What is... the General Assembly

In the second of our series on aspects of the Free Church, we are going to look at what the General Assembly is and what it does.

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body (court) in the Free Church of Scotland.  The General Assembly meets for a week in Edinburgh every May to discuss church business and set policy.  They may also deal with discipline cases or hear appeals against Presbytery decisions. Acts passed by the Assembly become church law.

Each Presbytery selects Elders and Ministers to take part in the assembly, these are known as commissioners.  There are normally about 80 commissioners and the number sent by each presbytery is determined by their size.

Although the assembly is the highest court in the church the commissioners who make it up do not hold any higher ‘rank’ than other elders or ministers in the church.

The business is chaired by the Moderator, a minister who is appointed for a one-year term. 

There are four Boards which report to the Assembly.  They are:

  • Board of Trustees - deals with the legal matters

  • Mission Board - has strategic oversight of home and foreign missions and a remit to encourage mission within the Church

  • Board of Ministry - deals with applications for the ministry and pastoral care for all ministers

  • Seminary Board - looks after the running of the Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS).

Calum is the Youth representative on the Mission Board who will report back on mission work both internally within Scotland and externally.