Assembly Trustees Update August 2023
The trustees met on 10 August 2023 in 121 George Street with an on-line option. We advanced progress on generating income from the buildings on George Street, with thanks to the staff leading this work. Church staff will soon all be co-located on floors one and two and space on other floors is being leased to tenants, part of the strategy endorsed at GA23 as the Church takes time to assess its building needs for a national administration of different working arrangements and scale.
Scale continues to be a dominant theme for us. The priorities project in the national administration, outlined at GA23, is about to pick up pace, in order to move ‘stop, evolve, devolve' from words to action, and to identify clearly what existing – and new – work is appropriate for a Church that seeks to advance the Kingdom of God with reduced human and financial resources. Taking a joined-up approach is important and we appreciate the efforts of the senior staff of the Church to work together in the interests of the Church as a whole. This includes the Principal Clerk, the Solicitor, the Chief Officer, the Chief Executive of the General Trustees and the Chief Executive Officer of CrossReach.
Taking this further, at our meeting – which Tommy MacNeil, convener of the Faith Action Programme Leadership Team, again attended – we were pleased to be joined by Presbytery Clerks and deputies from across much of Scotland, with a view to furthering our thinking on how we might support development in and through the new Presbyteries, one of the identified priorities endorsed at GA23. We heard how focussed Presbyteries understandably are on implementation of presbytery mission plans and that the question of what a developed presbytery might look like was as yet not much in their thinking. We recognise the important links between Clerks themselves, such as through the Clerks' Forum set up previously by the General Assembly, and with the Principal Clerk and Assembly Business Committee, and we will be looking to work alongside them all through 2023-24 to further discussions on who does what, with what resources and to what purpose, as the Church reshapes and seeks to focus on mission.
During our meeting we were interested to hear reflections from the Very Rev Dr Iain Greenshields on his moderatorial year, 2022-23. His only foreign visit was the exceptional, historic one with the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury to South Sudan, and as a result he'd been able to visit 20 more churches in Scotland, a total of 140. His overall reflection was that the Church of Scotland still has a real place in society and that the presence of ‘the office of moderator' is an encouragement to congregations. He spoke of the importance of visionary leadership across the Church and of seeing people's lives changed for the better.
During our usual examination of Church finances, aided by our Finance Group chaired by Vice-Convener David Harrison, we learned that some of the Church's shares in the private company DC Thomson had been sold, an example of a 50-year-old legacy being utilised to help with the Church's current finances. Income from congregations is coming in at about the same rate as 2022, but not at the same level, as the income expected from congregations over 2023 is around 14% less than in 2022. The projected deficit for the year (excluding establishments in Israel but including all other funds) is £8,072,000 on budgeted income of £104,381,000 and budgeted expenditure of £112,453,000. Having additional income streams can, for all parts of the Church, help to create a more stable financial picture.
Our next scheduled meeting is online on 14 September.