Presbyterians debate PMS

The PMS debacle continues to create problems within the Presbyterian Church. At the general assembly there was a proposal that ministers donate £1,500 each to help kick start a £1 million hardship fund for the PMS savers. The minutes of the meeting drily note that the proposal was withdrawn “By leave of the House” and instead the following was passed 274 for: 164 against.

That the General Assembly authorise the General Board when and if appropriate to ask ministers to contribute voluntarily what they judge they can afford to give a lead in raising the promised contribution agreed at the Special Assembly.

Afterwards the Rev Tony Davidson from Armagh said:

“I agree totally with what the outgoing moderator (the Rev Dr Stafford Carson] said on Wednesday, that we should all be generous and positive in this crisis and stand with savers

The majority of ministers and elders did get that right in the vote (274), that is how Presbyterianism works. And obviously we were happy that at the end of that vote everyone agreed they would follow that resolution.

In the end all the house adopted that resolution (to give voluntarily to a hardship fund) and I think we will be happy to live with it. Nobody dissented. The atmosphere in the house was to be supportive of all savers.”

The outgoing moderator Stafford Carson stated:

“And we are encouraged that secretary of state Owen Paterson has taken a very active interest in the PMS before he came to power and that he has now promised to consider a bank takeover as a real option.

That would do away with the false distinction between smaller and larger PMS savers that has been at the root of so much of the trouble in resolving this crisis and has created the potential need for a hardship fund.”

Carson may feel that the distinction between the smaller and larger savers is false and he has previously admitted that the real, but unfortunately minimised to the savers, distinction between the Presbyterian Mutual Society and the Presbyterian Church was inappropriately used when the crisis broke. (To quote one saver after the April special assembly to discuss the issue) “The Church dismissed us at the start of this crisis…”

However, Carson and the church have stuck doggedly to avoiding major investment to help the savers and Carson has been disingenuous over the Presbyterian Church’s assets. Of course the £42 million in the central investment portfolio has never been mentioned by the church.

A comment from the Newsletter’s special assembly report in April is telling: “There was no admission of any wrongdoing or negligence by the Church in how the crisis came about.”

After the latest debate Mervyn Redmond, a member of a PMS savers’ self help group said :

“The whole PMS affair is hurting the church very badly. It would have been encouraging to know that ministers were trying to show a wee bit of Christianity. If they had taken a different stance (during the vote) I would have considered it very differently.”

One day this crisis will be over either because the government will bail out the PMS, it will be sold to a bank, or because it will be forgotten about and the small savers (most of them old) will have died. However, the damage to the Presbyterian Church will be measured in far more than the money they have saved by minimising their giving to the PMS savers.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)