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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 on buttons below for more information.

Wooden House in the Forest




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!


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!


  1. The tax implications of ministers moving to their own houses have already been well documented in the past, with apparent serious implications financially for the Church and its ministers, however this scheme allows a minister to live in his/her own house and have it designated as a manse under terms already agreed with the Inland Revenue that would have no such implications. What are we waiting for? Someone to get their act together and make it happen!

  2. This scheme opens the door to allow a “mixed economy” – it 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, this scheme allows choice.

  3. The scheme has been working already under “special circumstances” agreed by the Church – vague as ever on what constitutes “special circumstances”! There is no reason to believe that the scheme will not continue to work with the removal of “special circumstances” and allow this to happen where all parties involved agree to do so.

  4. 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! Given that it will be too late for ministers to make alternative arrangements in 10-15 years time, this scheme would allow a minister to purchase his/her own house in the near future which can be used for retirement, or sold and proceeds used to purchase a house in an area of his/her choosing. This scheme 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 this proposal offers a solution.

  5. 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. This scheme allows “normal” mortgages to be accessed in the usual way and terms. Hallelujah!

  6. 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. This proposal allows ministers to be in their own home and to care for it accordingly.

  7. 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. This proposal 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.

  8. This scheme would allow ministers to live in a house that is appropriate for them and their family needs, in negotiation with all parties.

  9. This scheme would allow consideration of the whole local situation – rural, town, meeting space at Church, etc. – and whether or not there is a need to provide a manse of a certain size. Power, under this scheme, is devolved locally where the knowledge and expertise lies.

  10. Housing allowance received under this scheme could assist ministers to meet costs rather than having to contemplate another scheme which requires overhaul of the stipend system to cope with tax implications.

  11. Council Tax benefit remains in place for ministers, within reason.

  12. This scheme places maintenance of the manse in the minister’s hands, thus reducing the cost to the congregation. Savings made, which may be substantial, can contribute to allowance costs.

  13. This scheme could remove the hassles often involved for ministers in renting their property.

  14. Safeguards are in place with this scheme to allow for an independent surveyor to set rent and for Presbytery to be fully involved in the process and to continue to monitor the situation.

  15. Under this scheme, 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 in this situation.

  16. Let’s take an example...Church A decides to let the minister stay in her own home and rent that from her under this scheme...they sell the manse completely for £300, costs them £10,000pa...the money runs out in 30 years time...where will the Church be in 30 years time anyway? 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?

  17. 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? The question of “mobility” of ministers is a red-herring as there are many factors that presently affect mobility.

  18. 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.

  19. If the Church continues in decline and we are not able to provide for our ministers in later life then by following this scheme 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 once again!

  20. Ministers who love to stay in a manse will continue to do so until they move.

  21. Worry about flooding the sales market in Scotland with manses is another red herring. Let market forces have their say and it will be a gradual sell-off anyway!



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!!



(This page was last updated in July 2022)

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