Reforming The Kirk

Reform of the Church of Scotland has been very much on the mind of the author, the Principal of Trinity College, Glasgow. Expressing concern at declining ministry numbers, he successfully encouraged the General Assembly of 2014 to endorse a call for a ‘Decade of Ministry’ providing impetus, urgency and voice to the growing concern about declining numbers of new ministers. Earlier this year, he provided important analysis and ideas for the future of the Church of Scotland, urging reform and change to adapt to the changing needs of the 21st century Kirk through the Chalmers Lectures.

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History will undoubtedly show that this book (an extension of the ideas floated in the lectures) will play a key role in the future direction of the national church. Written from a position of love and concern for the Church he serves, the author seeks not only to bring the message of the lectures to a wider audience, but to stimulate debate and raise concern about the Church of Scotland of the future and offer suggestions for change as a starting point. Agree or disagree with the ideas he offers – which have been developed further since the Chalmers Lectures – the book is clearly published with the aim of encouraging debate and raising urgent awareness of the need for the current framework of the Church of Scotland to be revised and reformed to meet the changing needs of a country that no longer automatically thinks of worship on a Sunday morning and the internal challenges of declining ministry and worshippers.

This work should be compulsory reading for anyone involved or interested in the life of the Church of Scotland, if only as a starting point for debate. The author highlights how the Church of the near future will need to ‘ration and rationalise its work’ to meet the challenges of the immediate future, conceding that there will be ‘unprecedented challenges’ and ‘painful choices’ ahead, but he remains hopeful, concluding: ‘While Presbyterianism may sometimes ask too much and give too little, God never does. Believing that and being open to both what is asked of us and what is given to us, is what will sustain and enable the work of reforming the Kirk.’

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