Moderators climb Ben Lomond for Christian Aid

Christian Aid newRachel Hutcheson, National Youth Assembly Moderator (a member of Old High St Stephen’s congregation) and The Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly, has called on the Church to get behind a major fundraising drive for Christian Aid by signing up to their Munro challenge.

On Saturday 2 May, Rachel and Mr Chalmers and will be leading by example by climbing Ben Lomond, and are encouraging folk to sponsor them.

As they prepare for their trek, the two Moderators are calling on congregations across Scotland to reach the summit of 69 other Munros to mark the 70th anniversary of Christian Aid.

Rachel said: “I really hope everyone who is able to will climb with us in order to raise as much money as possible for a charity I am very proud to support. If people are unable to support John and I in person then I’d be very grateful if they could sponsor us.

“I hope and pray that as well as a fundraising activity it will also be a networking opportunity for friends and fellowship.

“I am also determined to beat the Moderator of the General Assembly to the top as I have a score to settle after him beating me at golf at the national youth assembly.”

Mr Chalmers added: “This day out is much more than a fundraiser – it is an opportunity to join me and Rachel on a pilgrimage during which we will contemplate some of the mountains that Christian Aid and others are still trying to climb on their way to creating a world that is just and fair and which gives the poor a chance to climb out of poverty.”

For more details, and to donate, click here.

After the referendum- time to reflect this Sunday

Reconciliation ServiceJoin us this Sunday at Stephen’s as we watch and discuss the service of reconciliation which took place at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, on the Sunday following the Scottish independence referendum.

The ‘service reflecting shared values and common purpose’ was the idea of the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, who also preached the sermon at the service.

During his sermon, the Moderator said,

Post referendum there are those who are elated or at least relieved, and there are those who are desperately disappointed, “gutted” – is the description that I have frequently heard. Feelings like these will take time to heal and I want no one to think that I think that there is a quick fix or an easy “dusting down”. For some, this referendum has been about national identity; for us all it has been about self-identity and that is about as close to the soul as it gets. So recovery and healing is a soul searching matter and for me, that is a deeply spiritual matter – so no quick fix. Instead, it will take a force of magnanimity and graciousness to restore equilibrium to both nation and individuals.

On Sunday night at St Stephen’s. we will be watching highlights of the service, and having some discussion about whether there is a need for reconciliation after the referendum, and where country goes from here.

More about the St Giles’ service here.

The discussion at St Stephen’s will follow a short evening communion service, to which anyone is welcome.

The service begins at 7pm, and the film and discussion starts at 7.30pm. People are welcome to come to either or both events.

The Moderator will be hosting a nationwide discussion on 5 November  about the aftermath of the referendum, ‘Scotland’s Future Now’. The venue in Inverness will be Crown Church. More details to follow.

Who needs reconciliation anyhow?: Sermon for Sunday 7 September 2014

A note from the Minister: after completing this sermon I fell ill and was unable to deliver it on Sunday morning. I’m grateful to the Rev Morven Archer who took our services in my place, and who used much of the material below. This is the sermon I would have preached had I been able to. I’m glad to say I’m on the mend, since you ask!

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 7 September 2014: Year A, Proper 18

SERMON
Texts: Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

Who needs reconciliation anyhow?
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This week the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, chaired a ‘respectful dialogue’ on the independence referendum. It was held in a Glasgow church, but the rest of us could participate because if was put out live on the Internet. At the Crown Church, we watched the speakers live on a big screen, had own audience comments section, and emailed our thoughts back to Glasgow. It was a fascinating experience, being linked up in that way to others around the country. As I was checking that I could communicate with the person receiving the emails in Glasgow, I suddenly thought of the Eurovision Song Contest- ‘Hello, this is Helsinki, here are the votes of the Finnish jury’. Maybe one day the General Assembly will be replaced by this kind of technology- although perhaps the Assembly will be unlikely to turn into a version of Eurovision. Continue reading

Respectful dialogue on independence

Indref logoOn Wednesday 3 September, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will host a ‘respectful dialogue’ on the Scottish Independence Referendum.

