Episode 2 General Assembly


Episode 2

Sheena McDonald reports from Edinburgh on the final day of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.


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Transcript


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There is a rash of word C-words at every meeting of the General

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Assembly of Church of Scotland - this week, two stand out - "change"

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and "challenge". Climate change dominated the week.

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The way we manage our creation indicate how much disaster we will

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experience. History was made when the Archbishop of Canterbury joined

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the debate. Historically, we are united in witness to Christ as

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Church is shaped by the Reformation. The 50th anniversary of women elders

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was marked. The only reason they did not appoint any women elders was

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that their dress was more important than the women elders. We found out

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what an artist has been doing here. The World Mission Convenor reminded

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Commissioners of the burning bush that was not consumed. What does

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that symbolic image have to say about our attitude to creation

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today, he asked? The commissioners from sister churches shared his

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concern. The problem for this planet, which is our only physical

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home, is that it is being consumed by us in all sorts of ways that are

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quite unsustainable. Sometimes it seems like we are trashing our own

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living room. Yes, there are practical issues, things that need

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to be done, like changing the way we generate and use energy. But if the

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only motivation to do any of these things is fear of the future, those

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of us who are richer and better protected will always find ways of

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avoiding the issue, or at least of protecting ourselves. And those who

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are poorer and less protected will continue to suffer the most and

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there will be no climate justice. 96% of our energy comes from our

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hydropower and it will take at least three rainy seasons to fill those

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dams if we will produce electricity to capacity, to meet the demands in

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the mining sector, agriculture and other areas. God, I want to believe,

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according to the account of Scripture, did not begin by creating

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us in our human form, per se, but created the habitat first before the

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inhabitants and, therefore, the way we manage our creation will, to a

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great extent, indicate how much disaster we will experience. I would

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like to share an observation made a number of years ago by an Inuit in

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Canada's Arctic, and very active in her own part of Canada. She observed

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- and she has written a book - because of the rise in temperatures

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in the Arctic there are many, many changes that are having a direct

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impact on the Inuit people in the Arctic. What's happening is because

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of these changes, our right, she says, our right to be cold is being

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taken away from us. The health of the youngest country in Africa

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concerned many in the Hall. It is hard to describe how traumatised

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they are and their people are and how the infrastructure of this, the

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newest nation in the world, has completely fallen apart. And while

:04:30.:04:36.

international leaders may meet around peace-making tables, what

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they produce are perhaps cease-fires, they produce moments

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when there's a little bit of calm but who is doing anything to rebuild

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the community and the communities at grassroots? We hope that when we are

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able to go there, some time later this year, that there will be an

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opportunity to spend the Church's money well, to use its resources, to

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help the frail and faltering peoples and the frail and faltering Church

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at the moment. Everything is relying on the Churches in South Sudan to

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provide education, to provide children's homes, to provide

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hospitals, to provide medical aid, to provide everything. And that's

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the situation there. It is absolutely horrendous and I would

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commend every church to become involved in helping in any way

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whatsoever. Thank you Church of Scotland for what you are doing.

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Kirk Action prioritises the education of girls. Malawi has about

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80% Christians, but gender violence is one of the issues that is very

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high. In addressing it, any other institution cannot succeed if the

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Church is left out. It is for this reason that Moderator I want to

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thank the Church of Scotland and the UK Government for engaging the

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Church in fighting against gender-based virus. I want to

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congratulate the Church of Scotland for continuing to highlight issues

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of gender violence. This has been a grave concern in north India, in

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different parts of India, violence of women has been increasing and I,

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on behalf of the Diocese of Calcutta, ask for your prayers and

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your support so that we can further this kind of a campaign to stop

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violence against women. Thank you. Violence towards women hasn't been

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eradicated in Scotland, either. But in other ways, Scotland has been in

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pole position. For instance, it is 50 years since it started ordaining

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women as elders. And that was commemorated in an afternoon of

