Courage sister, courage brother!
Missed my Monday off with my beautiful little granddaughter today in favour of fulfilling my GA duty as a Commissioner. I’m sure she’ll forgive me this once, I had to be there!
“O Lord you search me and you know me”, the singing almost brings a tear to my eye it is so good to be together in full voice! Maybe we should do more singing than talking?
World Mission reported and it was pretty good stuff. The Convener reminded us that Jesus had that annoying habit of stepping over the boundaries, with people of faith, of no faith, and of other faith – there is no use saying “peace be with you” if we don’t seek to build that peace. Absolutely!
Tartan scarf presented to Mod at this point, all ready to add her cry to the Hampden roar, or become a Bay City Roller!
Back to business. Moving stories from the Holy Land – check out Tent of Nations and House of Grace. Important to widen our horizons, I can’t disagree with that, and it often gets things into perspective, shading the many boring and pedantic kerfuffles we sometimes endure at Church meetings! We have lessons to learn from the Church in Africa – it was heart-warming to hear an African minister stand up and tell the Church of Scotland that it needs to make radical decisions! I have never met the man before nor did I pay him any money, but what a great starter he unwittingly gave me as I launched into my hopeful new sections to the Council of Assembly deliverance. I moved as follows:
Remove deliverances 3-6 of the Council of Assembly and replace with new deliverances 3-6 below, and introducing a new number 7 and re-number thereafter:
3. Instruct the Council of Assembly to return to the General Assembly 2019 with a radical action plan for 2019-2022 to achieve much needed reform within our Church;
4. Instruct the Council of Assembly to work collaboratively with other Councils and Presbyteries to bring proposals to General Assembly 2019 for structural change, using the Chalmers Lectures delivered by Dr Doug Gay as a guide, to enable a Church structure that is lean and fit for purpose to lead reform;
5. Instruct the Council of Assembly, in collaboration with other Councils, Committees and Departments as appropriate, to bring forward proposals to the General Assembly 2019 that will allow more funds for mission work, including the freeing of funds held only for property matters and a reformed Ministry and Mission allocation process;
6. Instruct Presbyteries meantime to challenge themselves in their Presbytery Plans to be robust, imaginative and courageous in reducing the number of charges, creating ministry hubs, and enabling new pioneer and new church planting opportunities, supported by a Ministries Council that enables new reformed pathways into ministry;
7. Instruct Kirk Sessions meantime to meet in conference, to reflect on the state of decline of the national Church and in particular how that affects the Church locally, and determine what their vision and mission is for the next three years in collaboration with Presbytery Planning teams.
I gave my little speech on reform which concluded…
This Plan is presented as a direction setter (126.96.36.199) – the Church Without Walls Report some 17 years ago was a direction setter – what we need is urgent radical action. We have had 60 years of decline and it will be worse in the next ten years. To our stubborn shame we have not changed enough through recent decades, it is now we need to reform! We do not have the luxury of more time.
This Plan is hailed as a grass roots production rather than a top down Plan. (188.8.131.52) If you asked most congregations throughout the country few want to see real change; and if they do accept change, it’s only if their Church remains open. We need a Plan that tells every member of our Church the dire state we are in and have been for decades and that we need radical change. I truly believe that God is asking us all to wake up. Too many have heads stuck in the sand and we need a courageous Council of Assembly to tell the membership what we are facing and we need this Assembly to stand up and be counted and lead the whole Church by showing the courage to change, to radically change.
Times are a changing, but sadly not in the Church. (1.1) According to this Plan it is going to take another five years of Local Reviews until all congregations have a mission plan – again to our shame, what on earth have congregations been doing these last 60 years that it’s going to take another five years to come up with a mission plan?
And even worse, this Plan states that Presbyteries will have drawn up a plan about necessary buildings and started to implement it by 2028! (p15) Sorry, but this beggars belief!
I keep a scrapbook of old reports from General Assemblies and other publications…listen to this…
“This dear old Church has found itself beached, as the seas in which it once swam with such vigour have evaporated. Addicted to once-successful formulas, she has become fearful and resentful of the new society, older, smaller, on the fringes.” Quote by George Whyte delivering the first ever report of the newly created Board of Ministry, so you know how old that is.
Finally, to quote from James Simpson in Life and Work 19 years ago… “The Church has always needed radicals – members concerned to get beyond what is peripheral to arrive at the root of the matter; members prepared to question assumptions about what it means to be the Church in our day. It is very easy to become immersed in keeping the roof on the church building and the organ working and the money coming in, that we fail to discern what God is seeking to do through the Church for the world he loves. The Church of Scotland needs to find ways of touching the hearts of those who believe that the Church is not for the likes of me.”
Friends, we’ve been far too slow to change, but with God’s help we might just save something of the Church of Scotland for the future, with radical change now before it’s too late! I plead with you to be courageous and accept these new sections to the deliverance.
With a number of very positive contributions from the floor of Assembly, the courageous Assembly of 2018 passed the new section 3, with 4-7 to be taken later in the week once Commissioners have the opportunity to examine them further.
I am not glad for me that this new section was accepted, I am glad for the Church I love! But, and it’s a big BUT, this is only a small start. I am a great believer in trying new things, some of which work, some of which don’t. Let’s not get down when it falls flat and let’s run with what works. As fellow reformers will know, my dear amateur website contains some radical suggestions under kites for change. As I’ve said before, these are only there to stimulate debate; I am not the author of the perfectly reforming Church! But this could be the start of reform that throws a lifeline to our Church and future generations in Scotland and beyond and for that glimmer of light, thanks be to God!
So courage sister, courage brother, the challenge is now laid before you to be radical! It’s not going to be easy, but what a ride it will be!
Peace be with you!