Church of Scotland 'will not survive' without radical action to cut minister numbers, General Assembly is warned
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Faced with falling income, an impending wave of retirements and low recruitment, the Assembly is being urged to agree a cut of around a quarter in minister posts over the next four years.
The Kirk’s Faith Nurture Forum has proposed a figure of 600 posts by 2025, with an allowance for 60 vacancies at any one time to enable movement in the system.
And it has drawn up plans to cap the number of ministers in each part of the country. The proposals would see, for example, the number of posts slashed from 133 to 84 in Glasgow and from 78 to 48 in Edinburgh.
The Rev Rosemary Frew, convener of the Faith Nurture Forum, said the Church of Scotland currently had 700 ministers in post, 137 ministries development staff and 299 vacant congregations.
"We are draining the resources of the church – people, morale and finance – just to keep this broken system going."
And she said there was a "retirement cliff" looming. "Over 35 per cent of our ministers either have reached or will each 65 in less than five years.
"Without a radical treatment plan the Church of Scotland will not survive. Our report offers the whole church a chance to thrive and lay down the burdens which have been exhausting us."
She said it had been projected that the Kirk’s finances could fund 600 minister posts and 60 vacancies and the forum had painstakingly allocated a realistic number of ministries to each presbytery.
Ms Frew told the Assembly: "If you wish to claim more ministers for your presbytery you must tell the church which other presbytery should have fewer.
"We know there is no easy painless way forward, but we can choose our pain – the short, sharp pain of surgery with real prospects of recovery or the long, debilitating agony of chronic decline with no hope of things ever getting better."
The Assembly ran out of time before it could deal with the proposals so the debate and vote on them has now been rescheduled for Wednesday evening.