Extended Report of the D10 Group

This extended version of D10's Report to the Assembly Trustees of the Church of Scotland shows the Group's detailed working from which its Report - an Appendix to the Trustees' Report to the General Assembly May 2022 – was derived.

Introduction to D10's work

The ATs' D10 task group, appointed in October 2020, reported initially to the Assembly Trustees in February 2021. This report of March 2022 is the Group's final report. It is part of the renewal work within the Church of Scotland.

D10's work is primarily about how Ministers, elders and others from congregations are involved in the Church's national decision-making. We have approached our work throughout from this perspective. The work is focussed around the Faith Action Plan, agreed by the General Assembly in October 2020, and the work of the two Forums, Faith Impact and Faith Nurture. Consultation has included Forum Conveners and Vice-Conveners and Forum Members. We have engaged in much listening: before preparing the initial report, consulting on the proposals within that report, and again in the current phase.

D10 has had to think hard: processing what it has heard and observed, and seeking to discern what to present in this final report. The process was different the second time round. When we consulted in 2021 the new post of Head of Faith Action Programme was being advertised. We recommenced work a few months after the appointee, Rev Dr Scott Shackleton, took up post. As requested by consultees, we have sought to understand and take account of his perspective on advancing the Faith Action Programme. We have also had conversations with senior Faith Action staff. In September the staff of the two Forums came together as the Faith Action staff. They began to trial how they might work in this new arrangement, experimenting and adjusting. D10 representatives have been involved throughout: questioning and challenging from the D10 perspective, and considering the interface between staff and the Ministers, elders and other congregation members who serve the Church nationally. It has been an ongoing process and reaching a landing sufficient for General Assembly decision-making has taken time.

We want to emphasise that developing and implementing change of the kind in which we have been engaged is hard work and that flexibility needs to be built in. We think that there is an increasing sense of the Church of Scotland moving away from being an institution: with an established place in society and a respected stability. The Church is still reaching for what she might become, but the flourishing of the mission of the local church is central. Concerning the national functions of the Church, the emphasis is less on committees doing work and more about how the national organisation delivers for the local church.

Preliminary comments


At the outset we want to say that we are greatly encouraged at the willingness to experiment, at the commitment of all those involved, at the leadership being shown within the Forums and staff alike. It is a challenging time for the Church of Scotland and, at the time of writing, this challenge has only increased, with the experience of the wider Church in Presbytery Mission Planning and with world events.

This has influenced our recommendations. Whereas in 2021 we thought in terms of Programme Groups with full strategy responsibilities and a Faith Action Board that was focussed on process, now we consider that we must build on the leadership shown by the Forums in the two-Forum arrangement, and have a single leadership body for the Faith Action Programme. Programme Groups, fewer than we proposed before, would come within its umbrella. Although Programme Groups would be accountable to the leadership body, the primary focus of the leadership body would be outward, to champion the very significant initiatives within the Faith Action Programme: towards inspirational leadership, all generations and the Five Marks of Mission.

This is our extended report, setting out how we reached our 2022 conclusions and why: we want the detail to be available and transparent. It was only after we reached those conclusions, after approaching the issues afresh, that we looked back at our thinking in 2021. The proposals are remarkably similar, with some key differences. We find this reassuring because our previous proposals were the result of the engagement of all six of the original D10 team, including Professor David Fergusson who chaired the Special Commission on Structural Reform in 2019.


Clarity has been an issue throughout. This has ranged from people's lack of clarity about who does what, e.g. as between the Assembly Trustees and the Forums, to a lack of clarity as regards the Faith Action Plan and the Faith Action Programme.

Covid-19 has been a feature throughout. All of D10's conversations have been on-screen. Church communities everywhere have been affected, often in profound ways.

The expectation has been that the D10 Group is looking at whether two Forums should become one. While the Assembly Trustees (at the Commission of Assembly in October 2020) were to examine the implications and changes that would be required to unify the work of the Church under a single Forum, the task was to bring a report to the General Assembly on ‘what they believe will be the most effective and efficient structure for the delivery of work which has to be managed and delivered from the Church's national base'.

The words ‘effective, efficient, structure, managed, delivered' are important, but in the Update on ‘D10' March 2021, D10 highlighted that D10's work is primarily about people.

People from across the church, and staff

This report is about the involvement of people from Church of Scotland congregations - Ministers, Elders, other members – in decisions that the Kirk takes collectively as a ‘national' church. It is about how they participate in developing, making and implementing these collective decisions.

There is a prior question: why is the involvement of Ministers, Elders and other members of congregations so important? We asked the question of staff, and heard this:

  • They link with the congregations. People in congregations know what it's like, they have knowledge, depth and understanding. Their involvement should mean that the work is responsive to what's needed locally, and that there is better publicity for it.
  • Involving Ministers, Elders and other congregation members distinguishes the church from a business.
  • They interrogate staff's ideas. Staff may be accustomed to focussing on an area of work and may not be objective enough. They should add an element of evaluation to the staff's work, set smart goals. They, not the staff, need to take the hard decisions.
  • They represent a broad range of voices. They represent the mind of the wider church. Insofar as they are appointed by the General Assembly, they represent the voice of the whole church, in accordance with our Presbyterian polity. In our Presbyterian polity they are our, the staff's, legitimacy.

What we heard reflects the expectation of the General Assembly that ultimate accountability for making strategic policy decisions and decisions which relate to the ongoing life of congregations and Ministers rests with individuals who have been appointed to serve by the General Assembly.

There is a complementarity here, with the role of staff. Staff have been appointed on the basis of their skills in strategy, delivery, project management and many other areas. A key concern of the Special Commission on Structural Reform, whose report was endorsed at the General Assembly of 2019, was that staff be empowered to do their jobs. Professor Fergusson in his speech to the Assembly said:

If the staff who work in the central organisation spend too much of their time serving committees, seeking approval for every decision, and briefing others on their work, then they will be hampered in their performance to the detriment of the whole church. A culture of trust, allied to transparency and cooperation is needed as much, perhaps more, than any renewal of structures.

The need to balance the respective roles and responsibilities of staff and those the General Assembly appoints has been a key consideration in D10's work.

Ministers, Elders and others from congregations, and staff, are needed alongside one another.

The establishment of the Assembly Trustees and the Forums

Between the annual General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, continuity and progress is provided for through ‘standing committees'. These include the Assembly Trustees, three Forums (Faith Nurture, Faith Impact, Theological) and various boards and committees.

In terms of the law of the church, the General Assembly is the highest court. In terms of the law of the land, the Church of Scotland is a designated religious charity. In this context, the church is represented by the Assembly Trustees on behalf of the General Assembly. The Assembly Trustees came into being in 2019. They are the charity trustees for the ‘central' charity (the ‘Unincorporated Entities' - ‘UE'). With authority from the General Assembly, the Assembly Trustees have legal responsibility for the charity. Their responsibilities include ensuring that the charity remains true to its purpose, that the finances are sufficient and that the governance arrangements are sound. In their oversight role, they are to ensure that the focus is on the General Assembly's strategic objectives.

Twelve of the fourteen Assembly Trustees are selected through an annual process and appointed by the General Assembly. The other two are the convener of the Assembly Business Committee and the chair of the General Trustees.

The Faith Impact Forum and the Faith Nurture Forum came into being on 1 January 2020, inheriting responsibilities from four Councils, with 15 Ministers, elders and other members of congregations serving on each Forum. The Faith Nurture Forum and the Faith Impact Forum also operate with authority from and on behalf of the General Assembly. Forum members are appointed by the General Assembly, through a process run by its Nomination Committee. The Forums are among ‘the Agencies' within the UE charity, and the constitution and remit of the Assembly Trustees, agreed by the General Assembly in 2019, sets out the extent to which their work is to be carried out under the aegis of the Trustees and as part of the General Assembly's remit to the Trustees.

Each of the Assembly Trustees, each of the Forum members, is a minister, elder or other member of a Church of Scotland congregation, serving Christ in this way.

The Faith Action Plan

In May 2019 the General Assembly agreed ‘the Radical Action Plan'. Its central theme can be summarised as releasing resource to, and supporting, the local church.

In October 2020 the General Assembly endorsed the incorporation of the Radical Action Plan 2019 in the Faith Action Plan, putting the elements of the Radical Action Plan front and centre for the work of the church. At the time of writing this Report the D10 Group could only find the Faith Action Plan on the Church website within a set of General Assembly 2020 reports.

Rev John Chalmers, convener of the Assembly Trustees, writing in the January 2022 edition of Life and Work, described the Faith Action Plan as being ‘a concerted effort to bring all the work streams of the Church under one Action Plan'.

