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Act 1, 2018 (I) (Class 1) – Act anent The Sustentation Fund. 22nd May 2018.

The General Assembly, with the consent of Presbyteries, desiring arrangements regarding the Sustentation Fund be clarified and updated, enact and ordain as follows:

  1. Congregations

1.1          A Sustentation Fund Schedule, drawn up by the Mission Board, shall be filled up on behalf of each congregation seeking to be given permission to call a minister. Vacant congregations fall into one of the three following financial categories: (i) financially viable; (ii) financially marginal; and (iii) financially non-viable. The said definitions are explained in the Ministry Handbook issued by the Mission Board and are set in consultation with the Board of Trustees.

1.2          The Mission Board will normally receive a Schedule for full-time ministry under the provisions of the Sustentation Fund only from congregations which are defined as financially viable or financially marginal. A Schedule from a financially non-viable congregation will not be considered for ministry under the provisions of this Act.

1.3          It shall be the duty of the Interim-moderator of a vacant congregation, in consultation with the Kirk Session, the Deacons’ Court and Congregation, to fill up the Schedule and submit it to the Mission Board through the Presbytery of the bounds.

1.4          The Schedule shall require the congregation to promise that, in the event of a settled full-time ministry, it shall remit to Central Funds at least the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration and Training Levy from its ordinary income. The congregation’s ability to meet the said cost will be demonstrable from remittances to Central Funds in the previous five years.

1.5          The Mission Board may also require questions to be answered in the Schedule which will enable them to assess the congregation’s remittances to Central Funds, the provision the congregation intends to make to meet the minister’s expenses, the suitability of the manse and of the property used for holding services, and any anticipated major congregational expenses.

1.6          In exceptional circumstances, a Sustentation Fund Schedule may be submitted from a congregation which is not able to meet the Ministry Levy and the Administration and Training Levy from ordinary income, but which is able to do so with the support of congregational reserves. In such cases, the Schedule should be accompanied with a development plan for ministry for the congregation, approved by the Kirk Session and the Presbytery.

  1. Presbyteries

2.1          The Sustentation Fund Schedule shall be submitted to the Presbytery of the bounds for approval.  In the light of its knowledge of local circumstances the Presbytery shall be asked if it considers the financial commitment promised, and the proposals made, to be adequate in the light of the congregation’s resources and prospects.

2.2          When a congregation is considered to be financially viable, and able to meet the required levies of the remittances scheme, the Presbytery shall forward the Schedule to the Mission Board recommending that the congregation be granted permission to call a minister without restriction.

2.3          When a congregation is considered to be financially marginal, the Presbytery shall ensure that a development plan for ministry in the congregation is submitted to the Mission Board with the Schedule. The Presbytery shall request that permission be granted to call a minister on a five-year terminable/renewable appointment.

2.4          When a congregation’s ability to meet the costs of the Ministry Levy and the Administration and Training Levy is dependent on local congregational reserves, the Presbytery shall be required to report to the Mission Board on why the congregation should be given permission to call a minister and what steps are being taken to increase its ordinary income. The Presbytery shall also submit a development plan for ministry in the congregation in the first five years of a settled full-time ministry.

2.5          A Presbytery shall not moderate in a call until the Mission Board has intimated that the congregation has been given permission to call a minister.

  1. The Mission Board

3.1          The Board shall not consider a Schedule until it has been approved by the Presbytery of the bounds.

3.2          The Board shall scrutinise each schedule to ensure that the requirements of Clause 1.4 of this Act are met, and that the responses given in terms of Clauses 1.5 and 2.4 of this Act are satisfactory. The Board may only approve Schedules which have been validly completed in all these respects.

3.3          If the congregation is financially viable and has promised to remit at least the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration and Training Levy, and if the Board is satisfied with the responses given to the other questions asked in the Sustentation Schedule, then the congregation will be given permission to call a minister without time restriction on his appointment.

3.4          If the Congregation is considered to be financially marginal and has promised to remit at least the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration and Training Levy, and if the Board is satisfied with the responses given to the other questions asked in the Sustentation Schedule, then the Board may give restricted permission to call a minister. In these circumstances, a minister inducted to the charge shall be on a five-year terminable/renewable appointment, and a review of the congregation’s situation shall take place four years after an appointment has been made.

3.5          The General Assembly enact that in future the entitlement of a vacant congregation to call a minister be limited to two years from the date on which its Schedule is passed by the Mission Board.

