Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Moderator For Church Of Scotland: 'Social Inclusion Is A Gospel Issue'

A minister who played a key role in establishing the Church of Scotland's biggest annual open-air festival has been named as the next Moderator of its General Assembly.

Rev Dr Derek Browning will take over the 12-month role in May 2017.

The 54-year-old, who has served Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh since 2001, will succeed Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr.

Dr Browning was ordained at Cupar Old Parish Church in Fife in 1987 and gained a Doctor of Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States in 1997.

"I was in my early 20s when I felt a call not only to be a Christian, but to become a minister," he said.

"For some people this is a gradual realisation, but for me it was a sudden awakening that I couldn't put off until I had dealt with the questions it posed, and explored the possibility.

"My ministry afterwards has stuck with those two themes: dealing with questions and exploring possibilities."

Dr Browning says the Church is evolving.

"Structures and organisations around us continue to change, but the big questions about who we are, why we are here, and what must we do and be are the ones people continue to ask," he added.

"These are challenging times for people of faith and for the Church.

"An American colleague said recently 'The Church isn't dying, it's re-forming.'

"Re-forming is a costly and unsettling process but a fit-for-purpose 21st century Church must have the resilience and the flexibility to be unashamed of its faith in Jesus Christ, and practical in its living out of that faith."

Dr Browning is currently the convener of the General Assembly's Business Committee, which also has responsibility for the Heart and Soul festival in Edinburgh's Princes St Gardens each May.

"The theme for Heart and Soul 2017 is 'Word of Life' and this rich and layered theme speaks to me about many things but 'inclusion' is one of those words of life," he said.

"The issue of social inclusion is a key one in society and the church".

Dr Browning said he believes social inclusion is clearly a "gospel issue" and hopes to use his time as Moderator to highlight ongoing work carried out by churches that support people on the margins of society.

"People find themselves excluded for all sorts of reasons and the Church must play a role in bridging the gaps between individuals, communities and nations," he added.

"The Church has much to offer, and has much to learn.

"Jesus was often found not only at the heart and centre of things but also on the fringes and the margins and that is where the Church must be."

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