The Faith Action Plan is built around the Church of Scotland's Vision Statement and the Five Marks of Mission. These were the basis for the development of the Fundamental Aims and Key Areas of Work of the two Forums, Faith Impact and Faith Nurture, set out for the Assembly in 2020. The Forums understood their purpose as:

  • Resourcing and supporting all parts of the Church of Scotland to participate in the mission of God locally, nationally and globally
  • Seeking fullness of life for all God's people - through following Jesus Christ and transforming the world through the energy and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

D10's observation however is that the Faith Action Plan is not widely known. It has not been readily visible on the Kirk website. It is not brought along to meetings that we have attended, been examined, used for reference. The Plan is cited, but its actual contents not known or referred to. We have seen ‘FAP' used as either meaning the Plan or the Programme, with no clarity as to which has been intended. Therefore we have taken a closer look.

A closer look at the Faith Action Plan

At the time of writing this Report, the Plan was set out graphically (only), which gave rise to D10 setting out the textual paraphrase that follows. [Post-completion note: the visual version, as well as covering text, is now available on the Church's website.

The vision is to be

a Church which seeks to inspire the people of Scotland and beyond

with the Good News of Jesus Christ,

through enthusiastic worshipping, witnessing, nurturing and serving communities.

The purpose is to deliver the vision, aligned with the Five Marks of Mission.

The outcomes:

  • …inspirational leaders for worship, witness, nurture and service
  • In, for and through the local church –
    • Enthusiastic and inspirational Christians at every level in the Church sourced, trained, deployed and developed - enthusiastic
    • Worship reshaped, with approaches that impact and engage young and old alike - worship
    • Values, standards, behaviours and missional actions that spread the Good News of Jesus Christ - witness
    • ‘Faith formation' in the community and active discipleship in the Church progressed - nurture
  • Service –
    • Church at the heart of the local community supporting local needs – priority areas, missional, renewal - national Scotland
    • demonstrable, affordable support to the Church's international friends and partners – accompanying, listening and sharing with world church - international – beyond.

The means:

  • Recruiting and training for inspirational leadership grounded in good practical theology
  • Communities of faith where people with different backgrounds and gifts learn and work together and care for one another
  • A single, integrated training programme that supports all levels and aspects of church life
  • An affordable faith action programme where the church has actively
    • Stopped duplication where others are best placed to lead
    • Adapted others' best practice
    • Sized our programme to match what we can afford from our income.
  • Kirk Session, Presbytery, Assembly Trustees and General Assembly generate robust plans for the future that are integral to delivering these outcomes.

The Radical Action Plan was about the whole church, so too the Faith Action Plan. The Plan envisages Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries generating robust plans for the future that are integral to delivering the FAP outcomes. The Faith Action Plan, as expressed for the General Assembly, is for the whole church. It has a whole church ambition/reach.

While the Faith Action Plan is for more than the nationally organised parts of the church, the Assembly Trustees decided that, from a national perspective, a programme approach should be taken to develop and implement the plan. There should be a single, integrated and coherent programme of work incorporating the work of the Faith Nurture and Faith Impact Forums on a prioritised basis and, as mentioned, a Head of Faith Action Programme took up post in mid-2021.

However, even from a national perspective, a Faith Action Programme that incorporates the work of the two Forums does not go the whole way in developing and implementing the Faith Action Plan.

Two illustrations:

  • The Plan has resonance for the six operational functions of the nationally organised parts of the church (Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Communications, Estates, Information Technology). They are not within the ambit of the work of the Forums. They are available to support the Church, locally, regionally and nationally, in developing and implementing the Plan, but they are not within the Faith Action Programme as such.
  • Some elements of the Faith Action Plan come within the responsibilities of the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly and the Assembly Business Committee. Some sit with the General Trustees, a separate church charity with property responsibilities. Within the Church of Scotland structure, they have a distinct place.

As we see it, the Faith Action Programme is distinct from the Plan. The Faith Action Programme is one way in which the Faith Action Plan will come to life.It is not the only way. We return to this later as we think that the distinction helps with clarity as to who does what.

The work of the Forums

The Annual Report and Accounts of the ‘Unincorporated Entities' - ‘UE', the charity of which the Assembly Trustees are the charity trustees - give a summary of the overall role of the UE charity, and of the work of the Forums. Such Annual Reports and Accounts have an external audience.

The Report for the year to 31 December 2020 describes The Church of Scotland as a national Church providing ministry, care, witness and service across the whole of Scotland and engaging in other parts of the UK and across the world. The UE support, resource and serve the Church in its work including the promotion and resourcing of worship, prayer and discipleship; the recruitment, support, training and development of ministers and staff; engagement with society, the world church and ecumenical partners; theological reflection and creative thinking; delivery of social care; provision of financial and legal services; church law advice and related judicial procedures; and regulatory compliance, audit and safeguarding services.

From 1 January 2020 two of the principal elements of the UE were the two Forums.

In their reports to the General Assembly 2021:

  • The Faith Nurture Forum expressed its key role as to support local congregations, directly and through Presbyteries, through resourcing for ministries, partnerships and development, work in Priority Areas, resourcing the local and regional church, and working with partners in Diaconate Council and funded partner agencies.
  • The Faith Impact Forum described its mission as being about sharing God's plans, about being actively involved in parish and nation and throughout the world to share God's love, seek transformation and justice for human beings, the whole created order and the world itself. Caring for God's creation, coping in a time of Covid-19, responding to racism, and pursuing inclusivity, diversity and justice had been key areas of witness, prayer and action, brought together in the pursuit of a just and green future, and tying in with the Church's declared aim of practising the Five Marks of Mission.

Summarising in the Annual Report and Accounts for 2020:

  • The Faith Nurture Forum embraces new ways of supporting all of the various ministries within the Church and new ways of ensuring continuity and change in worship, mission and discipleship.
  • The Faith Impact Forum embraces engagement in the national, political and social issues affecting Scotland and the world today and working internationally to share the gospel, building relationships and learning from Church communities across the world.

From the outset, the Forums acknowledged the need for joined-up thinking, working, and delivery across their work programmes.

The two Forums are served by staff in a reporting structure to the Head of Faith Action Programme who in turn reports to the Chief Officer. Financial accountability is through the staff line. Each Forum meets approximately six-weekly, with arrangements for progressing work between meetings. The Forums, like the Assembly Trustees, have met online since March 2020. Staff attend Forum meetings on screen to present papers and participate in discussion.

Both Forums have a number of Groups. The Assembly Trustees provided guidance to the Forums about the role and operation of Implementation Groups in the Forums' early days. Associated with the Faith Nurture Forum are Implementation Groups: Education and Integrated Training, New Ways of being Church, Presbytery Mission Planning, Priority Areas, Resourcing Worship, Life and Work (business aspects). Those associated with the Faith Impact Forum include Integrity (violence against women and girls task group) and Net Zero. There are also sub-groups, and Faith Action staff are involved with many other groups. These include the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group and the ‘Under 40s' Group set up by the Assembly Trustees.

As well as people who are ‘Appointed Members' (those the General Assembly has appointed e.g. Forum members, or members of other committees), Groups have power to co-opt people who have not been so appointed.

As D10 mentioned in 2021, the Assembly Trustees and Forums did not get off to the best start in 2020. Aspirations for meetings together were hit by lock-down, each expected more of the other and was disappointed, and communications were not good. Also, given their overall oversight responsibility, the Assembly Trustees' constitution provides for the Trustees to approve Forum reports to the General Assembly, and, to some extent at least, Forums felt this as a threat to their independence.

Over 2021, simple, basic steps were taken to ensure that Forum members received Assembly Trustee updates direct and that Forum minutes reached the Trustees. Other efforts to improve communication and understanding included reinstating the Trustees' liaison trustee arrangements with the Forums. Also, beginning in the autumn when the D10 work was picked up afresh, D10 has been accorded generous opportunities to sit in on Forum meetings and staff meetings.

Since September 2021 the staff who serve the Forums have become a single Faith Action staff, and the Head of Faith Action Programme has created experimental working structures. These include a Delivery Group comprising the leaders of the current teams and the Head of Faith Action Programme, which meets weekly. Between meetings, the direct connection between each Forum and the Head of Faith Action Programme is primarily through the Conveners and Vice-Conveners. From February 2022, the Conveners and Vice-Conveners attend the staff Delivery Group monthly.

How Forum work is being done now

In this section D10 set out what we believe we have heard and learned over the months that we have been engaged in considering how the Church does some of its work at a national level.

D10's work is primarily about people. With this in mind, D10 has made extensive and extended efforts to hear from those involved in the work, both collectively and individually. Engagement with Forum members in 2021 has continued in 2022 and been balanced with more staff engagement than in 2021.

A fundamental point for the Church's encouragement is the commitment of Forum members. The Conveners and Vice-Conveners show a huge commitment to the national work of the Church, attending to matters broad, or detailed, with skill, dedication and prayerfulness. Forum members too lead or serve on Forum Groups, serve as facilitators for Presbytery Mission Planning, engage in Net Zero, in addition to the rhythm of Forum meetings. Many Forum members have long-standing, passionate, commitment for example to aspects of the Church's life previously within the preceding four Councils.

Staff too are committed, and many have similar passions with detailed knowledge and networks built up over many years.

The Forums and staff have been hard at work on their areas of responsibility in amongst the newness of the arrangements and the ongoing pressures being experienced by the whole Church and the added pressures of the pandemic. The Conveners and Vice-Conveners have been working tirelessly in following through on the commitment to more joined-up thinking, working, and delivery across the Forums' work programmes.

