The Moderator of the General Assembly of Church of Scotland is the leader of the Church of Scotland (the Kirk), the country's national church. The Moderator is a 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 May. They then serve as leader of the Kirk during the following year.
The moderator is normally a minister or elder of considerable experience and held in high esteem in the Church of Scotland. The moderator is nominated by the "Committee to Nominate the Moderator", which consists of one representative from each of the Church of Scotland's 40+ presbyteries. The moderator must, however, also be formally elected at the commissioners (i.e. all representatives) at start of the General Assembly - this is in practice a formality.
The office is held for one year only. Following the week of the General Assembly, the moderator effectively acts as an ambassador for the Church of Scotland, frequently being invited to represent the Church at official events or at special services for congregations.
In 2004 Alison Elliot became the first woman (and first elder for approximately 400 years) to be elected Moderator. Three years later the Very Rev Sheilagh M. Kesting became the first woman minister to be elected to the office.
If the moderator is a minister, he or she is styled the Right Reverend during the term of office and the Very Reverend thereafter. This gives no further status beyond that of teaching elder.
The moderator takes part in the coronation of British monarchs. At the coronation in 1953, the moderator presented a Bible to Queen Elizabeth, saying, "Here is wisdom, this is the royal law, these are the lively Oracles of God."
Coat of arms
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has an official coat of arms awarded by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. It includes a shield showing the burning bush, plus the Quigrich - the crozier of St Fillan - behind the shield (with the curved head of the Quigrich visible above the shield). The shield is surmounted by a black Geneva bonnet - closely associated with John Knox. Similar to the coat of arms of an archbishop, there are the addition of twenty blue tassels arranged with ten on each side.