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 12 November.

Assembly Trustees Update September 2020

  • The Trustees met on 8 October
  • Steps to find a replacement for Jamie Lockhart, who has resigned as a trustee due to pressure of work commitments, will start immediately
  • The October General Assembly was thought to have been successful in allowing a restricted number of matters to be addressed and in providing helpful operational information should General Assembly 2021 need to be held remotely. Issues raised for the trustees were being taken forward.
  • A small group will start work on examination of the possible management and delivery of the national faith based work programme through a single Forum
  • The proposed interim system for funding pilot schemes will be considered in November
  • Discussions will be commenced with Edinburgh Presbytery to identify whether there are buildings or land available to house the National Offices as part of the study on the options for future office location and a small task group will be formed to co-ordinate this
  • It is unlikely that staff other than those required to undertake critical office based tasks will return to the George Street offices before March 2021
  • M&M contributions continue to fall and it is predicted that the outcome for the year may be a shortfall of some 7%-9%
  • The Trustees met with Julie Main, Safeguarding Service Manager, to receive an update on the work of the Service. The importance of having records held electronically and centrally and the shape of staffing of safeguarding as part of Presbytery planning were discussed.
  • A special task group is being set up to consider funding and employment arrangements for new Presbyteries
  • The group established to take forward work on the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy has started its work
  • The Training task group has held its first meeting and the remit will be finalised in November
  • It is hoped that the current prohibition on the use of Zoom at a national level will be removed in early course as the necessary arrangements for safe use are finalised
  • The trustees will hold an ‘away day’ in November to discuss emerging issues
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 12 November.
  • The Trustees met on 10 September
  • On national income, there has been a drop of 5.7% in M&M contributions to July but it remains difficult to predict the outcome for the year. Forums had made significant progress in seeking to attain target reductions but the process will be challenging.
  • Given the effects of the pandemic, M&M contributions will be reduced by 18% in 2021. Overall, the draw on national reserves in 2021 will be £8m
  • The 2019 accounts have received a clean audit and are approved. The Audit Committee complimented the staff of the Stewardship and Finance department for their work during trying circumstances
  • Final proposals for the overall budget for 2021 will be presented in November
  • Following the Voluntary Exit Scheme and the prioritisation of work as instructed by the General Assembly, there is a need to review skills placement across the Central Services Committee (CSC) to ensure that staffing structures are adequate for desired outputs. This is against the backdrop of a reduced budget and therefore internal recruitment and development will be the preferred route where possible.
  • Online Church is an urgent matter both at national and at congregational level and a joint approach among departments will be facilitated
  • The trustees will continue to meet with CrossReach as regards their strategic proposals for 2021
  • A steering group will be established to take forward work on the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy
  • The Trustees again discussed the current prohibition on the use of Zoom at a national level and this will be taken further at the October meeting
  • The Trustees will work with the directors of the Israel Entities in identifying the appropriate ways to find a new manager at the Scots Hotel, Tiberias
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 8 October.

Assembly Trustees Update August 2020

  • The Trustees met on 13 August
  • In response to the tragedy in Beirut, the Trustees agreed that, in addition to approving a £20,000 donation from the Faith Impact Forum, a further sum of £20,000 from the Mission and Renewal Fund should be donated to the Near East School of Theology (NEST) and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) who have been significantly affected
  • With the Deputy Treasurer, Archie McDowall, the trustees discussed the ongoing work on a new Ministries and Mission contributions system and noted that final proposals would come to the Trustees later in the year so that revised regulations could be put to Assembly 2021 for implementation in 2022
  • The Trustees approved a proposal to establish an MDS Review Body and to require the body to report to the trustees as directed by the Chief Officer, with a commitment to delivering a report for General Assembly 2021
  • With Forum Conveners and senior staff, the Trustees discussed the work on proposed remits to be presented to Assembly 2020 and the Forums agreed that the need for budget controls in 2021 would require robust decisions
  • The Trustees further discussed the current prohibition on the use of Zoom at a national level and will discuss this further at the September meeting
  • The Trustees approved the setting up of a Special Task Group to oversee the establishment of a unitary training scheme
  • The Trustees discussed a proposed Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and will consider this further in September
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 10 September, when the Trustees will consider the Report and Audited Accounts for 2019 and the finalisation of the Report to Assembly 2020.

