© St Ninians Episcopal Church, Glasgow which is a charity registered under no.SC010966
Rector writes My attention was drawn to a recent newspaper article and I have to say I was rather shocked to read the following - “Anglican priests in Scotland are having to rely on charity handouts as they struggle with bank loans and credit card debts, it has emerged. Grants of £30,000 have been paid to priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church who are facing financial hardship. The funds have been provided by the Clergy Support Trust, a centuries-old charity which helps destitute Anglican clergy....three of the most vulnerable clergy who asked for help were said to have long-term disabilities and ‘caring situations within the household’. Financial support grants totalling £22,800 were given to 7 Scottish clergy... and two received a total of £5748 in disability aids and equipment. The Scottish recipients were among 459 clergy across the UK given a total of £1.8 million in grants by the trust in 2018.” I had known that there had always been an element of “genteel poverty” amongst the clergy, but never realised just how long- standing and endemic the issue was and only when I researched the Clergy Support Trust did I realise the extent of the issue. The Trust itself has a fascinating history and its most modern manifestation is an amalgamation over time of several Anglican support organisations. Its history starts in 1655 with the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy followed by, in 1678, the Governours of the Charity for Releefe of the Poor Widdowes and Children of Clergmen. There then followed in 1751 The Clergy Orphan Society to maintain and educate the fatherless children, of both sexes, of Anglican clergymen. In 1809 came the Clergy Orphan Corporation closely followed in 1820 by The Clothing Society for the Benefit of Poor Pious Clergymen. The later Victorians then created a veritable explosion of societies with, in 1849, The Friends of the Clergy Corporation; in 1856, The Poor Clergy Relief Corporation; in 1866, The Curates Augmentation Fund; and finally, in 1900, The Poor Parochial Clergy Society. All this history demonstrates that the clergy have always (in modern history) required financial support and that the Victorians had an amazingly strong sense of philanthropy, despite the modern view of them all being grim, avaricious, Scrooge-type characters. Coming to the present day, do you not feel that this situation of clergy poverty requires to be addressed? Surely the primary responsibility must remain with members of Anglican congregations who cannot wish to see their dedicated clergy descend to undignified levels of poverty that would be scandalous if it were to befall any lay member of a congregation. The whole matter of the clergy stipend has always been a delicate issue. Some firmly believe it is not to be the equivalent of a secular salary to be pegged, say, to one of the professions, but is meant to cover the exigencies of living, thus freeing the cleric to dedicate time and energy to the congregation. Others seek to argue that such an approach merely institutionalises modest poverty and that the clergy ought to be paid the “going rate”. I make no comment on this debate, but I feel that there never should be a situation whereby clergy fall into such need, most particularly if the clergy or their loved ones are disabled. However, such pious thoughts on my part are unrealistic as levels of clergy stipend will remain as they are. The next best thing is the work performed by institutions like the Clergy Support Trust. It is self- evident that such an institution would not be able to operate without the financial support of individuals or charges, as a group, adopting the Trust as their preferred charity to support on a regular basis. We at St Ninian’s have a great reputation for being generous to organisations both local, national and international. Do you think it would be possible to set up a fund whereby we could collect on a regular basis for the Clergy Support Trust? Please let me or members of the Vestry know what your thoughts on the matter might be. The Rector