A CHURCH of Scotland minister who became Chaplain-General to the

Forces in face of strong opposition from the Archbishop of Canterbury is

to be the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of

Scotland, it was announced in Edinburgh yesterday.

He is the Rev James Harkness, a native of Thornhill, Dumfriesshire,

who has served with the Royal Army Chaplains Department for 33 years and

is the first ''career soldier'' to be appointed to the Kirk's highest


In 1985 he was appointed deputy chaplain-general which until then was

the highest rank any Church of Scotland minister could obtain, but three

years later he became the first non-Anglican to be appointed

chaplain-general despite the stern opposition of Archbishop Robert


Mr Harkness, 58, is due to retire next spring and immediately

afterwards he will take up the post of Moderator.

Speaking from London last night, he said he had been surprised and

overwhelmed by the appointment although he knew his name had been put

forward. ''I am greatly honoured and just hope I will fulfil all that is

required of me by the Church and the people in it.''

Mr Harkness was nominated by a former Moderator, the Very Rev Dr

Duncan Shaw.

He said: ''He has managed in many ways to establish a much more open

and ecumenical spirit within the chaplain's department welding the

chaplains from all the churches under his administration into an even

deeper fellowship.

''His pastoral dedication to the spiritual well-being of all ranks and

their families has always been the first claim on his time.''

Mr Harkness is based at Bagshot, Surrey, but has kept his roots in

Scotland. He has a flat in Edinburgh and plans to return north when he


Dr Shaw said Mr Harkness had always played a significant part in the

Church of Scotland despite his commitments at home and abroad. He was

moderator of the Presbytery of England while assistant chaplain-general.

He attended Morton Primary School and Dumfries Academy before taking

an MA degree at Edinburgh University. A student assistant at St

George's, Edinburgh, he later became full-time assistant at North

Morningside Church before being commissioned in the Army in 1961. He has

served in the Far East, Northern Ireland, and Germany.

Mr Harkness's wife Anne comes from Inverness. He has a married

daughter and a son serving with the Army in Germany.