Assembly Trustees Update June 2020

  • The trustees started their second year of meetings on 11 June using MS Teams. New trustees, David Harrison, Linda Irvine, Geoff Miller and Ann Nelson were welcomed to their first formal meeting. Jean Couper was unable to attend.
  • With the General Treasurer, and with input from the Economic and Financial Oversight Task Group, the trustees continue to monitor the financial impact of the pandemic on the Church and receive rolling forecasts on a monthly basis as new information comes to light. It was noted that the full impact on congregational contributions is difficult to forecast with a high degree of certainty at this stage and it may not be fully understood for several months.
  • The 2021 Budget remains a work in progress until the Operational Plan is at a more advanced stage
  • The Trustees met with Thom Riddell and Viv Dickenson of Social Care and were pleased to hear that the work of the staff of CrossReach had resulted in a lesser impact in older peoples’ care from the pandemic than had been the experience of many other parts of the care sector. The trustees agreed that a Special Pandemic Payments scheme should be put in place for all front-line staff whose work, in the most challenging of circumstances, had put themselves at risk whilst they selflessly continued with their caring duties.
  • The Trustees met separately with the Conveners and Heads of Staff of the two Forums (FNF and FIF) and approved the direction of travel towards final proposals for the respective remits, which were to be the subject of a joint meeting in the ensuing week. With the Faith Nurture Forum, they discussed the overall programme including a specific paper on the need to progress ministries training issues as they were developing as a result of the pandemic. With the Faith Impact Forum, they again looked at the overall remit. This was followed by a discussion on the importance of the Trustees being fully aware of the work of the entities in Israel and the way in which they worked with others towards peace and justice in the Holy Land.
  • With the General Treasurer the Trustees considered the latest management accounts to the end of May and were pleased to see that the effects of cost control measures were beginning to be seen. The accounts did not yet reflect the potential reduction in congregational contributions which appears to be holding up reasonably well, but a firmer picture was not expected to emerge until August.
  • With the Head of HR, the Trustees noted that line-managers were beginning to request flexible furlough arrangements. It was also noted that in early July, with input from the Employee Council, decisions would be taken as to how to take forward requests made under the Voluntary Exit Scheme. An update was given on the plan for larger scale return to work, which incorporated the outcome of the employee survey. It was noted that substantial work would be required to accommodate safe use of the national offices by a significant number of staff and, at some stage, visitors.
  • The Trustees noted that full proposals regarding Ministries Development Staff recruitment would be brought to the August meeting and would require a policy decision on the types of roles that the concept should embrace.
  • In light of the clear need for the use of webinars, the Trustees agreed to the creation of a Webinar Project Team to develop a consistent approach and framework within which each webinar could operate efficiently.
  • The importance of communications being open and accessible was endorsed by the Trustees. An increase in online events has been broadly welcomed but organisers must take care to ensure that they are as inclusive as possible in terms of those who are invited to join the debate or event. For those not able to join live or online consideration should be given to what options there might be to catch up or find out about the event afterwards.
  • The proposal from the IT and Communications Task Group to extend Church email addresses to congregational, presbytery and voluntary roles was approved, assuming proper communication and consultation, robust project costing and detailed plans. Benefits include consistent access for the Church community, encryption, and improved and secure digital collaboration. This work will now proceed to a Project Plan with timescales, milestones and budgeting.
  • The trustees discussed the importance for communications, both during the pandemic and beyond, among all involved in the Church whilst recognising the efforts of the Communications Department during what has been a very challenging period.
  • The trustees agreed to take forward a proposal from the Faith Impact Forum to vary the terms of the Salvesen Bequest given the changes in circumstance since the 1991 variation. The views of the Procurator will be sought before further work is done.
  • It was noted that there was a very significant increase in communications coming to the Chief Officer which reinforced the need to develop a robust internal communications function.
  • The trustees endorsed the Chief Officer’s approach to financial planning through proper scenario modelling and sensitivity analyses.
  • Digital Heart and Soul had been a considerable success and the possibility of additional events was approved subject to dovetailing with other events and budget allocation.
  • The importance of the Review and Development of Initial Training will be considered at the next meeting as will the work on Forum remits. Particular emphasis was placed on the need to progress the work that was focused on those under 40; it was noted that the Moderator and Chief Officer would meet with members of Church of Scotland Youth (“CoSY”).
  • The Trustees noted the diversity issues which had arisen following the recent work of the Black Lives Matter movement and will discuss the need properly to approach issues of race, diversity and exclusion at their meeting in August.
  • The next meeting of the Trustees will be on 13 August. There will be no formal meeting in July; but the trustees will meet on 9 July both for induction sessions for new trustees and to allow vision time on emerging issues.