  1. Union of Neighbouring Congregations

On a vacancy occurring in a pastoral charge the Presbytery, before considering a Sustentation Fund Schedule, shall give consideration to whether in the light of their overall Strategy Plan it is desirable for the vacant congregation to be linked or united with another congregation whether vacant or not; and only when this possibility has been fully explored and departed from shall they approve a Schedule. In submitting the Schedule, they shall report to the Board the steps taken and the reasons for departing from any such linking or union.

  1. Special Arrangements

5.1          Notwithstanding the above regulations, the Board may recommend to the General Assembly that in special circumstances congregations be given permission to call a minister on conditions to be submitted by the Board to the Assembly. These special circumstances shall have regard to: (a) the geographical position of the Congregation; and (b) the potential for growth perceived to exist. Each such case passed by the Assembly shall be reviewed every five years.

5.2          The Sustentation Fund Schedule submitted by such a congregation must express its financial commitment as a percentage of the Ministry Levy, and its remittances shall be monitored by the Board in terms of Clause 7 below.

5.3          Before a Presbytery gives its approval to a Schedule seeking permission to call a minister in terms of special arrangements, the Presbytery shall carry out a visitation of the Congregation to consider the prospects for ministry in the Congregation in the short term and in the long term. The Presbytery shall agree a development plan for ministry in the congregation which shall be submitted to the Board along with the Schedule. The development plan shall also include a detailed analysis of the local context of the ministry showing the basis on which potential for growth is perceived to exist.  Permission to call a minister under special arrangements shall not be granted until all the documentation has been considered by the Board.

  1. Five-year Terminable/Renewable Appointments

6.1          In situations where a minister has been appointed on a five-year terminable/renewable appointment, a review of the congregation will commence four years after an appointment has been made. The congregation will then submit a new Sustentation Fund Schedule to the Mission Board through the Presbytery of the bounds.

6.2          If when a new Schedule is submitted, the congregation has (i) met the requirements of the Remittances Scheme in the last five years; and (ii) has become a financially-viable congregation according to Clause 1 of this Act, the five-year time-restriction on the minister’s induction to the charge may be removed. The Board will report on the matter to the ensuing General Assembly so that the minister’s induction to the charge may be declared to be free of time-restriction as in Clause 2.2 of this Act.

6.3          If when a new Schedule is submitted, the congregation (i) continues to be classed as financially-marginal as per Clause 1 of this Act; (ii) has met the requirements of the Remittances Scheme in the last five years; and (iii) the Board is satisfied with the Schedule in this and all other respects, then the Board may extend the minister’s appointment for a further five years from the date of termination of the original appointment. A further review of the congregation shall be carried out nine years after the appointment to the charge was made, and every five years thereafter.

6.4          If at the time of a review the Congregation is unable to promise to remit at least the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration and Training Levy, or if the Board adjudge the congregation’s promised commitment to be unrealistic, the Board shall report this to the next General Assembly, and unless exceptional circumstances are shown to exist, the Board shall recommend that the minister’s appointment be not renewed at the end of his current appointment.

6.5          When the contract of a minister in a terminable appointment is not renewed by resolution of the General Assembly, the Presbytery of the bounds shall direct that his name be added to the Register of Ministers without Charge, Eligible for Call

  1. Financial Viability Review

7.1          When any congregation, whose minister is appointed under the terms of this Act, fails to remit the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration Levy 100%, the Mission Board shall draw the attention of the Congregation and the Presbytery to this fact. On receipt of such notification the Presbytery shall initiate a Review and Audit of the Congregation as in Clause 7.2 of this Act. The Board shall also report to the General Assembly that such a review has been initiated. The purpose of this review is to make a decision regarding the long-term viability of a congregation whose numerical and or financial strength has become seriously weakened with the result that it has become financially non-viable. The review period shall be twelve months during which the following steps must be taken:

7.2          Presbyteries

7.2.1       The Presbytery, on receipt of notification from the Mission Board that a congregation’s remittances have fallen below the level of the Ministry Levy and the appropriate level of the Administration Levy, shall initiate a thorough review of the congregation. This review shall include a thorough audit of the congregation, giving due consideration to (i) the likely causes of the fact that its numerical and financial strength has become seriously weakened; and (ii) the future prospects for ongoing full-time ministry in the congregation, including any potential for growth perceived to exist. On completion of the review, the Presbytery shall give a Report of its findings to the Board.

7.2.2       The Presbytery shall be required to meet with the congregation in order to explain the procedures to be followed as a result of the fall in the numerical and or financial strength of the congregation. The Presbytery shall consult fully with the congregation during the review period in order to agree an achievable way forward for ministry in the congregation.

