Act 1, Class 1, 2020 – Dissolution of Provincial Synods

The General Assembly, noting that annual statutory meetings of Provincial Synods have been suspended since 2009 General Assembly, and that the reduced number of Presbyteries in the Church has resulted in this tier of Church government becoming largely redundant, and desiring therefore that Provincial Synods be dissolved and removed from the governmental structure of the Church, ordain as follows with the consent of Presbyteries:

1. Dissolution of Provincial Synods. The General Assembly, noting that statutory meetings of Provincial Synods have been suspended since the 2009 General Assembly, and that Provincial Synods no longer have a meaningful purpose in the government of the Church due to reduction in the number of Presbyteries over the years, declare that Synods be dissolved with no prejudice to the review procedures regarding Complaints and Appeals, Petitions, and References.

2. Review Procedures. The General Assembly declare that the business of reviewing matters from Presbyteries now be directed to the Commissions of Assembly and finally to the General Assembly. They instruct that all future meetings of the Commissions of Assembly be empowered to receive appeals, complaints, petitions and references from individuals and from the lower courts of the Church.

2.1 The General Assembly declare that the procedure for the submission of papers, etc., regarding references, appeals, complaints, and petitions be such that these be forwarded to the Principal Clerk of Assembly for inclusion in the business of the Assembly or its Commissions. They instruct the Principal Clerk to bring all such papers to the attention of the Assembly Business Committee who will bring a recommendation to the Assembly or to its Commissions on the acceptability and relevance of all papers.

2.2 The General Assembly declare that the final decision regarding the reception of papers, etc., associated with references, appeals, complaints, and petitions will rest with the Assembly and its Commissions and that it shall be competent to submit amendments to the Committee’s proposal at the time at which its report is taken up for consideration.

2.3 The General Assembly affirm that in general terms, the findings of the Commissions of Assembly are final and not subject to appeal. However, they declare that, in the case of Complaints and Appeals, Petitions, and References, it shall be competent for parties in the review process to appeal to the General Assembly.

3. Examination of Records. The General Assembly instruct that Presbytery records be submitted for examination to the General Assembly Business Committee annually by 31st March. They instruct the Business Committee to examine the records at its annual April meeting and to report on the examination to the next General Assembly.

4. Financial Arrangements. The General Assembly instruct all Synods to meet in order to make suitable arrangements for the allocation of funds held in the name of the Synod.

4.1 General Funds. The General Assembly direct that, where monies are held in a general account in the name of the Synod, such funds be divided equally between the Presbyteries of the Synod.

4.2 Bursary Funds. The General Assembly further direct that, where funds are held by the Synod in restricted funds such as bursary accounts and grant-aid accounts, Synods make suitable arrangements for the administration of such fund by the Central Offices of the Church. They instruct the Central Offices to arrange the dispersal of such funds according to the terms of the deeds of the funds. They also instruct the Central Offices to ensure that bursaries or grant aid are advertised to students in Edinburgh Theological Seminary and any others who are engaged in postgraduate studies who may qualify for financial support from the terms of the bursaries or grants.

4.3 Reporting. The General Assembly instruct each Synod to report to the Assembly Clerks’ Office on the completion of the financial re-arrangements set out in Paragraph 4.1 and 4.2 and to do so not later than 31st December 2020. They instruct the Assembly Clerk to report accordingly to the next General Assembly.

5. Dissolution. The General Assembly declare that Provincial Synods be dissolved and that the provisions of this Act are implemented as soon as possible after the rising of the 2021 General Assembly.

6. Repeal. The General Assembly repeals all Acts of the General Assembly relevant to the constitution of Synods, the re-organisation of Synods and to general meetings of Synod.

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