General Assembly 2012 - reports and summaries

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Free Church General Assembly met from Monday 21st to Friday 25th May in St. Columba’s Free Church, Edinburgh, and commissioners debated several reports covering various topics.

If you missed this week, you can read the various summaries by clicking on the links below, or downloading the Assembly reports at the bottom of the page.


2012 General Assembly summaries

Monday
Click here to read a summary of Monday’s business.

Tuesday
Click here to read the Tuesday morning summary.
Click here to read the Tuesday afternoon summary.
Click here to read the Tuesday evening summary.
Click here to read the Moderator’s address to the 2012 General Assembly.

Wednesday
Click here to read the Wednesday morning summary.
Click here to read the Wednesday afternoon summary.
Click here to read the Wednesday evening summary.

Thursday
Click here to read the Thursday morning summary.
Click here to read the Thursday afternoon summary.
Click here to read the Thursday evening summary.
Click here to read about the appointment of a new Professor to the Free Church College.
Click here to read about the admittance of new ministers to the Free Church of Scotland.

Friday
Click here to read the summary of Friday’s business.


2012 General Assembly reports

Assembly Arrangements Committee: Download the PDF here image

The Assembly Arrangements Committee makes the practical arrangements for the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland every May in Edinburgh. The Committee decides on the number of commissioners who are to attend from each Presbytery of the Church, and on matters like making arrangements for various functions held during the Assembly week. The report will be presented by convener Reverend Angus Howat.


Board of Ministry: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The Board of Ministry’s workload focuses on students for the ministry, probationers, ministers, and elders and deacons. It is expected there will be discussion on candidate selection and assessment, particularly how Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries can work better together on this matter. The report will be presented by chairman Dr Fergus Macdonald. 


Board of Trustees: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

Over the past year, the Board of Trustees dealt with a variety of issues covering finance, policy, strategy, compliance and risk management. The Board has also continued to monitor the legal activities of the Free Church Continuing. This year’s report focuses on finance and spending priorities, with recommendations for a reduction in 2013 budgets and a project levy freeze for congregations. It will be presented by the Board’s chairman, Mr James Fraser.


College Board: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The role of the College Board is to oversee the operation of our Free Church College in Edinburgh. The college is the theological centre where students for the Free Church ministry, as well as others, receive their academic training. This year’s report notes the Quinquennial visitation, and states that the Board is seeking constructive input from the wider Free Church so the College can continue to provide an efficient and relevant service. The standard of teaching is again praised by the students and ministers alike, and it is also hoped that a successful appointment will be made to the chair of Systematic Theology, following Professor Donald Macleod’s retirement in 2010. The report will be presented by chairman Reverend Iver Martin.


Committee on Church Practice and Procedures: Download the PDF  image

The Committee was appointed by the 2011 General Assembly as an advisory Committee comprising the membership of the Review of Disciplinary Procedures, extending its remit and changing its name to the Committee on Church Practice and Procedures. The role of the Committee includes the issuing of advice on matters of Church practice and procedure to Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions and to other Committees and Boards of the Church. The report will be presented by convener Reverend James MacIver.


Committee on Psalmody: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The Psalmody Committee is responsible for encouraging and developing the psalm-singing ethos in the Free Church of Scotland. The report notes that Psalmody resources continue to be popular within the Church, and the Committee is also keen to make its services available to congregations and precentors by way of practical workshops. The report will be presented by convener Reverend Finlay Mackenzie.


Communications Committee: Download the PDF by clicking here image

The remit of the Communications Committee includes oversight of Free Church magazines The Record, Free and The Instructor, as well as the Free Church bookshop and the website. As well as covering these important communication outlets, the report also includes papers on same-sex marriage (by Reverend Alex MacDonald), universalism (written by Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell) and the London riots (by Reverend Dr John Nicholls). The report will be presented by convener Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell.


