I referred in my last post to the extraordinary actions of the Church of Scotland towards one of their own congregations that wanted to leave. Not a big deal, you would have thought; but the response has been vicious. Today I have learned of further action, which is even worse. The BBC story is here.
The Kirk has now written to the charity regulator over “the legality of the transfer of assets” from the Church to the Epaphras Trust before the split. …
The Kirk also states that it has written to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) about a transfer of assets to the Epaphras Trust, a pastoral training and poverty relief charity which is active in Asia and Africa.
It states: “To claim that the Church of Scotland is acting in a heavy handed manner is, in our opinion, merely an attempt to divert attention away from the real issues here.
“These are nothing to do with differing theologies, but about ownership of charitable assets, and the questionable financial management of the former congregation – in particular the legality of the transfer of assets of the Church of Scotland to the Epaphras Trust before the individuals chose to leave the Church of Scotland.
“We have therefore written to OSCR to raise our concerns about the legality of this, as we consider we have a duty to do under charity law.”
I don’t know the facts, but I would guess that the congregation took the view that things that they paid for themselves belonged to them. The greed of the Kirk officials must have left them gasping. Who on earth would imagine that a national church body would send in the bailiffs to rip hymnbooks out of the hands of worshippers? Most churches would be grateful to get people holding hymnbooks! When a church feels the need to have a parallel trust, it tends to mean that they don’t trust their denomination with money. And one can see why.
The statement: “before the individuals chose to leave…” seems as if it is deliberately dishonest. This is a whole congregation leaving, and well the authors of those words know it. Likewise we may note the pretext that this has something to do with their legal charitable responsibilities, rather than spite and malice. I believe most churches can give stuff away without worrying about their “legal charitable responsibilities”. Some might even feel that this is what we expect churches to do.
The statement quoted is online here, which is as good a piece of corporate mendacity as I have seen for a while. At least the people responsible signed the statement. They are:
Rev Dr Grant Barclay, Convener, Church of Scotland Council of Assembly.
Rev Dr James Jack, Chairman of the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland.
Rev Stuart Smith, Interim Moderator, Church of Scotland St George’s Tron.
The last named is a curiosity all by himself. After all, the whole church has left. However I understand that the Kirk intends to create a mock congregation in order to mislead the courts in the action(s) — they don’t deny that all the litigation has taken place from their side — that they are pursuing, and doubtless is part of that, whoever he is.
Curiously the officials complain:
Much of the press coverage of the situation at St George’s Tron continues to give a very one sided view which misrepresents the situation.
Yet the coverage has been far more favourable than the Kirk deserves, in reality. There is no excuse for their actions. They are injuring the community by their actions; injuring the body they are supposed to act for; and displaying a contempt for others which is breathtaking. Nobody is under any obligation to sue churchgoers for having the courage of their convictions. Claims that “you stole our property”, when the congregation contributed millions, and the taking is being done by Kirk officials whose greed apparently knows no limits — even down to hymn-books –, are sickening to read.
I also found, with some difficulty, further demands made in June by the Kirk here. It seems that there was hardly a moment between hearing that the congregation was going to leave and sticking the knife in with a whole series of questionable claims and brazen-faced demands for money:
No decisions have been taken about the on-going use of the building, or the outstanding financial obligations to the Church of Scotland and the General Trustees.” …
The Congregation of the St George’s Tron Church have outstanding arrears on their contributions to Ministries and Mission in the Church of Scotland.
There is also an outstanding loan made by the General Trustees to the congregation in 2007 to support a remodelling of the building.
The St George’s Tron building is owned by the Church of Scotland General Trustees.
Shortly afterwards the Kirk reached for lawyers.
Oh well. It all shows that St George’s Tron were absolutely right to leave.