R. D. KERNOHAN The Very Rev Dr Roy Sanderson, who has died aged 100, was the senior former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He had been Moderator in 1967-68. He was also, both in age and dignity, the most venerable of the Kirk's patriarchs.

His conviction that elder statesmen should be sometimes seen and even less frequently heard meant he was relatively little known to the modern Church, though in the earlier years of his long retirement he was one of the most effective chairmen of Assembly sessions.

He embodied a Kirk tradition of moderation, restraint, fairness and responsibility, this last the theme of his moderatorial address. Although conservative in tastes, styles and many opinions, he could adapt and defer to change, and to changes, such as the ordination of women, about which he had been hesitant. "I am always called a constitutionalist," he said, "and so I am. But that doesn't mean I am a reactionary."

He admitted to innovatory "impulses", among them the initiatives that led to the formation of the Kirk's Panel on Doctrine and the consultations that led in 1961 to the first Moderatorial meeting with the Pope.

William Roy Sanderson was born in Leith to a family prosperously involved in whisky distilling. After early education at Edinburgh Academy and Cargilfield School, he went from Fettes College to Oriel College, Oxford. Having graduated in 1929 at Oxford (where he read "modern greats" but felt a call to the ministry), he returned to Edinburgh to study divinity at New College just as the university faculty and the old United Free college were merging after the Kirk reunion. He had, he said, "found redemption from one spirit to the other". He was ordained in 1933 while assistant minister at St Giles'.

From 1935 to 1939 he was minister of St Andrew's Lochgelly but was then called to the Barony of Glasgow. At that time the Barony Church was a significant Glasgow institution, comparable in prestige to the nearby Glasgow Cathedral. Roy Sanderson remained there for 24 years before, to the surprise of many, moving in 1963 for a 10-year ministry in the East Lothian linked parishes of Stenton and Whittingehame. He retired to live in North Berwick.

He had become a powerful voice and influence in Glasgow, where he was Presbytery Moderator in 1958, but his most effective role was as a leader in committee and Assembly. His first convenerships were of committees on religious instruction of youth and on deaconesses, but in the 1960s he occupied the key roles of convener of the Panel on Doctrine (1960-65) and of General Administration, serving as leader of the General Assembly and convener of its business committee from 1965 to 1972, with an interruption for his time as Moderator.

His nomination as Moderator, while he was holding the key business post, followed delay and confusion caused by procedures of the time which did not demand that those proposed had given their consent to candidature, but he provided a dignified presence and safe pair of hands.

Among issues with which he had been memorably involved were the unambiguous rejection in 1959 of the joint Anglican-Presbyterian "bishops report" of two years earlier. It was characteristic of Roy Sanderson that, when he explained in Life and Work why the Assembly had scotched a scheme for bishops in the Kirk, he should say: "One hesitates to use popular slogans, because the matter is too serious to be subject to such a simplification." In fact, at the Assembly he had thrown his weight against an attempt by the ultra-ecumenical lobby to gloss over or even distort the views of the presbyteries, which, in line with popular opinion, found the scheme unacceptable.

Dr Sanderson's style and cast of conscientious mind involved caution and deliberation that could put him at odds with those who thought some great issues were ultimately simple ones. This was most apparent on the movement towards the ordination of women, already apparent when he had responsibility for dealing with the Kirk's deaconesses but gathering force while he was convener of the Panel on Doctrine, which was divided on the issue. His hope was that the matter "should not be rushed". His previous line had been one of "furthering at a sensible pace the service given by women to the Church". Yet he was one of those to whom Mary Lusk (later Levison) turned for advice when preparing her decisive petition in 1963 for testing of her call with a view to ordination. They had long been in contact, if not always agreement, when he chaired a commission on the future of the deaconess order. He had given priority to immediate improvements in deaconesses' status rather then early resolution of the related questions about women's role in ministry.

Despite his hesitations, however, Dr Sanderson served the Church well once Mary Lusk ensured that the issue had to be faced. As an influential convener and leading voice in Assembly during the years when the Kirk settled the issue, he shared the credit for the way in which the inevitable change was accepted with few of the difficulties and none of the ill-feeling that later convulsed the Church of England.

He also had a key role in what was then virtually a concordat between the churches and the broadcasters on religious broadcasting. He was chairman of the BBC Scottish religious advisory committee from 1961 to 1971 and also a member of the central religious advisory committee of the BBC and the Independent Television Authority.

He was a Freemason and contributed rationally to the Kirk's intermittent excitements about the compatibility of Masonic adherence with the higher commitments of Christian faith and practice.

His honorary doctorate in divinity was conferred by Glasgow University in 1959. He had also been a governor of Fettes College (1967-77).

In 1941 he married Muriel Easton of Glasgow, who herself exercised a lively influence in wide areas of Church life. They had three sons and two daughters.