Mission or Welfare; Dilemma of Under-financed Church

( [email protected] ) May 04, 2004 06:23 PM EDT

The recent financial report of the Church of Scotland has highlighted the dilemma between resourcing mission work and safeguarding ministers’ welfare.

Even though there has been a “very encouraging” 3.7% rise in offerings by the members over the past four years, described by the Rev Gordon Jamieson, director of stewardship, the state of the church's finances is "a cause for concern".

The report said the period had been financially extremely difficult, with central expenditure exceeding income by £19m. "Many boards and committees are incurring deficits and using reserves to maintain existing work," it said.

The board of world mission is found to be one of those suffering. The shortage of funds is attributed to the beleagured Tiberias residential development on the Sea of Galilee for pilgrims to the Holy Land.

According to Rev Jamieson, the political situation is difficult and it has largely been out of the church's control, thus causing the financial crisis. Work on completing one of the church's biggest property investments has been badly disrupted by hostilities in the Middle East.

Under the shortage, the report said parish staffing, including ministers, deacons, project workers, and congregational resourcing were "priorities for the church". Pensions and the child protection unit, which faced increased costs because of "outside regulations", were other priorities.

While the overseas missionaries work targeted to safeguard domestic priorities such as ministers’ stipends and pensions, and its child protection unit, a report to next month's General Assembly will recommend cutting of more than £800,000 from its budget. This is the point of controversy.

Therefore, the report concluded, "As costs increase, deficits mount, reserves dwindle, and membership falls, it is imperative that urgent strategic action is taken to address and resolve the problems inherent in the rolling budget. This should involve an examination of the amount of the Church's budget that is spent on congregational buildings and parish staffing."

Moreover, the need to teach and practice sacrificial giving throughout the Church is advocated in the board's main report, and it is emphasised again in the supplementary report.