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General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

session, elders, composed, ministers, head and lord

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND. This is the Scottish ecclesiastical parliament; it is a representative, legislative, and judi cial body, which differs essentially in its constitution from the Convocation of the English church [CONVOCATION], in being composed of representatives of the laity, as well as of the clergy ; and, therefore (like the British House of Commons), may be considered as a delegation from its constituency, the church. The follow ing is the composition of the General As sembly : Eighty presbyteries, each of which consists of a certain number of parishes, varying from six to thirty-six, send to the Assembly 218 ministers and 94 elders ; the city of Edinburgh sends 2 elders, and 65 other royal burghs send each one elder; the four universities send each a representative, and an additional one is sent from Marischall college, Aber deen—these five may be either ministers or elders ; one minister and one elder re present the churches in India in con nexion with the church of Scotland. The kirk of Scotland has 1023 parishes, with 1050 ministers.

The General Assembly meets annually, in the month of May, in Edinburgh. The session lasts only ten days ; but special business not decided within the period of the session may be referred to a commis sion, which is, in filet, the Assembly under another name ; the commission can hold quarterly meetings. The speaker, or president of the assembly, is called mo derator; he is chosen annually, and is, in modern times, a clergyman, it being a rule that the moderator should preach a sermon before the opening of the Assem bly; but laymen have occasionally filled the chair.

Each parish in Scotland has its kirk session, composed of the minister and lay elders of the parish, which manages the parochial business. From the decision of the kirk session there is an appeal to the presbytery in which the parish lies. Each

presbytery is composed of the ministers and elders of a certain number of pa rishes; but the presbyteries vary consi derably in the number of parishes of which they are formed. A higher court, called a synod, is composed of two or more presbyteries. From the decision of a synod an appeal lies to the General Assembly, whose decision is final. The functions of the Assembly are analogous to a combination of the functions of both houses of parliament. Its members speak and vote ; it judges all matters connected with the government of the church ; and it can proceed judicially against any member of the church, clerical or laical, for alleged impropriety or inconsistency of conduct or doctrine.

The connexion of the Church of Scot land with the State is indicated in the General Assembly by the presence of a functionary, who, under the title of lord high-commissioner, represents the king. The Scottish church however does not recognise the king as head of the church, but as head of the state, with which the church is allied, for purposes of pro tection and civil authority. The lord high-commissioner has no voice in the assembly ; business is not necessarily interrupted by his absence ; and his presence merely implies the sanction of the civil authority. On the conclusion of the session of the General Assembly, the moderator, after mentioning the day in the following year on which the As sembly meets again, dissolves the meet ing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church (sometimes the words 'the only head' are used), and then the lord-high-commissioner adds the sanction of the civil authority by ap pointing in the name of the king the As sembly to meet on the day named by the moderator.