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memories here at the Assembly. We have had a few changes and

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challenges. Problems as a female elder, well perhaps one or two, if

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I'm going to be honest, I well remember offering to speak to

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persuade them to convert our tenure into full status. I suspect I looked

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up at the right moment, or the wrong moment. I did it and whether it was

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because of my speech or not we were successful. I was congratulated by a

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number of my colleagues including one of my male fellow elders,

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shaking his head. Well done, but I'm still surprised we couldn't get a

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man to do that! I know that some people in the Church may be

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uncomfortable with the idea of women elders. I can only speak for myself,

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it feels right for me to serve in this way. I have weaknesses and

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blind spots, don't we all? But I, like so many women, have some skills

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that God has given me. I have opportunities to deploy those skills

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in his Church and I believe he expects me to use them in his

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service. I'm immensely grateful to that General Assembly of 1966 for

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having the foresight, the courage and the faith to allow that route to

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open up for me and for so many other women. I was a student minister, I

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was the first woman they had ever had as a student in the pulpit. The

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Kirk Session wore the striped trousers, the frock coats and the

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white bow ties. And I went to the Kirk Session and this was a big

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thing that I was allowed into their Kirk Session, all-male Kirk Session.

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They were discussing having new members to the Kirk Session and they

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had a big discussion about women elders. And the reason, the only

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reason they did not appoint any women elders was that their dress of

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the white bow ties and the striped trousers and the black frock coats

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was more important than the women elders. So that Sunday, at that

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communion, with my black gown - your sleeves go right through - I wore

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the brightest red, blue and white-striped shirt that I could

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find... As ever, a wide range of nations and

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names were gathered here. This year, for the first time ever, they were

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joined by an artist-in-residence. What is an artist doing here? The

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theme for the week is 'People of the Way'. Jesus meets disciples and asks

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them what is it that you are talking about as you are walking along the

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way? The people here in the painting raises the question, what are these

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people talking about as they are walking along? One of the most

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interesting parts of the process for me is the interaction with folks

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when I'm working so we wanted to give people at the Assembly an

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experience of what it is like to have an artist-in-residence. Lots of

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curiosity, lots of people wondering why we would be having an artist

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working at the General Assembly. And some folks start to wonder how would

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this work in my own Church context? I started as artist-in-residence in

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Glasgow, folks come in for a coffee, for a scone, but then notice there

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is an artist working in the corner. And I have worked on a Last Supper

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piece. Lots of folks would come up and start a conversation and they

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were curious about what was going on and they start asking me questions

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about Jesus. The Church and Society Council's

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report was wide-ranging. It also included reference to climate

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change. It stimulated lively debate.

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Moderator, there is no doubt that our overdependence on fossil fuel

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has wreaked havoc on our planet home. We have a responsibility to

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reduce our carbon footprint and forge a path free of fossil fuels.

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We must untie ourselves from that dependence. The Council brings a

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report. We call for consideration of how we need companies to move away

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from fossil fuel dependence. There have been many warning calls from

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sources as diverse as the Governor of the Bank of England and Pope

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Francis saying that a move to renewable energy is a crucial part

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of the mix. The Church can either be a signpost pointing the way or a

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weather vane swaying with the status quo. My fear is, that man-made

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global warming has been added to the Westminster confessional faith, as

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part of the crux. I speak now as a professional scientist, who has been

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involved in this stuff for over 40 years. Climate change depends on so

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many variables. It would almost be better not to use computer models,

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which can't handle clouds or water vapour, which are the key greenhouse

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gases. Carbon dioxide is just a trace gas. The Pope would have us

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believe that global warming is the cause of everything, but the fact

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is, in all the years since Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, that ridiculous

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disaster movie, none of his predictions have come true and, in

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fact, for the last two decades, there has been no global warming at

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all. If you look at the figures, you will find that this is not rubbish.

