Church of Scotland battles to fill pulpits

(Photo: REUTERS / David Moir)The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, addresses the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland, in Edinburgh, Scotland May 23, 2012.

The Church of Scotland is to hold its yearly general assembly in May where it will receive a report stating that is battling to attract people and especially the younger generation to the ministry.

The national church in Scotland is Presbyterian and known informally as the Kirk. It has met in the capital almost every year since its inception in 1560. This year the meeting in Edinburgh takes place from May 17 to 23.

"With over 220 vacancies in parishes across Scotland the challenge remains: 'Whom shall I send?'"

The report cites a Presbytery Plan to encourage all of those involved in the life of the Church of Scotland to consider the question.

"Whether it be in the full- or part-time Parish ministry, Ordained Local Ministry, the Diaconate or the Readership, the call to service is urgent and the need great," it says.

The Kirk's General Assembly next month will receive the report from the church's Ministries Council. It warns unless there is "a substantial increase in vocations by the start of the next decade," it will face a shortfall of up to 376 ministers, according to The Scotsman newspaper.


The newspaper commented that the shortage of pastors "raises the question of how long the Kirk can maintain its role as Scotland's national church in the face of continued decline."

"The society that gave the Church a special position at its center is fast disappearing," the report states. "The result has been, for many ministers, a loss of clarity about their role and even their identity.

"To this has been added the impact of recent Presbytery Planning. With fewer parish ministers, many feel stretched to the limit. Throughout this year the Ministries Council has been informing Presbyteries that, far from improving, the picture is going to become worse."

The report notes that budget restrictions have meant a further freeze on stipends for the vast majority of Parish Ministers, a small number of whom have seen no increase for around six years.

"The low number of ministers below the age of 45 demands that we explore possible causes of this situation and begin to identify strategies through which they might be addressed," the report says.

The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots name, the Kirk, is the biggest church in the country claiming the allegiance of around 32 percent of Scotland's five million people.

Around 16 percent of Scots are recorded as Roman Catholics while 1.4 percent, are followers of Islam.

The 2011 census shows that 37 percent of the people in Scotland claim no religious affiliation.

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News