A study of diocesan finances has stated that the Church of England is reported to be losing millions of pounds because churches are not giving their contributions to the central funds.
Parishes are failing to pay their share and this is leaving the dioceses in ever deepening debts; some are even being forced to cut back on the number of clergy in a bid to balance their budgets. The quotas for the dioceses across the nation are also predicted to rise, which will make the churches even more short on funds.
Some dioceses are registering that as much as 10% of the parish share is not being collected with some parishes, facing declining congregations, not being able to pay, and others, angry with the liberal agenda on homosexual priests adopted by their own bishop or Anglican provinces in Canada and the US, are simply refusing.
Rev Stephen Platten, the Bishop of Wakefield will now launch an appeal to the parishes to give increased sums as their contributions to their dioceses; “We need to support one another to bring the diocese together” he said.
He continued, “We are too reliant on giving from the generous. If we could persuade real giving across the board we could easily become solvent. One doesn’t think twice about giving money for the pub, the theatre or for cricket. Why is it not the same for the Church?”
“Giving shouldn’t be viewed in terms of value for money, but as a response to God’s unearned grace.”
Although Platten vowed that there would be no more clergy cuts in his diocese to save money, there are still many other diocese that are having to take these extreme measures. For example, over the next five years Bristol will cut as much as 15% of the diocesan total due to a £180,000 ($330,000 USD) shortfall in parish share collection at the end of 2003.
A diocesan spokesman responded to the problem stating, “They think that giving to the diocese is inappropriate as they have better things to do with their money.”
He pointed out that the diocese is trying to avoid raising the levels required for parish share, but is very alarmed that without financial relief coming from the Church Commissioners the diocese wouldn’t be able to continue for much longer; “Our reserves would be wiped out in less than two years without their help,” he said.
Pensions for the clergy have proved to be a massive burden on the diocese, and the relief given by the Church Commissioners to help pay for these will end this year. The lack of extra funds from the Church Commissioners could prove to be a burden too great on many parishes.
Offerings given by churchgoers have risen from £370 million ($681 million USD) in 1994 to £463 million ($852 million USD) in 2001, however the money given by the Commissioners has fallen sharply from £51.4 million ($94.6 million USD) in 1994 to £26.4 million ($48.6 million USD) in 2003. Although giving by worshippers has increased above the rate of inflation, demands from dioceses for more money to pay clergy stipends and pensions have grown even faster.
The problems are partially attributable to £800 million ($1.5 billion USD) losses incurred through property speculation by the Church Commissioners in the 1980s. Although the Commissioners, who manage the Church’s £3.9 billion ($7.2 billion USD) central assets, have restructured their portfolio and are now performing well above the average, they have been forced to cut funds they can give to clergy stipends to pay the rising clergy pensions bill now that hundreds of baby-boomer clergy are nearing retirement age.
Many parishes are now stating that they are down to their reserve funds to pay their parish shares. Even in Leeds and Ripon achieved extremely high collection rates of 98.7% their dioceses were still nearly £100,000 ($184,000 USD) short of their budgeted deficit.