The challenge for D10 has been to consider whether there is a better arrangement in which the Church's people can work than the current two-Forum structure. To do this we set about listening and observing. In our task, D10 has had the benefit of participating in numerous conversations and sitting in on many meetings.

What's good, not so good, people's concerns

We have carefully gathered what we heard. We turn to this now, and then offer reflections.

The following points stand out, expressed as we heard them:

  • The Forums have a key role in shaping policy. People struggle with where decision-making responsibility sits, for what. People wonder about the functionality of our church in terms of decision-making processes, with how decision-making processes flow.
  • Governance arrangements have been patchy. There's been autonomy in some quarters but little accountability. The culture hasn't liked clarity or clear reporting lines.
  • There's been uncertainty since 2019. Since the Radical Action Plan. A paralysis. Some folk are weary, bruised. They need to know their purpose, how it will all relate, what the governance set-up will be. They need some certainty with a timeline.
  • The Forum is about setting strategy, developing policy, then ensuring it is being followed. Staff have to be given responsibility for some decisions. They need to be trusted to get on, within an appropriate accountable structure.
  • This has been a period of transition. It's been an opportunity to be accountable - to try things, and change them as we go. Effective challenge minimises mistakes, but it's good to recognise that it's okay to make mistakes, and learn from them.
  • People don't want to sit on a committee. They want to do something.
  • The Forums' Groups. These are purposeful. They get on with their own thing, or discrete packages. They get to know the area well. They get the advice and support of the Forum when they bring something to that wider group. In a Group, people bring their skills and expertise, the wisdom of their experience. They have ideas, they are able to do specifics. There's a sense of belonging and commitment. Experience indicates that if people are given an opportunity to do something specific they flourish, without this, they can flounder. The Groups have a freedom to be less formal. And they can co-opt, bringing in people who are not Assembly appointees but have experience in the Group's area or particular expertise.
  • The energy is less around Forum meetings. There are few contributors. The serious debate is not there. Some Forum members say they feel disconnected.
  • Breadth of remits can mean a lack of understanding and of engagement on a Forum.
  • Fewer people on Forums, as compared to the previous Councils, means less scope for being quiet until one has learned, and less creative discussion. It also means fewer people for Groups and for co-production with staff.
  • Shorter terms (3 years) means less time to develop knowledge, and to nurture people. This leads to a reduced local impact through Forum members.
  • Since the Forums were formed, and particularly through the pandemic, there's been a reduced two-way flow between the Faith Action staff and congregations/Presbyteries. Staff have missed the direct access into congregations and the shared journeying of staff and congregations.
  • The two Forums are very different. The work at the Faith Impact Forum is more issue based, about ideas and relationships, internal and external. Quite a lot of the Faith Nurture work is ‘operational' and ongoing, like ministries recruitment and support.
  • The two Forums are in different places in their decision-making and relationships with staff. There is an historic and existing tension. They've had very different cultures - that's beginning to shift staff-wise, with the coming together as Faith Action staff. The Faith Action staff are beginning to see ourselves as a coherent team, and to adjust towards one culture with shared values that are put into practice. Staff are collaborating across what were Forum divides.
  • The Church agreed to the merger of the work of one council with another, twice over. Each Forum is still thinking of their work as what came from 2 Councils. There aren't the same number of staff and people, and working practices haven't changed much from the Councils. So the current staff experience is no reduction in workload, without the resources to do it.
  • Congregational support is provided through both Forums, for example New Ways of Being Church, Resourcing Worship, Congregational Engagement. Continuing to come at this separately can feel like duplication.
  • There is encouraging sharing, but operationally it's challenging for staff having a single Programme with two distinct Forums. It's hard practically. Topics cross over. Things like Priority Areas, Net Zero. With a single Faith Action staff team, there is more awareness of this. It feels illogical to have two Forums, it would be better to get all the material into one meeting at a practical level.
  • A main role of the Forum is for members to know the big picture. They need to have an increasing vision and confidence in the joined-up story, but at the moment they are in two separate Forums. Yes, senior staff can now attend both Forums, but that doesn't go far enough – and adds to their work load.
  • Forum members need to be able to share the big picture in the Groups they are in, bringing the bigger understanding of the whole of Faith Action to inform the detailed work of the Groups. The staff can't always be reminding Group members about the big picture, Forum members on a Group need to know it for themselves.
  • One Forum could represent the Faith Action Programme. If everything was housed under one umbrella that would be more helpful. It's how it's delineated thereafter that matters, separating into work streams. Everybody can't be involved in everything.
  • The ecumenical scene has been transformed during the pandemic.
  • The Ecumenical Relations Committee is a key area of work for the future mission of the whole church, but does its present remit serve the whole church at every level?
  • The Theological Forum and Ecumenical Relations Committee ought to serve the development of the policy, thinking and theology of the Church, feeding in to the work of the committees and Forums of the General Assembly, and responding to their identified needs and priorities.
  • The Ecumenical Relations Committee does serve such development; it wants to facilitate the whole Church thinking and acting ecumenically.
  • We're yet to cohere around ultimate outcomes, and think how to measure. Our current way of measuring is too small, it understates the influence of church in communities, of Christians on other people's lives.

People also shared concerns, and sometimes responded to them themselves:

  • The reality, and risk, of ‘them' and ‘us'. Individually, some people are thought of as ‘on a pedestal' while others feel junior – we need to break that down. Then there are persistent perceptions of the national office as a separate entity. And them and us between Presbyteries and congregations, especially with the current Presbytery Mission Planning.
  • When resources are fewer, a tendency can be to become inwardly focussed. It feels like we're too internally focussed at the moment. We need to keep looking upward and outward. We need to retain a world church view. A concern is that the international dimension dissipates and then disappears.
  • The lack of nominations to the Nomination Committee 2022. Ministers are pushed enough locally and with presbytery. With everything in flux, people aren't attracted to volunteering for national roles.
  • The ‘culture' around ‘non-staff' (D10 shorthand) is set by those who hold the privilege. It works for them. We can't engage new people by taking in the few who are malleable. We need to design systems to suit people who are not in them yet. Hybrid working, post-pandemic, should aid scheduling of meetings at evenings and weekends.
  • When a variety of people have interests in a similar field and there is no clear policy direction or lead, the Church is not shaped to be sufficiently agile.
  • Because the General Assembly is only annual the pace of decision-making is slow: there must be delegation to experts.
  • The agendas are too big. Either you have to increase capacity – and the Church doesn't have the money to do that - or reduce the agenda. We don't have the resources to keep doing everything.
  • The Five Marks of Mission give us our way of engaging. It feels like the Five Marks are split between the two Forums, three with one, two with the other. The Five Marks are about holistic mission. We have to do learn to do them holistically. Not every church will want to do all five all the time, but there must be a narrative of holistic mission.
  • Conversation at the moment tends to be either ensuring there are enough people in roles and equipped (Faith Nurture), or, engaging in mission (Faith Impact). A worry is that if the focus is one or the other, we miss discipleship, the capacity to empower the people of God, to equip them to help someone else. An example might be a Foodbank helper being able to pray with someone. It's easy to lose this.
  • The Forums need to have the space to engage in theological enquiry and reflection, not simply focus on the nuts and bolts of operational matters, to enable successful policy development.
  • If one Forum:
    • …ministries will dominate because ‘ministries' is the bread and butter and it has to be done. Even public policy will be at risk.
    • … with the breadth of topics, the remit will be too broad and deep. It will be difficult grasping it all, difficult to give a voice for all, impossible for one Convener to handle, impossible to maintain the principles of representation and accountability, impossible to report to the General Assembly effectively.


The ‘them' and ‘us' concerns are troubling. It is encouraging recently to hear phrases like the community at/of/in the national offices… In what follows in this report, perhaps a thread could be overlapping communities. Communities within and around a local congregation, communities within a Presbytery. The General Assembly and its Presbyteries as a community. The Church of Scotland as a community called to a common purpose.

What is the common purpose? In the Faith Action Plan as paraphrased earlier, the purpose of the Plan is ‘to deliver the vision, aligned with the Five Marks of Mission'. What is it, more succinctly? What is the job of the Faith Action Programme? We've heard it said that it is about growth, about helping the church to grow. That may be so, or be the subject of debate elsewhere. The point in the D10 context is about how we go about achieving the common purpose, however expressed.

The Church relies on Ministers, elders and members to keep giving time, talents, and money, towards the ongoing life of the Kirk. With retirements likely to outpace recruitment, the Church faces ‘a cliff' in terms of Minister numbers. In the current Presbytery Mission Planning it's not that the Kirk has too many ministers, it is that there are too many ‘charges' where a Minister could serve. There are fewer and fewer members too. With fewer people available, as a church we need to think seriously what we ask of people – apparently this has been said for decades. The General Assembly of 2019 envisaged a re-organised and re-energised church, with a focus on equipping churches for mission in the local context. There is something in here for D10 – it is not just about organising things efficiently and effectively, it is about re-energising. No-one is certain about what to do. The closest we've come as a Church is to say – release people and resources for local. Trim what we seek to do nationally…do less in the national church, more in local, supported by Presbyteries. That shift of focus is under way.

