African ministers to bolster free church
Church ministers from Africa are to be used by the United Free Church of Scotland to stave off shortages in the ministry reports the Scotsman.
The initiative will be launched later this year after concern at the growing number of congregations in Scotland who do not have a minister.
There are currently seven United Free congregations with vacancies and the number is set to rise further as more ministers reach the age of retirement.
The Rev John Fulton, a spokesman for the United Free Church, said the decline was part of an ongoing trend affecting all churches in Scotland, which has seen a fall both in worshippers and a decline in young people going into the ministry.
According to a recent Scottish Church Census, 300 people have stopped attending services every week for the last eight years.
The report found that some 570,000 people went to church on Sunday in 2002, compared to 690,000 in 1994 - a startling drop of 120,000.
The problem of falling congregations has been compounded by the shortage of ministers, as fewer people come forward to join the church and many of those who have been ordained approach retirement.
The Church of Scotland has already agreed to raise the retirement age of its ministers to 70 as part of plans to offset the problem.
Mr Fulton said the shortages had prompted the United Free Church to seek a "radical solution" by "reversing the missionary effect".
Under the scheme, ministers from the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, which is affiliated with the United Free Church of Scotland, will start arriving in Scotland later this year to fill vacant posts.