General Assembly: Commissioners discuss voting system and ‘digital society’

TUESDAY morning at the General Assembly opened with the Guild’s convener Alison Angus presenting a wide-ranging report, touching on domestic abuse, human trafficking and the rising sexualisation of children.

The divisions caused by narrow majorities in presbytery and Assembly votes concerned the Panel of Review and Reform.

It said that the current adversarial system, where a vote is taken on two opposing views was not conducive to constructive dialogue.

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Convener Donald Campbell said: “Under our present system, a vote which produces a result based on a narrow majority can lead to frustration and damaged relationships, and in turn, to positions which become so entrenched.”

As such, the panel proposed examining a move towards a ‘consensus’ model, where an understanding and accommodation between two opposing groups is reached.

There were concerns voiced over the extent to which such a scheme could be introduced into Kirk decision making process, but the proposal received broad support from the Assembly with one commissioner describing the current system as the equivalent of a “medieval sword fight” in which one party leaves the debate as the loser.

Plans to carry out an investigation on the impact of digital technology and the emerging ‘digital society’ brought much comment from the floor, with concerns voiced about the effect it can have - particularly in relation to physical interaction.

Commissioner John Boyle stressed the importance of face-to-face contact, and that it “should not be forgotten in this rush to technology.”

Mr Campbell acknowledged such concerns, adding that there was a danger that “humanity is dehumanised by this technology”.

The session ended with the report from the National Youth Assembly. It raised concerns about the potential rise of human trafficking during the Commonwealth Games and suggested that the church needed to examine expanding its relationship with married couples, going beyond wedding ceremonies into the full-stretch of their relationship.

The report suggested that with one in three relationships ending in divorce, that the church might want to develop a liturgy marking the end of the relationship.