Moder­a­tor Des­ig­nate for Church of Scot­land Gen­eral Assem­bly 2017-18 an­nounced as Rev Derek Brown­ing

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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 the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

The Rev Dr Derek Brown­ing, who says the 5,000 peo­ple who at­tend the Heart and Soul fes­ti­val in Ed­in­burgh’s Princes Street Gar­dens each May re­ceive a fan­tas­tic glimpse into the work car­ried out by the church, will take over the role in May 2017.

The 54-year-old, who has served Morn­ing­side Parish Church in Ed­in­burgh since 2001, said: ‘Be­ing nom­i­nated as moder­a­tor is the great­est honour the Church of Scot­land can be­stow. It is a huge priv­i­lege.’

Dr Brown­ing, who grad­u­ated with the de­gree of Doc­tor of Min­istry at Princeton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in the United States in 1997, will suc­ceed the Right Rev Dr Rus­sell Barr as the Church of Scot­land’s am­bas­sador at home and abroad.

He read his­tory at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege in Ox­ford, and opted to train for the min­istry ahead of pur­su­ing other grad­u­ate ca­reer op­tions such as work­ing for the BBC in Lon­don and the oil gi­ant Shell.

Dr Brown­ing, who is also a grad­u­ate of St Mary’s Col­lege in St An­drews, was or­dained at Cu­par Old Parish Church in Fife in 1987.

‘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 said 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, who en­joys cook­ing, the per­form­ing arts, cin­ema and theatre in his spare time, has served in the church in sev­eral ca­pac­i­ties in St An­drews and Ed­in­burgh pres­by­ter­ies and also at a na­tional level.

He is cur­rently the con­vener of the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s busi­ness com­mit­tee, which also has re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Heart and Soul event.

Dr Brown­ing, who has con­trib­uted to BBC Ra­dio Two’s ‘ Pause for Thought’ pro­gramme, said: ‘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. The is­sue of so­cial in­clu­sion is a key one in so­ci­ety and the church.’

Dr Brown­ing, a for­mer pupil of North Ber­wick High School, 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.’

Dr Brown­ing said the church must recog­nise that so­ci­ety is chang­ing and must re­spond ac­cord­ingly.

‘The chal­lenge fac­ing the church is bound to go­ing to where there is vul­ner­a­bil­ity and need and of­fer­ing wel­come, hope and ac­cep­tance.

‘I be­lieve in a min­istry of pres­ence and chap­lain­cies in hospi­tals and the armed forces, uni­ver­si­ties and schools, work­place chap­lain­cies and chap­lain­cies to groups on the fringes of so­ci­ety, tak­ing the work of the church out­wards to where peo­ple are.’

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