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New finance chair announced for the Archbishops’ Council

31 March 2023

diocese of Worcester

Top Church, in Dudley, which received a large share of a £5-million Strategic Development Fund grant in 2018

Top Church, in Dudley, which received a large share of a £5-million Strategic Development Fund grant in 2018

THE Archbishops will nominate Carl Hughes, a former vice-chairman of Deloitte UK, specialising in the energy sector, as the new chair of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, it was announced on Friday.

Mr Hughes is currently deputy chair of the committee, which advises the Archbishops’ Council and the dioceses on all financial aspects of the Council’s work, and makes recommendations for the annual budget that is brought to the General Synod for approval.

He succeeds John Spence, who held the position for a decade, during which time radical changes to funding were introduced under Renewal and Reform, in a bid to end “subsidising decline”, including the introduction of Strategic Development Funding, for which dioceses had to bid (News, 9 January 2015; 16 January 2015).

Mr Hughes inherits a committee with a substantial budget to consider. Last year, the Archbishops’ Council announced a nine-year spending plan that included a 30-per-cent increase in support for ministry during the current triennium (2023-25) to £1.2 billion (News, 15 July 2022; 13 May). He will chair the new Strategic Mission and Ministry Investment Board, which will review multi-million bids from dioceses under the Diocesan Investment Programme, worth £240 million in the current triennium (News, 31 March).

Against a backdrop of strained diocesan finances and cuts to stipendiary posts, Mr Hughes, whose nomination will be put to the General Synod for approval in July, will also face continued challenge about distribution of funds, a substantial portion of which come from dioceses. The Save the Parish campaign is seeking “measures which will strengthen the parochial system, return money from the centre to the local, and re-resource parish, laity, and clergy across England in their mission to serve Christ in our communities” (News, 6 August 2021).

A chartered accountant by background, Mr Hughes spent 32 years in the City, specialising in the energy and resources sectors, before stepping back from full-time work, in 2015, to take up a number of jobs including non-executive corporate positions in the energy sector, among them the petroleum company EnQuest. Last year, he resigned from the board of En+, the mining company part-owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (News, 8 April 2022).

In the 2020 debate on the Church’s commitment to hitting carbon neutral, he spoke against the amendment which reduced the deadline to 2030, arguing that it was “unrealistic and unsupported by any plans”.

In his 2021 election statement for the General Synod, Mr Hughes identified as a priority “the financial and growth challenges, exacerbated by the pandemic, being felt across parishes, cathedrals, dioceses, and the national Church”. This would “inevitably require restructuring of what is done where, and by whom”, he wrote. “However, I am determined that this should NOT undermine the strength of the parish system and benefit of having as many active clergy on the ground as possible.”

He will also serve on the Emerging Church Steering Group, which oversees wide-ranging reviews of the life of the Church, from Vision and Strategy to governance and financing. In a 2017 General Synod debate about administrative cost-efficiency and subsidiarity, Mr Hughes observed that, too often, the Church of England was suspicious of organisational change and centralisation (News, 24 February 2017). He has cautioned against “replicating what we do 42 times across the dioceses” (News, 16 July 2021), and has also spoken in support of calls for wealthier dioceses to help poorer ones (News, 15 July 2022).

In 2016, he was asked to carry out a review of the financial condition of Peterborough Cathedral, after a cashflow crisis in which it was struggling to pay staff wages and bills on time (News, 29 July 2016). The Visitation’s recommendations prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish the Cathedrals Working Group to review cathedral governance. This eventually produced a new Cathedrals Measure, which Mr Hughes helped to steer through the General Synod (News, 12 July 2019).

His General Synod election address confirmed that he was a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council, and the Evangelical Group of the General Synod. He is also a trustee of Premier Christian Media, and a churchwarden at his local parish, All Saints with Holy Trinity, Wandsworth, south London.

On Friday, he said: “In a post-Covid world, where church attendance and cost-of-living issues are having a significant impact on many parishes and dioceses, I appreciate that I will be assuming this role at a challenging time for the economy of the Church.

“However, I am committed to continuing to work towards greater simplification and cost effectiveness within church structures, whilst championing the need for growth in our worshipping communities through grass-roots gospel witness and evangelism, to see more and more of our friends and neighbours coming to faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

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