Manses...who on earth still operates a business with a tied house? Some love manses, some hate them...whatever your view, it is high time we moved to a mixed provision on manses...click on buttons below for more information.
We simply need to sit down with the Inland Revenue (I volunteer!) and agree no tax implications for ministers continuing to live in manses when other ministers choose not to do so. Where a minister wishes to stay in his/her own house, then the congregation can rent out their existing manse or make a stand as a non-manse-providing charge! Housing allowance for those staying in their own homes can be paid. For many years now we have thrown our hands up in the air at any attempt to move to a mixed economy on manses, the main reason being that it would have severe tax implications for all ministers if we did not all follow the tradition. In recent times we have viewed it as important within the Church to allow ministers to choose whether or not to solemnise same-sex marriages, but on the issue of manses there is still NO CHOICE! Explain that one to me!
*THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH HAS AN AGREEMENT IN PLACE FOR A MIXED ECONOMY ON MANSES WHICH ALLOWS MINISTERS TO LIVE IN THEIR OWN HOMES AND RECEIVE A HOUSING ALLOWANCE, AND THIS APPEARS TO BE ACCEPTABLE TO THE INLAND REVENUE. WHY CAN'T THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND DO THE SAME? WHO OR WHAT IS STOPPING THIS MOVE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY?*
Furthermore, when we are trying to combat climate change and boast that the Church of Scotland should be at the forefront in this, why are we making ministers live in large houses which are expensive to heat, coupled with far too many Church buildings which are also expensive to heat, and all at the cost of adding to the climate crisis by using unnecessary energy?
Other information on alternatives to manse provision:
> There is a present agreement between the Church and the Inland Revenue that, in special circumstances, a minister could live in his/her own house and have it designated as a manse. Time to roll this out further and create a mixed provision on manses? Oh, yes!
> A “mixed economy” means that a minister may continue to live in a manse owned by the congregation, especially in locations where manse provision may be more of a necessity – like rural or very affluent areas where buying a house may well be beyond the means of a minister! BUT (and it’s a big BUT) it also allows a congregation the right to choose, with their minister, to rent, as a manse, property owned by the minister. Instead of imposing one system on all, allow choice.
>The Church is facing serious financial challenges nationally and whilst we always try to remain positive and hopeful for the future, there is no guarantee at this stage that there will be sufficient funds to purchase, or assist ministers to purchase, a house for retirement, and the Church has made it plain that housing retired ministers is not its responsibility! Mixed economy approach allows for a measure of security for ministers and their families which the Church is not in a position to give assurances on at this time. An alternative solution must be found and mixed economy offers a solution.
>Although there are some banking institutions that may allow a minister a “normal” mortgage to buy a house and consequently rent it out, most view it simply in terms of “buy-to-let”, incurring higher mortgage rates and the amount of loan is restricted according to potential rental income. Ministers should be freed to access “normal” mortgages in the usual way and terms.
>Ministers with rented property presently may incur costs for Council Tax, heating and general upkeep, as well as agency fees and the task of keeping accounts for tax return purposes. The mixed provision proposal allows ministers to be in their own home and to care for it accordingly.
>In the present financial climate can we honestly say that all manses are being kept to a good and proper standard? Whilst we have regulations, they are not easily implemented when a minister is already inducted and “acceptability” of the manse varies widely to say the least. Allowing ministers to stay in their own home takes away the embarrassing situation which has existed for as long as we can all remember - having your house inspected annually and having to have discussions about your house with a Kirk Session are practices that belong in the past! The General Trustees of our Church have previously stated that they have "major concerns" about congregations not keeping up with inspections and problems.
>Ministers should have the right to live in a house that is appropriate for them and their family needs, in negotiation with all parties. Costs to heat the home may then be substantially reduced!
>Maintenance of the owned-home would be in the minister’s hands, thus reducing the cost to the congregation. Savings made, which may be substantial, can contribute to allowance costs.
>Risk passes from minister to congregation in terms of rental – if a congregation decides to retain a manse and rent this out whilst the minister stays in his/her own home, some say “what if the manse is not rented”? This is a risk that ministers presently have in renting their own house, thus the risk passes to congregations.
> We are urged to take risks to build a new kind of Church for the future in many other ways, why not in terms of Manses too?
>The minister moves! Then let the Church advertise itself as a charge where the minister provides his/her own house or the congregation rents another house for the minister. Why endlessly debate the need to purchase a manse again, if previously sold? The question of “mobility” of ministers is a red-herring as there are many factors that presently affect mobility.
>There are few occupations that insist a person must live in a tied house – other institutions have moved on and so should the Church – if it is possible for others, it is possible for the Church.
>If the Church continues in decline and we are not able to provide for our ministers in later life then by following this "mixed provision" now we have at least “done the right thing” by our ministers. If we see a revival in the life of the Church then we’ll all celebrate and money to pay for rental of manses will not be an issue. Hallelujah!
>Ministers who love to stay in a manse can continue to do so.
If you don’t change the system and have to ask for help from the Church when you retire to buy or rent a house (that’s if the system is still going), remember…
The present limit for buying a house is £175,000 – you can buy a house more expensive than this (up to £10,000 more) but the extra that you put in cannot be reclaimed by your family, it is viewed as a gift to the Church!!
You’ve got to contemplate present housing stock before you can get to choose something else…maybe!
Maximum loan is 70%, which may attract benefit in kind.
Ministers pay 50% market rent, widow/widowers pay 25%, and if minister and spouse die then anyone else living in the house is shown the exit door!
And a few final points for reflection…
If you live in your own home, then the minister’s spouse and family don’t have the worry about a big house move if the minister dies!
Talk of tackling homelessness and having a bias toward the poor is noble, but when you then retreat to your mansion it takes the edge off what you are saying!!
MON THE REFORMERS!!!
(This page was last updated in October 2023)