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End to fairness of parish share in Southwark?

by
17 April 2014

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From Elaine McCormack
Sir, - The PCC of St James's, Merton, discussed letters from the Bishop of Southwark dated 30 January and 6 March 2014, regarding the diocesan Root and Branch Review of the Fairer Shares Scheme.

The PCC noted that archdeaconry conversations would be held in May and early June 2014 regarding any new proposals to replace Fairer Shares, but at this early stage the PCC wished to make the following observations.

First, it is indicated in the Study Guide for PCCs that "whilst Fairer Shares served the Diocese well for many years, it was time to move toa new scheme"; but there are no reasons given why this should be the case. Fairer Shares is widely held throughout the diocese, and beyond, to be an equitable and manifestly fair system for the funding of ministry and mission, and only recently in the Church Times the scheme was held up for emulation. Why, then, is it being abandoned? There may be issues about the collection of the parish quota, but this can be no argument for ditching the entire scheme.

Second, the Study Guide indicates that "the Root and Branch Group are anxious to move away from the concept of fairness as a first consideration of what is the best approach for the future." The PCC viewed this statement with alarm, and considered that neither "proportionality" nor "informed generosity" offered any better alternative for the future.

Third, the PCC was most concerned at the third principle behind any new system, namely, that all parishes should aspire to, and be encouraged towards, becoming self-financing. This is clearly impossible for many parishes, which could easily become demoralised, and there must be concerns about their future when reorganisation plans are being considered. As we are convinced that "bums on seats" and "paying punters" are not our sole measure of worth, and that mission should reach out to others, the concept of self-financing gives the appearance that the Church of England will minister only to the rich.

Fourth, Fairer Shares was based on the relatively simple principle that it was both necessary and appropriate for wealthier parishesto support poorer ones financially. How will any new scheme ensure that they continue to do so? How can poorer parishes give evenmore?

Fifth, as more information has come about the "conversations" that will happen in May and June, it appears to our PCC that these will be ways of telling us what will be happening rather than consultations in any meaningful sense, which dismays us.

The PCC viewed these new proposals with alarm, will send representatives to the meetings, and looks forward to more detailed information and further real consultationin the near future.

ELAINE McCORMACK
Parish Secretary
45 Cherrywood Lane
Morden, Surrey SM4 4HU

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