Permission to Call Protocol

Information for Presbyteries seeking permission to call from the Presbytery Planning Task Group.

  1. The Faith Nurture Forum agreed that its Presbytery Planning Task Group would have the responsibility for approving permissions to call submitted by Presbyteries for congregations which Presbyteries believe should proceed to call, on a basis of Reviewable Charge.
  2. This would be as provided for by Section 31 of the Deliverance on the Report of the Faith Nurture Forum to the General Assembly of 2021. This is allowed under the continuing provision for exceptional permissions in section 9 of the Appraisal and Adjustment Act, Act VII, 2003.
  3. This protocol should be read in conjunction with the Guidance provided by the Faith Nurture Forum in conjunction with the Legal Questions Committee and the General Trustees, including separate resource material and guidance from the General Trustees. This guidance will continue to be updated.
  4. The Presbytery Mission Plan Implementation Group will meet monthly, and otherwise as required. The Convener of the Presbytery Mission Plan Implementation Group is the Rev Karen Campbell, minister at Edinburgh: Marchmont St. Giles and vice convener of the Faith Nurture Forum.
  5. Issues to be considered when seeking an exception under the act, are as follows:

    A Presbytery Mission Narrative: this is a clear statement from the Presbytery, referencing the Five Marks of Mission, setting the context, of how this particular charge, fits with the Presbytery's overall mission strategy, and, what the Presbytery's vision for the future shape of church life, looks like. Background information should include considerations on the various points, as contained in Appendix A, and a Mission Narrative ‘template', is available on the Presbytery Planning section of the church website.

    ‘Basis': any relevant basis as required, with accompanying Presbytery extract minute (s). See section 7 of the Presbytery Mission Plan Act (2021) [my comments - can Basis be run concurrently? What do we wish first, or everything at the same time?]

    Building designation: even if the Presbytery Mission Plan has not been finalised, there must be a clear statement, on any building (s) as contained within the Basis, that they are part of any future mission plan for the area.

    Any general financial issues.

    Please use the checklist to make sure that all documentation has been forwarded to Presbytery Mission Plan Implementation Group. Email address is, Presbyteryplanning@churchofscotland.org.uk
  6. This protocol will be augmented by further guidance, developed in consultation with the Legal Questions Committee and the Presbytery Clerks' Forum.

Appendix A

(a) Presbytery, the Forum and the Trustees must prioritise Mission (as defined in sections 1.1 (l) and (n) through the PMP process. No area of church life is exempt (see section 1.1(r)). Everything in this Code of Practice should be read in the light of, and is subordinate to, section 2.1.1.

(b) Communities: Every community of every size in every location within Scotland is part of a Church of Scotland Parish. While population should no longer be the only principle in shaping Presbytery Plans, it still remains the starting point. Our calling as a church is not primarily to resource congregations: it is mission to everyone in the land.

(c) Ecumenism: "The Commission readily acknowledges that reaching the people of Scotland is an ecumenical task and one to which the Church of Scotland contributes along with other denominations as partners in the gospel." If a particular community is well served by another denomination, there may be no need for the Presbytery to duplicate that. Where a community is equally well served by the Church of Scotland and another denomination the Presbytery should explore what local possibilities there might be for recognising each other's ministry so that resources can be used elsewhere. The General Assembly of 2021 instructed the Forum, when developing principles for Presbytery Mission Planning, to include a principle of ecumenical working, bearing in mind the Lund Principle, affirming that churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately. That same deliverance also encouraged the forming of Local Mission Communities and regional Covenant Partnerships as outlined in the report of the Ecumenical Relations Committee.

(d) The poor: The General Assembly has repeatedly affirmed that the gospel imperative is priority to the poor. At a time when resources are scarce, it is tempting to take away from the most marginal communities where churches are often very fragile and small. However pressing the reasons may be locally, this must be resisted because it because it makes a mockery of the gospel and repeated commitments by the General Assembly by the General Assembly. and the repeated commitments of the General Assembly. However, as in every part of the Church, this does not mean that existing patterns of ministry should not be evaluated and reviewed and different forms of church life introduced.

(e) Whole people of God: While a Presbytery Mission Plan does set out how paid ministry is to be used, this takes place in the context of the ministry of the whole people of God. The Special Commission on the Third Article Declaratory, in 2010, noted that "the living out of the commitment of Article III may well involve an increasing number of communities where the ministry is exercised largely by the eldership and membership of the Church, albeit under the oversight of an ordained minister." (8.5.6) Therefore a further principle to guide Presbyteries in their deployment of ministries is how they might be used to encourage and enhance the ministry of the whole people of God.

(f) Congregations: The church has "a commitment to maintain worshipping, witnessing and serving Christian congregations throughout Scotland." One of the ways in which the gospel finds visible expression is in committed congregations under the power of the Holy Spirit. They both express the gospel and commend the gospel. In their planning, Presbyteries will identify congregations that are outward looking, which engage with their communities and the wider church, and consider how they might build on these strengths.

(g) Mixed ecology: Whilst affirming the importance of the Parish system and recognising the importance of a sense of ‘place' the General Assembly stated that this needs to be expressed in a variety of ways. Martyn Percy, an Anglican scholar, says: "For the Church to find its place in the modern world, it will have to create new spaces for new communities and different opportunities for differentiated niche groups." While in many communities the sense of place is best expressed in something physical and tangible, that is not universally true. The Church will need, for example, to discover how to relate to those whose belonging is primarily through networks or the virtual world.

(h) Financial responsibility: Presbytery Mission Planning does not mean ensuring that congregations which make a net contribution to central funds take priority. Nonetheless a degree of financial realism is required and it is appropriate that some consideration is given to congregational financial responsibility. Some congregations are more generous than comparable ones and all congregations are expected to make a financial contribution appropriate to their means. At present one third of congregations are net contributors and two thirds are net receivers. However, per capita giving can be much higher amongst some of the poorest congregations than it is in some of the wealthiest. It is essential for Presbyteries to consider the complex financial picture and allocate ministerial resources to congregations that take their financial stewardship seriously. The Presbytery, Forum and Trustees should also take account of the effect of a Mission Plan on the aggregate amount of Ministry and Mission Contributions which the Presbytery's congregations remit to the national Church.

(i) Buildings: There is a connection between ministry and church buildings, although that connection is neither uniform nor universal. At a national level there is a consensus that the Church of Scotland has too many buildings, numerous buildings that are underutilised, buildings that are too large for present day needs and buildings that are in the wrong place. At a local level however, almost every church building is deemed essential. There is no simple solution to this problem. The starting point, however, should be mission. Presbyteries will want to consider which buildings are essential and useful for the mission they envisage.