Comments: Parochial Fees

The concluding point No 12 of William Fittall's paper reads:

'The Archbishops’ Council will be considering at its next meeting in September what conclusions to draw from the points made during the July debate and how best to create the conditions in which revised proposals might be brought back to Synod for approval, probably in February.'

...'revised proposals'! Can't they just leave it alone?

Is this a whiff of the kind of autocratic centralising that we'll get if and when the Covenant is approved?

Posted by observer at Wednesday, 20 July 2011 at 10:44pm BST


Can you point me to a post explaining Parochial fees or can you explain them here, please, for this American.


Posted by Chip Chillington at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 1:15pm BST

The Parochial Fees are a statutory schedule of fees payable for weddings, funerals and some other services and matters. In the Church of England they are set according to a statutory scheme statute (part of being an Established Church). The fees have been charged in much the same way for many years, on the whole being updated in line with clergy stipends, to which they have a historic link - the fees were originally charged by the incumbent and formed part of his income, and it is still possible for clergy to receive the fees, in which case their stipend is reduced accordingly. The uniform national scheme is essentially what the Church has inherited, and though I don't know the detail of the history, I am sure the original motivation was to prevent the incumbent unfairly enriching himself (this originated well before women were ordained in the Church of England) at the expense of the parishioners,as the extra fee would go into the cleric's pocket.
If you look at the Church of England General Synod papers or look up the report "Four Funerals and a Wedding" (I can find a download, but haven't managed a link) you will see that there have been a wide variety of views expressed about the current scheme over many years, with increasingly stronger voices urging changes (but in different directions). Now the fees are more often paid to the Diocese and the PCC rather than to the clergy personally. PCCs have found ways of adding additional charges to the base fees, the legality of which has been somewhat uncertain, so that the fees actually charged can bear little relationship to the statutory scheme.
The "Four Funerals and a Wedding" report of 2005 was an attempt to rationalise the position so that (a) the legal status of fees was clarified for the benefit of all; and (b) a new consensus was found about the appropriate level of fees for services.
We are now in a position where a two part strategy means that General Synod has passed part (a) and there is a new statutory scheme, but part (b) has been rejected. The two parts were supposed to be done together, but because the legal changes have to be made in different ways they were procedurally separated. The new legal framework (put in place by General Synod) is in some respects incompatible with the status quo.
It is perhaps pertinent to observe that although reports etc have been passed, there is still no consensus, and that the recommendations made at various stages have been resisted and on some occasions rejected.
Far from this exemplifying the dictatorial nature of the central authorities, it rather reflects deep divisions of understanding between those on General Synod who would reduce or eliminate fees, and those who would increase them, and between those who would have a uniform national scheme reflecting the position of the Church of England as the national established church (where people have a legal right to get married in church, for example), and those who want a scheme reflecting differing costs incurred by different churches, or the ability of the local population to pay, or the popularity of the Church (or other market factors).

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 5:44pm BST

The current fees table

Posted by John Roch at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 6:25pm BST

Mark Bennet has laboured hard in a long response to tell us that the Synod (like the C of E) contains a plurality of views, something which we know already.

Thus, my original succinct plea remains regarding fees 'just leave it alone'.

Naturally, the same advice goes for what the Covenant is trying to achieve in the wider Anglican Communion that contains even more diversity.

Posted by observer at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 6:38pm BST

Thank you, Peter.

This is clear as mud; we remain churches separated by common prayer . . .


Posted by Chip Chillington at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 7:36pm BST

Chip - That was Mark - not me. I can't really add anything except for this link to the "Four Funerals and a Wedding" report.

Posted by Peter Owen at Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 8:23pm BST

Part of the problem Americans have in understanding this issue is another example of the "connected by an ocean/divided by a common language" problem.

The dictionary definition of the word "scheme" gives it three main meanings:

1. a plan, design, or program of action to be followed.
2. an underhand plot; intrigue.
3. a visionary or impractical project.

In England, I gather that the word "scheme" is frequently and comfortably used in the first sense, a plan, design, or program.

In the USA, the chief meaning of the word "scheme" is the second one, as in the Ponzi scheme carried out by Bernie Madoff.

So the phrase "uniform national scheme" is likely to raise all kinds of cautionary flags for the American ear.

Although, I gather, this plan in England is becoming more like "scheme" in the third meaning, "an impractical project."

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 22 July 2011 at 1:24pm BST

I believe that if the "chief" meaning of scheme were the "second one", it would be in position 1, not 2. Dictionaries define words in order of common usage. Scheme, like plot, can refer to something that is underhanded. But that's not the primary meaning.

Posted by Richard at Friday, 22 July 2011 at 10:12pm BST

Richard, if the dictionary I used for this set of definitions had been an American dictionary, it would have had the definitions in the order you propose. But believe me, in the USA the second meaning is the chief one. 'Nuff said. JNW

Posted by jnwall at Saturday, 23 July 2011 at 1:03am BST

"A scheme is not a vision" (Leonard Cohen)


Posted by david rowett at Saturday, 23 July 2011 at 11:33am BST

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first two meanings are for an archaic use as an astrological or astronomical diagram, second for a concise statement or table, and, lastly:

": a plan or program of action; especially : a crafty or secret one "

Note that - especially a crafty or secret one.

The first example used - indicating most prevalent common usage of a word - is

"a scheme to cheat people out of their money"

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 5:05am BST
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