General Assembly

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meets in Edinburgh from 20 till 26 May.

You may be interested to know that the first General Assembly was held in December 1560, which was the year of the Scottish Reformation and which marks the beginning of the Church of Scotland as we now know it. The Church of Scotland (the Kirk) is not State-controlled and neither the Scottish nor the Westminster Parliaments are involved in Kirk appointments. The Kirk’s status as the national Church in Scotland dates from 1690, when Parliament restored Scottish Presbyterianism and is guaranteed under the Act of Union of Scotland and England of 1707. The Church of Scotland has an obligation to provide the ordinances of religion to every corner of Scotland. In matters of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, the Church of Scotland is free of State interference, operating under a constitution largely contained in the Articles Declaratory which were recognised by Parliament in 1921.

The General Assembly has the authority to make laws determining how The Church of Scotland operates. It is also the highest court of the Church in which cases can be heard in matters of litigation. The other courts in the Church are the Kirk Session (in each congregation) and the Presbytery (which oversees the church at a regional level). We are part of Hamilton Presbytery which stretches from Drumclog to Kirk O’Shotts and takes in the major towns of Hamilton, Motherwell, Wishaw, Airdrie, Coatbridge and East Kilbride, with all the smaller towns and villages in the surrounding area. Every minister and at least one elder from each congregation make up the Presbytery.

Due to the number of congregations, each is invited to send Commissioners every four or five years. If there are any major changes to church law being proposed, the Assembly must send them down to Presbyteries so that any decision is more locally based.

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