By Cameron Brooks
The Church of Scotland has decided it would be “unwise” to take a corporate position on Scottish independence and on whether a new referendum should be held.
The General Assembly reaffirmed a policy position to remain “impartial” which was taken 10 years ago.
Commissioners endorsed a recommendation brought forward by the Faith Impact Forum which acknowledged that Church membership was made up of people who are passionate supporters of independence, passionate defenders of the Union and many who are undecided.
A report to the General Assembly stated: “The Forum believes it would be unwise for the Church to take a corporate position for or against independence at this time.
“If the Church were to express an opinion on the highly politicised and controversial debate about whether or how there should be a referendum, or if the next UK Parliament election should or should not be considered a de facto referendum, there is a real risk of alienating a large section of society and impairing the mission of the Church.
“It is also likely to severely impede our role as an institution that builds bridges across the constitutional and party-political divides and our role in society as a safe space that puts the highest interests of the people above the political rifts of the day.”
Speaking after General Assembly commissioners reaffirmed the policy, Rev Karen Hendry, convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said: “The Church has an important civic role to play in the debate about Scotland’s future – in terms of helping the nation think about its values, hopes and vision.
“Impartiality does not mean neutrality or non-interest; on the contrary we seek to provide spaces for constructive dialogue and to help people recognise that we have more in common than that which divides us.
“In line with the position taken by the General Assembly 10 years ago, we have reaffirmed our position of impartiality on the question of whether Scotland should become an independent country
“This allows us to build bridges and hold honest conversations with political movements on both sides of this divide, to remind them that despite their differences they must always seek the highest interests of the people.
“Our position of impartiality reflects the fact that there will be members and ministers of the Kirk who hold contrary views on this question.”
Top picture: Cardross parish church in West Dunbartonshire, a typical Church of Scotland charge and congregation. Picture by John Young