Pay freeze for Church of Scotland ministers

The difficult financial climate means ministers in the Church of Scotland are unlikely to see a pay increase in 2014.

The Kirk's General Assembly received a report on Wednesday explaining that the one per cent increase in budget given to the Council in 2013 would have resulted in a minimal increase spread over all parish ministers, as 70 per cent of them are already at the top of the stipend or pay scale.

During the year, the Ministries Council reduced the stipend scale to five levels instead of the nine in use for the 2012 Church year, allowing those at the lower end a more significant increase than would have been possible by spreading the additional budget across all ministers.

Convener of the Ministries Council, the Reverend Neil Dougall said: "The Ministries Council remains concerned that stipends have continued to be almost static over the past four years, (six in a small number of cases) resulting in a significant erosion of their real value.

"It is seeking, together with the Council of Assembly to find ways of addressing this as soon as possible."

The Kirk's presbytery and parish workers have also accepted cuts to pay and benefits in a move to save jobs and money.

Under changes to their working conditions, they will no longer be entitled to housing allowance while new salary scales will mean a pay cut of around £1,000 for those at the top of the new pay scales.

The changes will be in force by 2016, with current pay protected for the next three years. It is expected that the new conditions will save £500,000 a year.

At the same time, the Church of Scotland is hoping to attract more young people to the ministry and to continue the "professional development" of existing ministers.

A report agreed by the General Assembly outlines the vision to attract more under 45s to the pulpit in order to fill the vacancies left by retiring clergy.

Mr Dougall told the General Assembly that at present, only 113 out of 845 parish ministers - or 13% - were born after 1967. Just three out of the 845 ministers are below the age of 30.

The average Church of Scotland minister now begins ministry at the age of 48, while the average age of those training for the ministry is 46.

"This is an important challenge for the Church. If the majority of parish ministers were in future to retire at 68 - and many earlier at the state pension age - around 320 will have retired by 2023.

"We are not seeking to argue that young is better. Rather, that our Church needs the ages of its ministers to be balanced and reasonably reflective of our national age profile. This is certainly not the case at the moment."

The previous Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Reverend Albert Bogle, suggested in his retiring address at the weekend that the Church of Scotland needed to set up a bursary support scheme to encourage people to come forward for ministry.

"We also need to consider the ways we train our ministers so that it does not require six-and-a-half years from calling to ordinations. We have much to do and I believe that we need to hear the wakeup call," he said.