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Act 26, 2011 (XXVI) – Act anent Improvement of Effectiveness of Presbyteries. 25th May 2011.

The General Assembly endorse the following recommendations of the Board of Trustees aimed at improving the effectiveness of Presbyteries.

The General Assembly instruct Presbyteries to give careful consideration to these with a view to implementation where appropriate.

1. Devotions, Fellowship and Pastoral Concern

At meetings of Presbytery:

–          Two congregations could be asked for a brief report on their work and to give points for prayer.

–          A short period could be allocated to prayer in small groups halfway through the meeting.

–          Time could be allocated for a book review or short meditation from Scripture.

–          The holding of an informal meal before Presbytery meetings could foster a spirit of fellowship.

–          All ministers in their first charge should be mentored in accordance with Act XXIV, 2003, with mentors being given a clearly specified role and being required to report back to Presbytery.

2. Presbytery as a Constitutional and Operating Body

Presbyteries should take ownership of decisions made at the General Assembly. In support of this, Business Committees should be tasked with giving thorough consideration to Assembly Deliverances and creating an action plan for their implementation. They should then check periodically on progress against actions identified.

3. Standing Orders and Business Procedures

3.1 In order to improve time management, meetings should begin at the stated time. Unnecessary procedures should also be eliminated. For example, the calling of a roll could be replaced with a signing in sheet. The Presbytery’s Business Committee should prioritise matters in advance of the meeting and only in the most exceptional circumstances should permission be given to raise matters not on the agenda.

3.2 The role of the Moderator is critical in the efficient conduct of business. Standing Orders should be applied graciously but firmly in the conduct of debates, discussions and the presentation of papers.

3.3 Chairmanship should be of a quality that ensures that nobody feels left out of a debate.

3.4 Standing Orders should be reissued each year and the Moderator should be fully conversant with these.

3.5 Committees should be used to process much of the business in order that time is not consumed with detailed discussion to the detriment of policy matters.

3.6 The Student Committee should operate under very specific, written guidelines in the mentoring of its subjects.

3.7 Membership of committees should be rotated so that all members of Presbytery are given an opportunity of serving if they are able. Periods of service on a committee could be modelled on the pattern of service used for central standing committees and boards.

3.8 Notwithstanding the above, the application of a skills audit, as being developed for central standing committees and boards, should be kept in mind.

3.9 Committees should be set up on an ad hoc basis to deal with specific, non-recurring matters.

3.10 Where possible, the location of meetings should be varied to included even outlying places within the Presbytery. This can not only make members feel less marginalised but also give more of an appreciation of the circumstances under which some are operating.

3.11 Opportunities for more a more informal, discursive format should be considered in order that the basis of debate can be broadened and the likelihood of an amicable conclusion enhanced when matters are put to a vote.

4. Induction for New – and Old – Members

4.1 Information sheets on functions, structures and operation of the Presbytery should be prepared for all members. These should include explanation of the Latin terms used.

4.2 Plain English should be used wherever possible and speakers should explain any technical terms.

4.3 Experienced members could “shepherd” new members. For example, a one hour class could be held for new members and mentors could give instruction to new ministers.

5. Quinquennial Visitations

5.1 A co-ordinator should be appointed who would ensure that all visitations are conducted in good time.

5.2 Action points should be highlighted in any report.

5.3 Responses to action points should be monitored carefully.

The General Assembly instruct Presbyteries to send to the Board by 31st January 2012 their responses to the following questions, so that the Board may report to the General Assembly of 2012 on progress.

·         Which of any of these recommendations does the Presbytery practise already?

·         What General Assembly Deliverances has the Presbytery Business Committee been able to process?

·         Which of the recommendations is the Presbytery seeking to implement?

·         How does the Presbytery practise the induction of new members?

·         Has the Presbytery appointed a co-ordinator for quinquennial visitation?