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Assembly roundup: Kirk once spoke in a voice of thunder

It said no to nuclear weapons, yes to troops out of Iraq and a resounding “Hmm, we’ll get back to you” on the morality of gay relationships.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland drew to a close yesterday after a week of debate and deliberation which saw Scotland’s “national” Church scrutinise everything from human trafficking to the correct weight of a hymn book.

Yet has the voice of the Kirk in annual communion now trailed to a faint whisper of what it once was, muttering only to itself, where it once spoke loudly for a nation? Or, is it in a transitional stage, negotiating the swift currents of an increasingly secular society, losing ground, but far from being swept away?

There is little doubt that the spotlight which once burned so brightly on the General Assembly has dimmed. In the 1950s, when active membership was about 1.5 million, the Church of Scotland had a genuine claim to represent the people of Scotland, while in the 1980s, a disgruntled nation turned to the assembly to articulate its opposition to the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Today, membership is at an all-time low of just 500,000, while the establishment of the Scottish Parliament has provided domestic control over political action, replacing the Church’s largely impotent political arguments.

In the opinion of Professor David Fergusson, the head of the school of divinity at Edinburgh University: “The Church is having to become, not the national Church, but a significant presence in a multi-faith and secular society. It is not the national Church of 50 years ago. It is more a Church of gathered congregations, rather than one that can represent the majority of Scots.”

Full story at The Scotsman.

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