From the Diocesan Secretary of Oxford
Sir, - Your unnamed correspondent (Letters, 19
July) gives an erroneous impression of the financial situation
in the diocese of Oxford.
In common with the whole of the Church of England, we are
feeling the effects of the recession. For the past four years, we
have been working to a planned deficit budget, to help adjust to
the increasing costs of clergy pensions, National Insurance, and
training the exceptionally high number of ordinands who come from
Last year's shortfall in share payment was disappointing, but,
thanks to strenuous efforts to make savings elsewhere in the
budget, we were able to keep on track. Our plan has always been to
break even in 2013, a target that we are on course to meet.
We do have a bank facility for short-term borrowing, to enable
us to buy and sell vicarages, but this is part of our normal
financial management, not to pay stipends.
As a very large diocese - 626 parishes and 815 churches spread
across three counties - we benefit from economies of scale. Recent
benchmarking of our bishops, archdeacons, and support services
demonstrated that Oxford has some of the leanest staffing ratios in
the Church of England in proportion to the numbers of clergy and
parishes, and the population we serve.
We recognise the sacrificial giving of many in our parishes who
work hard to meet their share contribution; and, far from ignoring
the financial challenges, we are in regular, detailed discussions
with those deaneries who are experiencing difficulties.
Our diocesan synod recently approved a new share scheme that
comes into operation next year. Difficult decisions, no doubt, lie
ahead; but we believe that this, combined with our ongoing deanery
mission action-planning process, will help us to plan mission and
ministry provision sustainably for the future.
Oxford Diocesan Church House
North Hinksey Lane
Oxford OX2 0NB
From Mr Peter Osborne
Sir, - Your innominate correspondent calls attention to the
shortfall in parish-share payments experienced by the diocese of
Oxford last year, amounting to £900,000, and asks whether other
dioceses have similar problems.
Canterbury has, and is experiencing similar problems. According
to the diocesan board of finance's (DBF's) directors' report for
2012, filed with the Charity Commissioners, ". . . full provision
was made in the accounts for the potential write-off of £1.329k of
accumulated Parish Share Debt." The accounts further show that
there is a deficit from previous years of £1,255,460.
My own parish was for some years paying between 80 and 90 per
cent of its income in parish share - clearly an unsustainable
burden. This year, the assessment is well in excess of our total
income. This prompted our Gift Aid officer, a Fellow of the Royal
Statistical Society with an M.Sc. in statistical science, to
examine the formula used to assess the parish share. He found
anomalies, and posed a set of questions to the DBF based on his
Whether the officers were unable or unwilling to answer those
questions I do not know; but the reaction was "Shut up and pay
So, yes, I agree with your correspondent that the captains and
their officers are steering their respective ships dangerously
close to the rocks.
4 Mulberry Court, Stour Street
Canterbury CT1 2NT