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Radical Reform Group: Report to General Assembly 2024



Deliverance:

1.    Receive the Report.

2.    Note with concern that a radical three-year reform plan was called for and agreed at General Assembly in 2018 and wonder why six years later it has not yet happened, especially since we ditched a ten-year plan and desired a three-year one at that time.

3.    Abolish, or at the very least re-word, Article 3 of the Articles Declaratory, since we cannot fulfil that meaningfully.

4.    Allow ministers to take study leave when they wish without the unnecessary rigmarole.

5.    Move to mixed manse provision.

6.    Establish a Special Commission and report back to General Assembly 2025 on why no one pays any attention at congregational level to Presbytery or General Assembly.

7.    Increase stipends in line with the teaching profession in Scotland and set a cap on salaries elsewhere in the Kirk.

8.    Actually show that we are reformed and reforming and then do a snappy video to recruit ministers.

9.    Retain, with a full-time minister, the 29% of charges that can afford ministry at present.

10.Invite Kirk Sessions to re-read the Church Without Walls Report of 2001 and take action.

11.Instruct more exciting headlines on the Kirk’s website and relevant to the world we live in.

12. Support the Pray for Peace initiative.

13.Bring climate change action to the top of our agenda.

14.Instruct the Legal Questions Committee to stop making more Acts and Regulations and find ways quickly of simplifying the ones we already have.

15.Rejoice in the good that’s happening out there and where members are grasping the nettle.

 

Report

 

1:1 We recognise that we are an independent minded group and that there is no chance, sadly, of our Report being received. The Assembly Trustees state that “There is always the danger of coming to like and live within the structures which deflects us from the true objectives.” On that we agree.

2:1 Due to the extremely slow pace of change in the Church, we note with great sadness that we have had to pass up the kind offer from a well-known refreshments firm to organise a booze up in their brewery.

3:1 When we are down to our final 100 Churches, we will no doubt still have a parish, probably the size of Glasgow, and still have to live in the manse down the road from the Church so that ministers can be “one of us” in the parish. We did ask for Article 3 to be examined again but as usual manana will do!

4:1 The Group continue to be puzzled by the application process and hoops ministers must jump through in order to get 2 weeks and £275 per year for study leave when most are paid £38,000 without having to justify any of that stipend. One of the mysteries of life!

5:1 Now we’ve worked out a cracker. A minister moves into her own home and paid a standard £500 per month housing allowance, total cost £6000 per annum. The manse is rented out, conservatively estimated at £18,000 per annum, plus the renters pay the Council Tax of £3000. The local Church has just made £15,000 per year. Our thanks to Einstein for working this out for us.

We note with dismay the clever tactic of the Assembly Trustees in adding living accommodation and Council Tax to stipends to make it look like we’re paid a princely sum. Nice try, have your manse back anytime and pay ministers the same at least as teachers. As a further idea, all those who receive higher salaries because they don’t have a manse, let’s provide them with one (there are a few for sale) and see what the uptake is!

6:1 You know it’s true.

7:1 For the last two years we have only been able to afford below inflation rises in stipend, but we are told cash is on the slippery slope, so that’s OK, it’s only ministers and they’ll have to take what they are given. Likewise with increases on a par with other like-professions, we are cash strapped so ministers will like it or lump it. We note that central services managed to get independent consultants in to ascertain salaries, with 10 key management personnel costing nearly £1million, however who is being consulted regarding stipends? We can afford one set of rises but not the other. Must be too many clergy out there. Not to worry, the statistics tell us 10 started training last year, and 75 retired or demitted. A review of stipends is due now in 2025, another year down the road. We wait with anticipation.

8:1 Where is the information and recruitment video for ministries? Or are we backing off recruitment because we are not sure we can pay for them? Or are we concerned we don’t have an attractive package to offer?

9:1 If we don’t retain the 29%, heaven help the 71%. We note with concern that the typical Church has…

167 members

6 adherents

45 worshipping in Church

5 worshipping online

3 worshipping offline

0 professions of faith

8 funerals

0 baptisms and weddings

16 serving Elders

…and we are wondering if we can afford to give a typical Church a full-time minister, or if we need to be more focussed and creative in our Church presence throughout as much of Scotland as we can muster?

10:1 No, go on, read it. With a fall in membership 2013-2023 of 35%, we need to change the mindsets as well as the structures.

11:1 Knitting patterns and pictures of the Moderator visiting a Presbytery do nothing to engage the population, if indeed they happen to stumble across our website.

12:1 Do you even know about the Pray for Peace initiative? (PfP) Or can such initiatives only come from those and such as those?

13:1 Apologies, this section should have come as number 2 in our deliverance. To be honest, we nearly made it a supplementary. There is no Planet B.

14:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees and Teachers of the Law are rubbing their hands at the possibility of a comeback.

15:1 We need to hear more, let the Good News and the good news be told!

 

*Figures quoted are correct at time of going to print. Source: GA Reports 2024

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