During a special assembly, which took place last Tuesday, some 1,200 delegates unanimously agreed the following resolution:
"That in the event of the government failing to secure a ‘commercial’ solution and the Northern Ireland Executive bringing forward a final and comprehensive proposal which includes a’ Hardship’ Fund element, the General Assembly agree in principle to contribute 1m, while the General Assembly affirm their view that the members of the PMS are thrifty savers and not risk taking investors."
The Church was responding to a request from the First and Deputy First Minister who had written to the Church outlining a package of financial measures they were formulating to resolve the Presbyterian Mutual Society crisis.
As part of this they indicated that these measures would include a 'hardship fund' which, in addition to a contribution from government, they anticipated that a sum of at least 1m would be forthcoming from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland towards this 'hardship element'.
By taking this decision the Church was not approving any financial arrangement that would be put into place but were responding to the request of the First and deputy First Minister.
No decision was taken on how the Church will raise the money. A panel was asked to bring suitable suggestions to the next meeting of the General Assembly though a levy on congregations is considered unlikely.
The Assembly agreed a number of other resolutions. Delegates reaffirmed the importance of seeking urgently a solution, which will, if at all possible, give a full settlement to all claims, whether from ‘shareholders’ or ‘creditors’ and welcome the assurance that the ‘commercial’ solution is still an option.
While acknowledging the distress of PMS savers, the Assembly also commended the efforts of the Northern Ireland Executive, led by the First Minister and deputy First Minister, and encouraged all politicians to work vigorously for a successful solution.