The Theological Forum and Ecumenical Relations Committee have a significant part to play in the development of the Faith Action Programme. There is also quite a new area of development, the relationship between ‘the national' and the new, larger, Presbyteries.

The Faith Action Programme is to deliver the priorities of national elements of the church's work. As made clear from the General Assembly's Radical Action Plan, these priorities are to foster and grow the local church. The key intention behind having a Programme is to ensure that a number of related work streams are implemented in a coherent way. Within the Faith Action Programme, as well as ‘projects', which are usually specific and time-limited, there is ongoing activity, such as ministries support.

Drawing on what D10 has heard what are possible risks around Faith Action?

Risks around Faith Action

  • Too much change all at one time. Yet also a desire to get the change done and move beyond it.
  • Barriers, perceived or real. As mentioned earlier, responsibilities sit in different places. Through the lens of the Faith Action Plan, it can be said that current big things in the life of the church involve buildings, presbytery reform, ministries and mission. Buildings responsibilities sit with the Presbyteries and the General Trustees, Presbytery Reform with the General Assembly through the Principal Clerk and Assembly Business Committee, ministry and mission with the Forums. Presbytery Mission Planning involves all.
  • Overload. People have a life beyond the Faith Action Programme.
  • The lack of clarity about who does what, and who is accountable for what. Lack of clarity gets in the way not only of good governance but also of a good experience for the people involved. Clarity as to who is responsible for what is important in terms of accountability. Lack of clarity can lead to too many people being involved in a decision, which can add to (unnecessary) overload. Moreover, lack of clarity can give rise to misunderstandings, contribute to a blame culture, and lead to conflict.
  • That the Faith Action Plan, and the Five Marks of Mission – and the Church of Scotland? - are so broad that prioritising won't happen.
  • That the financial resources to seed and support local initiatives are not identified - for example, as envisaged by the General Assembly 2019, to create and encourage the emergence of new forms of church, tackle poverty and injustice and engage with people under 40. The 2019 Assembly intended that a fund would distribute £20-£25 million over five years from 2020-2026. It hasn't happened.

A summary in response to what D10 has heard

  • Folk from Church of Scotland congregations - ministers, elders, other members – need to be involved in taking forward the Faith Action Plan nationally. It would be good to have more of a sense of overlapping communities within the Church of Scotland, of the Kirk being a community with a common purpose.
  • In looking at how the Church nationally goes about taking forward the Faith Action Plan, it is not just about organising things efficiently and effectively, it's about re-energising. It would be good to be clearer on who is responsible for what, and ensure that potential or real institutional barriers don't get in the way. More choices need to be made, prioritising. If this is not done, the risks are overload and lack of funds for what the General Assembly desires – an emphasis on local church.
  • The new area of development, the relationship with the new, larger Presbyteries, means developing what ‘national' work might be taken on instead at Presbytery level. This has been said a number of times before. The first question that D10 asked in taking up this assignment in late 2020 was what work needed still to be done at a national level, but, as we noted last year, it was evident that exploring this question was premature, despite the question of what should be done, and by whom, being reported as an urgent matter in November 2019. In addition, thought is needed about what previously national-congregation engagement might instead be national-Presbytery plus Presbytery-congregation engagement.
  • If a new arrangement…then it has to
    • Be clearer on responsibilities, decision-making and accountabilities …because that improves ‘governance' and helps the personal experience, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and conflict.
    • Do more to recognise that staff have a role in policy development, as well as in implementation - policy and operations form a circle - and seek a better balance between monitoring (‘non-staff' role) and management (staff role) …because this better uses staff's specific skills and their accumulated expertise, experience and knowledge of their particular remit.
    • Allow for experimenting and adjusting…because the Church is changing.
    • Be a good experience for staff and for the Ministers, elders and others from congregations, with opportunities for people to grow …if people get engaged, then they share the work within congregations and presbyteries, and thus it becomes rooted in congregations.
    • Help the Church to continue to move on from a four Council mindset…because the Church needs to be ‘leaner and fitter' and more joined-up still in its work and outlook.
    • Ensure that the work of the Forums is done…because this is where shaping and implementing policy for the core work of the Church at a national level sits. In contrast, the predominant role for the Assembly Trustees is oversight - of the work of the UE charity as a whole, including the service departments and CrossReach.
    • Help ensure that the work is within agreed and clear priorities…because that helps release resources for what matters most.
    • Provide space to engage in theological enquiry and reflection, particularly in relation to public issues…to enable successful policy development.
    • Have good connections with other parts of the Kirk…because they are overlapping communities.
    • Take into account giving voice to the work, and having good reporting arrangements, to the General Assembly and also to and from Presbyteries…because communication is a vital part of any work.
    • Be introduced at an appropriate pace.


The Coordination Group

As part of the experimental development process, in autumn 2021 an Assembly Trustees' Coordination Group was formed to ensure co-ordination and appropriate alignment of interrelated areas of work, to deliver positive outcomes for the Church. The Group currently meets quarterly and is chaired by the Convener of the Assembly Trustees. He illustrated the nature of the challenge like this:

Recognising that the work of the Faith Action Programme and that of the General Trustees (buildings reform) and the Office of the General Assembly (presbytery reform) are interdependent, the Coordination Group includes the Conveners and Vice-Conveners of the two Forums, the Convener of the General Trustees and, from the staff, the Principal Clerk, the Chief Executive of the General Trustees, the Chief Officer, the Head of the Faith Action Programme, the Solicitor, the Treasurer and Head of HR.

In the staff group

The staff Delivery Group has been operating since September 2021. These are team leaders who previously had worked as staff for one or other Forum. Still leading their existing individual teams, now together, experimentally, they are also the Delivery Group of the Faith Action staff. Sitting in, it has been good to see their commitment, an energy combined with an honesty about challenges, willingness to learn from one another, and the cross-fertilisation of ideas as team experiences and practices are shared. Listening to their discussion gives an indication of the breadth and depth of their work – and also of how it all comes together.

Other developments include All Faith Action Staff meetings, hosted initially by members of the Delivery Group, and work being done around ‘culture', which in turn takes in values. As intimated in the Assembly Trustees' report to the General Assembly in October 2020, one of the underpinning requirements from the Faith Action Plan is an expectation about values and behaviours in all interactions both inside and outside the national offices. The national offices are committed to deploying six agreed values and these also inform attitudes to working together and with others across the Church. The values to which the national offices are working are grace, integrity, respect, professionalism, collaboration and innovation.

Another experiment has been the creation of Support Groups, formed from a mix of staff across the teams. These report in to the staff Delivery Group. At first there were three, ‘mission', ‘ministries' and a third (now disbanded) with ‘cells' for ‘business', public policy and other elements. There's a communications ‘cell' to identify the Programme's communication needs. The senior staff talk of these Support Groups as being about removing barriers, adopting constructive attitudes, being willing to take risks. As a way of encouraging cross-team, cross-Forum thinking, each Support Group (and cell) is discussing possible draft strategic objectives for the policy work of the Forums, to share with one another and bring to the Forums. There is a developing aim within the staff group to reduce the number of meetings, and develop a more agile way of working that is hybrid in nature.

Daily on-line devotions have also been introduced open to staff and ‘non-staff', and coffee get- togethers.

Drawing on these developments

The Co-ordination Group is a way of reaching across the institutional barriers, perceived or real, within the Church of Scotland, and is therefore of interest to the work of D10.

It has also been interesting, and important, for D10 to be around the experimental staffing structure ‘laydowns'. We have not been involved in how the Delivery Group and Support Groups are going about their business. What we have done, through our interaction with the Head of Faith Action Programme, is to play a challenge role, asking from the outset, where are the Forums in this? What would be the tie-in between the staff and the Ministers, elders, other members doing Forum work? Throughout, the recognition has been that the staff laydown, however it eventually settles, can be made to work with one or two Forums. This has been made clear by the Head of Faith Action Programme.

Learning from the experimental approaches staff are trying

These are an example of entrusting staff, with their specific skills, accumulated expertise, experience and knowledge, and having them get into detail.

They are also an example of bringing together people who have been used to working in particular areas and in particular ways, and having them work out together new ways of doing. The additional element is having to think, together, about what - in a new, blended, setting - might be the strategic priorities.

It is interesting to observe this process, albeit at some distance, because it illustrates various challenges: of thinking differently, of bringing different ‘cultures' together, of sorting through previous priorities and tackling what might change, and how to express that. Our observation is that, for all the energy and commitment, this is hard work. For example, developing draft strategic objectives for ministries is proving easier than drawing together many hitherto disparate aspects of mission. Public policy and ‘business' are sufficiently distinctive that draft ‘strategic priorities' are being worked out in the respective ‘cells'. The intent however is that, before long, all will be brought together for discussion with the Forums.

