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Synod: Questions

18 July 2014

THE Archbishops' Council is considering "how best to bring a formal challenge" to the HM Revenue and Customs' decision that all parishes in a diocese are "connected charities" under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme. This ruling severely limits local churches' taking advantage of the scheme. The Council will decide in the autumn whether to bring a judicial review of the decision, or to appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal.

In response to a question from Peter Hine (Carlisle), John Spence (Archbishops' Council), who chairs the Finance Committee, said that "HMRC believes that the powers conferred on diocesan bishops by the PCCs (Powers) Measure and the Church Representation Rules creates sufficient control for PCCs to be connected charities for tax purposes. An opinion from a leading tax QC confirms . . . that it is not so."


THE estimated cost of a typical Synod day is £100,000, Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), who chairs the Business Committee, said in response to a question from Andrew Presland (Peterborough). She revealed that the facilitators for the group discussions on women bishops in July 2013 "cost approximately £13,000"; and that a further £13,000 had been spent on "the upgrade to the [Synod] backdrop and the audio-visual enhancements" for the current group of sessions. The approximate cost of printing and posting for a London group of sessions was £20,000; this rose to £30,000 for sessions in York.

In response to a question from the Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Revd David Brindley (Southern Deans), the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, revealed that the Commissioners had spent "about £95,000" towards meeting the costs of the Steel investigation and Gladwin visitation into safeguarding matters in the diocese of Winchester. The Commissioners had agreed to pay half the costs of these items, he said, and "further costs are expected to be incurred before the Steel report is published and the Gladwin visitation is concluded."


IN RESPONSE to a question from Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford), the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, said that the Ethical Investment Advisory Group would consider adding the Living Wage as one of the topics discussed when they engage with companies the Church invests in."To date, it has not considered zero-hours contracts, and it decided against engagement on the Living Wage until the national investing bodies had considered the implications for them," he said. "They have now done so, and the EIAG plans to discuss engagement on both issues at its meeting later this month."


THE Liturgical Commission had no plans to "review our liturgies for sensitivity" for situations where "a non-Christian sometimes attends liturgy alongside their Christian partner", the Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, said. In response to a question from Susan Cooper (London), he said that "the point needs to be made that liturgy cannot be drafted on the basis that it must not offend non-believers. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, is quite clear about this: 'We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.'"

He said that the intention of the Good Friday liturgy was "not to shock, but to pray with honesty about the way in which the sacrifice of Christ challenges cultural and religious conceptions about God's relationship with the world he created."


ANNE SLOMAN (Archbishops' Council), who chairs the Church Buildings Council, has defended the decision of the Council to take its objections to the sale of a helmet by Oakley St Lawrence with Wootton to the Court of Arches.

Adrian Vincent (Guildford) wanted to know "on what grounds" the Council decided "that they would be furthering the mission of the Church of England by objecting to the sale of a piece of armour" that the court described as an "entirely secular object".

But Mrs Sloman quoted from the CBC's guidance note on treasures, which said that "the material in our churches are held in common not only with our predecessors but also our successors. . . Places and objects are conveyors of identity, memory and doctrine. They cannot be idolised, but their role in communication faith cannot be downplayed."

In the case of the helmet, she said: "The Wootton armet had formed part of the accoutrements of a tomb in the Church of St Lawrence for over 300 years, before being removed to the Royal Armouries for safekeeping. It was held by the court to be 'a national asset with historic links to the parish'.

"As a result of the Council's intervention, a significant historic and artistic asset . . . has been preserved for the benefit of future generations of parishioners, and for the public more widely."

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