Monday, 24 May 2010

Panel on Review and Reform

Panel on Review and Reform
The report was presented by the Rev. David Cameron Convener of the Panel. He began his address by reporting on the consultation undertaken by the panel with Presbyteries addressing the following items: (a) possibility of devolved powers for the Presbytery, (b) improved communication, (c) the role and size of Presbytery and diverse aspects of resourcing- financial, human, support and training necessary to support change and reform at presbytery level. Mr. Cameron spoke of the different possible models for structuring presbyteries but stated that there is no one single model of church life. He stated that the Panel believed in the need for diversity within the Church of Scotland and that any agreement on an alternative structure should arise after taking into consideration the particular circumstances of each presbytery.

Mr Cameron then set out proposals for strengthening presbyteries and for re-affirming their mission. He said that the report proposes that presbyteries should assume greater responsibility for their own planning and financial resourcing as well as for developing internal management structures that are flexible and will help it fulfil its mission. “There is unfinished business when it comes to the regional church”, he stated. Power is being concentrated at the centre because of a lack of an adequate repository for it elsewhere. Mr. Cameron pointed out the influence that the Church without Walls Report had on shaping the report and its proposals.

The vision of the Church of Scotland, he pointed out, was to be a “Church which seeks to inspire the people of Scotland and beyond with the Good news of Jesus Christ”. Any proposal for change at presbytery level should therefore facilitate the achievement of this vision. Presbyteries should encourage worship, mission and ministry in the presbytery area; strengthen and support local congregations and their ministries and provide oversight of congregations, ministers and elders. The Panel proposed to pilot test a model of regional church to encourage presbyteries to focus on mission in the local context and to experiment with different forms of operation appropriate to their own situations. Mr. Cameron reiterated that this was not about structural change for the sake of it but about renewal and engagement beyond existing structures.

A number of commissioners spoke in favour of the report praising it as innovative, exciting and bold in its exploration of new directions. It was recognised that there is a great need for Presbytery reform. A motion was presented to consider changes to Act VII 2003 to remove the need for Presbytery plans and other decisions to be approved by Ministries council. The discussion was quite vivid on the floor and when the vote was taken, this motion was approved, as well as all the other deliverances presented.

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