Archive for May, 2014

The Kirk’s still and outwardly world church.

On the fourth day of General Assembly atop the mound there were mixed emotions as one of the Commissioners attending General Assembly was killed in a car accident after the previous days business. 

general Assembly Hall

general Assembly Hall


The minister. Rev.Tom Sinclair,who was clerk to the Presbytery of Lewis,  and his family were remembered in Prayer by the Rt. Rev. John Chalmers at the beginning of the fourth session.    There was a full agenda covering Mission, Youth and indeed the World Mission Council’s report. The Guild of the Kirk too was a feature on the agenda.

The World council report featured concern of the Kirk in all corners of the globe, not least the disgraceful slave trade that went on under the euphamism of people trafficing.   A former moderator pointed out that this vile trade wan nothing short of slave trade and that the women involved were being raped again and again and again for the gain of those who profited.


off Gibraltar.

off Gibraltar.

It moved to do its best to help those trafficked  people whenever possible seek to release them and see,  those plying this trade brought to justice.

There is also concerns over the churches of Scotland which are spread throughout the Presbytery of Europe and one in Jerusalem in the Middle East.  The European churches stretch from Bermuda in the West to Sri Lanka in the east and are in no less than 14 countries.  However, with dwindling finance and shortage of ministers there are serious reviews ongoing in this area.  The majority of churches have centuries of history and began due to Scottish  missionaries of the past. and the Scottish connection is valued not just for the past but the present and future.

The Middle East conflagrations and the way in which Israel was dealing with Palestine was also a grave concern and one motion deplored the bulldozing of 1500 trees of life which recently had been destroyed.  The family who sought peace and harmony had been attacked and their grounds destroyed.  Despite that their concern is to try to live in harmony and try to change the ways of those who seek to take more and more land from them.

St. John's Church, Dunoon, Argyll after a storm felled trees in the church grounds.

St. John’s Church, Dunoon, Argyll after a storm felled trees in the church grounds.

The Guild report wan no longer something just for women as it began but over the past few years Men too join the Guild and it was pointed out this was a worldwide trend throught the Kirks sister churches too.  The report highlighted the vast fundraising for good causes and projects achieved by the Guild even in these difficult economic times.

The Kirk firmly continues to be the voice of the voiceless and a number of the overseas guests at assembly were ready to congratulate the Kirk on its work, but also reminded them to continue to be the strong voice of the voiceless wherever that may be.

the large group of overseas visitors and delegates to the Church of Scotland General Assembly 2014

the large group of overseas visitors and delegates to the Church of Scotland General Assembly 2014








   The  General Assembly of the Church of Scotland began on Saturday May 17 and lasts til Friday 23 May and for the seven days in May commissioners from around Scotland and the world assemble atop the mound in the Well known Assembly Hall the first home of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.  The issues facing the Kirk as it is fondly known are many and as recent major restructures of the august body the highest court of the Church have meant some adjustments not least in the time spent in debates.  The event at one time took two weeks to work through the agenda, however this is not reduced to one week and the formal opening is always well worth seeing if you are a tourist in Edinburgh.  The processions first of the Lord Provosts



and then the military escourt to the Lord High Commissioner and his entourage and the colourful Herald court accompanying the Lord High Commissioner who this year was Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex accompanied by his wife the countess of Wessex.   In his opening speech he touched on key issues such as the up coming referendum about independence of Scotland.  He congratulated the Kirk on the work it did to help those most in need and also took a swipe at politicians underlining that they often are not as diplomatic as they might be..



The agenda on the first day was a full one and debates and decision were discussed til around five in the early evening.   The key debate was about the shape of the Ministry in a constantly changing country and culture.  Secularism is clearly much stronger and with many more religions and humanist groups the Kirk was under much greater pressure.   The types of ministers is expected to change with many more part time and non stipendiary ministers being involved as well as seeking to somehow trim the high cost of training for the ministry and to limit the debt incurred by students who take on this vocation.    The use of modern technology too was suggested could take more share of outreach in the Kirk.   It was even suggested by Rev. Ken Ross, Argyll Presbytery, that the General Assembly might be held only every second year!  The idea was to release the funds that this annual meeting costs for other uses in the Presbyteries.