The event in Glasgow will be live streamed on the internet, and shown at local venues across the country.

The Inverness event will be at Crown Church, Kingsmills Road, starting at 7pm. Car parking will be available in the adjoining Crown School playground. Everyone is welcome to join us.

The Rev Peter W Nimmo, minister of Old High St Stephen’s and a member of the Church and Society Council of the General Assembly, will chair the Inverness event.

Our thanks to the Rev Peter Donald for the use of Crown Church.

Let us know you are coming at our Facebook events page!

The Church of Scotland is officially neutral on the referendum.

Read the press release for local media.

Below is the event leaflet.

You can also download a copy of it.

Indyref dialogue leaflet 1                                   Indyref dialogue leaflet 2

A Respectful Dialogue on Independence: Thursday 26 June at Inverness Town House

A RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE A Debate on the Independence Referendum, chaired by Rev Jan Mathieson, Cawdor and Croy Churches. Blair Jenkins, Yes Scotland, will be debating with Mike Robb, Labour Party. All welcome. Thursday June 26, Inverness, 7.30pm.

The ‘respectful dialogue’ term was used for an event held during the recent General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The dialogue was chaired by the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev John Chalmers. Previously, he had written in an article for the Sunday times:

‘In Scotland, as we stand on the threshold of the most important decision that the Scottish people have faced in peacetime history, we do not need a highly emotive and deeply personalised public rammy…. We need a Respectful Dialogue about Scotland’s future whether it is as an independent nation or as part of the United Kingdom. I am confident that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland can model the way in which this dialogue should be conducted and I am equally confident that if the Better Together and the Yes campaigners conduct themselves in the same way, then post-referendum healing and recovery will be much more manageable’.

The Moderator has also spoken of the need for respectful dialogue in a recent Scotsman article.

Although this even is not organised by the churches, I hope many Christian people will want to support it.

General Assembly continuing on path towards ordaining gay ministers

The minister writes-

The General Assembly today voted 369 to 189 to accept a proposal from its Legal Questions Committee on a possible way forward in the ‘gay ministers’ debate.

Last year’s assembly had accepted a proposal from former Moderator the Very Rev Albert Bogle which, while affirming a traditional view of sexual relationships as the norm in the church, sought to allow Kirk Sessions to ‘depart’ from tradition if they were willing to induct a minister in a civil partnership.

A report was accepted from the Theological Forum which spoke of the possibility of a ‘mixed economy’, in which a church might accept exceptions from normal practice in the case of issues which are not central to the Christian faith. They pointed to examples from the early church, the reformation and in recent years where congregations and individuals were given the freedom to deviate from the majority of the church. A fascinating debate, in which the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance fielded complex theological questions with grace and thoughtfulness on behalf of his Panel, prepared the way for the Legal Questions debate after lunch.

Moderator John Chalmers led the assembly through three amendments and a countermotion, as well as the original’ ‘Overture’. The final vote, following prayer brought to an end hours of sometimes painful and passionate debate, from which the Overture survived unchanged.

The Overture now goes to presbyteries across the country to vote on over the next year. If a majority of presbyteries vote in favour, the legislation will come back to next Year’s assembly for final approval. Presbytery approval is no means guaranteed. However, the size of today’s majority, and the support the Overture has received from across the theological breadth of the church, may mean it has a good chance of receiving the presbytery approval, perhaps making it into law as early as next year.

Since the Overture deals only with civil partnerships, the Acting Principal Clerk, the Rev George Whyte, asked and received approval for the Theological Forum and the Legal Questions Committee to also consider whether the provisions of the Overture should also apply to ministers in same-sex marriages, which should become legal in Scotland in the course of the next 12 months.