Earlier we mentioned recognising that staff have a role in policy development, as well as in implementation. The current process illustrates this. The decisions on strategic priorities will be not be for the staff to take but in the mix of ‘who does what', having them get into the detail at this stage, with all their specific knowledge and experience, is a way of advancing the prioritisation process.

This period of experimentation also points up the importance of allowing time to try, learn and adapt, and for detail to be worked on.

The Faith Action Plan and the Faith Action Programme

Earlier we suggested that, as we see it, the Faith Action Programme is distinct from the Plan.The Faith Action Programme is one way in which the Faith Action Plan will come to life, not the only way.

The General Assembly has agreed to a Faith Action Plan. The Faith Action Plan is a way of expressing the Church's purpose, and what the Church wants to do about it, although, as we mentioned, the Plan is neither well publicised nor well known.

D10's understanding, which was slow to emerge, is that i) the Faith Action Plan is for the whole Church and the intention is that Presbyteries and congregations will take it on board – the Faith Action Plan says as much; and ii) the Faith Action Programme is to take forward the plan from a national perspective over a 5-year period.

The reason why we think that the distinction helps clarify who has responsibility for what is to do with the Faith Action Programme being a distinct programme which brings together the work streams of the Forums, whereas the Faith Action Plan is something bigger.

Regarding the nationally organised parts of the church,

  • The Plan is relevant for the work of HR, IT, Finance, Legal, Communications, Estates, who are fully within the responsibilities of the Assembly Trustees, though not part of the Faith Action Programme
  • Some elements of the Plan come within the responsibilities of the General Trustees, a separate church charity with property responsibilities, or of the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly and the Assembly Business Committee.

D10 suggests that it is helpful to think of the Assembly Trustees as ‘holding' the Faith Action Plan on behalf of the General Assembly. The Assembly Trustees hold the Faith Action Plan for the whole church. As charity trustees, the Assembly Trustees have a broad sweep of oversight: of CrossReach, the Forums, other agencies, and the service departments, within their sphere of operation. Moreover, we suggest that, from a national perspective, the Assembly Trustees have responsibility for ensuring that taking forward the work of the Plan is co-ordinated beyond this. In complex systems, such as the Church has, it is about getting things done across organisational boundaries. The Trustees have responsibility for the UE's finances and they must ensure that those within their sphere of operation liaise appropriately with those who are not. Otherwise the work of the UE charity is at risk. Ensuring good co-ordination is part of the Trustees' responsibility for the good governance of the UE charity.

What next?

The Church has two different Forums, one about nurturing people in their faith, the other about the impact of the Church. It is complicated to run the ‘nurture' and ‘impact' aspects of the church's national life with two oversight Forums. But up until now it has been necessary for four reasons:

  • Until 2019 there were four Councils. Their work was handed over to two, new, Forums in January 2020, and the Council staff became staff of one or other Forum.
  • There was no unified plan for taking forward the Church's work. That only came in October 2020 when the General Assembly agreed the Faith Action Plan for the whole Church.
  • There was no Head of a Faith Action Programme for the aspects of the Faith Action Plan that are organised nationally. He started in mid-2021.
  • There were two separate Forum staff teams until September 2021 when they became the Faith Action team.

Last year D10 proposed a series of Programme Groups, no Forum and a process-focussed Faith Action Board. Views from consultees differed on whether change was needed. If it was, most said it was too soon. Some people were very enthusiastic about the proposals. Most were not sure about the Board, thought there was merit in a gathering place like a Forum, and cautioned about the numbers and size of the Groups.

When D10 picked up the work again in the autumn of 2021, we deliberately came at it afresh, as in 2020, with no preconceived ideas as to what we might recommend. Having approached our work in this way and – recently - reached a position of clarity, is has been interesting to look back at what we recommended last year. There are similarities, and key differences. D10 remains keen on the idea of Programme Groups, and is recommending something akin to a ‘Board', but the number of Groups is different, the ‘Board' has a different purpose, and its relationship with the Groups, and the wider Church is different.

Here are D10's recommendations, and timeline.


The D10 Group recommends that, with immediate effect, greater clarity and visibility should be given to the Faith Action Plan. Information about the Faith Action Programme can follow as it is developed further.

The D10 Group recommends changing from two Forums to one Active Faith Leadership Team (working title) and four Programme Groups.

For 5 years from GA2023, the Active Faith Leadership Team would oversee the development and implementation of the Faith Action Programme. The work of both of the current Forums would be housed under this umbrella, with streams of work identified and taken forward in detail within the Programme Groups (and their sub-Groups, as appropriate). Planning for the period beyond would begin after 3 years.

The Active Faith Leadership Team would provide an integrated voice for the Faith Action Programme.

There would be three other main changes:

  • One half of the perhaps 20 members of the Active Faith Leadership Team would be people with suitable skills and experience from the Church'sPresbyteries, one from each of the new Presbyteries. [the numbers would reflect the eventual number of Presbyteries]
  • Four members of the Active Faith Leadership Team would be appointed by the General Assembly each with suitable skills and experience to lead a specific Programme Group: Mission, People & Training, Public Life & Global Justice and Resource & Presence (working titles and as currently envisaged).
  • The Convener of the Active Faith Leadership Team and the 4 Programme Group Leaders wouldtogether be the voice of the Team at the General Assembly and between Assemblies.

When would it happen? It would be a gradual process beginning in May 2022 at the General Assembly, with the new arrangements going live from May 2023.

In so recommending, D10 is being responsive to what we heard in 2021, that there be a more gradualist approach, incremental change, a staged approach to a single body. We think that the detailed work to establish the new arrangements should be done, not by an external group like D10, but by those most closely involved with the Faith Action Programme with others, beyond the Forums, such as the Ecumenical Relations Committee and the Theological Forum whose roles are particularly relevant to the Programme.

D10 therefore recommends the formation of a Strategic Planning Team from May 2022,to progress the detailed preliminary work and report in to the two Forums and on to Assembly Trustees.

The intent and prospect is that all the new Presbyteries will be established by 1 January 2023. The terms of office of the two Forum conveners end at the General Assembly in May 2023. These point to May 2023 as being the right moment to make the change.

More detail

Time span

Our proposals are intended to provide a clear, overall structure for the development and implementation of a time-limited programme. It may be that the Faith Action Plan continues to be implemented by a rolling Faith Action Programme, but this is not assumed. Our proposals therefore recommend that the Active Faith Leadership Team and Programme Groups should be in place for the duration of the Faith Action Programme: 5 years from May 2023. Planning for 2028 onwards should begin in 2026.

We believe that this recommendation is right given the Programme context. It also takes account of feedback that we received in 2021, which asked how our propositions then could be shown to be sufficiently future-proofed when no-one knows what the future shape of the Church is going to be.

The Strategic Planning Team

We recommend that the core Strategic Planning Team should be the Vice-Conveners of both Forums, the Assembly Trustees' liaison trustees with the Forums, and the Head of the Faith Action Programme, with a representative from the Ecumenical Relations Committee, and additional others involved as appropriate, including possibly a person external to the Faith Action Programme for a different perspective and with appropriate strategic planning skills. The nature of the work is outlined in the timeline below.

Creating a Strategic Planning Team allows scope for the flexibility that we consider is essential at this stage. The experimental developments referred to above are continuing and the Strategic Planning Team will take account of these in working out the details, within the context of the clear framework that we set out. The detail will need to be known by autumn 2022 before the Nomination Committee, and Presbyteries, begin the appointment process for the Active Faith Leadership Team. The Assembly Trustees would report on the detail to the General Assembly 2023.

The AFLT and Programme Groups would succeed the two Forums from GA 2023. Forum members with terms of office extending beyond 2023 would be stood down unless appointed to the AFLT through the AFLT appointment processes. The Strategic Planning Team will need to develop processes with the Nomination Committee, including, if considered appropriate, re-nomination for Forum members with terms extending beyond 2023.

The Active Faith Leadership Team

Active Faith Leadership Team is a working title. An outline draft remit for the AFLT is in the Appendix.

The role of the Active Faith Leadership Team would be to think and guide, to inspire and challenge, to encourage and decide, to speak up and out. The AFLT would fulfil the function of a Programme Board, overseeing the Faith Action Programme. This ensures appropriate governance, and allows Group leaders and others to keep abreast of ‘the big picture'. The more particular role for the AFLT is to champion the work of the Faith Action Programme in the wider Church. This is less about talking, discussing, the kinds of things that the word Forum suggests – though these activities have their place. It is more about movement in the way of Jesus. As now, it is servant leadership.To serve congregations and Presbyteries. To serve the nation. In this connection, serving the nation, D10 suggest that the AFLT should have a non-voting member (or similar) from the CrossReach Board.

