The commitment of the Church of Scotland and its fellow members to promoting truth in public and private life has never been greater, Kirk’s General Assembly was told.
The comments came from Lord Hodge, Deputy Chief Justice, who has been appointed Lord High Commissioner, the Sovereign’s personal representative at the Annual General Meeting.
Delivering his speech from a distance, Lord Hodge told the General Assembly in Edinburgh: “At a time when the political leaders of autocratic regimes and, unfortunately, of some democracies, have often disrespected the truth and commentators accept with a resigned shrug the deliberate transmission of lies, the commitment of the Church and other churches to promote truthfulness in our public and private lives has never been more important.
“The Old Testament prescription to act justly, act with compassion, and act with humility retains its relevance today.”
Lord Hodge said he was honored to be asked to represent Her Majesty The Queen in a year that held two significant royal anniversaries.
The first of these was the visit to Edinburgh in August 1822, the first royal visit to Scotland by a British monarch for many years, which aimed to bridge the gap between the country and the ruling house of Hanover.
Choreographed by the great romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott, the visit restored the bond between the royal family and Scotland cemented by Queen Victoria’s long reign, Lord Hodge continued.
“That connection and affection for this country has continued to this day.”
The other significant anniversary is Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, and as someone born in the year of the Coronation, Her Majesty’s presence as Head of State has always been a constant throughout her life, said Lord Hodge.
“The Queen’s message of Christian hope, which Her Majesty delivers each year at Christmas, has been an integral part of the celebration of Christmas over the years,” he added. “The Queen has exemplified the Christian ideal of service and each year has articulated the timeless values that the Church stands for.”
Lord Hodge assured the General Assembly of Her Majesty’s resolve to maintain the government of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and congratulated the Most Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields on his appointment as Moderator.
“Appointment as a moderator is the highest honor your colleagues can bestow,” he said.
“I have no doubt that your previous work as a parish minister in Cranhill, Larkhall, on the Isle of Skye and in the town of Dunfermline, your experience as a prison chaplain and as a psychiatric chaplain, and your work in the presbyteries have given you the experience and insight to assume the role of leadership and to present the work of the Church both in this country and on the international stage.
Lord Hodge also noted that he was addressing the General Assembly when it had to debate “important and difficult matters”.
These included the future structure of the Church, an issue the Church has faced for some time but made more difficult by the pandemic with churches closed for many months and reduced income for congregations and d other sources.
“Social change since the 1950s has created a multicultural society both in Scotland and more widely in the UK in which the voices of people of different faiths and those without faith are heard alongside the articulation of Christian tradition “, did he declare. .
“The Church faces the challenge of how best to make its voice heard and achieve its noble goals when there are fewer people and less money available to advance the mission of the Church.
“But challenges can also be opportunities. May it not be possible for the Church to achieve much with fewer resources if we focus on what we have in common both inside, within the Church and outside , cooperating with other denominations, other religious groups, and secular organizations that seek to achieve in the community the social goals that the Church has long espoused?
Among the issues to be debated at this year’s General Assembly was also the question of how to reconcile the different points of view within the Church with regard to the solemnization of same-sex marriage, underlined Lord Hodge, but added that it was not the role of the Queen’s representative to interfere in these “open and robust” debates.
He concluded, “The Church can go forward without fear. As we chart the course of the Church in a society far more diverse than that which existed in 1953, we can keep in mind and rely on the comforting words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the world. The guidance and blessing of Almighty God be with you.”