The Church of Scotland, known also to Scots as 'The Kirk', is the national church of Scotland. It is Presbyterian. Although it is the national church, the Kirk is not an 'established church' (that is to say: "state church"). Under its constitution, which is recognised by acts of Parliament, the Kirk enjoys complete independence from the state in spiritual matters. The British monarch (when in Scotland) is simply a member of the Church (she is not, as in England, its Supreme Governor; because the Church of Scotland is not Anglican). The monarch’s accession oath includes a promise to "defend the security" of the Church of Scotland. She is formally represented at the annual General Assembly by a Lord High Commissioner (unless she chooses to attend in person, even then a Lord High Commissioner may also be present).
The Church of Scotland's history extends to the earliest Christianity in Scotland, but its identity is principally shaped by the Reformation of 1560. The church in Scotland split into two traditions, with the Church of Scotland being the national church 'The Kirk' and presbyterial, the episcopal part becoming the Scottish Episcopal church which is totally seperate. The Kirk's current membership is about 12% of the Scottish population - but around 40% of the Scottish population claim some form of allegiance to it. The Church of Scotland Guild, the Kirk's women's movement, is still the largest voluntary organisation in Scotland. The Church of Scotland’s Social Care Council (also known as "CrossReach") is the largest provider of social care in Scotland: including care for the elderly; those with alcoholism, drug, and mental health problems; and assistance for the homeless.
The Church of Scotland is committed to its ‘distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry’ (Article 3 of its Articles Declaratory). In practice this means that the Kirk maintains a presence in every community in Scotland – and exists to serve not only its members but all Scots (the majority of funerals in Scotland are taken by its ministers). It also means that the Kirk pools its resources to ensure a continued presence in every part of Scotland. The Church played a leading role in the provision of universal education in Scotland (the first such provision in the modern world), largely due to its desire that all people should be able to read the Bible. However, today it does not operate schools - these having been entrusted into the care of the state in the later half of the 19th century.
The Kirk has always been involved in Scottish politics. In 1919, the General Assembly created a Church and Nation Committee, which in 2005 became the Church and Society Council. The Church of Scotland supported devolution: it was one of the parties involved in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the setting up of the Scottish Parliament in 1997 and, from 1999-2004 the Parliament met in the Kirk's Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, whilst its own building was being constructed. The Church of Scotland actively supports the work of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office in Edinburgh.
Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland (extranet)
Cross Reach, Church of Scotland Social Care