THE Archbishops’ Council’s budget and proposals for apportionment for 2017 were presented on Saturday evening by John Spence (Archbishops’ Council), who chairs the finance committee.
He encouraged the Synod to remember the budget in their reflections on the sessions, in particular the two new funding streams of £24 million to further the work of the Church. There was an emphasis on strategic growth; but also important were the funds dispensed to the dioceses to the most deprived communities in the countries, he said.
“This is an enormous opportunity and huge obligation on every one of us: we need a flow of quality applications to come through, and to ensure that the peer-review system works well and is clearly defined and monitored.”
These budget systems had been created on the basis of how the Church spent these funds, and from next year they would be included in the annual report on spending, he confirmed. Strategic funding would also include elements of “matching”: “we could be talking about half a billion of investment over ten years.”
“I hope Synod feels proud of its role in the abolishment of the prior format and in entering a dialogue that has been deep and meaningful,” he said. He thanked the Church Commissioners for taking on the “enormous step” of freeing £72.2 million of funding, and confirmed that the funding flow would begin in its full extent from 1 January next year.
The expenditure budget of £37.3 million was higher than 2015, but £1.4 million of this was related to the recruitment of clergy, and would be spent only if the Church fulfilled its goal of recruiting the extra ten per cent of clergy, and also increase training and education institutions.
He could not confirm that there was enough in the budget to deal with safeguarding, which, he said, was taking a huge amount of the Archbishops’ Council’s time.
The digital-evangelism-work scheme was beginning to be mobilised, but he warned: “We must take advantage of learning from other dioceses rather than invent something already in place.”
And £200,000 had been agreed to cover the five-per-cent increase on retired clergy housing.
In conclusion, he said that the Church needed to think to 2018 and beyond, but always with a focus on “effectiveness rather than cost-cutting for the sake of it”.
They have previously been constrained by budgets apportioned from dioceses, and now they needed to utilise all resources available to the Church, he said. This year, they have separated the two missions. There was currently an expenditure gap of around £400,000, and they were “reluctantly taking money” from the capital of the Church and Communities Fund and other church resources, he said.
“This is a basis on which we can go forward with focus on cost-effectiveness and on economies, and keep an agenda of change, so we can return risen Christ to the centre of our country and culture.”
Questions were taken from the floor.
Julie Dziegiel (Oxford) said that she loved the clarity, numbers, and words of the report. “I like to see money being used for the work of our Lord Jesus Christ: there can be no better use of it.” She said that, despite being in a wealthy area, “we are poor givers.”
She felt that, if people could see the vision, they were more likely to give, but the Church “doesn’t make this easy”. It was “vital” that people at Synod understood the budgets and communicated them to those who wanted to hear and to those who needed to hear.
The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) was delighted that what had been described as “broken” last year seemed to have been fixed. He was “so glad we are not storing up treasures for future generations that aren’t going to be there unless we start doing something now”. The challenges of ageing clergy and congregations and buildings were “particularly serious in rural settings”, and he wanted to find out more about whether it was true that funding might be directed towards urban areas to the detriment of rural ones.
Was there some way of following up funding for deprived areas, to check that it was really helping the poorest? He also wondered whether there was an update on increases in the number of ordinands, and whether there would be funding for dioceses with “special financial problems”.
Mr Spence agreed with the need to communicate finances better, and suggested that social media might help. “We are not yet seeing an increase in numbers [of ordinands], but we are seeing a change in age profile: more young ordinands are coming through.”
An extra £200,000 was being invested in the Ministry Experience scheme, which was “helping us triple, if not quadruple, numbers”. Participants showed a high conversion rate into ordination. He confirmed that he would ask the Commissioners to release funds to enable an increase in number of ordinands only “when I’ve got evidence.
“I can’t ask them to release on the hope and prayer that those numbers change. When they start growing, as they will, . . . we will engage in dialogue with the Commissioners.”
He also wanted to “blow the myth of the urbanisation impact” of changes in funding formula. Those that would be most affected by the changes were Manchester and Chelmsford. He hoped not for a “continuation of models from the past, but for proactive, imaginative, creative thinking about how to revitalise the power of ministry at ‘end of the line’ towns”, such as those around the east coast, “where priests have been loath to go”. The Synod could “feel comfortable we are not urbanising”.
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) raised a concern about the presentation of the finances in the Synod papers, and asked that the amounts of money brought in through previous decisions of the Synod be highlighted in a column. He also urged the Synod to pay particular attention to the budget, now that what was broken down into Votes 1 to 5 was being presented in three pools of money, not five.
Penny Allen (Lichfield) praised the work of the diocese of Lichfield’s online pastor, Dr Ros Clarke, who had built up a sizeable online following in her first year in post, and had helped develop a weekly YouTube show with three other young priests (News, 22 April).
“This is an area of work we will need to target more finance to in the future,” she said. “It’s been extremely worth while in our diocese. This is the way we will engage young people on the future.”
Keith Cawdron (Liverpool) said that he was happy to support this “admirable” budget, but asked whether the Archbishops’ Council could in future plan for three years at a time rather than one. He was also concerned that £7 million from income was being used to plug holes for the next few years, as that income might not be available for ever. “Is there any danger we will find ourselves with open-ended expenditure commitments being funded by limited income?”
Mr Spence added his praise of the work of Dr Clarke, and said that the central church institutions would seek to work with good practice such as hers while building up their own digital evangelism space. He told Mr Cawdron that he would love to offer up a three-year-budget, but the complexity of the Church’s finances meant it was impossible, although they did make longer-term forecasts and planning. He also offered reassurance that the income allocated for the next few years was from very reliable organisations with strong reserves.
The Revd Sarah Schofield (Lichfield) said that she was saddened that while she stood for election to the elections to the Archbishops’ Council no one asked her about how she would stand up for the poorest communities during this quinquennium, the subject closest to her heart.
“At a time when politics appears to show how forgotten many of our poorest community feel, we are remembering them,” she said. This was a good news story that the Church’s communications team needed to share with the media.
Sam Margrave (Coventry) said that, while he normally spoke to challenge the Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners to do more for the poor, this time he wanted to praise the work of both bodies, and Mr Spence. “This is very exciting. We are here today to look forward to a brilliant future.”
Hannah Grivell (Derby) was pleased about the reference to the Ministry Experience scheme, but cautioned that, for her, as a younger married woman, it was very difficult to take part in such schemes. For one that she was interested in, she was offered funding of less than half her salary, despite her being the main breadwinner for her and her husband. “We need to help rethink young married people’s vocation,” she said.
Mr Spence urged the Synod to sit down with Ms Schofield to hear about the pioneering work that her church was doing with sex workers in the parish, and agreed with her that the communcations team needed help to highlight the good news stories in the Church. He said that he would also take away Mrs Grivell’s concern about married people in ministry-experience schemes.
The Synod took note of the report, and approved the votes on expected expenditure: £14,749,011 (Training for Ministry), £16,376,263 (National Church Responsibilities), £1,220,587 (Grants), £794,254 (Mission Agency Pensions Contributions), and £4,577,129 (Clergy Retirement Housing Grant).
The apportionment among the dioceses for 2017 (according to the table in GS 2041) was approved, together with the pooling adjustment for 2017 in respect of additional maintenance grants for ordinands.