THE present method of distributing central church funds to the
dioceses should be scrapped, a new report says. It is one of the
set released last week as part of the Archbishops' programme of
renewal and reform.
The report Resourcing the Future, produced by a task
group chaired by John Spence, the finance chair of the Archbishops'
Council, says that the present formulae for allocating grants from
the Church Commissioners - about £50 million a year, or four per
cent of the Church's annual income - is "not fit for purpose",
since, paradoxically, it rewards decline and penalises growth.
Instead, the report says, from 2017, dioceses should be ranked
according to average income, and the money redistributed
appropri-ately. Half of central funds would go to projects that
showed "significant growth potential", and half to mission in the
poorest areas. Dioceses will be encouraged to bid for money for
In future, if the Archbishops' Council has concerns that a
diocese is failing to achieve its stated goals, or if it cannot
show that money is being directed to the poorest communities, all
or part of its funding could be withheld.
The report is bullish about the future: in its opening
paragraphs, it states: "The question is not 'How do we limit
expenditure to address our steadily diminishing resources?' That is
the management of decline. The issue is 'What investment must we
make to achieve the ambition of growth?'"
Part of the answer is an assumption that, eventually, growing
parishes and dioceses will be able to fund their own mission.
Already, 95 per cent of the Church's income comes from direct
giving. Poorer communities, however, struggle to cover their costs,
and have difficulty in attracting and funding clergy. This is where
central funding should be redirected, the report says.
In the mean time, however, the report talks about preparing a
case for transitional funding to be provided by the Church
Commissioners. Spread over ten years, this will provide a cushion
for those dioceses whose funding is cut under the new system.
At present, central funds are provided to the dioceses under
what is known as the Darlow formula. This calculates the needs of
parishes based on financial need and attend-ance. Thus, if
attendance in parishes in a diocese declines, the allocation of
central funding goes up.
Looking at one (anonymous) sample diocese, the report concludes:
"Across the whole diocese, more subsidy is being put into parishes
that are less deprived, but declining, than those that are more
deprived but growing. . .
"One cannot know exactly where the Darlow funding is being
spent, as there is very little accountability over its expenditure
or impact. But it is clear that it is not being explicitly targeted
on mission work in poorer communities; nor is it proactively
supporting growth. It helps lock dioceses into a position of
Since 2002, £420 million has been allocated through the Darlow
formula. Besides this, an additional £75 million has been disbursed
through mission-development funding: some through a formula, the
rest in response to bids for specific initiatives.
Resourcing the Futureconcludes that the formula-based
funding should cease, since it "blunts its edge in terms of the
funding being used to invest in new growth opportunities". In
future, all mission development funds should be bid for, "linked to
dioceses' plans for mission and growth, and in a way which
encourages evaluation of outcomes, sustainability and shared
The report looks at the Sheffield formula, which attempts to
balance the numbers of stipendiary clergy between dioceses. This,
too, is "unfit for purpose".
"The Sheffield formula also focuses solely on stipendiary
clergy, ignoring different forms of ministry. It takes too much
account of historic structures rather than current demographic
factors. As a result, the Darlow formula (which seeks to distribute
ministry support to help poorer dioceses afford their Sheffield
allocation) does not target funds on the poorest communities."
It concludes: "The proposals to align the national funding more
closely with dioceses' plans, with the bias to the poorest
communities, should help contribute to greater equity of
ministerial provision across the country."
In a blog to accompany public-ation of the report, Mr Spence
summed up the object of the week's activity: "We are here to help
every parish, deanery, and diocese achieve its goals. The totality
of the reports published this week represent a coordinated response
to a proven and vital need."
In future, all of the funding distributed to dioceses should be
investment for mission and growth. Half of the sum available should
be earmarked for the support and development of mission in the
poorest communities. Half should be for the pro-active investment
in new growth opportunities.
The funding to support and develop mission in deprived
communities should be distributed to dioceses through a process
involving objective measures of need, and through conversations
with dioceses. This will ensure targeting on the poorest and
effective cohesion with diocesan plans.
The funding for pro-active investment in growth should be
available for all dioceses to apply for, on a matched funding
basis, with a bias in the distribution to the poorest.
The transition to the new funding arrangements should be done
carefully over a ten-year period, but we hope that additional
distributions from the Church Commissioners can be found to
accelerate the build-up of funding available for proactive
investment in growth.
We hope also that additional national funding can be made
available to provide extra investment across the Church for
recruiting and training church leaders. In addition, there should
be greater investment in national Church infrastructure, and
activity that can improve the mission of the whole Church.