THE Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, has defended “uniform and affordable” parochial fees for funerals and marriages, after almost one third of the General Synod supported an attempt to abolish the fees entirely.
During an otherwise procedural vote on Thursday of last week to approve the new fees schedule for the next five years, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said that the Church was “pricing the poor out of our midst” by charging anything at all. Currently, the price for a C of E wedding is set at £441; the most expensive funeral is £393. These figures will rise this year to £455 and £406 respectively.
Bishop Foster, who had introduced the debate, said on Wednesday: “Voices raised in the Fees Order debate were concerned that that the ministry of the C of E at funerals and weddings should be as widely available as possible.
“Some suggested that fees were an impediment to this, though the uniform and affordable fees charged — normally amounting to no more than eight per cent of essential funeral charges — help the Church to offer this ministry through licensed ministers in every parish, in every setting across the country.”
After the debate, 80 members backed Bishop North’s rebellion by declining to approve the new fees, and a further 22 abstained. The 2019 fees were approved, however, as 165 members voted in favour.
Bishop Foster said on Wednesday: “Research has been under way for some time into understanding how better to minister at these significant moments, and, following the debate, I and colleagues with responsibility for life events and the fee structure are exploring how to respond to the points raised.”