General Assembly Optics – Not A Good Look

General Assembly Optics – Not A Good Look

TV presentation is a learned skill. The Church of Scotland’s Commissioners to General Assemblies are not skilled in this competence. Online broadcasts do no favours to the appearance and character of Church membership. There are still ministers wearing black clothes and large white dog collars, seeming remnants of a bygone age. Most of the men are middle aged or elderly, somewhat scruffily dressed; the colours are dull; there are few suits and ties. The women are not beautiful. (This is an observation, not a judgement.)

The discussions follow the old unreconstructed patterns. A convener gives a report and takes questions, one question per inquirer. There is no opportunity for a follow up question. There is no interrogation, no forensic questioning. It is a game of smoke and mirrors. The real issues are not discussed, only administrative and managerial practicalities. Obfuscation rules the day at every General Assembly. It is a successful strategy. Sir Humphrey rules. The Convener of the General Trustees Rev David Cameron admitted to not giving the full picture, not telling the whole truth. No opportunity was given to ask for elucidation. No Moderator ever demands proper answers from Conveners. There is no genuine debate about the wrong strategies being employed at the present time, the ruinous money, property and management of decline agenda.

Neither is there discussion about large issues such as the credibility of Christianity, about the heart and soul of its purpose, about its adversaries and enemies throughout the land, about its global and cosmic reach, about its living connection with our Creator. Jesus is not elevated in comparison to other historical faith and philosophy leaders. That might bring a charge of hate speech. It would be ruled out of order.

General Assemblies are soporific, musty, enervating. There is little passion, no cut and thrust. Searching questions are equated with unpleasantness and are thus unwelcome. General Assembly is a business meeting not a revival tent. The dusty modest panoply of the State dresses the occasion up, reminding of what once was. The ecclesiastical elite dine at Holyrood House of the evenings and are flattered to do so. The Moderator has high national status and is protected by the SAS – for 6 days.

In a recent letter to The Herald Ron Lavalette from Ardrossan bemoaned the lack of leadership from the Church of Scotland. General Assemblies do not offer Christian leadership, spiritual leadership, evangelical leadership, challenge to government, challenge to Islam, challenge to secular values, challenge to the extreme liberal alternatives. The message is ‘Yes Surrender’, 'We are woke'.

There is no articulation of the large scope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. There is parochialism, minutiae, introversion, navel gazing and hand wringing. There is no live prophecy, no explosion of the Holy Spirit, no setting of the Christian agenda before the nation. There is suffocation. There is atrophy. There is ennui. General Assemblies are worlds apart from local congregations. They are kept so, ‘folie de grandeur’, archaic, medieval, giving a wrong impression of Jesus Christ.

Robert Anderson 2017

To contact Robert, please use this email address: