on Wednesday, 18 August 2021 at 11.11 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Power of the Internet to bring change to the Safeguarding World
Frog Orr-Ewing Psephizo Do we need to ‘Save the Parish’?
The Frog piece is so thorough one would wonder if ‘Frog’ is now required nomenclature for evaluating the nuts and bolts of the established realities of the CofE. Froghole look out.
I think Canon Frog’s analysis is strong. And this is from someone who was a Curate in a city centre church, Vicar in an area of deprivation, Rector of a minster church/missionary community, and now Canon Theologian of Winchester Cathedral and a university teacher. This is surely the kind of credibility that some commentators on here value?
Canon Orr-Ewing’s piece is extremely informative for someone reading up on this controversy from outside and afar. It contains a wealth of detail and nuance that is very helpful. It appears to strike a very conciliatory tone, something often very elusive in any controversy in the church anywhere these days. I’ll leave it to folks in the C of E to express agreement or disagreement, but he clearly knows what he is talking about. The comment board under his article makes interesting reading as well.
I agree, but Frog Orr Ewing is a charismatic evangelical who takes a conservative line on sexuality. I doubt most commentators on here will appreciate that.
Firstly, I’m not sure we know Canon Dr Orr Ewing’s view on the topic? And if it were his view – what is wrong with that? It is valid view, and one held by many in the CofE. I thought we were meant to be a broad church – accepting of a broad range of opinions? Furthermore, why do we need to know his view on human sexuality, in order to accept or dismiss his very well thought through views on the role of the parish church? That would seem rather illogical, wouldn’t it?
As a result of the almost universal condemnation and the subsequent back tracking – “Nothing to do with me guv” – from the episcopate – has the coffin lid now been placed upon the Myriad initiative and firmly nailed down?
Personally, I think it points to a lack of governance at the Gregory Centre. As far as I can see, there is no board or trustees that are testing the strategy/approach. It looks like a group of like-minded people with the potential for group-think. Even at the point of roll out, I suspect there should have been more robust testing of messaging. If better thought through and presented, there could have been positives from their thinking – but stress-testing of ideas is critical.
Re: Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Power of the Internet to bring change to the Safeguarding World The power of the internet to bring about change to safeguarding took a severe blow, especially in the Martyn Percy case, when the Clergy Discipline Commission revised their code of practice and commanded “All matters should be kept strictly private and confidential” and we must “refrain from making statements, posts, comments or similar on social media, websites, print media or other public fora which in any way reference the detail of the allegation, the individuals involved, or give an opinion as to the merits or… Read more »
I am not a lawyer, but I wonder if this is relevant – listed on a TA posting on 7th August.
I’m no legal expert, but as I understand it, the code of practice does not have the force of English law. Wouldn’t it have to be a Measure passed by General Synod to have that status?
It remains to be seen how it could be enforced. I very much hope it won’t be, but it reflects very badly on our Church that it exists at all.
All expensive lawyers know that the threat of legal action can have a chilling effect on free comment and journalism, even when those same lawyers know that such legal action may be unenforceable in practise.
One wonders what was in the mind of the CD Commission lawyers when advising on this.
I am surprised that Private Eye missed this nuance. This area of law is their bread and butter.
I hope your first paragraph may never be borne out in practice. ‘Expensive’ lawyers are no less susceptible to professional discipline than others for infractions of the strict codes of conduct which apply to them.
An Irishman once saw a tombstone inscription which read “Here lies John Smith. An honest man and a lawyer”. In astonishment, he exclaimed “Begorrah! They’ve buried two men in the same grave!”
Similar joke about organists and musicians (with some justification). BTW I’ve never heard an Irishman say begorrah.
Henry Wood was responsible for the famous ‘dig’ about organists and musicians – having previously been an organist himself. But times have moved on and I suggest that never has this country had such talented organist musicians, and so many, as now!
Lawyers are used to getting flak – albeit that Fr David H was referring to Irish ones – but I will let him have the final word on that!
Lol. I always associated that with something you’d hear after a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston or New York. Stanley, check out this website, 14 phrases you will never hear the Irish say. Hilarious!
Stanley, follow up to my previous comment, a more serious comment about Ireland. I’ve attached a link re: The Rev. Dr. Luke Dempsey OP. He taught me at Xavier College (Sydney, NS, 1972-73) my first year of university when I was 18. Introduced me to C.S. Lewis (Screwtape Letters) and Pauline scholar Ceslaus Spicq (St. Paul and Christian Living). Brilliant, witty, cultured, faithful. I remember him as one of the most erudite people I have ever met, even after all these decades. One time, he got on his feet at a seminar, in front of a three person panel of… Read more »
Just like we never ever say ‘Top of the Morning.’ Fabricated American affectations have a lot to answer for!
I agree. Toodle pip!
