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Tue, Aug 17th - 4:27PM


Current Reform of the Church of Scotland

In common with many larger denominations, the Church of Scotland faces many current difficulties. Since the 1950s its membership has continued to decline, now being less than half what it was then. In 2008, membership dropped below 500,000. The Church faces financial strains and the costly upkeep of many older ecclesiastical buildings. Recruitment of ministers was, until recently, a further concern. However, the number of candidates has increased in recent years. Today, around 1400 ministers serve about 480,000 members, and a considerably higher number of adherents.

Since the Reformation, one of the church's tenets has been ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei – a 'church which is reformed must always be reformed according to the Word of God'. Recently, the General Assembly produced its 'Church without Walls' report (2001) which embodies an ethos of change, and a focus on the grassroots life of the Church rather than its institutions.

As in most western denominations, the membership of the Church of Scotland is also aging, and it has struggled to maintain its relevance to the younger generations. The Church has made attempts to address their problems, at both a congregational and national level. The annual National Youth Assembly and the presence of youth delegates at the General Assembly have served as a visible reminder of the Church's commitment. The Church's National Youth Assembly has grown in prominence and attendance in recent years.

Since as early as 1968, all ministries and offices in the church have been open to women and men on an equal basis. However, it was not until 2004 that a woman was chosen to be Moderator of the General Assembly. Dr Alison Elliot was also the first non-minister to be chosen since George Buchanan, four centuries before. In May 2007 the Rev Sheilagh M. Kesting became the first female minister to be Moderator.

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Tue, Aug 10th - 4:23PM

Current Issues in the Church of Scotland

As with many other churches (especially in Western Europe and North America), there is a division in the Church of Scotland on how the issues surrounding homosexuality should be addressed. While the church has traditionally adopted a 'hate the sin but love the sinner' approach, in recent years some within the church have pushed for actual homosexual behavior to be accepted as not sinful. This division of approach is illustrated by widespread opposition to an attempt to install as minister an openly homosexual man who intends to live with his partner once appointed to his post. In a landmark decision, the General Assembly voted on 23 May 2009 by 326 to 267 to ratify the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie, the Kirk's first openly "practicing" homosexual minster. The decision was reached on the basis the Presbytery had followed the correct procedure. Mr Rennie had won the overwhelming support of his prospective church members at Queen's Cross, Aberdeen, but his appointment was in some doubt until extensive debate and this vote by the Commissioners to the Assembly. The General Assembly later agreed upon a moratorium on the appointment of further "practicing" homosexuals until after a special commission has reported on the matter. As a result of these developments, a new grouping of congregations within the Church was begun "to declare their clear commitment to historic Christian orthodoxy", known as the Fellowship of Confessing Churches.

The Kirk is also facing a dramatic decline in vocations, with its leading theological training college scarcely viable having just four new students for 2010, and a total of just 45 trainee ministers at any stage of their theology training in 2008.

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Tue, Aug 3rd - 12:29PM


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