3-Year (ish) Plan
Ten days before the General Assembly I get my copy of the Council of Assembly’s ten year (yes that is ten, one followed by a zero) Strategic Plan for the Church 2018-2028. After 60 years of decline in the Church of Scotland, we are finally presented with a new Plan! It’s a bit like sending out the daily activities sheet for the week ahead on the Titanic! The ship, as we know it, is sinking, and it is time to get as many folk on board the lifeboats as possible that something new might be created out of the noble but dated past. Whatever was wrong with the Church Without Walls Report of 2001 that it needed to be surpassed by this new Strategic Plan?
So don’t rip this next bit to shreds just yet – in my defence, I am a parish minister, and most of the time I love it, but I am busy with one or two things during the week as well as my Sunday appearance – so this list of quick suggestions is almost off the top of my head. If it was contained in a glossy production it may have carried more gravitas, but I’m on a budget here!
1. Drop Article 3 and give freedom to ministers and congregations to focus on mission and outreach, with no parish boundaries, and to share funeral requests with all local denominations.
2. Get a small squad of enthusiasts together to thrash out a new Presbytery system based on the Chalmers lectures by Doug Gay; re-vamp the Councils and let us elect, from a choice of candidates, folk who will lead us in new directions and radical change; all this should decentralise the Church and whittle down bureaucracy.
3. All charges put on five-year reviewable tenure and, through a streamlined Local Church Review, enable a vision to be set; if it ain’t working on review, then change needs to take place.
4. Presbytery Planning Teams need to be radical, robust and imaginative, proposing closures, unions, and new hubs, now!
5. Free the money from sale of buildings for new local mission initiatives instead of it being locked down for property.
6. No congregation should pay centrally to the Ministry and Mission Fund more than the cost of one and a half ministers – maximum £65,000, if one minister is in situ – if two ministers are in the team, then no more than two and a half etc. This frees local funds for local mission.
7. Establish new pathways into ordained ministry that allow paid candidates to work and study; release ministers from the out-dated manse system; and let’s properly support our women and men who are essentially preaching the Word of life.
8. Write an open letter to every member of every congregation explaining why such radical change needs to take place and invite them to be part of this new adventure.
9. Do not be afraid.
10. Do not worry about what the new structures and Church will look like, it’s all in God’s hands, not ours; every member should be issued with a mars bar to help them work, rest and pray!
A ten-point three-year Plan!
OK, so the above points require Assembly and Councils and Presbyteries to take action, so if that won’t work, here’s an alternative…
1. If not already on board, get your Kirk Session and congregation to know what we are facing. Create a vision and go for it!
2. Contact the Presbytery Clerk and say you are awfy sorry, that you try your best to be a good Presbyterian, but you just can’t find anyone to cover for you while you are on holiday because they are all already too busy, so you aren’t sure who is going to take all the funerals. Suggest to the Clerk that he/she contacts 121 or arrives at the front doors waving a white flag!
3. When absent, have your Sunday service led by a bunch of folk from your own Kirk who have not been officially trained but nevertheless whom you trust because you know them well.
4. Stop going to Presbytery meetings meantime and taking part in Committees because you are focussing your time and attention on new local mission initiatives.
5. Instead of sending £100,000 for M&M, send £65,000 instead and fuel local mission.
6. Ask politely that your money held for fabric purposes be released for new mission work.
7. As per 9 and 10 above.
8. Await discipline!!!
It was once said, wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision! Could that be you?