Funds to cope with the crisis

Additional funding

STEFANO CAGNONI

Ask: First Church Estates Commis­sioner, Andreas Whittam Smith

Ask: First Church Estates Commis­sioner, Andreas Whittam Smith

THE General Synod agreed on Wednesday afternoon that the Church Commissioners should look into releasing additional funds in the short term to boost mission in the long term.

Introducing the debate, the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, said that the Commissioners had stuck to a rule maintaining the real value of their fund through time very rigidly, but this needed to change. The sum of money required was not clear, but he suggested it could be about £10 million a year for ten years: in total, £100 million. But spending this would permanently reduce the Commissioners' normal contributions, by about £1.5 million per year.

The Commissioners distributed about £46 million per year to poorer dioceses, and every penny of that was desperately needed, Mr Whittam Smith said. "All the same, if the Church does face an existential crisis, which I think it does, I think future generations would expect us to do something about this. . .

"If the Church is not enthusiastically committed, it's not going to work. That's why I have insisted over some months that I should be able to come to you this afternoon: we have the legal powers we need to make these decisions on our own, but that's not right in the circumstances."

Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) said: "We are, as a Church, spread too thinly now, especially in rural areas. But I don't think we can flourish unless we make some hard decisions."

Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) worried about "being asked to sign a blank cheque". He called for "some actual figures".

The vice-chairman of the House of Laity, Tim Hind (Bath & Wells), agreed that there was a crisis. Robin Back (Norwich) said that his rural church provided internet for 25 families: more than half the households in the locality.

The Ven. Christine Hardman (Southwark) quoted William Temple: "When I pray, coincidences happen. When I don't, they don't." This was a lesson: "We should pray our socks off, so that God's wonderful coincidences will flourish and abound."

Peter Collard (Derby) said that it was possible that growth brought about might pay for the cost of this investment.

The Revd Amanda Fairclough (Liverpool) said that people should approach the Commissioners and say: "We want to achieve ABC; we need X million to do it; and we will show you results that show it works by Y or better."

Brian Wilson (Southwark) requested that money be allocated to New Towns.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that the problems of the Church wouldn't be solved by money alone: "We need spiritual resources from God through Jesus Christ." He had confidence in the First Church Estates Commissioner that bishops and dioceses wouldn't be allowed to use the money unwisely.

The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) asked for debate to be adjourned and started again in July. Mr Whittam Smith rejected this."Let's make a decision and stop fooling around."

The adjournment motion was put to a show of hands and defeated.

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) said that the evidence of a crisis was "incontrovertible".

The motion was carried in a vote by Houses: Bishops: 28 for, 1 against; Clergy: 112 for, 6 against, with 6 recorded abstentions; and Laity 128 for, 7 against, with 3 recorded abstentions.

It said: That this Synod, welcoming GS1981; and noting that the funds of the Church Commissioners are a permanent endowment, held in perpetuity to support the Church of England as it seeks to proclaim the faith afresh in each generation, support the Commissioners, in consultation with the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council, giving consideration to the basis on which, they might, for a limited period, release additional funds in order to support changes that will equip the Church of England more effectively for sustainable mission and ministry over the coming generations.

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