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Out of the question: PCCs’ charitable donations

24 November 2017

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or to add to the answers given below


Your answers

I am on a church committee that regularly approves sums of money to be donated to charities. Other than making freedom-of-infor­mation requests to discover how charities use the money given (e.g. do they pay their top employees high salaries?), how do PCCs decide which charities to give to, and how much to give?


The questioner and his or her PCC should be aware that by donating money to charities they may be in murky waters.

The best route to follow is through the Charity Commission’s website — although it can involve much painstaking work. Knowing the registration number of the char­ity concerned does enable some short cuts to annual accounts, etc. But there are thousands of small charities whose annual income falls below the level at which they are required to register with the Com­mis­sion, but they still have to pro­duce annual accounts and follow national government rules. Details of the regulations are frequently available in public libraries or Citi­zens Advice. There are several books on the subject.

There are, however, also num­erous organisations that describe their activities as “charitable”. This is an elastic term and needs proper investigation, initially to find out how and why their activity is described. For example, offering some­one a bed for the night could be described as charitable even if pay­ment is involved. Some organi­­­sa­tions work under the banner of “not for profit” and use only volun­­teers for their work. They must produce accounts and obtain agree­ment with their local office of the Inland Rev­enue. They cannot, like a charity, benefit from VAT exemp­tion.

The whole business can be extremely tiresome and protracted, particularly if the “charity” is bogus or the director and trustees are opaque. It may boil down to much direct questioning, involving written answers, and include the recent accounts and checks on exactly who is the beneficiary and by how much. Hesitation to produce answers is suspect, but the Charity Commis­sion is generally helpful when ap­­proached, and conscious of the multiple levels of fraud. Don’t be put off by percentages: insist on precise details before any PCC gives anything to anyone, including “dog collars”. Good luck!

(Miss) Primrose Peacock (Director

of Friends of Albania, 1991-2012)



The collect for the 19th Sunday after Trinity (1662) states: “O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee . . .”. Is this just a statement of the obvious, or is there some deeper theological meaning?


As simple as that — although Cranmer and his 17th-century im­­provers managed to embroider it a bit (the eighth-century Latin original is innocent of “forasmuch”, “Holy Spirit”, and “rule”). Reimagine it as a confession: “Entwine your mercy around the work of our hearts, O Lord; else you will find no delight in them.”

(The Revd) Peter Mullins, Haworth


St Augustine of Hippo, unlike Pelagius, would say that we were so deeply in the grip of sin that we could do no good without divine help. Better to remember the first commandment to love God, who loves everyone, with all we have and are. If we are in such a loving rela­tionship with God, our human relationships will not be skewed by self-regard.

(Canon) John Goodchild



Your questions

The patronage of our benefice is vested in trustees. The power of appointing new trustees is held by the PCC whose normal practice has been to appoint up to seven of its long-serving members. Effectively the PCC is the trustee. As “a body cor­porate with perpetual succes­sion”, can the PCC appoint itself as a trustee, thus avoiding the need in future for a new deed of appoint­ment (with consequent fees to the diocesan registrar’s solicitors) each time a trustee dies or resigns and has to be replaced?

J. L.


Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.


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