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moderator of the general assembly 2023-2024

Updated: Jul 6

Rev Iain Greenshields is the current Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, succeeding the Rt Hon Lord Wallace (Jim Wallace) of Tankerness.

The 68-year-old minister of St Margaret’s Community Church in Dunfermline, Fife became the Kirk’s ambassador at home and abroad in May. He will serve in the role for one year, speaking out on issues important to the Church and its mission to follow and proclaim the example of Jesus Christ.

The Moderator, who became a Christian at the age of 22 and was ordained in 1984, said: "I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen as Moderator Designate and 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."


Born and brought up in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow, Mr Greenshields is married to Linda, a Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies teacher at Levenmouth Academy in Buckhaven, Fife.

The couple has six children – Alistair, 31, Ross, 30, Caitlin, 27, Eilidh, 18, Siona, 15 and Suisaidh, 10, and a grandson, Oran, who was born in August 2021.

Their three youngest daughters come from different parts of China.

After adopting Eilidh in 2004, he and his wife set up a charity called Hope4China's Children the following year and it has raised £1.2 million to provide education, support, medical care and foster care for around 800 girls in Guangxi Province.

Mr Greenshields is a lifelong fan of Partick Thistle Football Club. He also enjoys reading, cycling, badminton and the very occasional game of golf.

Life in ministry

The minister's first-full-time position as a Minister of Word and Sacrament was in Cranhill near Easterhouse, a parish he served for nine years.

He was responsible for the formation of the Bellrock Trust, a community support organisation which grew to become the Cranhill Development Trust, which is based in the church building.

The minister's second charge was St Machan Parish Church in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire and he oversaw the major refurbishment of the sanctuary and halls and the establishment of the Machan Trust, which works with children, young people and their families.

One of the significant features of his ministry was ecumenical relations whereby all local congregations worked positively together on the mission.

Mr Greenshields and his family moved to the Isle of Skye in 2002 when he became the minister of Snizort Church, which was a sort of homecoming because his father John grew up in Camuscross.

During his five years there, he served as a hospital chaplain and the Moderator of Lochcarron and Skye Presbytery from 2003-2004 as well as its finance convener.

Mr Greenshields moved to St Margaret's Community Church in 2007 and over the years held various roles within the Presbytery of Dunfermline, including Moderator and clerk. He was also a National Assessor for the Church.

The minister was heavily involved in the task group established to oversee the formation of the new Fife Presbytery, a merger of the presbyteries of St Andrews, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, which held its first meeting in February this year.

Mr Greenshields also spent eight years serving as a chaplain at the former Longriggend Young Offenders' Institution in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire and nearby Shotts Prison.

Decriminalising drug possession

Rev Greenshields personally believes that drug possession should be decriminalised, and that addiction should be treated as a public health issue. Speaking in a personal capacity, he says that locking up people who are often “self-medicating” to cope with psychological challenges and severe life issues does not work and that they should instead be treated in high-quality residential rehabilitation centres.

Mr Greenshields welcomed a recent announcement from Scotland's Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC, that the police will be given the option of issuing recorded warnings for possession of any controlled drugs if appropriate instead of automatically referring all offenders to prosecutors.

"I have come into contact with so many broken lives as a consequence of either abuse or addiction,” he said. "The reality is you are not going to stop people taking drugs… 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."

Looking to the future

Mr Greenshields said the Church is at a "crossroads" as it grapples with falling membership and minister numbers but he is excited by the prospect of the reformation because the Good News of Jesus Christ is as relevant today as it has always been.

"I think the Church needs to regain confidence in its core message, which is powerful, life transforming and life changing," he said. "We have to find a way of communicating simply, effectively and with confidence what we believe.”

Mr Greenshields said people throughout the Church have to be realistic about the future.

"We have to accept that if churches are not working anymore then we have to prune in order to free up resources to do things more efficiently and effectively.

"I am willing to play whatever positive role the Church might ask of me as it designs its new future and we embrace the Five Marks of Mission."

Published on 22 May 2021

A former Deputy First Minister has officially taken up the role of Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Rt Hon Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC (Jim Wallace) said he is “humbled and honoured” to have become the Kirk’s ambassador at home and abroad.

The 66-year-old life peer from Orkney is the second elder in modern times to take up the 12-month role and will speak out on issues important to the Church and its mission to follow and proclaim the example of Jesus Christ.

Lord Wallace was inducted into the role at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh in front of his wife of 38 years, Rosie, their daughter Helen and his brother Neil who were accompanied by their spouses.

Prince William, who is representing his grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen, as Lord High Commissioner, and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP were also present.

Humbled and honoured

Outgoing Moderator, Very Rev Dr Martin Fair, supervised the passing of the cross and chain and ring of office to his successor whose other daughter, Clare, watched online along with hundreds of other people.

Lord Wallace, a member of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, said: “I thank you most warmly and sincerely for the honour of electing me as Moderator of this General Assembly.

“I stand before you, today, feeling both humbled and honoured and, I should add, with feelings of excitement and trepidation.

“Upon my nomination as Moderator-Designate, I received many messages of goodwill and many assurances of prayerful support.

“One of my predecessors described her experience as Moderator like ‘being carried along on a carpet of prayer’.

“Today, I ask for your prayers that during this Assembly and in the coming year, I may fulfil these responsibilities with love, grace and wisdom.

“And that if, or more likely when, I get it wrong, your prayers will be ones of forgiveness.”

Lord Wallace, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, wore a robe that belonged to Very Rev Dr David Steel who was Moderator in 1974-1975.

It was lent to him by the late minister’s son Lord David Steel of Aikwood, a Liberal Democrat peer and former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

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