Living Hope goes into our schools

By Adrian Darbyshire in Charity

Elders from Living Hope church have visited six island schools up to five times a year to discuss subjects with pupils, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

And the Department of Education and Children confirmed that creationism - the belief in divine creation rather than evolution - is being taught or discussed in 21 schools, 11 of them by people other than teachers.

Responding to a FoI request, the DEC confirmed that creationism is discussed mainly in school assemblies or RE lessons as a biblical account of the creation of the world in balance with other ideas such as the Big Bang theory and the theory of creation.

And it is made clear this is one of a number of religious beliefs and in no way taught as a statement of fact.

The DEC revealed Living Hope representatives have visited four primary schools and two high schools to discuss subjects, formally or informally, with pupils.

They have visited Bunscoill Rhumsaa and Jurby schools about four or five times a year, once or twice a year at Cronk y Berry, four times this academic year at both Phurt le Moirrey and Castle Rushen High School and twice at Queen Elizabeth II High School.

The department pointed out it may be the case that members of Living Hope attend in capacities other than their church affiliation, sometimes as part of a wider group delivering an assembly.

Content of assemblies are not of an overtly religious nature, it said. Members of Living Hope may also attend clubs and activities such as ’open the book’ sessions or Scripture Union.

The DEC told iomtoday: ’The DEC and its 37 schools are open to approaches from members of a range of religious organisations in the community.

’The ultimate responsibility for who delivers acts of worship and who is involved in religious education in schools lies with the headteacher. The Education Act is clear in its prevention of any proselytizing activity on the part of religious organisations in schools.’

* Meanwhile, latest accounts for the Living Hope charity show the lead pastor was given another £160,000 loan to buy his new five-bedroom detached home.

Jonathan Stanfield hit the headlines last year when it emerged that church elders had asked the congregation for donations to help him buy £485,000 Holly Cottage in Ballaughton Meadows, Douglas, for use as his home and manse.

Church-goers contributed £66,000 towards the purchase of the property -of which £55,000 was offered by a few friends of the Stanfields and the rest given anonymously.

But latest accounts for Living Hope Community Church, for the year end August 31 last year, show the charitable company reinstated a £160,000 interest-free loan to assist with the purchase.

Mr Stanfield had earlier been given a £160,000 loan to help buy his previous home in Port St Mary, but having already paid back half in 2014-15, he repaid the loan in full when he sold that house last July.

The new 20-year loan is secured on Holly Cottage and will have to be repaid if the property is sold or Mr Stanfield’s employment is terminated.

Before he purchased Holly Cottage, he had rented the property until the Port St Mary house on Rhenwyllan Close was sold. And the accounts show Living Hope had paid the rent totalling £23,821 in 2016 and £13,500 in 2015.

Figures given to House of Keys in February 2015 revealed that Living Hope was in the top 20 of island charities ranked by income with a figure of £931,600 in 2013-14.

The following year its income rose to £966,308. But the latest accounts show that income fell last year to £886,173.

Living Hope’s main source of income is tithes and offerings from the congregation, the majority of which is made by standing order direct to the company’s bank accounts.

In 2016 tithes and offerings totalled £797,854, down from £825,675 the previous year. Total income from tithes, offerings and donations was £821,447 down from £873,675 in 2015.

The accounts notes that the drop in income was due to a few large one-off gifts the previous year.

Despite the fall in income, and the resignation of one member of the board, remuneration to the directors rose slightly from £216,053 in 2015 to £222,969 last year.

And the amount of tithes and offering paid by the directors fell from £76,063 to £32,588 over the same period.

Rousseau Moss, who is pastor at Living Hope’s church in Port St Mary, resigned as a director last year after admitting unfit conduct over his role in the collapsed Louis Group Isle of Man.

The remaining directors are Mr Stanfield, who is chief executive and lead pastor, chairman and Douglas pastor Chris Staples, Peel pastor Euan MacRae and Adrian Porter, who is pastor at Ramsey.

Living Hope has previously said that in the early days of the church an anonymous donation was given for the provision of support for pastoral housing in line with other churches.

The loan is secured against the property, no amount has been written off and repayments are Mr Stanfield’s responsibility alone. He would need to repay the full amount should he cease to be pastor for the Living Hope Church or retire.