Reports on today, as usual, are available from Life and Work and Douglas Aitken. There is also press release from the Church.

The big report tomorrow is from the Church and Society Council, of which I have been a member for the last year.

Tuesday at the General Assembly

The minister writes-

The assembly began on Tuesday with prayers for the family of the Rev Tom Sinclair, Clerk of the Presbytery Lewis, who had tragically died in a road accident following the previous day’s sitting.

The Mission and Discipleship brought a report which included a survey from the Highlands of of non-churchgoers who consider themselves Christians, and the first major report on interfaith matters for many years. I was happy to speak in support of a successful motion from the floor instructing the council to provide materials supporting ministers running new members’ courses. We also heard of the work of the National Youth Assembly, and of the Guild.

On the World Mission report, we heard that the plight of the Christians of Pakistan continues to be a major concern. The Very Rev David Lunan spoke powerfully about people trafficking, which he said was modern-day day slavery, encompassing hundreds of women in Scotland victims, not of prostitution, but multiple rape. And there was a moving moment as the Assembly remembered, with prayer, Jane Haining from Dunscore, who defied an instruction to leave the Jewish children she cared for children in Hungary and died in Auswitch with them 70 years ago.

Finally, there was a special, session, billed as a ‘respectful dialogue’ on the questions raised by the independence referendum. Douglas Alexander MP and the Rev Dr Doug Gay gave the opening speeches for a session which was thoughtful and lived up to its billing. We were reminded that there is no them and us, only us. For anyone who believes that religion brings only conflict and division, this example of the church at its best would have been an eye-opener! It was certainly the best debate on the subject I’ve ever heard.

Hopefully there will continue to be respectful dialogue today as we take up the issue of gay clergy.

Douglas Aitken’s excellent reports can be read or listened to here.

The Life and Work reports on the Assembly are here.

Latest reports on the General Assembly

The minister writes-

At the assembly on Monday, perhaps the most surprising occurrence was the Assembly’s enthusiastic backing for a series of reforms to the recruitment and training of ministers proposed, from the floor, by Dr Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College, at Glasgow University, in spite of some opposition from the Ministries Council. This will see the church embark on a ‘Decade of Ministry’, with the aim of recruiting 30 candidate for ministry training, and 100 church members for training in mission.

Near the start of the day there was vociferous condemnation of discrimination against women, following retiring Moderator Lorna Hood’s speech on Saturday night in which she said she had been told she would be unwelcome in the pulpits of some churches in a Highland presbytery.

The Very Rev David Lacey asked, “What action can this Assembly take about this flagrant disobedience of its own Acts, or is there some conceivable reason that we should just let it pass?” The Acting Principal Clerk replied that church law allowed anyone who felt discriminated against to make a complaint.

10363632_647891545290487_1857654784794111562_n
On Sunday, this congregation member enjoyed the service at St Giles’ with a sermon by the moderator which began with a story from American humourist Garrison Keillor. He then spent the afternoon manning a photo booth at Heart and Soul to publicize Imagining Scotland’s Future.

 

Elsewhere, the BBC reports that around 250 members of the Western Isles’ largest Church of Scotland are leaving for the Free Kirk over the issues of gay clergy. The issue will be debated here on Wednesday.

The main business tomorrow will be the report of the Mission and Discipleship Council and an informal debate on independence.

Douglas Aitken’s reports on Saturday and Monday at the General Assembly are now online. You can read or listen to them here.

There are also excellent reports from Life and Work here.

Monday at the General Assembly

The minister writes-
Monday at the General Assembly traditionally begins with Holy Communion.
The main business of the day is the report of the Ministries Council.
They report that the numbers entering parish ministry is at its lowest in a generation. 80% of current ministers are aged over 50, and only 2 younger than 30. Church of Scotland will be short of over 200 parish ministers by the early 2020s. Among other responses to these challenges are new initiatives to encourage members to consider calls to ministry.
More on the 2014, including the daily timetable, here