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General Synod digest: budget and apportionment

16 July 2021
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QUESTIONS about finance followed a joint presentation by the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners on Saturday morning, before the General Synod debated the 2022 budget and proposals for apportionment.

John Spence, who chairs the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee, said that all talk of finance was in the context of the impact of Covid on loss of life, relationships, and liberty.

Parish share was down by seven per cent from 2019. In some parishes, the figure was nine per cent, while in others it was six per cent. Dioceses had seen loss of investment income, and parishes had lost opportunities for fund-raising. No diocese had seen an increase. The impact varied widely. About 30 per cent of diocesan staff had been furloughed at some point. Ninety curates had also been furloughed. Two thousand staff in cathedrals had been affected, and redundancies and unfilled vacancies had reduced the diocesan head-count.

There was an expectation of catching up, Mr Spence said, and there were success stories to report: a sustained level of ordained clergy across the country, and funds available for ordinands and curacies. There was a clear correlation between stipendiary priesthood and the amount of mission going on.

Looking ahead, Mr Spence acknowledged that the full implications of rolling out Vision and Strategy were yet to be understood. Regarding the wider economy, he asked: “Who can tell what the picture may be? How many will return?”

The Revd Dr Philip Plyming (Universities and TEIs), Warden of Cranmer Hall, Durham, welcomed the £17.5 million for training, plus the additional Archbishops’ Council funding for curacies. It was about theology, he said. “Theology matters. Yes, we need priests who can lead . . . see mission potential . . . handle themselves well . . . but what we mostly deeply need are priests who know God well and understand the mystery and simplicity of the gospel.”

YouTube/Church of EnglandJohn Spence, who chairs the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee, said that all talk of finance was in the context of the impact of Covid on loss of life, relationships, and liberty

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Canterbury), said: “What we are experiencing in terms of serious shortfall in most dioceses is not just about finance, but reflects a spiritual crisis within our Church. We need to live and teach generosity as a way of life. Think again about how we say the parish share is voluntary. We need to grapple with that. There is much work to be done.”

Canon Ruth Newton (Leeds) described money as a sacrament of seriousness. “Budgeting in tough times is a matter of prioritising. I think rooting out institutional racism is an essential. The cost is a little eye-watering, but we spend on things we consider important. It isn’t enough to say we will think of a way to do it cheaper, or even to promise jam tomorrow. It isn’t good enough in a Church which has admitted to institutional racism.”

Robin Lunn (Worcester) was concerned about the impact of inflation. Carl Hughes (Southwark) said that financial stress at all levels was a matter for the whole Church. There was a need to move away from “replicating what we do 42 times across the dioceses. The number of roles must be reconsidered and the nettle grasped.”

Some dioceses had ring-fenced surpluses, Prebendary Sue Rose (Bath & Wells) said; was there any mechanism for distributing these to other dioceses? With a reduced amount in the years ahead, would it be enough to support curacies when they came out of training? Would the commitments continue? Ordinands were concerned about this.

The take-note vote was carried by 256-3, with four recorded abstentions.

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The Revd Brunel James (Leeds) was concerned at a disconnect between renewal, growth, and mission as core and strategic. He urged the Church to leave its comfort zone of “serving posh white people”, and asked: “When will the Church of England wake up to the opportunity to be a Church for the whole nation?”

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) supported mission agencies, and felt that the pension contribution should be paid by a responsible employer.

The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller (London), said that the current model of congregational giving sustaining the Church was “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that we never get”. Steps should be taken to endow the local church with an income for mission and evangelism which would ensure that “when we get out of bed in the morning, basic needs are met . . . a model of empowerment”.

Mr Spence observed that it was not a question of either/or. The decline in giving had been flattening even before Covid. “We need to be a whole Church best understanding how we use the funds of the whole Church,” he said, pointing out that disparities in actual giving over the parishes and dioceses took no account of poverty.

Voting by 278-2 with seven recorded abstentions, the Synod approved: £17,354,580 (training for ministry); £27,138,819 (national church responsibilities); £1,246,846 (grants); £667,049 (mission-agency pension contributions); and £5,566,840 (clergy-retirement housing grant).

The apportionment motion was carried by 277-3, with five recorded abstentions:

That this Synod approve the Archbishops’ Council’s proposals (set out in the Table of Apportionment contained in GS 2213) for:

a) the apportionment amongst the dioceses of the net sum to be provided by them to enable the Council to meet the expected expenditure shown in its budget for the year 2022, and

b) the pooling adjustment for 2022 in respect of additional maintenance grants for ordinands.

Mr Spence then moved the request for an updated budget to be brought before the Synod in November, with more of the uncertainties resolved.

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) wanted to see a statement on improving administrative efficiency throughout the Church, to avoid duplication across the dioceses.

The motion was carried by 294 nem. con., with one recorded abstention:

That this Synod request the Archbishops’ Council to provide an updated estimate of its expected income and expenditure for 2022 at the November 2021 Group of Sessions.

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