Church reform timeline
The Church of Scotland is undertaking a process of institutional reform that will transform its governance structures. The reforms will reduce the size of the central church and devolve resources to presbyteries. The aim is to better support local congregations to carry out our mission of inspiring people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The General Assembly calls for a Radical Action Plan for church reform. This is to prepare the Church to meet current challenges and to revitalise the local Church. The deliverance instructs the Council of Assembly "... to work collaboratively with other Councils, Committees and Presbyteries to bring proposals to the General Assembly of 2019 for structural change, to enable a Church structure that is lean and fit for purpose to lead reform."
A Special Assembly composed of 100 members of the General Assembly convenes in Edinburgh to appoint a Special Commission on Structural Reform.
Headed by Rev Prof David Fergusson, the Special Commission is tasked with reviewing the Church's governance structures and recommending a reformed national structure as well as a trustee body that “would conform to best practice (including the avoidance of conflicts of interest) in terms of charity law while being true to Presbyterian church polity” .
October 2018 - February 2019
Presbytery representatives meet in Clydebank and Edinburgh to help shape reform plans. A smaller group consults with staff responsible for writing the radical action plan and acts as a sounding board for the proposed reforms.
20-24 May 2019
The General Assembly appoints a new 14-person trustee body (the “Assembly Trustees”) to be the Charity Trustees of the Church’s charitable funds and assets and to head the Church's governance structure. The Assembly Trustees comprise 12 appointed trustees together with the Convener of the Assembly Business Committee and the Chair of the General Trustees. Terms vary from one to three years.
The General Assembly endorses proposals from the Special Commission for radical changes to Church organisation and governance with a goal of recommending changes to a Special Assembly later in the year. The Special Commission's proposals include:
- Reducing the central services budget by 20-30%, or £2 million in two years
- Devolving resources to presbyteries to enable mission
- Reducing the 43 existing presbyteries in Scotland (excluding England, International and Jerusalem presbyteries) to around 12
- Merging the four councils directing central services work into two new bodies
- Appointing a Chief Officer to supervise central offices staff
- Creating 100 new worshipping communities
- Supporting the Social Care Council (CrossReach) to become a more self-sustaining and financially viable arms-length organisation while retaining close links with the Kirk
- Creating a new £25 million growth fund to support missional activities and to grow the Church
The General Assembly instructs the Assembly Trustees and the two new forums to bring proposals to the 2020 General Assembly on the scope of work and priorities for the new bodies, including what can be discontinued and what should be entrusted to presbyteries.
The General Assembly approves the General Trustees report, “Well Equipped Spaces in the Right Places” and approves plans for a church-wide consultation on the way forward for Land and Buildings.
The 14-person Assembly Trustees body begins work.
Recruitment process to appoint a Chief Officer gets underway.
August 2019 - October 2019
Just over 1,300 people complete the Land and Buildings survey, many of them after attending one of the eight consultation workshops offered across Scotland. More than 800 people tune into a livestreamed Q&A session to discuss Land and Buildings issues.
2 September 2019
Dave Kendall is appointed the Chief Officer of the Kirk.
30 September 2019
Nominations open for membership of the two new forums.
1 November 2019
Dave Kendall takes up his post.
21 November 2019
The Commission of Assembly—a group of 100 General Assembly commissioners convened mid-year to expedite critical decision making—approves the Assembly Trustees report. The report lays out proposals to merge four central Church councils into two forums which are provisionally named:
- Faith Nurture Forum, which will look at new ways of supporting the various ministries within the Church and new ways of supporting worship, mission and discipleship
- Faith Impact Forum, which will engage with national, political and social issues affecting Scotland and the world today and work internationally to share the gospel, support theological education and encourage all ministries
The new bodies are made up of a convener, a vice-convener and 13 members and are scheduled to begin work on 1 January 2020.
The Ecumenical Relations Committee will continue to report directly to the GA but will sit within the Faith Nurture Forum.
The Theological Forum will continue to report directly to the GA but will sit within the Faith Nurture Forum.
The Interfaith Office will sit within the Faith Impact Forum.
23 December 2019
Angus Mathieson, formerly secretary of the Mission and Discipleship Council, is named Interim Head of the Faith Nurture forum. Ian Alexander, formerly secretary of the World Mission Council, is named Interim Head of the Faith Impact forum.
The appointments will last until June 2020. From January 2020 the forums will begin to meet and decide their priorities and a recruitment process for permanent staff posts will be initiated .
21 January 2020
The membership of the two new forums is announced on an interim basis. Convener of the provisionally named Faith Nurture forum is Rev Rosie Frew. The vice-convener is Rev Dr Karen Campbell.
Convener of the provisionally named Faith Impact forum is Very Rev Dr Susan Brown. The vice-convener is Rev Alan Miller.
The Nominations Committee will bring forward the names of members, conveners and vice-conveners to the 2020 General Assembly for approval. Terms of office for all forum appointees will start at the GA.
2-3 October 2020
The General Assembly approves a range of measures to ensure the Church is “lean and fit for growth” and prepared to tackle the challenges ahead. These include:
- Reducing congregational Ministry and Mission contributions by 18% in 2021, to £38.1 million, to help local churches manage the financial pressures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Setting budgetary targets for the Faith Impact and Faith Nurture forums that aim to reduce expenditure by £4 million between them for 2021
- Approving a proposal to examine the implications of further streamlining the structures of the Church, including possibly unifying the work of the Church under a single body, and reporting back to the General Assembly in 2021
- Putting the new Growth Fund on hold for the time being, while leaving open the possibility of making some funding available to local churches for pilot schemes
- Further strengthening the Church’s external communications work
- Working to identify suitable buildings that could replace the national office at 121 George Street and exploring the possibility of sharing office space with other denominations
- Tasking the presbyteries with starting work to prepare the Church for reducing the number of charges, buildings and ministries across Scotland
- Continuing the necessary work of presbytery planning and restructuring to make way for fresh expressions of church and the establishment of networks, hubs and multidisciplinary teams that can provide a vital presence both online and in communities
- Supporting the first phase of the work being undertaken towards a Presbytery Planning Toolkit for land and buildings