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Act 1, 1990 (I) (Class 1) – Act anent Problem Ministries (Repealing Act III, Class I, 1892). 21st May 1990.

The General Assembly noting the almost total support accorded to the Overture regarding Problem Ministries enact as follows:

The General Assembly, being sadly aware that difficulties prejudicial to the work of the Gospel sometimes arise in congregations, and though not of such a kind as to involve regular disciplinary process, demand solution, enact and ordain, with consent of Presbyteries as follows:

1.1 When a Presbytery, as a result of any competent procedure on their part, have found the state of a congregation under their charge to be seriously unsatisfactory (for example, an undue falling away of attendance at public worship and/or undue withdrawal of financial support of the congregation), they shall take due pains in the use of counsel and exhortation with a view to remedying the state of affairs. If these should fail they shall record in their minutes a statement of the facts brought under their notice, of the steps taken by the Presbytery, and of the results. If they are further of opinion that there are prima facie grounds for thinking that the failure may be due to defects or mismanagement personal to the minister, they shall embody the said grounds in their statement; and an extract of the whole statement shall be furnished to the minister concerned, with notice of the time when it is to be further considered.

1.2 At a subsequent meeting the Presbytery shall hear any statement the minister may make, receiving and recording any relevant matter which he may tender to be recorded on his behalf. It shall also be competent to receive and duly record verbal or written statements by persons in the communion of the Free Church, who are, or have been members of the congregation, bearing on the question of how far the existing state of things is to be traced to the minister. If, then, the Presbytery are constrained to conclude that the ends of the ministry are not being served, and further, that the state of the congregation is due to defects or mismanagement personal to the minister, they shall record their judgment on both heads, with any additional statement of the grounds of it which they shall find to be just and necessary, and notify the minister that they shall further review the situation in six months’ time and that unless the situation be improved they shall then recommend to the General Assembly that his pastoral tie be dissolved.

1.3 When six months have elapsed the Presbytery shall again review the situation and if it appears that it remains unsatisfactory due to defects or mismanagement personal to the minister they shall refer the whole matter directly to the General Assembly with recommendation that the pastoral tie be dissolved.

1.4 If the General Assembly approve the recommendation of the Presbytery they shall authorise the dissolution of the pastoral tie and direct that the minister’s name be placed on the Register of Ministers without Charge eligible for call. But if the minister concerned be at least 55 years of age and has given 10 years’ service to the Church a recommendation may be made to the Pensions Committee to consider the award of an early retirement/subsistence allowance at their discretion.

1.5 The procedure of the Presbytery under sections 1.1 and 1.2 and their final judgment under section 1.3, shall be subject to appeal and complaint in ordinary form to the superior courts; but when the Presbytery have taken the steps authorised in section 1.1, they shall proceed in face of all appeals until they have disposed of all questions arising under section 1.2.

2.1 When a Presbytery, having reached the stage of drawing up the statement prescribed in section 1.1, are of the opinion that prima facie grounds exist for thinking the unsatisfactory state of affairs to be due to the fault of any office-bearers or members of the congregation, they shall furnish extracts of their statement of such grounds to the party concerned, and call such party to the meeting of Presbytery at which the case is to be further considered, when they shall proceed in the same manner as in the case of a minister.

2.2 If, then, the Presbytery are constrained to conclude that the ends of the Gospel are not being served, and that this state of things is due to the fault or mismanagement personal to an office-bearer, or office-bearers, they may in such a case remove from office.

2.3 If the state of affairs, however, is seen to be attributable to a member or members of the congregation, the Presbytery may order that they be relieved of all public functions entrusted to them in the congregation, and order also that disjunction certificates be given to them, as the justice of the case and the interests of the congregation may require.

2.4 The provisions of section 1.5 regarding complaints and appeals shall apply also to cases arising under sections 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3.

3. Act III (Class I) 1892 – Act Anent Ministerial Inefficiency – is hereby repealed, except insofar as it applies to proceedings already instituted and referred to this Assembly in due form.