A particularly important feature, which distinguishes the Active Faith Leadership Team from the current arrangement, is the inclusion of suitably skilled representatives from the new Presbyteries in the membership of this new body. Presbytery representation has been a challenge in the past because of the number of Presbyteries. This is no longer an issue with the greatly reduced number of Presbyteries. However, the Church is at a key juncture in the development of relationships between the national, the regional and the local, and discussion and decision is essential about what needs to be done, and by whom. The national has to get to know what the local and Presbyteries want from it. The AFLT has to be accountable, not only to the General Assembly, but also to Presbyteries with much more active dialogue than existed in the past. Presbyteries should be much more closely engaged and their participation not merely that of liaison. The AFLT is one way of achieving this. Its role, collectively and individually, includes championing the Faith Action Programme across the Church and in so doing highlighting the importance of the Faith Action Plan for the whole Church.

While we are not wedded to the title, the Faith Action Plan has a focus on leadership, ‘Active Faith' picks up on ‘Faith Action' Programme, and ‘Faith Leaders' is an accessible phrase, including beyond the church. ‘Faith leaders are people of all genders who are recognised by their faith community, both formally or informally, as playing authoritative and influential leadership roles within faith institutions to guide, inspire or lead others. As respected, trusted and well-known members of their communities, faith leaders are influential in guiding cultural and social norms and practices.' (from Our work with faith leaders - Christian Aid). We have also had regard to acronyms – AFLT - as compared to FALT if this was the Faith Action Leadership Team, and recognise that some people are uncomfortable with a ‘Programme' emphasis in a church setting so have hesitated to use ‘Programme' in the title. The Strategic Planning Team should determine what title will work best.

The membership of the Active Faith Leadership Team

We recommend that the AFLT should have[around] 20 members: the Programme Group leaders (see below), Presbytery representatives, and others from congregations appointed through the Nomination Committee. The total number of new Presbyteries has yet to emerge. We recommend that the number on the AFLT should be twice the number of new Presbyteries.

The Presbytery appointed members of the Active Faith Leadership Team would be one from each of the new Presbyteries. Each would have an appropriate skill set to serve on the Team. To ensure this, there could be Nomination Committee involvement in their selection or a nominations process in Presbytery or, our suggestion, a job description for Presbytery use.

We recommend that the other AFLT members be appointed from congregations through the Nomination Committee. There would be no requirement to serve on a Group, though participation in a Group or, sitting in at its meetings, would be recommended as a means of getting to know the work and nurturing talent and interest. Alternatively, it might be that those appointed through the Nomination Committee to the AFLT, like Programme Group leaders (see below), will be time-served Group members who are ‘specialists'.

The role of Convenerof the AFLT with the 'non-staff' (this is D10 ‘shorthand') would mirror the role that the Head of Faith Action Programme has with the staff. The Convener would exercise a leadership role within the AFLT, liaising with the Assembly Trustees and others across the church, being responsive to the Faith Action Plan and the route map for the Faith Action Programme once developed, and on the wider church landscape.

The four Programme Group leaders would serve as AFLT Vice-Conveners.

Forum responsibilities currently fall heaviest on the shoulders of the Forum Conveners. With significant decision-making responsibilities being delegated by the AFLT to the Programme Groups (see below), the loading on individuals should be more shared.

The Strategic Planning Team would consider terms of office, a starting suggestion is 4 years for the Convener and 3 years for the Programme Leaders/Vice Conveners. The Strategic Planning Team would also, on advice, locate the World Mission Council and the Ministries Council, either within the AFLT or a Programme Group.

The Programme Groups

By Programme Groups we mean a group of individuals who meet across a wider policy area than the current Implementation groups, and a narrower policy area than the current Forums. As we heard in 2021 they need to be able to engage with manageable, meaningful work.

Their work would align with the work streams of the Faith Action Programme, taking the work of the Forums and re-imagining it in fresh configurations, with new approaches and prioritisation. The Programme Groups of Ministers, Elders and members would have a synergy with the Staff Support Groups.

The establishment of the Groups will be essential to the effectiveness of the structure we propose. This is where strategy and policy are developed and implementation overseen. The AFLT's authority is from the General Assembly. The AFLT would delegate authority within set parameters to each Programme Group. Within those parameters the Programme Group would not have to take a decision ‘up' to the Forum.

The Leader of each Programme Group would be appointed by the General Assembly through the Nomination Committee process. We anticipate that the Leader would already have experience as a member of the particular Group, but this is for the Strategic Planning Team to consider and in due course the Nomination Committee. The Group Leader would also be on the AFLT and serve as one of the AFLT's Vice-Conveners, as mentioned above.

Other Programme Group members would be a mix of AFLT members and others appointed through the Nomination Committee.

The power to co-opt would be a vital component of the Programme Group arrangements. Co-optees are on the Group but without a vote. Often, from past experience, co-optees go on to other roles, taking on responsibilities for example as Assembly Appointed Members. There is potential for greater use of short-term commitments, such as currently for PMPIG facilitators. In our observation, the Church needs to keep experimenting with ways of involving people, adjusting appointment / identification processes to widen the prospective pool, sharing the responsibilities in a way that is beneficial in both directions.

Existing Forum Groups, where appropriate, would continue as sub Groups of the Programme Groups. The Programme Groups scrutinise and refine the work of Implementation groups and other sub-groups.

Other working groups which go beyond the Faith Action Programme such as Equality Diversity and Inclusion (including integrity and interfaith) should report in to the Assembly Trustees directly.

There will be considerable detail for the Strategic Planning Group to work up during 2022, with significant support needed from the staff team. Remits will be key to this work in ensuring that the AFLT has an enabling, overarching leadership role, and that the Programme Groups carry the more detailed responsibility within their areas. Although an operational matter, clear, written, delegations to staff through the staff line will be an important complement to our proposals, to bring clarity to the ‘authorising environment' in which staff work.

In our view some inbuilt flexibility beyond 2023 is desirable, to allow for adjustments to the arrangements in light for example of the natural development of the identified work streams, and we recommend that the Strategic Planning Team take this into account.

Accountability - the Assembly Trustees and the General Assembly

The AFLT as a successor body would be one of the Agencies referred to in the Assembly Trustees' Constitution and Remit clause 74. The Assembly Trustees are the charity trustees and they would exercise general oversight over the work of the AFLT, among others. For clarity, the Trustees do not delegate matters to the Forums. The Trustees and Forums get their authority, separately, from the General Assembly, and similarly for the recommended AFTL.

In the interests of continuing to improve communications, and developing fuller awareness of respective activities, the AFLT would ensure reporting from the Programme Groups to the Assembly Trustees, and vice versa, and it would be for the Assembly Trustees and the AFLT to decide on appropriate liaison between themselves. For example, it might be that liaison Trustees from the Assembly Trustees would engage with the Programme Groups. In line with the approach taken by the Assembly Trustees, for governance reasons, a liaison Trustees would not be a member of the Group.

The AFLT Convener and the four Programme Group Leaders wouldtogether be the voice of the Team at the General Assembly and between Assemblies. Although not a matter for D10, we hope that developments in the organisation of the General Assembly will allow for creative approaches to be taken.

The specific Programme Groups

The Programme Groups that we envisage are Mission, People & Training, Public Life & Global Justice and Resource & Presence (these are currently working titles).

Feedback that D10 received in 2021 – and one of the reasons for pausing D10's work – was that we must take account of what the Head of Faith Action Programme thinks. D10 has had significant engagement with the Head of the Programme since the autumn, adopting a constructive challenge approach. The work that the Head of the Programme has led with his staff, in which Forum leaders too have been involved, is a key part of the evidence-base for our proposals. The main reason that D10 did not report until late in the General Assembly report production cycle has been to allow a ‘landing' to be reached as to how the work streams of the Programme might most appropriately be grouped from a staff point of view. While the detailed staff structural arrangements are subject to ongoing HR processes during the first half of 2022, a shape has emerged. We are strongly of the view that, although the structural arrangements for Ministers, Elders and members' involvement should not be driven by the structural arrangements for staff, there should be a close synergy, and our engagement with the Head of Faith Action Programme has been on this basis.

As presently understood, the Programme Groups would be Mission, People & Training, Public Life & Global Justice and Resource & Presence (these are working titles). These will be developed and finalised through the Strategic Planning Group as shown in the timeline below. Their titles should be meaningful and accessible both within and outside the Church.

‘Mission' would engage in a Presbyterian context through congregations and through partners nationally and internationally. This is bringing mission nationally and mission internationally together. For example, the Presbytery Mission Planning Group would be here, as would international partnerships. While we recognise that this is a big change, we think that bringing together the national and international aspects of mission has great potential for the Church of Scotland's relationship with world church and vice versa. We see a prominent place for Ecumenical Relations in this space (see further below). The detail will need worked up by the Strategic Planning Team with close involvement of those currently involved in ‘mission' in different aspects.

Among others, Priority Areas would come within this Programme Group, as would new ways of being church, digital ministries, and congregational engagement and support. This Group would forge strong connections with The Guild.

‘People and Training' would engage with recruitment and leadership, training and people support, in a ‘ministry of all believers' context. While much of this work is ongoing, operational, work that ‘needs done' on a daily basis, there are significant areas for strategic and policy development, in line with the priorities of the Faith Action Plan.

