Assembly, General, in Scotland, Ireland, and the United States
Assembly, General, In Scotland, Ireland, And The United States, denotes the highest court of the Presbyterian Church. It differs from the Anglican Convocation at once in its constitution and in its powers, representing as it does both the lay and the clerical elements in the Church, and possessing supreme legislative and judicial authority in all matters purely ecclesiastical. The General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland consists of representatives, clerical and lay, from all the presbyteries of the Church. The royal burghs of Scotland also return elders to the General Assembly of the Established Church, and each of the Scottish universities sends a representative. The Assembly meets once a year in the middle of May, at Edinburgh, and sits for ten days. Its deliberations are presided over by a moderator, whose election is the first step in the proceedings, after a sermon by his predecessor. In former times this office was sometimes filled by laymen: among others, in 1567, by George Buchanan. In modern times the moderator is always a clergyman. 84 presbyteries, composing 16 synods, return members to the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland. Its relation to the state is represented by a royal commissioner, who exercises no function in the Assembly beyond that of adding by his presence the sanction of the civil authority to its proceedings. The other functionaries are a principal and a deputy clerk, both clergymen, a procurator, and an agent. All business not dispatched during the session of the Assembly is referred to a commission, with the moderator as convener, which meets immediately after the dissolution of the Assembly, and again quarterly. The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, which has 16 synods, comprising 71 presbyteries, and of the Irish Presbyterian Church, are similarly constituted, the principal point of difference being the absence of the royal commissioner. SEE PRESBYTERY; SEE SYNOD; SEE FREE CHURCH. For the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, SEE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.