The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which meets this Saturday, 19 May, is the supreme court of Scotland’s national Church, writes Rev Dr Robert Anderson, minister of Blackburn and Seafield Church, West Lothian.
This ecclesiastical status may be said to be parallel to that of the Church of England and to that of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. The first General Assembly was held in 1560 at the inauguration of the Reformation.
Three factors have lessened the historical importance of General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland. Firstly, the Scottish Parliament is now the main forum of public debate.
Secondly, over the past 20 years, bishops in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches have created a stronger media profile than any Moderator of the General Assembly has been able to do.
Thirdly, government and European legislation in the areas of education, employment and human rights has encroached upon the Church’s right to exercise its own forms of authority and discipline.
Intellectually, Christianity has struggled to withstand the onslaught of political, cultural and scientific atheism.
Political atheism’s influence is most keenly felt in the state education sector, where all sense of a living connection with a God-centred Christian history has been eradicated and where the essential dynamics of Christianity are now imprisoned in an equality of faiths policy and perspective.
Cultural atheism is largely the practical, if not imagined, default position of western Europe at present.
Scientific atheism is the basis of most of our contemporary reasoning. The quest for mathematical or laboratory demonstrable proof is today’s philosopher’s stone.
What is left for Christianity to say? Firstly, there has to be some honest discussion about the sources of human values.
Secondly, a prophetic Church (and the Church of Scotland is not prophetic at the present time) can ask for a rigorous analysis of the nature of contemporary society in the light of its Christian values.
Thirdly, Christianity can freely communicate its core message. Christianity is a real faith relationship with our Maker through Jesus Christ. This is a living, redeeming and saving dynamic which has worked in every generation for nearly 2000 years.
The General Assembly may be more concerned with the minutiae of church policy, legislation and administration.
It would be refreshing if, for once, it lifted its eyes and sought to communicate its intended purpose to soul-empty, directionless, post-modern, 21st-century Scotland.
Full story at The Scotsman.