Apparently there is concern in the Diocese of Glasgow about the level of St Silas' quota to the work of the Scottish Episcopal Church. This quota is the percentage of the church's income that is given to the work of the church and supports the ministry of the bishop, other churches and the centralised administration. It is split into two parts, Provincial and Diocesan.
In 1987, when St Silas' joined the SEC, it was agreed that St Silas', as a private chapel within the church, would pay only the Diocesan part of the quota. St Silas' has done so out of love for the Church, and has given increased figures year on year. This year that sum will amount to £14000+, which is amongst the highest figures given, even of those churches giving combined diocesan and provincial quotas.
In November 2004, at my ministry appraisal, the Bishop of Glasgow asked if St Silas' might start paying Provincial quota. I reckoned that would be a hard sell. effectively doubling the level of quota at a time of expanding our staff and contemplating major building work on a new hall would not be wise, nor go down well with the congregation.
This was all the more difficult for two reasons. Firstly, the congregation of St Silas' was already committed to giving 20% of our annual income to missions work around the world. With quota on top of that, we share more than a third of our total income. That's in addition to employing eight staff and maintaining expensive-to-run properties. We have never received nor requested any financial support from the Diocese during my 11 years as Rector.
The second difficulty relates to the mission of the Church. The writing has been on the wall for many years concerning the direction that the SEC would take in terms of biblical authority, tradition and reason. The people of St Silas' were beginning to struggle with the drift away from the values that the SEC once had, and did not want to subsidise that drift any more than we were already doing.
It's clear now that the SEC is facing financial crisis in the next few years. The recent call for each member of the church to contribute an extra £1-a-week to stave off this meltdown is telling. But an aging constituency, even if they are able to up their giving (and that is by no means certain, given the vagaries of living on a pension), won't last for forever. This call revealed much about the mindset of the SEC. Another way of looking at this would have been to ask that every member aim to bring one person to faith in Jesus over the next five years. That would double our numbers, increase giving and bring quite a few people into the Kingdom of God!
Part of the problem is that the Provincial structure is crumbling. At least two of the dioceses are on the verge of financial collapse, yet the plans to amalgamate, if they exist, are not in the public domain. There needs to be reform, and quickly.
There also needs to be some radical rethinking about mission, away from the chaplaincy mentality, towards a real confidence that we have something wonderful to offer the people of Scotland: the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mission is partly about social justice (which we are totally committed to working towards at St Silas'), but not exclusively so, as so often seems to be the case in the SEC. Mission has to be about seeing people come into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Passion for that message would transform this wee denomination.
In the meantime, don't expect to see many larger churches increasing their support for work that they have little faith in.
Perhaps one day someone will want to come and consult with leaders of larger churches about all this. We might have some good ideas!