What is The Church of Scotland?
Christian churches are usually identified by their ‘denomination’ – this indicates the details of their beliefs, the style of worship, and how the church is governed.
The Church of Scotland is a Protestant church governed by Presbyterianism. The Church of Scotland is not controlled by either the Westminster or Scottish Parliaments, nor is the King the head of the Kirk.
Each congregation elects a number of Elders who are responsible for the worship and work of the church. These Elders form the Kirk Session which oversees the local congregation and the parish (local area) that it serves. The Kirk Session meeting is chaired by the Minister. Each Kirk Session elects an Elder to represent them along with their Minister at the local Presbytery, which means that no one person or group within the Church has more influence or say than any other.
Presbyteries are groups of churches which meet together to make decisions and ensure that the decisions made at the General Assembly are carried out. From January 2023 we are part of the newly formed Lothian and Borders Presbytery.
In May each year, the General Assembly is held in Edinburgh to hear reports from the councils and committees, make laws and set the agenda for the national Church for both the coming year and the longer term. Each Presbytery sends an equal number of ministers and elders to represent them. The assembly business is chaired by the Moderator of the General Assembly who is elected each year. Moderators can be male or female and ordained ministers, deacons or elders. Throughout their year in office, Moderators will visit churches across the country and act as a public representative for the church.
The Sovereign has a right to attend the General Assembly but not to interfere in its deliberations. Usually, a Lord High Commissioner is appointed by the King to act as his representative and attend the Assembly as an observer.