‘Resource & Presence' would engage with the ‘business' elements of the Faith Action Programme such as Life & Work, the Story Telling Centre and the entities in Israel/Palestine.The rationale for the working title for this Group is that it is about ways of helping to resource the Church's work (e.g. using better the furlough flats asset, stimulating new advertising revenue for Life & Work). It is also about ways of being present, telling the Christ story, speaking into situations (Story Telling Centre, Israel/Palestine entities). There are already Ministers, Elders and other members involved in some aspects of this work such as the Salvesen Trustees and the Life & Work Committee and it might be thought that the rest of the work could be left to staff. However, in terms of good governance and with a growing expectation around being more innovative or entrepreneurial (which carries associated risks), D10 recommends that these areas should be overseen as with other work streams within the Faith Action Programme. The Strategic Planning Team will have to check the relationships with the existing bodies and work on the detail.

‘Public Life & Global Justice'

D10 has given particular attention to this area, recognising that the need for space to engage in theological enquiry and reflection is especially relevant in relation to justice, ethics, public theology, political and social issues – ‘Public Issues' - and that this has been a concern within the Faith Impact Forum.

We think that ‘Public Life & Global Justice' has three elements:

  • Developing those parts of the Faith Action Programme which are about the Church of Scotland's relationship with world issues of culture and justice: currently, for example, the legacy of slavery and racial justice, climate and net zero, ‘welcome the stranger' - migrants and refugees, drug addiction and substance misuse. This involves programmes and project management.
  • Responding to issues of the day, on which the Church has already ‘spoken' in reports to previous General Assemblies.
  • Developing the Church's thinking in relation to ‘Public Issues'. Current topics might include gender identities, Human Rights/Bill of Rights. This exploratory area brings in different skills and expertise.

We suggest that the third of these – the development of thinking in relation to ‘Public Issues' – should be a ‘protected space', an area where the group should have authority to develop its own ideas and be directly accountable to the General Assembly, without direct oversight from the AFLT or the Assembly Trustees.

We have considered whether to split this exploratory area off into its own space, but after discussion with those most closely concerned in such matters, we are of the view that it would be better integrated and embedded. It is better to keep the thinking and the potential follow-up action within the same area. The exploratory area should sit within the life of the Faith Action Programme and be

  • Integrated with the life of congregations
  • Connected with project work like Net Zero, legacy of slavery
  • Connected with the training and development of all God's people
  • Providing resources for the whole church.

Once the exploration is ‘complete' if there is follow up that would move from the ‘protected space' and become mainstream Programme work.

Ecumenical Relations and the Theological Forum

This report is primarily about the work that is currently with the Forums. They are two among a number of ‘Agencies' whose work the Assembly Trustees oversee [AT C&R 22, 44ff, 74 etc]. These Agencies include a number of other Standing Committees. In 2021 the General Assembly agreed to a temporary move of the Theological Forum and the Ecumenical Relations Committee from the management structure of the Faith Nurture Forum to the management and departmental structure of the Office of the General Assembly. This was on the recommendation of the Assembly Trustees from the report of the D10 Group.

Ecumenical Relations

D10 said in 2021 that there might be a case for rethinking how Ecumenical Relations is best organised within the national base, given ongoing change within the church such as Presbytery development and the need for ecumenism increasingly to be a feature of local congregational life. We suggest that now is a timely opportunity to take this forward. For example, work on which the Ecumenical Relations Committee has led, with the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church in Scotland respectively (Saint Andrew Declaration, Declaration of Friendship), offers considerable potential for encouraging and enabling more ecumenical partnerships in ministry and mission locally and regionally.

We observe that Ecumenical Relations has a relevance to all the Programme Groups that we propose: in ministerial ‘formation' (and indeed in the development of ‘all God's people'), in mission, in Public Issues, and in the Church's ‘Presence'. However, the Ecumenical Relations Committee has not been directly involved in the developments that we outlined earlier, and it would be premature for D10 to reach a view as to what should now happen.

We therefore include in the timeline below a proposal that, between May and September 2022, the Ecumenical Relations Committee and Strategic Planning Team confer on the Committee's role, remit and location with, preferably, a representative of the Committee serving on the Strategic Planning Team.

In so recommending, we emphasise that this report is less about structure and more about people. The Church, nationally, needs to be ‘leaner and fitter' and more joined-up still in its work and outlook. The developments we mentioned earlier include people who have been used to working separately, in particular areas and in particular ways, working out new ways of doing, and importantly, prioritising together. There are challenges in bringing different ‘cultures' together, of sorting through previous priorities and tackling what might change. It involves mindset work and it is hard work. On our, admittedly limited, observation, there may be an element of ‘Ecumenical Relations' being viewed by some as something distinct, which makes it particularly important that it has a place in the planning for an integrated and coherent Faith Action Programme from 2023.

Theological Forum

Given that the General Assembly is responsible for matters of doctrine, D10 noted in 2021 that there was an argument for keeping the Forum within the management and departmental structure of the Office of the General Assembly. The Assembly Trustees undertook to revisit this before General Assembly 2022 which was when D10 had suggested Ecumenical Relations and the Theological Forum might move back, but this revisiting has not happened.

From our perspective, as it can be said that the underlying purpose of a piece of work from the Theological Forum is to inform and to help equip people exercising ministry responsibilities we think that there is an argument for bringing the Theological Forum within the ‘People & Training' sphere. In this connection, we note the previous arrangement whereby although the Theological Forum was placed within the management structure of the Faith Nurture Forum it continued to have its discrete identity and reported separately to the General Assembly.

However, as the Theological Forum, like the Ecumenical Relations Committee, has not been directly involved in the developments outlined, we include in the timeline below a proposal that between May and September 2022, the Theological Forum and the Strategic Planning Team confer on the Forum's location.


For the Faith Action Programme to succeed the Church needs buildings and presbytery reform to succeed at the same time and vice versa…potential or real institutional barriers must not get in the way. There is already a good measure of structural and practical co-ordination. The Assembly Trustees are required to liaise with the Principal Clerk as necessary and in particular insofar as the work required in that post interacts with the work of the Trustees. The Convener of the Assembly Business Committee and the Chair of the General Trustees are Assembly Trustees by virtue of office (Assembly Trustees' Constitution & Remit 21 and 10). Practically, the Coordination Group has been an experiment in bringing together all those who, from a national perspective, have responsibilities associated with fulfilling the Faith Action Plan, both staff and ‘non-staff'.

A neater and more practical way of addressing co-ordination may be to include the Faith Action Plan as an item on the agenda of Assembly Trustees' meetings and to have the Principal Clerk, Chief Executive of the General Trustees and Head of Faith Action Programme/Head of Active Faith Leadership Staff) attend for this item. Between Trustee meetings, the Trustees' Governance Group meets when governance issues for the Plan could be considered. This would mean no extra meetings. The Coordination Group would cease to meet. We so recommend.


The move to the new arrangements should be at a pace that balances a need to get things resolved quickly and to provide certainty, with progressing steadily and collaboratively.

We recommend that the General Assembly in May 2022 be asked to agree the key changes with a view to them becoming sufficiently live for the Nomination Committee process beginning later in 2022.

If the General Assembly approves the key changes/direction of travel we recommend thistimeline commencing May 2022:

To September 2022

The Strategic Planning Team:

  • Review and develop as appropriate the draft remit for the AFLT, for approval by the Forums and the Assembly Trustees
  • Develop thinking on Public Life & Global Justice to ensure direct accountability to the General Assembly on ‘Public Issues', for approval by the Forums and the Assembly Trustees
  • Work on written arrangements for delegated authority from the AFLT, such as remits for the Programme Groups, and ongoing/prospective sub-Groups, having regard to the finalised ‘lay down' for Faith Action staff, for approval by the Forums and the Assembly Trustees. (Alongside this work, staff should work on developing prospective delegations to staff, as appropriate, so that they will be clearer as to what they have authority to do on behalf of a Group. The Assembly Trustees are already working with staff on delegation arrangements as these have been underdeveloped.
  • Work with the Ecumenical Relations Committee and the Theological Forum to ensure proper integration with the work of the Faith Action Programme, whilst preserving those groups' key relationship with the General Assembly, for approval by the Ecumenical Relations Committee, the Theological Forum and the Assembly Trustees.

October 2022

Assembly Trustees open conversations with Nomination Committee and the Principal Clerk re appointments to AFLT.

To December 2022

The Strategic Planning Team:

  • Work on the priorities, involving others as appropriate, for Forum decision and implementation pending the creation of the AFLT
  • Identify, with staff, robust criteria, both qualitative and quantitive, and processes for evaluation of the effectiveness of the new arrangements.

Early 2023

AFLT members and Programme Group leaders are identified for General Assembly approval.

May 2023

The Conveners of the Faith Action and Faith Impact Forums reach the end of their terms. The Strategic Planning Team stands down. The Active Faith Leadership Team and Programme Groups begin work.

2026 - 2027

The Assembly Trustees report to the General Assembly in 2027 with recommendations from 2028 for the organisation and work of the 5-year Faith Action Programme.

What are these recommendations intended to achieve?

We hope that we are not overstating the case that we make here, but we think that the Church needs encouraged, and we have seen for ourselves much to encourage as we have listened to people speak with passion and commitment about their work, observed the Forums increasingly ‘joined-up', and noted the energy of staff in the integration experiments that have been underway.

We suggest that the move to a single Active Faith Leadership Team would:

  • Help the Church streamline the development and oversight of the Faith Action Programme. It is more difficult to develop and own one Programme with two Forums.
  • Ensure that the work streams of the Faith Action Programme, whether ‘projects' or ongoing, are implemented in a coherent way. One programme, with one integrated team to lead it.
  • Continue the shift from four separate councils to a place where all the work streams can be considered together.
  • Open the way for still more unified, coherent thinking and output - blended rather than in parallel.
  • Improve governance, because the AFLT will as act as a Board in the strategic planning process, working alongside the Head of Faith Action Programme and the staff.
  • Create a single body for the Programme to oversee a shift in who does what towards Presbyteries and the local church.
  • Make ‘Leadership' explicit. A key element of the Faith Action Plan is its emphasis on ‘inspirational leadership'. The Assembly Trustees as charity trustees inevitably have a financial/governance bias that appears to focus on ‘the institution'. The AFLT would hold what some might call the Gospel space that brings life in all its fullness.

In addition, the four Programme Groups would:

  • Involve a relatively small group of Ministers, Elders, members engaging in responsive decision making – responsive in the sense of facilitating ready responses to a range of different situations, in ever-changing contexts.
  • Work in clearer ways with staff, balancing improved governance with entrusting staff to develop ideas and ‘to get on'.
  • Provide focussed oversight, as staff work to reduce duplication, and manage overlap in a coordinated way.
  • With their individually appointed Group leaders, share out the leadership load.

The proposals as a whole:

  • Help bring things together as the Faith Action Programme picks up momentum.
  • Tap into the regional reorganisation and reinstate an express link with Presbyteries.
  • Improve connections with other parts of Kirk, specifically the Theological Forum and the Ecumenical Relations Committee.
  • Allow for the work of the AFLT and Programme Groups to be themed on the outputs of the Faith Action Programme.
  • Protect space for developing thinking on emerging Public Issues.
  • Ensure good reporting to the General Assembly.
  • Show an enthusiasm to try things and learn, to do more to push forward the new, and build in tolerance of risk.
  • Aim to improve the experience of serving nationally - spending one's time with focussed purpose, sharing the load with others, more flexibility around the timing and nature of their expected commitment. This may help with the challenge of attracting people to serve the Church in national positions.
  • Play a part in addressing capacity issues, breadth of remit and adjusting the balance with staff:
    • The task is already underway of having to do less, better. The prioritisation process will continue in 2022. Detailed choices continue to have to be made about what to focus on, within the Programme.
    • Appropriate delegation of responsibility to staff including increased clarity as to which member of staff has responsibility for a matter on which a number of others have an interest.
    • A broader and closer working relationship with staff, enabling stronger involvement and ownership by Ministers, elders and other congregation members on behalf of the General Assembly.
  • Deliver an appropriate pace of change, taking account of staff and Forum morale and the lived experience of the effort and time it takes to effect significant change.
  • Have a clear duration: 5 years with review after 3 years to plan for the period beyond.
  • On behalf of the General Assembly help enable the holistic mission of local churches.

These matter because:

  • The Church is facing considerable challenges and trying to find its voice in an increasingly secular Scotland.
  • The Faith Action Plan is at the heart of the Church's efforts to engage. The Faith Action Plan needs to come alive. The Faith Action Programme, led as proposed, would demonstrate how it can.
  • The Forums are already demonstrating the desirability and possibility of joint approaches. Some Groups have members from both Forums. The Church needs to be ‘leaner and fitter' and more joined-up still in its work and outlook. The experimental work among the Faith Action staff shows that this can be taken further, though it is hard work.
  • The slimming down of the national organisation is in the context of a strategic decision to devolve power and resource to the regional level...the empowering of the local church, support for its forms of ministry, stimulating mission in parishes and beyond, planting new churches, and a regional reorganisation to facilitate these processes.
  • The Church of Scotland is changing the nature of what it offers nationally, and how it does it. In the process the intention is to continue to improve the financial situation of the Church so as to release resources for growth.

How will we know it's been worth doing?

We have been asked this question and we think that it is important to set out an answer, especially given the challenges of other current changes within the Church:

  • Increasingly, people will know what the Faith Action Plan is about.
  • There will be greater clarity as to who does what. Delegations of decision-making authority will be in place, not just through remits, but also to staff.
  • Those involved in the Church's work will get beyond a sense of being focussed on the internal. Eyes on the way of Jesus, and out to Presbyteries and congregations.
  • There will be vibrant working relationships, bringing everything in concert.
  • With the Active Faith Leadership Team thinking and guiding, inspiring and challenging, encouraging and deciding, speaking up and speaking out, all parts of the church will feel able to experiment … doing this with vision and excitement…
  • The development and implementation of the Faith Action Programme from a national perspective will inform and encourage Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions to develop their own ways to take forward the Faith Action Plan. The Programme arrangements will demonstrate one way of making the Faith Action Plan something real.
  • There will be a connectedness between the Faith Action Plan and the life of local congregations and their surrounding communities.
  • People will look out for one another, acknowledging the pain we go through in letting things go.
  • As choices are made about priorities, and agendas lightened, there will be more opportunity to continue serving Christ and the Church in other ways.
  • There will be an increasing positivity around the Church of Scotland, a sense of adventure and expectancy, and God will be seen to act.

As has been said elsewhere, ‘our prayer is that through the Faith Action Plan we will set the sails of the Church to catch afresh the wind of God's spirit.'

That our lives together will make You famous, all for Your glory, honour and praise.

Tommy MacNeil's Sleeping Giant


D10: Active Faith Leadership Team – outline remit

The Church of Scotland's Active Faith Leadership Team

Purpose: The Active Faith Leadership Team will lead and oversee the development and implementation of the 5-year Faith Action Programme.

Context: The Faith Action Programme is a nationally led programme within the framework of the Church of Scotland's Faith Action Plan.

  1. Active Faith Leadership Team. The Active Faith Leadership Team will be a Standing Committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
  2. Assembly Trustees. With authority from the General Assembly, the Standing Committee known as the Assembly Trustees has legal responsibility for the Church of Scotland charity called the ‘Unincorporated Entities' (UE). The Assembly Trustees' responsibilities include ensuring that the charity remains true to its purpose, that the finances are sufficient and that the governance arrangements are sound. In their oversight role, they are to ensure that the focus is on the General Assembly's strategic objectives. Given these responsibilities, the Assembly Trustees, as charity trustees, exercise general oversight over the work of the Active Faith Leadership Team, among others. Being a successor body, the AFLT will be one of the Agencies referred to in the Trustees' Constitution and Remit clause 74.
  3. Programme and other Groups. Programme Groups will have written delegated authority from the Active Faith Leadership Team to take forward the Faith Action Programme. Implementation and other Groups will report to the Programme Groups, who in turn will report to the Active Faith Leadership Team.
  4. Review. The Assembly Trustees will review the structure in 2026 and report to the General Assembly in 2027 with recommendations from 2028 for the organisation and work of the 5-year Faith Action Programme.

In relation to the Faith Action Programme:

  • To lead and oversee its development and implementation.
  • To ensure liaison with all appropriate parties including Presbyteries, the General Trustees, the Principal Clerk and the Assembly Business Committee, and good communication with the wider church and beyond.
  • Having regard to the strategic objectives of the General Assembly and the strategic priorities of the Assembly Trustees to:
    • ensure consistency with the Faith Action Plan
    • model and lead a shared culture and values for the Programme
    • ensure that in delivering the General Assembly's emphasis on supporting local congregations, and Presbyteries, the Church of Scotland's commitments to world church/global mission, and the Gospel imperative for the poorest, are maintained
    • lead in, and oversee the development of
      • strategic objectives for the Programme
      • implementation plans
      • specific projects
      • milestones and measures to assess progress
    • ensure:
      • that decisions are taken as to work to be laid down, work to be commenced and work to be transferred to others such as Presbyteries
      • co-ordination and oversight of priorities
      • creativity and excellence in Strategic Planning
      • encouragement of talent
      • effective collaboration and communication
      • elimination of duplication
      • reporting from the Programme Groups to the Assembly Trustees, and vice versa
      • that the Programme's objectives, plans, measures etc are being implemented
  • contribute to reviews and adjustments of the strategic priorities of the General Assembly and the priorities of the Assembly Trustees.

In relation to the life and work of the Church of Scotland, and of the wider Church:

  • To maintain a broad view and ensure that Team members are continuously aware of the context in which the Faith Action Programme is being undertaken
  • To champion the work of the Programme.


Ann Nelson (Chair), Neil Glover on behalf of the D10 Group also comprising Jan Mathieson & Donald McCorkindale, with appreciation to David Fergusson & Sheila Kirk who served as Group members to May 2021.

March 2022