The moderator of the General Assembly is the chairperson of a General Assembly, the highest court of a Presbyterian or Reformed church. Kirk sessions and presbyteries may also style the chairperson as moderator. The Oxford Dictionary states that a Moderator may be a "Presbyterian minister presiding over an ecclesiastical body".
Presbyterian churches are ordered by a presbyterian polity, including a hierarchy of councils or courts of elders, from the local church (kirk) Session through presbyteries (and perhaps synods) to a General Assembly. The moderator presides over the meeting of the court, much as a convener presides over the meeting of a church committee. The moderator is thus the chairperson, and is understood to be a member of the court acting primus inter pares . The moderator calls and constitutes meetings, presides at them, and closes them in prayer. The moderator has a casting, but not a deliberative vote. During a meeting, the title moderator is used by all other members of the court as a form of address, but this may not be continued outside the meetings. Thus this convention expresses deference to the authority of the court rather than an honour for the moderator as an individual.
Many moderators act as ambassadors for their general assembly when it is not sitting, and visit many of the local churches in their denomination..
A principal example of a Moderator of the General Assembly is that of the Church of Scotland, the current Moderator of the General Assembly is Lord Wallace of Tankerness.According to the Church of Scotland
"The Moderator—who moderates, or chairs, the annual General Assembly—is nominated by a committee which consists of 15 representatives elected by the General Assembly. The Moderator must also be formally elected by commissioners at the start of the Assembly. The honorary office is held for one year only. Following the week of the General Assembly, the Moderator acts as an ambassador for the Church of Scotland, frequently being invited to represent the Church at official events at home and abroad."
Additionally, within the Church of Scotland, there are individual positions for Moderator at Kirk and Presbytery level (see Moderators and clerks in the Church of Scotland).
In another example, in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is nominated and elected by the Church's 19 regional presbyteries.The official role involves acting as the Moderator or Chairman of the General Assembly, overseeing the debates and allowing resolutions to be put to the church house for voting. The Moderator serves as the primary public representative for both the General Assembly and the entire church.
Other national examples, with equivalent elected chairs in united churches with Presbyterian roots, include the Moderator of the United Church of Canada and the President of Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.
In each of the united Churches of South India, of North India, of Pakistan and of Bangladesh (which all have Presbyterian roots), one of the diocesan bishops is elected Moderator of the Synod (i.e. the national governing body) for a fixed term — another is elected Vice-Moderator. The Moderator (for their term) is ranked with Moderator of the General Assembly in the Presbyterian Churches and with the national primates of Anglican churches. It is styled The Most Reverend .
Lists of moderators of the General Assembly:
Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that traces its origin to the Church of Scotland.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), abbreviated PC(USA), is a mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US, and known for its relatively progressive stance on doctrine and ordains women and LGBT community as elders and ministers. The PC(USA) was established by the 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, whose churches were located in the Southern and border states, with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, whose congregations could be found in every state. The similarly named Presbyterian Church in America is a separate denomination whose congregations can also trace their history to the various schisms and mergers of Presbyterian churches in the United States. Unlike the PCA, the PC(USA) supports evangelical feminism and supports practise of same gender marriages. It also welcomes gay and lesbian persons to serve in leadership positions as ministers, deacons, elders, and trustees.
Presbyterianpolity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis; presbyteries can be grouped into a synod, and presbyteries and synods nationwide often join together in a general assembly. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament.
The Church of Scotland, also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national Christian church in Scotland.
The United Reformed Church (URC) is a Protestant Christian church in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 46,500 members in 1,383 congregations with 608 active ministers, including 13 church related community workers.
The Presbyterian Church in the United States was a Protestant denomination in the Southern and border states of the United States that existed from 1861 to 1983. That year, it merged with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) to form the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) was the largest branch of Presbyterianism in the United States from May 28, 1958, to 1983. It was formed by the union of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), often referred to as the "Northern" Presbyterian Church, with the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), a smaller church of Covenanter-Seceder tradition at a conference in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May 1958. Vigorous ecumenical activity on the part of PCUSA leaders led to this merger, something of a reunion of two long-separated branches of the larger Presbyterian family deriving from the British Isles.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada is a Presbyterian denomination, serving in Canada under this name since 1875. The United Church of Canada claimed the right to the name from 1925 to 1939. According to the Canada 2001 Census 409,830 Canadians identify themselves as Presbyterian, that is, 1.4 per cent of the population.
The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) was the first national Presbyterian denomination in the United States, existing from 1789 to 1958. In that year, the PCUSA merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America, a denomination with roots in the Seceder and Covenanter traditions of Presbyterianism. The new church was named the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It was a predecessor to the contemporary Presbyterian Church (USA).
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the sovereign and highest court of the Church of Scotland, and is thus the Church's governing body. It generally meets each year and is chaired by a Moderator elected at the start of the Assembly.
The Church of Scotland maintains a presbyterian polity and is thus governed by a hierarchy of bodies known as church courts. Each of these courts has a moderator and a clerk.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the sovereign and highest court of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and is thus the Church's governing body. The General Assembly normally meets annually, during the first full week in June.
Finlay A. J. Macdonald is a retired minister of the Church of Scotland. He was Principal Clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1996 until 2010. In addition to his rapid rise up the ranks of the Church of Scotland, Macdonald is known for fostering co-operation between the various boards and committees which administer the Church and for steering the Church smoothly through its annual business meetings.
The Presbytery of Glasgow is one of the 46 Presbyteries of the Church of Scotland. It dates back to the earliest periods of Presbyterian church government in the Church of Scotland in the late 16th century. The Presbytery of Glasgow currently has 125 congregations, making it by far the largest Presbytery in the Church of Scotland.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the minister or elder chosen to moderate (chair) the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which is held for a week in Edinburgh every year. After chairing the Assembly, the Moderator then spends the following year representing the Church of Scotland at civic events, and visiting congregations and projects in Scotland and beyond. Because the Church of Scotland is Scotland's national church, and a presbyterian church has no bishops, the Moderator is a prominent figure in the life of Church of Scotland adherents.
A session is a body of elected elders governing each local church within presbyterian polity.
Robert Adam Holliday Lusk was a Reformed Presbyterian or Covenanter minister of the strictest sort, in a century which, according to Presbyterian historian Robert E. Thompson, was marked by increasing relaxation into less stringent manifestations of doctrine and practice amongst all branches of Presbyterianism. His career crossed paths with many prominent ministers and he was involved in numerous ecclesiastical courts at pivotal moments in the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Amongst Reformed Presbyterians, he was an "Old Light," and amongst "Old Lights," he would lay claim to be an "Original Covenanter." He was descended from a long line of Scotch-Irish, and the Lusks had fled from Scotland to Ireland, escaping religious persecution; many of them settled in America prior to the American Revolutionary War.
John Macleod (1872-1948) was a Scottish minister and Principal of the Free Church College from 1929-43. He served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland and was the author of Scottish Theology in relation to Church History.