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Even supposing we were responsible for climate change, there is an

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arrogance about thinking that we, as human beings, can change that and do

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anything about it, when it is a far more complicated thing than about

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how much carbon dioxide we are pumping into the atmosphere. There

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are many things out there over which we have got no control whatsoever

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and there is an arrogance there and we need to be aware of that. I

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didn't want to speak. But I can't believe we are having this debate

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now. This is long past debating, whether there is any climate change

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or not. I would urge the General Assembly simply to support the

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Council's work because how can we look the people who are suffering

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the consequences of this wealthy society in the eye when they are

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suffering for our comforts? I wish first of all to apologise for

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making an outburst during a previous speech by Doctor Kamran, it is not

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acceptable I understand for commissioners to do so, but I was

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astonished by his claim of science on the comments that he had made. We

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have seen in the last two years all global temperature record broken,

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both of the last two years, 2016 is expected to break them again. It is

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a scientific reality. And the rise in carbon dioxide in the past

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century is measurable, significant and a major factor driving climate

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change. Yesterday, we heard powerful stories from our partners across the

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globe about the devastating effects of climate change and those who have

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had leased to do with it are the ones hardest first hit and have the

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least capacity to respond. With all due respect, 98%, over 98% of your

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colleagues, Doctor Cameron, profoundly disagree with you and

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believe firmly that this is something that humanity has caused

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and we can do something about. In the end, the motion, or deliverance,

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on climate justice, including disinvestment from fossil fuel firms

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was comfortably carried. It was a different matter when the

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recommendation to call from the removal of Scottish law for the

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defence of justifiable assault in cases of corporal punishment of

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children was debated. According to a report for the Scottish Commissioner

:16:38.:16:41.

of young people and children, children first and Barnardos and the

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NSPCC, there is convincing evidence that declines in physical punishment

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are accelerated in countries that have prohibited issues and such laws

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have important symbolic value. Legislation is the way society sets

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frames for what is acceptable. The children lived with violence, how

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can they learn to be peacemakers? If we as a society accept violence as a

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justifiable way to respond, how can we build a more peaceful future?

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When I a little girl living in a housing scheme in Motherwell, it was

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a lovely summer day and my friends roundabout were going fishing for

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minnows down at the River Clyde and I was asked to go with them and I

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knew that my mother wouldn't let me go if I went in to ask her, because

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she liked to know that we were playing in the street. But I also

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knew that if I went, I would have to take my wee brother with me, because

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he would go in and tell. So my friends Julie gave me a Julie jaw

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for my brother, with a string tied around it, and down we went to the

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River Clyde. And as all children do, you lose track of time, you don't

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have a watch and I could not tell you how many hours we were away.

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Well, we came back with our minnows and I turned the corner at the

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bottom of our street and I saw my mother running down the street

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towards me. So smiles and holding my wee brother's hand, I said, I have

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such an adventure to tell you. The minnows and the toy went on my

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backside was leathered up to the House. And it is a lesson I have

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never, ever forgotten, it will be with me to my dying day, that you do

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not go anywhere unless you tell your mother. It should not be a first

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option, but it should be if ever, if ever, a last resort that hand is

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raised towards a child, because children are mirrors, mirrors of

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what we do, how we live, how we interact with one another. Trust me,

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I know, I have a four-year-old two-year-old who played church at

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home, I know what my minister's voice sounds like. I also know what

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my angry voice sounds like. I have heard my four-year-old react towards

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his sister in the same way I have reacted towards him and I have

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cowered in shame and begged his forgiveness, because I know I have

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not shown him the love that I have been called to show as a mother and

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as a Christian and as a minister. I think taken to its logical

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conclusion, deliverance is five, six and seven are going to see loving

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parents standing in the dock charged with assault. Now I am not

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advocating that we all go around slapping our children, but like the

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majority of children in here, I am also of the generation that got a

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scalp on the legs when I needed it and I have not turned into someone

