Clark Memorial Church is one of three Church of Scotland congregations within Largs. The Church of Scotland is one of the largest organisations in the country with over 500,000 members. There are around 1200 ministers serving in parishes and chaplaincies, supported by more than 2,000 professional and administrative staff. Most parishes are in Scotland, but there are also churches in England, Europe and overseas. The Church of Scotland works with communities worldwide.
How the Church of Scotland is organised
The Church of Scotland’s governing system is presbyterian which means that no one person or group within the Church has more influence or say than any other. The Church does not have one person who acts as the head of faith, as that role is the Lord God’s. Its supreme rule of faith and life is through the teachings of the Bible.
Church of Scotland government is organised on the basis of courts, mainly along lines set between 1560 and 1690. Each of these courts has committees, which may include other members of the Church, and at national level employ full-time staff.
At a local level, the parish, the court is a kirk session. Kirk sessions oversee the local congregation and its parish, and consist of elders presided over by a minister.
At district level, the court is a presbytery. Presbyteries consist of all the ministers in the district and an equal number of elders, along with members of the diaconate (a form of ordained ministry, usually working in a complementary role in a ministry team in both parish and industry sector contexts). There are 46 presbyteries across Scotland, England, Europe and Jerusalem. Clark Memorial Church is a member of Ardrossan Presbytery.
At national level, the General Assembly is the highest court of the Kirk. The General Assembly consists of around 400 ministers, 400 elders, and members of the diaconate, all representing the presbyteries.
The Kirk and the State
The Queen is not the supreme governor of the Church of Scotland, as she is in the Church of England. The sovereign has the right to attend the General Assembly, but not to take part in its deliberations. The Oath of Accession includes a promise to “maintain and preserve the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government”.
The Queen maintains warm relations with the Church of Scotland, where she worships when in Scotland, and from which the chaplains of the Royal Household in Scotland are appointed.
The Church of Scotland (the Kirk) is not State-controlled, and neither the Scottish nor the Westminster Parliaments are involved in Kirk appointments.
The Kirk’s status as the national Church in Scotland dates from 1690, when Parliament restored Scottish Presbyterianism, and is guaranteed under the Act of Union of Scotland and England of 1707.
In matters of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, the Church of Scotland is free of State interference, operating under a constitution recognised by Parliament in 1921.