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Church in Wales Governing Body: Questions on clergy numbers, funds, and pensions

16 September 2022

Church in Wales

The Revd Dr Jonathon Wright (Swansea & Brecon)

The Revd Dr Jonathon Wright (Swansea & Brecon)

THE reduced number of stipendiary clergy over the past decade was troubling the Revd Dr Jonathon Wright (Swansea & Brecon). In a written question, he asked for the ratio, by dioceses, of stipendiary clergy to archdeacons to full-time equivalent support staff employed in dioceses in 2002 and 2012. What was the ratio today?

Archbishop John, in a written reply, said that statistics for 2012 and 2022 revealed an 83 per cent decline in the number of stipendiary clergy, and a small increase in the number of archdeacons and DBF staff (107 per cent of the numbers in 2012.)

The Archbishop identified the underlying concern to be the pressure the reduction in stipendiary posts created for ordained colleagues, and acknowledged: “We are asking a great deal from all our colleagues today. Ministry has never been more complex, and the need for support never more obvious.

“But we must also acknowledge that the Church’s ministry is not confined to stipendiary clergy, and the need to authorise and support new ministries which pioneer and plant new communities is as great a challenge as any other.”

The Harries report recommended reducing the number of dioceses, and Cathryn Brooker (Monmouth) asked what progress had been made. The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, in a written reply, said that the recommendation had been predicated on an initial period of working together, amalgamation of committees, and a move to three administrative centres.

She acknowledged that no substantive work had been undertaken. There were some good instances of good inter-diocesan working, but it was fair to say that “we could have made more progress in this area over the last ten years.”

Mrs Brooker observed: “We can’t kick for touch for ever. I hope it will be done in the future, otherwise we will all end up in a very top-heavy and bureaucratic organisation.”

The Clergy Remuneration Review report review was finalised and presented to the Representative Body (RB) in 2019, but has not yet been implemented. The Archdeacon of St Asaph, the Ven. Andrew Grimwood (St Asaph), wanted an update.

In a comprehensive written answer, Hilary Wiseman, RB deputy chair and chair of the implementation working group, confirmed that it had concluded its work by October 2020, and its proposals had been supported by the RB.

But a “significant stumbling block” had emerged when external solicitors deemed that the arrangement by which the Clergy Pension Scheme was held as part of the Representative Body’s General Fund and not separately managed and administered, was no longer a legally sound arrangement.

That news had been “extremely serious”, as extracting the Pension Scheme assets from the General Fund could seriously reduce the income generation potential of the fund.

Final legal advice had been a long time coming. “But we are almost there, and the mood music from our advisers seems positive, although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail,” she said. No target dates for implementation could yet be given, but work should be able to resume in earnest by the end of 2022.

Archdeacon Grimwood acknowledged the frustrations, but warned that the current package was restricting the ability to attract and retain clergy.

The Revd Lance Sharpe (Swansea & Brecon) reminded the Governing Body in the final question that the pay structure for clergy had been detailed in the constitution as “antiquated and not fit for purpose”: Why were some positions — Directors of Ministry, or Directors of Ordinands, for example — not remunerated in relation to their responsibilities?

The pay structure was part of the Clergy Renumeration Review, which had made a specific recommendation for the inclusion of additional, higher stipend rates to recognise levels of additional responsibility, the Assistant Bishop in Bangor, the Rt Revd Mary Stallard, said in a written reply.

There was a shared concerned to act justly and with integrity, and an understanding of the need for progress, but, she said, “It is not a simple issue to resolve, and within the Church in Wales there will be a range of theological viewpoints that will affect how we feel about whatever system is adopted.”

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