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who is beating up the children in my church are regular basis. Maybe I

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should take out the word "Regular". I hear what you are saying, but what

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this is asking you to do is fundamentally to give children the

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same rights under the law as adults. There is absolutely no evidence in

:20:09.:20:12.

other countries of any increase in the criminalisation of parents,

:20:13.:20:18.

quite the opposite. What it has done has raised awareness and changed

:20:19.:20:24.

behaviours in society. And I would strongly resist the idea that

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violence is a discipline that helps children. I have a friend who called

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me one time, this was years ago, and she was really, really upset with

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herself and she said the penny had dropped and this is why. Her kids

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were fighting and she yanked the older one and the younger one apart,

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the old one had been hitting his brother, and she smacked him and

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said "Don't hit." How is that teaching a non-violent, peacemaking,

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Consul to TIFF -- Consul to give way of being? Voting for section five,

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275, the voting against section five, 259. So no smacking was

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supported by a narrow margin. One big challenge is money, and the

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lack of it. For the first time, however, we see the Congregational

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offerings are not increasing and remained in 2015 at about their 2014

:21:38.:21:43.

level of 71 points ?6 million. This is unlikely to be exceptional. It

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reinforces the need to manage our resources carefully. Our work can

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only continue as God's people give and we can only spend what we

:21:55.:22:00.

receive. And local authority grants for the Kirk's social care

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programmes, some of the largest in the land, have been cut. So voting

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to pay social workers the living wage is going to be a challenge. I

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note with interest the council's continued commitment to delivering

:22:15.:22:18.

the minimum wage and as a worker for cross ridge, I can wholeheartedly

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say it was the hardest but most rewarding I have been in and I would

:22:27.:22:32.

recommend the work of Crossreach to anyone who would listen. But the

:22:33.:22:35.

failure to pay the minimum wage some four years after the General

:22:36.:22:38.

Assembly instructed it is becoming embarrassing and hypocrisy at the

:22:39.:22:43.

highest level of this church. As you have heard, there are some real

:22:44.:22:46.

pressures in the church at the current time, in terms of a flat

:22:47.:22:53.

Congregational income and cost pressures from the living wage. But

:22:54.:22:59.

it is not just those two issues, there are broader issues, including

:23:00.:23:03.

the significant amount of income that the church receives from local

:23:04.:23:05.

Government and the Scottish Government to fund our social care

:23:06.:23:11.

activities. It goes without saying that that income is under pressure

:23:12.:23:14.

as well as local authorities and the Government wrestled with their

:23:15.:23:19.

priorities. So the income side, there are some real tensions. On the

:23:20.:23:24.

cost side, there is the living wage, the church wants to do that, but

:23:25.:23:29.

there are other activities such as supporting our ministries, engaging

:23:30.:23:33.

with society, so we are going to have do undertake a very careful

:23:34.:23:38.

examination of our current position to balance, or try to balance, our

:23:39.:23:43.

income and our expenditure. So in the short term, the church will

:23:44.:23:47.

continue to use its reserves, as it has been doing, but in the medium

:23:48.:23:52.

term, it will need to identify a clear set of priorities, increasing

:23:53.:23:55.

resources into some areas and perhaps withdrawing them from other

:23:56.:23:56.

areas. Call it a change, call it a cameo

:23:57.:24:11.

appearance. What is sure is that the participation of the Archbishop of

:24:12.:24:15.

Canterbury, Justin Welby, in the ecumenical relations debate,

:24:16.:24:19.

following last year's so-called columbo agreement, which brought the

:24:20.:24:23.

churches of Scotland and England closer together, was an historic

:24:24.:24:28.

event. Politically, we are united in witness to Christ by R, national

:24:29.:24:32.

context, including the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, the

:24:33.:24:37.

recent elections and the imminent referendum on EU membership. Christ

:24:38.:24:44.

who made us his holy nation calls us, whatever our views on Europe, to

:24:45.:24:51.

live out that unity. Historically, we are united in witness to Christ

:24:52.:24:56.

as churches shaped by the Reformation, with its 500th

:24:57.:25:01.

anniversary next year. Including the inheritance of reform theology.

