Church of Scotland

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Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland shield
Church of Scotland shield
Belief Calvinism
organization Presbyterianism
distribution Scotland
founder John Knox
Origin and development
Spin-off from

Roman Catholic Church

Merger with

United Free Church of Scotland
(Unification 1929)


Scottish Episcopal Church
(Final Separation 1689)
Free Church of Scotland

Members 325,695 registered (2018)
1.5 million followers (2014)
Congregations 1,329
Also called: CoS

The Church of Scotland ( Scottish Gaelic : Eaglais na h-Alba , Scots : Kirk o Scotland , German  "Church of Scotland" ) is a Presbyterian ( Reformed ) Church. In common, informal usage, it is called "the Kirk". It is not, like the ( Anglican ) Church of England , the established state church , but as the church that has dominated for centuries it has the character of a national church and still has a special position in Scotland.

The Church puts its membership at 325,695, less than 6% of the population of Scotland. However, in the 2014 census, 27.8% of Scots said they belong to the Church of Scotland. The Church has wards in all parts of Scotland, but also has some wards in England and 15 wards outside the UK. The municipality for the German-speaking area has its seat in Bochum .


Impetus from the Reformation reached Scotland as early as the 1520s. In 1528 Patrick Hamilton , who had brought the new teaching from Germany, was executed in St Andrews . King James V fought the Protestant endeavors, especially after the beginning of the English Reformation in 1531. Even after Jacob's death, religious policy continued; an attempt at Reformation by George Wishart also ended in 1546 with the execution. Only John Knox , who took over the leadership after Wishart's death and was influenced by John Calvin in temporary exile in Geneva , was able to establish the Reformation. Returning to Scotland in 1559, he won over large parts of the population and the influential nobility for the doctrine of the Reformation, and in August 1560 he achieved that the Scottish Parliament accepted the Confessio Scotica . The Catholic Queen Maria Stuart , who had returned from France in 1561, did not ratify the transition of her country to the Reformation, but initially did not fight it either, so that the ecclesiastical situation remained undetermined for a long time. Only with the adoption of the Second Book of Discipline of 1578 in 1592 was the Reformation consolidated and the state church given its clear Presbyterian structure. The office of bishop was retained, but its powers were severely limited.

Since Maria Stuart's son Jacob ruled England and Scotland in personal union in 1603 , he tried to give the Scottish Church an episcopal character. His son Charles I continued this policy. His attempt to introduce the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in Scotland aroused opposition from the Covenanters and led to the General Assembly of 1638 abolishing the episcopate in Scotland. This triggered the Episcopal Wars, which were part of the immediate prehistory of the English Civil War . In the course of this, the Long Parliament set up the Westminster Synod in 1643 , which was to formulate a common basis of faith and church order for the churches in England and Scotland. The Westminster Confession was approved by Parliament in 1647, but could only prevail in Scotland, even though the episcopal office was temporarily re-established as a result of the Stuart Restoration of 1660. Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688/1690 the episcopate in the Church of Scotland has been abolished for good; the church has since been definitely Presbyterian. This created a split that gave rise to the Anglican - Episcopal Scottish Episcopal Church , a sister church to the Church of England .

When the Scottish Parliament was dissolved with the Act of Union 1707 , ecclesiastical legislation passed to the Parliament of the United Kingdom . This caused tensions again and again because the Presbyterians demanded the independence of the church from state influence. A dispute over the rights of patronage led in 1843 to the separation ( “disruption” ) of a strong wing that founded the Free Church of Scotland . Only the Church of Scotland Act , the Parliament in 1921 adopted, the Church of Scotland dismissed into independence, but defined them more than "national church", which is also the reunion with most of the now to the United Free Church of Scotland has enabled converted Freikirche . The Queen or the King is therefore still present at the General Assemblies, usually through a representative ( Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ), but “technically” not in the hall. The Church of Scotland is the only institution in Great Britain over which Parliament has no sovereign legislative power.

Structure and direction

The Church of Scotland organizes itself from the parishes to the parishes ( presbyteries ) to the general assembly ( general assembly ). This takes place once a year in May, usually in Edinburgh . The General Assembly Hall was also the temporary seat of the Scottish Parliament.

According to the Calvinist doctrine of four offices , both pastors and presbyters ( elders ) are ordained in the Church of Scotland , and since 2010 also deacons . In 1888, Grisell Baillie was the first woman appointed as a deacon. The ordination of women as elders has existed since 1966, and ordained pastors since 1968. In 2004, Alison Elliot was the first woman to chair the general assembly .

Church of Scotland flag

The flag, the coat of arms and the logo symbolize the motto of the Church of Scotland “nec tamen consumebatur” (German: “and he was not consumed”). It refers to the burning bush in the calling history of Moses ( Ex 3.2  EU ). This bush, although on fire, was not burned, and God called Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. This burning bush is shown in front of the St Andrews cross of the Scottish flag ( Saltire ).


The Church of Scotland is a member of numerous ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches , the Conference of European Churches , the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches in Europe and the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches . At national level she works in Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CBTI) and in Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).

See also

Web links

Commons : Church of Scotland  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The Church of Scotland General Assembly 2019 The Church of Scotland
  2. Press release ( Memento of the original dated December 7, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. from the Church of Scotland website, accessed May 23, 2017. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ List of the International Presbytery Parishes , accessed May 23, 2017.
  4. Ecumenism on the CoS website , accessed May 24, 2017.