Friday, 21 May 2010

Third Article Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland

Special Commission Anent the Third Article Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland in Matters Spiritual

The Special Commission was appointed by the General Assembly in 2008 with the following remit:
1) To consider the relevance of the Third Article Declaratory in today’s Scotland.
2) To investigate and report upon the relationship between the Third Article Declaratory and the current: (a) parish staffing policy and Presbytery Plans. (b) Financing of the Church’s work.
3) To consider the effect upon the Church of Scotland and its structure if the Third Article Declaratory was retained, modified or removed taking full account in its deliberations of the Church of Scotland’s declared priority for the poorest urban and rural parishes as the Gospel imperative facing the whole Church.
4) To make recommendations regarding the future of the Third Article Declaratory
5) To report to the General Assembly of 2010 and instruct the Selection Committee to bring names to a future session of the General Assembly taking full account of the need for appropriate representation from the poorest urban and rural parishes in Scotland.

Dr. Alan McDonald presented the report of the Special Commission. He started his address by recalling the figures in his life that influenced him to leave the law as a profession to follow a calling to the ministry, particularly in priority areas. The Church of Scotland has a declared priority to serve the poorest urban and rural parishes. The Commission under his charge went on the road, travelling throughout Scotland to get glimpses and snapshots of territorial ministries.

Dr. MacDonald shared with the audience memories of people that impacted him whilst on the road. He spoke of the courage of the young man that had to cross a gang-infested area, placing his life in danger, in order to attend church; or the work of parishioners in Caithness who had been serving their community without a Minister for many years and had developed new gifts and a true calling to serve. Or the comments of a parishioner from a wealthy congregation, who stated unambiguously that he was happy his contributions went to finance the excellent work of the Church of Scotland in priority areas of Scotland. He categorically stated that The Church of Scotland is not conceived on a supermarket model solely looking at economical imperatives, but as the Church of the crucified and risen Christ where no part of Scotland could be seen as disposable.

Dr McDonald’s address was considered truly inspirational; however, issues for discussion arose around the sustainability of the current model of full time ministry since 2/3 of congregations cannot support their own ministers. The significance of the Third Article and of the ensuing report was discussed in light of the planning work done by presbyteries. “Larger parishes, less ministers” was rumoured through the main hall.

Discussions arose around the meaning of “new church” and whether there was a need for a full time minister and church buildings in order to worship and serve God. Different positions were expressed; some in support of the traditional approach to buildings, worship staffing models. Others supporting an openness to alternate forms of ministry provided such ministries followed a Biblical model.

The discussion then moved on to address the nature and type of training planned for congregation members to enable them to better serve their communities conducting different aspects of worship and the delivery of sacraments in the absence of a minister. The session concluded after lunch with a unanimous feeling that the address was truly inspirational. “It made me proud to be a minister” said one of the commissioners.

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