Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Church of Scotland ministers 'to be cut'

Church of Scotland ministers could be cut under plans to reduce the Kirk's £5.7m deficit.

About 25 ministers a year would be cut over a four-year period under the restructuring plans put forward by the Ministries Council.

The Kirk hopes this measure, and the "almost unprecedented" plan to train church members to lead services, would help balance the books by 2014.

The plans will be considered by the Kirk's General Assembly next month.

The wages of ministers have been a major contributor to the deficit, which has built up since the last restructuring about five years ago.

'Completely unsustainable'

The Church of Scotland said after that reorganisation, it expected that the number of ministers - 800 at the time - would remain fairly static.

However, there are now 1,000 ministers and the Kirk said the deficit was "completely unsustainable".

Aside from ministers retiring and "natural wastage", the Kirk said it also wanted to cut the numbers by 25 a year, until 2014.

It said it would put a cap on the number of ministers joining from other denominations, to between 5 and 10 across the country.

It is also going to move away from a "one minister, one parish" format to ministers effectively working part-time.

The church said the emphasis would be on providing the Sunday sermon, but the cleric would work elsewhere during weekdays.

'Preaching pool'

It hoped these flexible working conditions could, as well as saving money, also help increase the number of female ministers, who currently make up just a fifth of parish ministers.

The Kirk said it was also exploring ways to "tap into a wider range of the talent of the Kirk's membership", by training ordinary people to lead services on a monthly basis.

It said it hoped to create "special ministers" in the same way that the police service created special constables.

A pilot training scheme for a locally ordained ministry is to begin in Caithness after the summer.

The Ministries Council said the Kirk could have a "substantial part-time preaching pool" within a few years if the scheme was to be successful, and training would then be rolled out nationwide.


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