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General Synod digest: Money ‘will enable the spirit to do his work’

15 July 2022
Sam Atkins/Church Times

The Revd Dr Sean Doherty (Universities and TEIs)

The Revd Dr Sean Doherty (Universities and TEIs)

2023 budget

THE General Synod approved the Archbishops’ Council expenditure for the year 2023, on Monday morning, which includes a recommendation that the diocesan apportionment should be held flat at the same level as 2022: £31.3 million.

Of the five budget elements, £15.7 million was allocated to training for ministry (vote one). The operating budget for national responsibilities was set at £33.1 million (vote two). There was £1.5 million for grants (vote three). Provision for mission-agency pension contributions was set at £0.6 million (vote four), and £5.8 million was set aside for clergy retirement housing (vote five).

This totalled £56.8 million, an increase of £4.3 million from the 2022 budget. It reflected a decrease of £1.1 million for training for ministry, owing to a reduction of 59 in the forecast number of ordinands starting training in autumn 2022, compared with the number forecast to complete their training this year.

It also included provision for an 11-per-cent increase in the number of new starters in autumn 2023 — broadly equivalent to the number of ordinands forecast to complete their training next year.

The £4.9 million increase in the operating budget was primarily due to a £4-million increase in the Emerging Church Programme budget, relating to “time-limited costs in the Governance and Accommodation workstreams” (mainly relating to Church House, Westminster). The major component of the £0.3-million increase in the grants budget was an addition to the Council’s legal-costs fund, and the decrease of £0.1 million in mission-agency pension contributions reflected the interim reduction in the clergy pension scheme’s contribution rate.

The five-per-cent increase (£0.5 million) in the clergy retirement-housing grant reflected the cost of inflation and growth in the housing portfolio to meet demand from the expected peak period in retiring clergy numbers.

The diocesan apportionment of £31.3 million was the same level as 2022, and £1.7 million (5.2 per cent) below 2019 in cash terms. Oxford diocese continued to have the highest apportionment, at £1,872,719, and Sodor & Man the lowest, at £85,403.

The Church Commissioners’ grant funding of £19.5 million was £6 million more than in 2022. This included additional sums of £4 million for the Emerging Church programme, £2.5 million for Safeguarding, and £0.5 million for general operating activities, offset by a £1 million reduction in Additional Ordinands Funding.

A £1.1-million reduction in external income of £2.5 million reflected an expected reduction in the grant from the Corporation of the Church House. The annual £1.75 million that it gave in 2019-22 had been used to help to fund the costs of the safeguarding function, but that grant “may well be lower in the short term, reflecting the investment in the refurbishment of Church House”, the report says.

Accommodation income of £1.2 million was also £0.2 million less than in 2022, “reflecting the reduction of the NCI’s Church House footprint following the move to hybrid working”.

The report emphasises that the budget builds on the Transforming Effectiveness work, which resulted in savings of £2 million across the NCIs. It takes account of the increased funding contribution from the Church Commissioners as part of the spending plans for 2023-25.

It also points out that much of the detailed work on the budget was carried out before the sharp increase in actual and expected inflation this year and next. The budget, therefore, includes a modest contingency to reflect the increased risk of inflation, “but this remains a risk,” it says.

It also does not include the additional resources required to deliver key aspects of the wider spending plans, particularly to support the Vision and Strategy and net-zero work, but confirms: “We are able to assure the Synod and dioceses that this additional expenditure will not impact the diocesan apportionment.”

Presenting the report, John Spence, who chairs the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee, acknowledged “the real financial challenges facing churches at a time when the pool of regular givers is growing in age and declining in numbers”. The 2020 parish share was down seven per cent on 2019, and the 2021 share was down three per cent on 2020.

But he urged dioceses whose giving was well below the level — between ten and 20 per cent lower — “to see what can be done to reach out to other dioceses. Generosity is both the enabler and the outcome of a revitalisation of parishes. We cannot survive by subsidising the past. . . Inflation is the enemy of ambition.”

There were positives, however: the Clergy Pension Fund, for example, had returned to surplus, and the consultation had paved the way for more to be done so that contributions could fall further.

Mr Spence declared as a positive: “We are united, one body in Christ. The money is not the endgame, but an enabler to release the Holy Spirit to do his work. Let us release the Holy Spirit; . . . pursue best practice; inspire each other to build a can-do culture; help the communities and parishes revitalising themselves; innovate and take risks.”

