TWO key committees have agreed to mine the Church Commissioners’ reserves to find £72.7 million to help fund growth in the Church of England.
The news is contained in a General Synod paper, Resourcing the Future: Implementation plans. The money will be used over ten years to cushion the blow to dioceses that are due to lose funding as the C of E switches to new criteria for allocating central funds.
The plan to spend some of the Church Commissioners’ capital on mission, and thus risk their ability to fund future generations, was first proposed a year ago, as part of the Renewal and Reform programme (News, 23 January). The argument put forward was that money spent now on trying to reverse the Church’s numerical decline would pay dividends in the future.
After receiving a favourable response in the General Synod last year, the Church Commissioners’ assets committee and their board of governors have agreed the sum, to be ratified at the Commissioners’ AGM in June.
The result of a triennial actuarial review, which assesses the Commissioners’ ability to meet their liabilities, is expected shortly, at which point the Commissioners will have a better idea of how much of this new funding can be met from investments and how much needs to be drawn from capital. The review will also inform the sums that the Commissioners can make available in the first three years, 2017-19.
The money is in addition to the £560 million that the Commissioners are projected to distribute to the dioceses over the next ten years.
Under the Resourcing the Future (RTF) plans, the present method of distributing central finance to the dioceses, the Darlow system, will be replaced by a scheme that gives half the money available to the 25 poorest dioceses. The other half will be allocated in large grants to dioceses that apply for them for strategic mission projects.
At present, about £5 million is allocated this way. From 2017, it is expected that this figure will rise to £24 million. There are likely to be two deadlines each year, and grants will be in the order of £0.5 million to £1 million. Dioceses will be expected to provide some funding themselves.
Projects might involve the creation of new churches in strategic areas. The RTF report cites as an example the conversion of an old gasworks in the centre of Birmingham.
The author of the paper, John Spence, said on Tuesday that the Commissioners’ move was significant, in that it allowed the Church to move swiftly to the new system of funding. Using the £72.7 million as transitional funding would ensure that those dioceses that lost out in the switch from the Darlow system would have a ten-year period in which to adjust.
A peer-review team will be set up to monitor the success of the mission schemes that receive funding, and spread good practice through the Church. As for what success looked like, Mr Spence said that he wanted to see a reversal of the decline in church attendance, and ways of engaging younger people, “some of whom will come to church; many will not.” But, as well as this, he wanted churches to be bright spots throughout the country: “our presence maintained nurturing communities in challenging areas”.