New Church of Scotland moderator believes drug possession should be decriminalised

A reverend who believes the possession of drugs should be decriminalised has been named as the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Rev Iain Greenshields became a Christian when he was 22 years old and was ordained in 1984.

He said he was “honoured and humbled” to have been nominated to follow the current Moderator of the General Assembly, Lord Wallace of Tankerness.

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Rev Iain Greenshields will be the next Moderator General of the Church of Scotland. Picture: Andrew O'Brien/Church of Scotland/PA Wire

The reverend will take up the 12-month ambassador role in May next year.

Speaking on the appointment, Rev Greenshields said: “I aim to represent the Church and God in a way that is positive, instructive and hopeful.

“There are a great many challenges facing our society today including climate change, poverty, mental health, social isolation, addiction and the Church is active in supporting those in genuine need.

“Ultimately the greatest need in our society is the spiritual vacuum that exists in the lives of so many.”

The 67-year-old minister of St Margaret’s Community Church in Dunfermline, Fife, had sparked debate when he made comments regarding addiction, saying that locking up people who are often “self-medicating” to cope with psychological challenges did not work.

He said instead they should be treated in high-quality residential rehabilitation centres.

Rev Greenshields said he believed addiction should be treated as a public health issue and has said his view has formed following years of experience supporting people through church outreach projects and as working as a prison chaplain.

A total of 1,339 people died of drug misuse in Scotland last year, with the country seeing a record number of deaths for the seventh year in a row.

Rev Greenfields said the congregation could do much more to help people if additional public funds were available.

“My view on decriminalisation is a personal one and it is not the official position of the Church,” he said.

“I realise that some people will throw their hands up in horror, but I am not saying I support drugs. I am just being realistic and pragmatic about the situation.”

The Moderator Designate was born and raised in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow and his first full-time position as a Minister of Word and Sacrament was in Cranhill, near Easterhouse, a parish he served for nine years.

The minister’s second charge was St Machan Parish Church in Larkhall.

He oversaw major refurbishment of the sanctuary and halls and establishment of the Machan Trust, which works with children, young people and their families.

Rev Greenshields has six children with his wife Linda, a teacher at Levenmouth Academy in Buckhaven, Fife.

The couple adopted their now 18-year-old daughter, Eilidh, in 2004 and then set up a charity called Hope4China’s Children.

It has since raised £1.2 million to provide education, support and medical and foster care for around 800 girls in Guangxi Province.

Acknowledging the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the Church, Rev Greenshields said that he is optimistic about the future and believed they have learned how they can further spread their core messages, particularly online.

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