General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2019

Radical new reports by Professor David Fergusson and Dr Sandy Forsyth, commissioned by the Church of Scotland, will be considered by the General Assembly when it meets at New College, 18-24 May 2019.

The first report focuses on restructuring the Church so that it is “lean and fit for purpose to lead reform”, the second looks at inspiring new worshipping communities. Both have been published on the Church of Scotland website in Assembly reports and proceedings.

Structural reform for the Church of Scotland

Professor Fergusson was asked to chair a Special Commission on Structural Reform, which consisted of Sarah Davidson (Scottish Government), James McNeill QC, and Morag Mylne QC. Nomi Pritz-Bennett, a PhD student at New College, acted as secretary and research assistant.

Their report is hard-hitting and suggests fundamental changes.

Recommendations for the General Assembly to consider, include:

  • a new body of trustees to replace the Council of Assembly
  • a new senior management team, under a new post – Chief Officer
  • new Business Committee
  • 20-30% cuts in central administrative costs
  • simplification of Church structures eg. reducing the number of Councils and continuing to reduce the number of Presbyteries.

“We were urged to be bold and radical in our proposals,” says Professor Fergusson, who will present the Commission’s findings to the General Assembly on Monday 20 May.

The report on Structural Reform can be found on pages 40-80 of the Blue Book.

Inspiring new worshipping communities

Dr Forsyth’s report, also commissioned by the Church, sets out recommendations to kick-start the formation of “fresh expressions of church.”

'Inspiring New Worshipping Communities: Pathways for Pioneer Ministry and Church Planting in the Church of Scotland' makes detailed recommendations about church structures, resources, permissions, training and support for growth.

Goals include:

  • formation of 100 new worshipping communities in Scotland by 1 July 2030
  • pathways for the formation of ‘Church of Scotland Pioneer Initiatives' to be fully operational by 1 July 2020.

Dr Forsyth’s report will be debated at the Assembly on Thursday 23 May.

New Worshipping Communities forms part of a report by the Joint Emerging Churches Group, which starts at page 369 of the Blue Book. The report appears in full from page 379.


Dr Forsyth is course leader for a new short course, ‘Introduction to Pioneer Ministry and Church Planting' which will be piloted by the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, September-November 2019. A second course, ‘Training for Leading Worship in a Local Context,’ led by Dr Alison Jack, will follow in 2020.


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