System of Government
The Kirk is a national, but not a state, church. In 1921, through an Act of Parliament, the Kirk confirmed its full internal autonomy and independence from all forms of state control. Within Scotland, the Kirk is the national church and operates a parish-based ministry throughout the whole country.
The Kirk's Structure
Responsibility for the oversight of the Church of Scotland rests on three bodies functioning in a local, regional and national context. These are known as "the courts of the Church.”
The Kirk Session
Matters relevant to each congregation are decided by the Kirk Session - a body comprising the Minister and men and women known as Elders. These are ordinary members of the congregation who have been "set apart" and ordained into a supervisory and pastoral function. In terms of deciding policy, all have equal rights to vote. The Minister acts as chairman or "moderator" of the Kirk Session.
The Presbytery is a superior court with responsibility for all congregations within a particular area, and consists of the Ministers in that area and an equal number of Elders. The Presbytery decides on issues at district level and chooses commissioners to attend the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Important functions of the Presbytery include the ordination of ministers in its area and the oversight of those ministers and the congregations they serve.
Christ Church, Warwick is a member of the Presbytery of Europe.
The General Assembly
This is the highest court of the Church of Scotland. It meets in Edinburgh annually towards the end of May. The General Assembly has about 800 members (or commissioners) and consists of an equal number of ministers and elders. The Queen has her own representative at the Assembly who is know as the Lord High Commissioner. She or he sits as an observer above the proceedings in the Assembly Hall, signifying the Kirk's freedom from any form of state control. At the General Assembly many topics of concern to the Church are discussed and voted on. These may range from matters of national importance to details involving a union between two small churches. Constitutional issues relating to Church government are referred back to Presbyteries for further discussion before a final decision is taken.
The General Assembly is chaired by a Moderator who is elected for one year only. During the year in office the Moderator acts as a representative of the Church and spends much time meeting church and community leaders both at home and overseas.