Wealthy church parishes could give to poorer neighbours under C of E plans

·2 min read
General Synod - David Rose
General Synod - David Rose

Wealthy church dioceses will be allowed to share funds with their poorer neighbours under plans to be voted on by the Church of England.

The proposals, which have been submitted before the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, will mean that for the first time cash can be more evenly distributed.

The move would remove some barriers to dioceses sharing resources and comes amid concern about the viability of smaller, poorer and more rural parishes.

In papers published last week and submitted to the Synod for its conference in July, David White, deputy director of finance for National Church Institutions, said that his amendment would “in effect, enable a Diocesan Board of Finance to grant funds from its income account for use by other dioceses in the Church of England if it wished to do so”.

He emphasised that diocese funds have “varied considerably, not least due to the significant variation in land values across the country and how these assets have been managed”.

Largest value of historic assets

Based on 2020 accounts, the diocese with the largest value of historic assets is Oxford (£171 million) and the one with the lowest is Liverpool (£1.5 million).

Mr White said this demonstrated “the huge range of historic wealth held by the dioceses” and that many of the poorer dioceses were in industrial and northern areas “reflecting the historic reasons for the disparity”.

He said the draft measure would provide opportunities for richer dioceses to be “explicitly generous to other dioceses… if they wish to do so, having taken account of their own financial position”.

In May the archbishops admitted that they “got it wrong” by not prioritising rural parishes over city churches, as they announced funding worth £3.6 billion.

In an online press conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, announced the plans and reiterated their commitment to rural church communities, saying that parishes “really matter”.

In 2021 The Telegraph revealed that multiple clergy and lay people had voiced fears over the “collapse” of the Church of England in rural communities.

Months later, a leaked document suggested that the pandemic had provided an opportunity for “radical change” within the Church, which could result in the loss of the parish church model in a bid to remain “financially sustainable”.