On Sunday afternoon after the formal Service in St. Giles Princes street gardens became the focus for the commissioners and indeed for church members from all around Scotland who came to attend the event called Heart and Soul.    At this event there are many displays and exhibitions showing what the Kirk gets up to in parishes  around Scotland.  There was a range of music including Jazz and A Pipe band.   The afternoon culminated with a large open air Service in the Ross Bandstand.  The weather was kind to the event an it went well and was well attended.  the tourists on Princes street may have wondered what was going on and were welcome to join in.




The Monday session got underway with the Communion Service always a moving occassion and sets the tone often of the remainder of the week.   The Kirk has always been a broad church and even when there is deep division it tends to remain on the whole together.  The Type of ministry the Kirk will have may well shock the founder of the National Church, John Knox back in the sixteenth century.  Not least that it would allow for gay clergy!



It is a long time since the western backed media baptised some demonstrations in the middle east as the ARAB  SPRING.   The start of this was in Tunisia followed by Egypt, then Libya and Syria.  However, little or nothing was said in the same controlled media about the peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, even in Israel!   The focus was Tharir Square for weeks and despite the USA at first being hesitant to back the changes and the removal of their man Mubarak, change came, however, the Muslim Brotherhood were the winners!  Not who the USA or Israel for that matter wanted to win!  So democracy was subverted a different rent a crowd were brought in to object and more elections were needed and this is still not a done deal.





The attacks on Libya were by NATO forces and it was simply covert regime change by force and you could say judicial murder.     Eventually after weeks of bombings by NATO the casualty list was massive in comparison to the forty years of so called dictatorial government.  Due to the bombing the infrastucture was wrecked and today Libya is in a process of slow climb back to where it was forty years ago or more.  There is not any real control by the government put in by the West.  Different tribes and different groups including some who would have preferred to see Gadaffi left alone, vie for control on the ground.  The fighting ended when Col .  Muammur Gadaffi was captured and murdered by his enemies.  The facts behind this capture are murky but basically he was sold out to his enemies by the west.

a devastated street in Libya after NATO bombing how did that protect innocent civilians?

a devastated street in Libya after NATO bombing how did that protect innocent civilians?

The focus then moved to Syria where claim and counterclaim suggested the insurgency was backed by the USA,  Qatar, even Saudi Arabia.  However, the Assad government never destabilised  by the west int he past when it was the centre for drug dealing and a haven for terrorists!   Yet when a much more sophisticated leader , educated in the west and trained  in his medical speciality in London, and still in the Assad Family took over you could havwe expected the west to at least help to stabilise this country not feed arms and men through Turkish fluid borders.  a number of years later as the US population clearly want nothin to do with involvement in other countries fights,  it seems to have been left to fester.  The result is millions of refugees  pouring across borders while the humanitarian crisis for those trapped under seige in places like Homs are left in the dark.

With this dark picture it may have been more accurate to describe it as the Middle East Midnight.   Only Russia prevented more complex problems in Syria and despite alleged threats to Putin over the winter Olympics by Saudi Arabia due to their Syrian stance there was no problem with the winter Olympics.

a heart shaped cloud over Scotland.

a heart shaped cloud over Scotland.


Today we have a wrecked country in Libya,  a wrecked economy and unstable country in Egypt.  Tunisia may be most democaratic, but not without problems.  While Syrian forces plod on to take hold of the country once again.  The Lebanon too has suffered due to the amount of refugees and have had to be involved via Hezbollah fighters.  This put Iran on the black list again of the USA along with their seeking to have nuclear power plants and being accused of seeking to get a nuclear weapon.   The USA, however, have not pushed this issue, yet sought to diminish Russian power through the unstable Ukraine.

As we hurtle through the remainder of 2014 by the end of the year it is hoped we will see a more peaceful world.