My sense is that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2017 will be a year of frustration. Only the Church and Society Council appear to be bringing a significant report to the assembly. Other reports are hinting at councils who have been checked, while the Council of Assembly work out what the strategic plan will be (broken eschatology – appealing to the not yet to come without any acting now). I am unclear if this is an instruction of Council of Assembly or not.
That not to say there are not significant things happening beyond the goodness of the Church and Society Council report.
1 – the report of the working group on eldership within Mission and Discipleship is significant.
2 – the twin thrust of (1) reimagining the work of the church with young people and also (2) how we engage young people within the structures and decision making life of the church, is a very exciting development, but one I fear will be lost in a debate over the future of the youth assembly.
3 – the report of the Theological forum is a good and balanced report full of detail and reasoned argument. Will it be heard fairly? well thats a different story. The big fights will be over the future of the National Youth Assembly and also the report of the Theological Forum on Thursday.
The key issues to me
but I suspect the real fight should be
1 – Strategy. Can the council of assembly guarantee the strategic plan will also reorganise and reform the councils and other bodies at 121? How does this work while the church is backing separate and at times competing initiatives including “the strategic plan”, “the themes for three years” and “speak it out”. They all appearing to be taking the church in, at times, three different ways. There needs to be a better joined up approach to major initiatives, a better way of working is required. The key question of what is the least possible you can be in order to be a Church of Scotland is very striking and resonates with much in the Blue Book.
2 – Money. How does assembly respond to the Social Care Councils stark admission that they cannot afford to pay all employees the Scottish Living Wage. Yet as a church we have assets of around £475million. I think there is an issue with the amount of money the church holds, and also how the money is spend.
How do I feel
I kinda feel like I am going this year, but most of the big answers will be “if only you can see what we want to do next year”. I hope that is not the case.