7.2.3       If the Presbytery finds that the provision of a full-time ministry in the congregation is no longer financially-viable but that there is potential for growth in the congregation and that there is reason to believe special evangelistic effort on the part of the denomination could lead to realising this potential, then the Presbytery shall consider making application for ministry under one of the following provisions: (i) Locally-subsidised Charges – Act 14, Class 2, 2013; (ii) Alternative Ministerial Arrangements – Act 13, Class 2, 2014; or (iii) Redevelopment status in terms of Act 34, Class 2, 1988. In each case, the Presbytery shall formulate a development plan for ministry in the congregation and recommend accordingly to the Mission Board.

7.2.4       If the Presbytery finds that the provision of a full-time ministry in the congregation is no longer financially-viable, and that there is no evident potential for growth leading to a viable congregation in the short term or the long term, then it shall report to the Mission Board in these terms. The Presbytery shall also arrange a meeting with the congregation in order to explain its findings and to discuss options for future ministry in the congregation.

7.2.5       The Presbytery shall submit its Report to the Mission Board by 14th February in the calendar year after which the review was initiated.

7.3          Mission Board 

7.3.1       On receipt of the Presbytery’s Report that a full-time ministry is now financially-viable in a congregation, the Board shall remove the time limit on the minister’s appointment as in Clause 3.4 of this Act and declare that his appointment is without restriction. The Board shall include details of this change to the next General Assembly.

7.3.2         On receipt of the Presbytery’s Report that a full-time ministry is no longer financially-viable in a congregation, and that there are no recommended alternatives for regular ministry in the congregation, the Mission Board shall include this in its Report to the next General Assembly recommending that (i) the minister’s pastoral link with the congregation be severed within six months and his name added to the Register of Ministers Without Charge, Eligible for Call; and (ii) that the Presbytery be instructed to make arrangements for linkage or union with another congregation as may be appropriate in the locality.

7.3.3       On receipt of the Presbytery’s Report that a full-time ministry is no longer financially-viable in a congregation, and that there is a recommendation for another option for ministry in the congregation as listed in Clause 7.2.3 of this Act, the Mission Board shall include this in its Report to the next General Assembly recommending the continuity of ministry under one of the follow provisions: (i) Locally-subsidised Charges – Act 14, Class 2, 2013; (ii) Alternative Ministerial Arrangements – Act 13, Class 2, 2014; or other arrangements has the General Assembly may ordain from time to time.

7.3.4       The Mission Board shall make careful examination of each case where a ministry is being terminated, that due pastoral care has been offered and other possible avenues of service have been examined.

7.4          Terms of Re-appointment

When a congregation with a settled ministry is removed from the Equal Dividend Platform (able to meet the costs of ministry) and the minister placed on a renewable appointment the following conditions will apply:

7.4.1       The annual stipend shall be paid at the rate of Equal Dividend each year with the shortfall between congregational remittances to central funds and the rate of Equal Dividend being borne by the Mission Board.

7.4.2       The congregation shall contribute towards pay a sum for the reimbursement of the minister’s travelling and other expenses, the maximum of which sum shall be fixed in agreement with the Mission Board and reviewed annually during the appointment.

7.4.3       The minister placed on a five-year appointment shall devote his whole time to the congregation and work under the supervision of the Presbytery of which he is a member, in conjunction with the Mission Board.

7.4.4       The minister shall report at least annually to meetings of his Presbytery and the Presbytery shall report by 14th February each year to the Mission Board, on progress in the spiritual, numerical and financial aspects of the congregation. The Presbytery shall also ensure that all support-structures agreed in the development plan are being implemented.

7.4.5       If the minister’s link with the congregation is severed at the end of the five-year period, then he shall be treated as a minister without charge, except that he shall be paid at the rate of full stipend for a period of six months from the date of expiry of the appointment, or until his induction to another charge, whichever is sooner, and the Presbytery shall inform the Principal Clerk of Assembly so that his name may be included on the Register of Ministers without Charge, Eligible for Call.

  1. Scope of this Act

8.1          The terms of this Act shall hereafter apply to all congregations for which Sustentation Fund Schedules come before the Presbytery of the bounds for scrutiny and approval.

8.2          Where a Schedule has already been forwarded by the Presbytery of the bounds to the Board, the Schedule shall be approved in terms of this Act.

8.3          Settlements that have taken place under previous regulations shall now be monitored in terms of this Act.

8.4          The General Assembly hereby repeal Act 1, Class 1, 2013.