Exploring the Unitary Constitution
As we have been encouraged to explore the unitary constitution as an alternative to the current way we run our congregation, this section is intended to answer some questions that people may have.
What is the main difference?
Under our present set up the financial and temporal matters of the church are dealt with by a Congregational Board. If we adopt the unitary constitution the Board will be dissolved and all these matters will be handled by the kirk session. The trustees of the congregation would be the members of the kirk session; those who previously were elected to the Board at the annual congregational meeting would no longer be trustees.
Who sits on the kirk session?
The minister normally convenes, moderates or chairs the meeting of the kirk session which is comprised of minister(s) and elders. They can appoint a clerk and a treasurer who need not be elders and who would attend meetings but would not by virtue of this office become session members.
Could anyone else sit on the session?
Session meetings are normally open meetings and so any member can be present - except in certain sensitive matters where it meets in private. Former board members who are not elders could be co-opted and so still be part of the management process of the church - and their ideas and help may well be of great value to the session, but they would not be session members. It might be that in time this exposure to the wider affairs of the church would help them to feel motivated towards becoming elders.
What advantage would the unitary constitution bring?
There would not be a separation between the spiritual and temporal matters of the church which in practice are not totally separate. For example stewardship, giving, the use of buildings are not just about property and money. It would also mean that all the charity trustees would have a say over all the activities of the congregation and not just some of the activities: currently trustees who are only Board members only make decisions over some areas whereas being trustees they are in a sense responsible for the whole.
How will the decision be made?
If the kirk session feels this is the way forward the congregation as a whole will be consulted. The presbytery will guide us through this process and if the congregation supports the change, a request goes to the church's Edinburgh offices who alone have the power to allow us to adopt the new constitution.
What is the Church of Scotland's preferred option?
In 2016 the General Assembly decided that congregations who still have Congregational Boards should be urged, or strongly encouraged to move to the Unitary model.
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