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Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

The Church of England Must Put Parishes First to Survive, Commentary by Prudence Dailey

One of the most highly publicised items on the agenda of the recent meeting of the General Synod was a Vision and Strategy paper proposed by the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, which suggested that the Church of England might be called to plant ten thousand predominantly lay-led house churches over the next ten years. This came in the wake of a conference at which clergy were described as a ‘key limiting factor’ inhibiting church growth. While the resultant outrage was partly based on a misunderstanding—the claim was that the finite number of clergy is a limitation, not the clergy themselves—the fear that their traditional parish ministry is under threat is also not entirely misplaced.

We are constantly assured by the Church’s hierarchy, including the Archbishop of York, that there is no desire to side-line the parishes: I am certain that this is sincerely meant. The danger is, however, that the more we channel our energies into ambitious new initiatives, the less time, energy and money there is for the daily round of traditional parish ministry. I have written before about how parishes are becoming increasingly ‘squeezed’ in terms of both human and financial resources, and it is, perhaps, instructive to understand how we arrived at this point.

Historically, clergy stipends were paid directly by parishes from the income from glebe and endowments, with poorer parishes being subsidised from a nationally administered fund known as Queen Anne’s Bounty. Clergy did not receive a Church pension, and so—unless they had other means on which to retire—they were moved to smaller and smaller parishes until called to their final rest. In 1976, the Glebe and Endowments Measure transferred ownership of all the parishes’ endowments to the Church Commissioners (the body responsible for the administration of the National Church’s property and investments), while glebe was handed over to Diocesan Boards of Finance. In return, Dioceses would fund clergy stipends, while pensions (with all clergy now required to retire at 70) paid by the Church Commissioners. 

Over time, however, the pressures of inflation, combined with some poor investment decisions by the Church Commissioners in the past together with increased central expenditure by Dioceses, have meant that more and more of the costs stipendiary clergy—including a contribution to pensions and clergy training as well as immediate stipend costs—have fallen on congregations which are themselves declining in numbers (and are, of course, still responsible for the maintenance of church buildings). 

Against this background, it is easy to see why at first glance a lay-led church, perhaps meeting in someone’s home, might seem so appealing: both the manpower and the venue are free! The case has been well made elsewhere for both the impracticality and undesirability of such an arrangement; but the question remains: what can the Church do to breathe life and resources into its parishes?

Where once the Diocesan Staff would have consisted of the Bishop, his chaplain and his secretary, the staff list of this Diocese (Oxford), as shown on its website, currently numbers over 170 people. Some of these are fulfilling essential functions that are legally or practically required; but it is also important to remember Parkinson’s law, that work expands to fill the man-hours available. Not so long ago, a suffragan bishop boasted that this was a ‘rich diocese’, with plenty of resources at the centre. Meanwhile, parish clergy are losing sleep over how to meet their parish share, or whether they can afford to reclaim their out-of-pocket expenses.

What is needed is a fundamental reimagining of the nature of the Diocese, and its relationship with parishes. A Diocese, properly understood, is not the bureaucratic edifice it has become; but first and foremost a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a Bishop and encompassing a number of parishes, within which the Diocesan Bishop shares the cure of souls with the incumbents of those parishes. Before any new policy is suggested or any decision is made, the first question should be: ‘How will this impact the parishes? Unless there is a willingness to adopt such an approach, there may not be much of the Church of England left in ten years’ time.

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