Ecumenical Relations Committee: Download the PDF here image

The Free Church of Scotland continues to develop and maintain active prayerful interest in the work of the gospel in other denominations, with a particular interest in those churches holding to a Reformed persuasion. This year’s report from the Ecumenical Relations Committee includes a summary of discussions with the Associated Presbyterian Churches, as well as noting developments with other denominations. The report will be presented by convener Reverend Kenneth Ferguson.


Home Missions Board: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The Home Missions Board has a broad remit over the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland, including church development, planting, extension and youth work. The report lays out a number of challenges facing the Church, including the need for a reduced staff size and strategic cost-cutting measures. However, the Board suggests that the current economic situation may be a friend, not an enemy, and points to the early Christian church which thrived in a period of financial stress, no buildings and few paid workers. There is to be a discussion on church planting, and there will be news of a potential new church plant in Edinburgh. The report will be presented by chairman Reverend David Meredith.


International Missions Board: Download the PDF by clicking here image

The Free Church of Scotland has several mission interests abroad, including Latin America, India, South Africa and Central Asia. The International Missions Board has begun a wide-ranging strategic review of its work, not only to come to conclusions regarding current activity but also to identify future opportunities in the light of the evolving shape of Christianity around the world. The report shares developments in theological education in Peru, Columbia and South Africa, commending it to the wider Church for prayer. The report will be presented by chairman Reverend David MacPherson, and there will be mission speakers on the Thursday evening of the Assembly too.


Nominations Committee: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The task of this Committee, as its name suggests, is that of bringing nominations to the General Assembly for the filling of vacancies in the various Committees and Boards of the Free Church of Scotland on an annual basis. A certain proportion of members of Committees and Boards reach the end of their period of service each year, and these need to be replaced by the Assembly. The report will be presented by convener Reverend James MacIver.


Panel of Pastoral Advice: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The majority of the Panel’s work is composed of informal conversations and contacts. As the natures of these are both sensitive and confidential they do not appear in print. The report notes that the addition of new members with greater expertise in pastoral counselling will further improve the Free Church of Scotland’s care of its ministers and families. The report will be presented by chairman Reverend Alasdair MacDonald.


Personnel Committee: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The personnel committee has responsibility for oversight of all matters relating to the working conditions of ministers (including stipend) and other staff members. The report will be presented by convener Mr Callum MacDonald.


Quinquennial Review Committee to the College: Download the PDF image

The Quinquennial Review Committee to the Free Church of Scotland College was appointed by the 2011 General Assembly with the remit to review all aspects of the College’s performance. The Committee unanimously agrees that it is essential that the Free Church of Scotland continues to have its own College for the theological training of its future ministers and of persons engaged in other aspects of the denomination’s work and witness. It also recommends that the College Board appoint a committee to investigate some of the other matters raised in their report, such as the future role of the Principal. The report will be presented by convener Reverend Dr Malcolm Maclean.


Special Committee on Praise: Download in PDF format here image

The Committee was appointed by the Plenary Assembly of November 2010, to investigate the provision of materials for sung praise in addition to the Psalms for the congregations who wish to use them. This fell into two parts: the provision of a list of hymns which conform to the finding of the Assembly and the provision of Scripture songs and paraphrases. The report will be presented by convener Professor Donald MacDonald.


Study Panel: Download in PDF format by clicking here image

The Study Panel has been wrestling with the issues of marriage, divorce and remarriage, following David Instone-Brewer’s recent contribution to the matter. The Free Church of Scotland position is that of the Westminster Confession, which says the Bible allows for divorce in cases of adultery and desertion. However, the Panel – which stressed the Church should do all in its power to support, strengthen and honour marriage – believes Instone-Brewer is correct in suggesting that the Bible also allows for divorce in cases of neglect and abuse. The Panel has also included a section on same-sex marriage, outlining the Free Church of Scotland’s firm opposition to this proposed legislation. The report will be presented by convener Professor Donald MacDonald.

The General Assembly agreed that section A of the Study Panel report be placed on the website for further study. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

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