May 2020 Report

In lieu of a report to the General Assembly in May, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assembly Trustees created an abbreviated account of the work they carried out in the year since their appointment at the General Assembly of 2019. This report, and an accompanying webinar, can be viewed on the May 2020 Update Report page.

The Trustees

Very Rev Dr John Chalmers

Very Rev Dr John Chalmers

Convener

Parish minister, Principal Clerk, Moderator, Convener of World Mission Council

Norma Rolls

Norma Rolls

Vice Convener

Session Clerk (Palmerston Place Church). Former Head of The Mary Erskine School and Director of ICT at Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools. Formerly Convener of the Governance Group of the Council of Assembly

Professor Elizabeth Ashcroft

Emeritus Professor in Economics and previously Director and Policy Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

James McNeill

James McNeill

Administrative Trustee

Elder, Special Commission on Structural Reform, expertise in charity law and experience in various charitable organisations

Rev Aniko Schuetz Bradwell

Rev Anikó Schuetz Bradwell

Parish minister in East Lothian, worked internationally with ecumenical organisations, the Church and Society Council, served on the Ecumenical Relations Committee and the World Mission Council, and represented the Church of Scotland at the WCRC

Raymond Young

Raymond Young

An architect who helped create innovative approaches to community housing development in Glasgow, Raymond is currently Chair of the General Trustees.

Alan Campbell

Alan Campbell CBE

Elder, Chief Executive Aberdeenshire Council and Grampian Regional Council, Chair of the future of Fisheries Management in Scotland, member of Accounts Commission

Reverend Donald McCorkindale

Rev Donald McCorkindale

Convener of the Assembly Business Committee, Presbytery Clerk in Lochaber, Parish Minister: Strontian linked with Ardgour & Kingairloch, linked with Morvern. Trustee of several local community groups. Former member of Board of Parish Education and Ministries Council.

Geoff Miller

Elder at St Margaret’s, Glenrothes, Group Finance Director for Tullis Russell Group Limited

Ann Nelson smiling

Ann Nelson

Ann Nelson (to Assembly 2021). Member at Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh and served on Kirk Session and in other capacities. High-level legal and management experience in and through the Scottish Parliament and Civil Service (now retired), non-executive experience in the third sector, including on national church bodies.

Jean Couper CBE

Member at Cathcart Trinity Church, Glasgow, and previously an Elder at Orchardhill Parish Church, management consultant specialising in strategic HR, with board experience of numerous public, private and third sector organisations

David Harrison

Elder at Garelochhead, Deputy Chairman of Loganair, with significant experience as a Finance Director, Chief Executive and Executive Chairman

Linda Irvine

Elder at Dalziel St Andrew’s Parish Church, Motherwell, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Membership and Engagement with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Headshot of Philip Ziegler

Philip Ziegler

Professor of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Aberdeen and associated with the Session of the Cathedral Church of St Machar's, Phil has many years' experience in ecumenical and theological education for ministry in the Kirk and before that in the United Church of Canada.

Reform in the Church of Scotland