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Trust launches twinning to subsidise poorer churches

17 July 2015

iSTOCK

THE answer to questions such as "Why should I give up my skiing holiday to fund heresy?" can be found in "financial twinning", a priest in the diocese of Southwark has suggested.

The Vicar of St Luke’s, Wimbledon Park, the Revd James Paice, is a member of the Southwark Good Stewards Trust, which he describes as a means to protect poorer churches with an "orthodox Anglican ministry" from the threat of cuts to clergy.

In an article for the magazine of the Church Society, Crossway, he explains how knowledge of the existence of such trusts "puts a brake on the revisionist mentality that is threatening to destroy our Church from within".

The article, published in March, describes "intra-church trusts" as an "alternative to the diocesan quota system". After paying the "total clergy cost" to the diocese, a church puts extra monies into a trust, from which they can then be given to a church "whose minister subscribes to an orthodox statement of faith, and which would like cross-subsidy".

This effectively enables the poorer church to pay the same parish share as the wealthy one.

Mr Paice writes: "The difficulty comes for members of the Church of England when we are expected to support poorer churches which do not preach the biblical gospel of repentance and faith in a unique and saving Christ, but a false gospel of ‘God will bless you as you are’ (in your sin).

"To quote two members of my own congregation: ‘I give more directly to mission societies than to church, because I have no confidence in what the diocese is doing with the money our church is giving to it.’ And, ‘Why should I give up my skiing holiday to fund heresy?’"

Using a trust has two benefits, he writes. "Firstly, it forms a strong moral case for protecting poorer churches against clergy cuts at a time when clergy numbers are being drastically cut. . .

"Secondly, knowledge of the very existence of a trust puts a brake on the revisionist mentality that is threatening to destroy our church from within."

Members of the Southwark Good Stewards Trust must declare assent in writing to either the Jerusalem Declaration or to the Reform Covenant.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, defended the scheme.

"Dioceses have historically made Common Fund or Parish Share a tax on church growth, to which larger parishes responded by quota capping," he said last week. "This is a better approach all round. Parishes pay their costs, and give money over and above to poorer parishes.

"It’s a win-win — the Common Fund gets paid; poor parishes get supported; the diocese doesn’t lose out; and good prayerful and missional partnerships grow between the rich and the poor. It’s only divisive if the diocese wants to control everything. . . Common Fund is voluntary — not a centralised command economy taxation system."

But the Vicar of Belmont and Pittington, the Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, expressed concern.

"Whilst anything that encourages wealthier churches to contribute more to the ministry of the Church of England in poorer parts of their dioceses is to be welcomed, I am uneasy about the tone of this proposal," she said on Tuesday.

"It is worryingly close to bribing poorer churches to subscribe to a particular theological position, which is much narrower than the orthodox theological understanding of the Church of England. Calling anything that the Church Society disagrees with ‘heresy’ is really going too far.

"The parishes that I have been part of have always paid the Parish Share requested by the diocese in full, even where doing so has been sacrificial, and it has . . . been made more difficult by other churches of this ilk refusing to do so."

A spokesperson from Southwark diocese said that it was introducing a new scheme for giving — the Parish Support Fund — next year.

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