THE Church of Scotland will have fewer ministers and pay them less pay fewer ministers less as a result of falling numbers and donations, a report to next week's General Assembly warns, writes Andrew Brown.
The Presbyterian Church, which is the established church in Scotland and the largest denomination there, currently employs about 1,250 ministers. It pays them a minimum of pounds 14,481, with a manse, slightly more than the average paid to a Church of England priest.
Growing financial strains mean that next week the Church of Scotland will next week abandon efforts to match ministers' salaries to the average white-collar wage. This was to have been achieved over the next five years. But one of the most respectable of all the professions in the world can now no longer be supported in the style of the middle classes.
The root of the problem is that, in an average week, the difficulty experienced by Scottish congregations give only pounds 1.05 per head. in giving. The comparable weekly figure for the Church of England, which is also facing a financial crisis, is because churchgoers only give, on average, about pounds 2.70. a week. but the Scots can only manage pounds 1.05.
Will Farrel, the secretary of the Church of Scotland's Stewardship and Finance Board, says that there is no tradition of giving to the Church. 'In the old days, the heritors (patrons) or endowments paid the bills. In the last century, congregations were asked ony to put a penny in the box for the poor and a penny for the foreign missions. So there is still what I would call a racial memory from those days, which says that somebody, somewhere, is paying for all this.
'The General Assmbly has said quite clearly that the support of the ministry of aid and sacrament is the main priority of the church. No one is really arguing with that. But the problem is that we don't then have enough for everything else we want to do.'
The Board for Ministry warns in its report though that 'it will continue to make every possible effort to finance the present number of ministers, but has a responsibility to protect the livelihood of those already in service. The committee therefore feels it necessary to inform the church that no absolute guarantee can be given about the maintenance of present numbers in the foreseeable future'.
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