Nye denies rural areas are being sacrificed to suburbs

18 November 2016

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A CLAIM by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, that funds for “needy and over-stretched rural parishes” are being handed to suburban areas, has been challenged by the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye.

Dean Percy made the claim in a letter, published on the Archbishop Cranmer blog last Friday, part of a series of exchanges exploring the Renewal and Reform programme, and the character and ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Theology had been “ruthlessly excluded”, Dean Percy argued. “That gifts an open, defenceless road for one proposed initiative of the ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda: namely to divert funds away from needy and over-stretched rural parishes, and hand the money over to successful, ‘growing’ suburban parishes. This all makes sense to the bankers running ++Justin’s strategy. But what this does to the identity and mission of a national church is utterly despicable. And, frankly, how this reflects the gospel is (theologically) incomprehensible.”

In his challenge to Dean Percy, published on the Church of England website last Friday, Mr Nye pointed to the £1-million grant given to Exeter diocese’s programme to support rural churches, and £859,000 given to Carlisle diocese for its project to establish 35 to 40 new mission communities across Cumbria.

“There is absolutely no bias either against rural areas, or in favour of suburban areas,” he wrote. “And there is a very strong bias to ministry among the poorest, whether urban or rural.”

Mr Percy has questioned “Who gets to decide what a good diocese is?”, and suggested that: “Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.”

Under Renewal and Reform, changes have been made to the distribution of funds by the Church Commissioners. The Darlow formula, which calculates the needs of parishes based on financial need and attendance, has been abandoned, on the grounds that it was “subsidising decline” and “failed the poorest communities” (News, 21 October). Half of the funding (£24 million a year) is to be targeted at the poorest areas, and the remaining half is to be available in grants to support growth projects, pitched by dioceses.

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