:25:02.:25:07.

Jesus meters through the tumult of historic wars -- meets us. And holds

:25:08.:25:15.

out nail in printed hands calling for love, for witness to the good

:25:16.:25:20.

news, not to be perpetrators of the bad. Economic really --

:25:21.:25:29.

economically, we are united by the growing inequality of our land, by

:25:30.:25:33.

the suffering of the poor, including food insecurity. Jesus sits with the

:25:34.:25:41.

poor as we stand before them. In judgment on our disunity. Globally,

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we are united in witness to Christ as churches called to

:25:49.:25:54.

reconciliation. Recognising our relationship has been marked by

:25:55.:25:57.

conflict including violence and bloodshed in earlier centuries, but

:25:58.:26:02.

now demonstrating what it means to live well with difference in unity

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in the context of religiously motivated violence in many parts of

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the world. Jesus calls from the camps and the roads, from the

:26:15.:26:17.

violated women and orphaned children, the traumatised soldiers.

:26:18.:26:25.

Will we show good disagreement? The Assembly ratified the columbo

:26:26.:26:32.

agreement, as an English Synod has done. Given the Archbishop's pension

:26:33.:26:40.

of disagreement, what is the significance? The most significant

:26:41.:26:43.

part is recognising each other as churches. That is a huge step and

:26:44.:26:48.

once you have recognised each other as the church, there is a massive

:26:49.:26:54.

impulse to develop that into a deeper and deeper relationship, both

:26:55.:26:58.

in the United Kingdom and internationally. And as the

:26:59.:27:03.

Moderator, the Right Reverend Doctor Russell Barr, agreed. It has been

:27:04.:27:11.

historic. It is one of the quirks of our history which has its roots in

:27:12.:27:15.

quite violent times in the 17th century in Britain and Ireland, that

:27:16.:27:18.

our churches have never actually formally recognised each other. Yes,

:27:19.:27:24.

why now? Because we realised that North and south of the border, we

:27:25.:27:27.

share many similar challenges and many similar opportunities. Why now?

:27:28.:27:36.

It is really a fundamental Christian principle and rather just look at

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the things that separate us, we would decide to look at the things

:27:42.:27:46.

we share an CV can share them better, the things we already doing

:27:47.:27:50.

and see if we can do them better. Christian people are not allowed to

:27:51.:27:54.

walk past on the other side of human need. North and south of the border,

:27:55.:27:57.

there are tens of thousands of people who are homeless, hundreds of

:27:58.:28:01.

thousands of people who are using food banks, and we could do

:28:02.:28:06.

something to change that. Why now? Because North and south of the

:28:07.:28:11.

border, we want to tell people about the hopes and promises of the

:28:12.:28:14.

Christian faith. That is why and that is why now. So at the end of

:28:15.:28:21.

the week, for People of the Way, walk on with their core faith and

:28:22.:28:25.

principles strengthened by what happened here. Some things don't

:28:26.:28:26.

change. Goodbye. We haven't really wakened up to the

:28:27.:28:31.

implications of Brexit for Scotland. both in Scotland and abroad

:28:32.:29:12.

to find out. We've built our business models

:29:13.:29:18.

around EU membership, Brussels seemed to have more

:29:19.:29:22.

and more control. It was like a noose round our neck

:29:23.:29:26.

all the time. Once upon a time, there was

:29:27.:29:35.

a great and glorious king. But they would

:29:36.:29:44.

all see him destroyed.

:29:45.:29:48.

Sheena McDonald reports from Edinburgh on the final day of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, including the work of Crossreach, one of the country's largest providers of social care.


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