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General Synod digest: ‘putting our money where our missional mouth is’

15 July 2022
Sam Atkins/Church Times

The Revd Chantal Noppen (Durham)

The Revd Chantal Noppen (Durham)

Spending plans

THE General Synod voted on Saturday morning to welcome the spending plans of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council despite an attempt to change the motion to only taking note of them.

The Archbishop of York, who presented the plans, said: “These are substantial sums of money. They will make a difference. We’re putting our money where our missional mouth is.”

This included assigning £190 million over nine years to support the transition to net zero carbon emissions and £20 million for racial-justice work; £400 million was to be allocated to local ministry, distributed through dioceses, he said. The plans therefore reflected “this Synod’s missional ambition”.

The Revd Vincent Whitworth (Manchester) noted “disconnect in our discussions today, as a national Church, on how we spend our money” on the diocesan and parish level, where deficits were often faced.

This point was echoed by Robin Lunn (Worcester), who said: “You cannot use monies which you don’t have.”

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said that it was disappointing that Lowest Income Community Funding (LICF) had been frozen at current levels. “What is required is reliable, sustainable, long-term financial support.” For this reason, he asked for a 30-per-cent increase in LICF.

The Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) proposed an amendment that would allow members to “take note” rather than “welcome” the spending plans. There was a “democratic deficit” on the Archbishops’ Council, as the members of Synod on the council were all ex officio rather than elected, he argued, and that did not include any “ordinary clergy who are at the coalface of parish mission”. He asked why money had to go through dioceses rather than directly to parishes.

Archbishop Cottrell resisted the amendment. “We are voting to learn from what we’ve done, and doing it better,” although there was more to be done in this respect, he said.

Sam Atkins/Church TimesThe Archdeacon of Knowsley and Sefton, the Ven. Pete Spiers (Liverpool)

Supporting the amendment, Andrew Orange (Winchester) said that the total funds allocated to the “obviously worthy” causes of achieving net zero and racial justice — £210 million — could fund 450 vicars over the same period. This, he suggested, would be a more appropriate way for the Church to spend its money.

The Revd Chantal Noppen (Durham) said that, as a young priest “on the coalface”, she most needed administrative support. She welcomed the spending plans, and urged speed: “The longer we debate this stuff, the older even I am getting.”

John Spence (Archbishops’ Council) asked the Synod to welcome the plans. “Through your diocesan synods, you are in control,” he said.

Joining on Zoom, Charles Houston (Hereford) said that there “needs to be a little bit of reality with the numbers”, as installing solar panels and heat pumps in all vicarages would use around £145 million of the £190 million allocated to achieving net zero, before other church buildings were considered.

The amendment was lost on a show of hands.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn (Southern Deans), welcomed the continuation of funding for cathedrals affected by the pandemic.

The Archdeacon of Dudley, the Ven. Nicola Groarke (Worcester), said that addressing deprivation took longer than five years; so the longer-term scope of the spending plans was welcome.

The Revd Jane Palmer (Salisbury) suggested that those who focused on clergy as the only vehicle of church growth made her, as a priest, feel like “a commodity”. Clergy should be “humbler”, she suggested, in their view of their ministry.

Another priest, the Revd Mark Ireland (Blackburn), said that the best thing the Church could do for future generations was to “give them a lively a church”. He asked that the next committee on triennium funding include two parish priests.

The Archdeacon of Knowsley and Sefton, the Ven. Pete Spiers (Liverpool), praised the work of clergy in Wigan during the pandemic. “We are not only trying to grow the Church spiritually and numerically, but also to change the structures that inhibit growth.” He welcomed the spending plans as mimicking this approach.

Clare Williams (Norwich) cited concerns about the funding of children and youth ministry, saying that it was “greatly needed, now more than ever”, including specific long-term funding for permanent posts with a national remit. As such, she could not vote to welcome the plans.

Responding, Archbishop Cottrell urged people who had further questions to attend a fringe meeting during the lunch break. “I want there to be more priests in parishes,” he insisted, but the focus should not exclusively be on this, because the spending plans sought to “revitalise” the Church as a whole.

The motion was carried in a vote by Houses: Bishops 28 nem. con.; Clergy 108-16, with 13 recorded abstentions; Laity 96-41, with 16 recorded abstentions.

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