The Archdeacon of Blackburn, the Ven. Mark Ireland (Blackburn), was concerned about the burden on parishes and the loss of financial benefit likely to result from the national graveyard survey of searchable records, which the C of E had outsourced to Family Search, an agency of the Mormon Church.

Parishes would not only lose financial benefits, but would have to pay an annual subscription of £96, he said. Most of the records were held by county archives, maintained at public expense, and, without that income stream, they might not wish to renew. “We may cause confusion in the minds of vulnerable adults, directed to a website linked to the Mormon Church — a Church not recognised by any ecumenical body.” Just four clicks would take enquirers to an offer of prayer and a visit from two Mormon representatives. The Church should not be outsourcing spirituality, he said.

Andrew Orange (Winchester) was concerned about too much cost at the centre of the Church of England. The budget figures were recorded in millions: one million was “roughly the cost of employing 20 vicars”. He noted that the operating budget for the national Church was 17 per cent higher than in 2022, “which seems a big increase even in inflationary times”, and of which a large part was for Emerging Church. It was a very large sum of money, and he could not vote for it, he said.

Penny Allen (Lichfield) was concerned about the size of the ministry-training budget in the context of loss of posts in dioceses. “To raise expectations of training for ministry and in the end not be able to provide them with work would be deeply unkind,” she said. “We need to be very careful we don’t [do that] without being able to finance it in the future.”

Sue Slater (Lincoln) wanted to see a change to the title “Training for Ministry”, which was solely about training ordinands. She suggested that it should include all ministries. “Where does money come from for training lay people?” she asked. “Is it to be assumed that dioceses have to find all the money?”

The Revd Dr Sean Doherty (Universities and TEIs) was grateful for the support of the Archbishops’ Council to mitigate the impact of fluctuating numbers, but said that a change was needed in the way in which ordination training was funded.

Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) had concerns about the “laudable aim” — which he fully supported — of doubling the number of children and young people in church by 2030; but work with this age group had been severely affected by the pandemic. “We are going from a standing start,” he said, given the high percentage of congregations with no children. There was also a hiatus in the number of trained youth workers, many of whom had been attracted to ordination. “I am pleading for a joining-up of education, the ministry-development team, and training youth workers; it’s essential they are talking to each other all the time.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury reminded the Synod: “We are the General Synod of the Church of England: we have to remember that God is involved.” If the Church was not investing at a pace in training and development, it was simply engaged in “elegant management of decline”, and would not see growth, because “we will have no one who steps forward and says, “Here I am. Send me.’” That would result, he said, in the C of E’s simply being “a very large investment fund with a very small Church attached”.

The Archdeacon of Bath, the Ven. Dr Adrian Youings (Bath & Wells), noted with concern that 37 per cent of retiring clergy were unable to move into their CHARM property directly upon retirement. Parishes were consequently having to pay the rent of those who had had to vacate the vicarage and were waiting to move. He also asked whether any further funding was likely to be allocated from First Post of Responsibility funding.

The Synod take note of the report, before proceeding to vote on each of the five budget elements.

Regarding Vote 1 (Training for Ministry), the Revd Jo Winn-Smith (Guildford) gave an emotional response to an earlier suggestion by Mr Spence that TIEs should be “a bit more entrepreneurial”. The two days’ teaching that she had just had to give up had, in reality, required “much, much more time. We are desperately trying to get others to come in.”

Mr Spence was swift to apologise: he had, he said, been referring to the sector and not to individuals.

Vote 1 was carried.

Carl Hughes (Southwark), Mr Spence’s deputy, acknowledged the “fantastic” financial team at Church House for managing an overall church economy that, he said, was tricky and challenging, and required considerable insight. Parishes, dioceses, and cathedrals were all going through considerable financial challenges post-Covid and at a time of high inflation.

The Revd Martin Poole (Chichester) thought that the title, “Emerging Church”, in Vote 2, should be changed. He had assumed that it embraced Fresh Expressions and pioneering church, and had been disappointed to find that it related to the refurbishment of Church House. Mr Spence assured the Synod that “the pain at diocesan level has been matched at least by the staff in Church House.”

Vote 2 was carried.

There was no debate on Votes 3, 4, and 5, which were all carried:

That this Synod approve the Archbishops’ Council’s proposals (set out in the Table of Apportionment contained in GS 2268) for:

1) the apportionment among 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 2023; and

2) the pooling adjustment for 2023 in respect of additional maintenance grants for ordinands.

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