Some similar idioms are in use, of course: too be sure, so it is, not at all, are three obvious ones, together with the propensity of midlanders to repeat the last phrase of a sentence. John Boyne’s Irish novels, as you’d expect, capture very well the south Dublin not-too-posh idioms, especially A History of Loneliness, a wonderful angry novel (Churchtown, Dundrum, Terenure in that case). Irish creativity in the use of words rubbed off on me, for which I am eternally grateful, especially the use of profanities by the northside Dubs (my daughter lives in Finglas) which is quite marvellous.… Read more »
Beneath this stone lies Patrick Riley
An honest man entirely
He bought this stone in a Second Hand Shop
And his name is Murphy, not Riley
Private Eye, while drawing attention to an important issue, is (not for the first time) wrong about this. As Jamie Harrison made clear at General Synod on 24 April 2021, when introducing the short debate on the revised Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 Code of Practice (which contains the controversial paragraph 308 quoted by Richard Symonds): “What [the Code] does not have is the force of law. It is a statutory code, and must be taken into account at all times. Compliance with the Code is considered to be best practice.” . Synod approved the revised Code without, I suggest, members appreciating the… Read more »
There appears to be a growing consensus across the Church about the unsatisfactory nature of the financial model for parish ministry. The expropriation of parochial glebe and endowments in 1976, and equalisation of clerical stipends, led to the Church Commissioners’ speculative escapades of the 1980s, which turned sour. The model put in place in the late 1990s sought to remedy this failed experiment by placing the responsibility for clergy costs fairly and squarely with the parishes, so that the Church was less dependent on the family stockbroker. But it has not delivered the supply of stipendiary clergy in perpetuity, as… Read more »
How would more parishes be able to afford adequate priest ministry if the Endowments and Glebe Measure was to be repealed and previous arrangements restored? I am yet to read a satisfactory answer and it seems to be where the argument of “Save the Parish” breaks down.
That’s a very good question. It would be unrealistic, in my view, to try and unpick the individual endowments and parcels of glebe land in order to reallocate them to the parishes. A far easier option would be to simply abolish the DBF and consolidate the endowments and glebe onto the Commissioners’ balance sheet, completing the nationalisation of assets commenced in 1976. The funds and any restrictions imposed on them could be managed perfectly well by Church House. And the total wealth of the Church (less the PCC’s diminished assets) would be seen at a glance on a single sheet of A4.… Read more »
Thank you for these excellent remarks, which may well be a more plausible solution to the problem than anything that I have proposed. I do have a concern about what might happen to many church buildings, given the extreme attenuation of congregations across most of the country and the current demographics, but what you are suggesting would alleviate a good deal of pressure. They would also be a less drastic reform and, as such, might be more saleable. Moreover, there would be no ultimate liability passing to the taxpayer. One of the primary reasons for closure is that a fragile… Read more »
Thank you! You are absolutely right to address some of the political considerations, and potential pitfalls. It promises to be a very interesting quinquennium! Financial pressures on the system are bound to necessitate some degree of reform, sooner or later. Initially, a lot will depend on how quickly parishes bounce back after coronavirus and manage to repair their finances. The upkeep of church buildings is one area that could unite many people across the divide. A reserve fund allocated by the Commissioners, as you suggest, would make at least some impression on the £200 million per annum currently raised by… Read more »
Tax on success? In my diocese the bigger and richer the church is the smaller a proportion of its income it pays in common fund. My curacy church (90 people on a Sunday) paid 60% of its income out in common fund, whereas my sending parish (about 900 on a Sunday) paid about 10%. It is a deeply regressive system, and one the church would oppose in wider society but which it practises at home. I really don’t get what this “tax on success” is all about.
I agree that the system is regressive, and have suggested so on a number of occasions (including to a couple of incumbents in the East Midlands earlier today). I am not necessarily suggesting that ‘successful’ parishes pay more than their fair share, only that in the course of my travels I have heard a number of complaints about the parish share system ‘punishing’ the ‘success’ of ‘successful’ churches and inhibiting their further growth. It seems to me that at least some affluent/successful churches (which are invariably in affluent dormitory towns and suburbs, or in certain city centres) resent having to… Read more »
There is another way of looking at it, which is to say that the greater the income generated, the more a parish is able to fund its stipendiary ministry, and achieve self-sufficiency by employing lay staff in a variety of roles. The question is how much of a wealthier church’s surplus income should cross-subsidize parishes who can’t afford a full-time priest from their own resources – the vast majority. If the annual income generated by two-thirds of parishes is less than the per capita cost of ministry (£70k p.a.) then it seems unreasonable to expect a relatively few larger churches… Read more »
Parish churches were stripped of their assets in the 1970s and now are looked down upon for having no money. Things like Queen Anne’s Bounty (now the Church Commissioners) were set up specifically to fund poor parishes – yet now the resources are being frittered away on more and more centralised posts (I was told of yet another one at Diocesan House this morning!) while poor parishes are left without priests. It’s criminal what’s happening.
It does seem to be unsatisfactory that decisions about resourcing ministry are made centrally, and not locally. Dioceses might respond by saying that their administrative offices have already been stripped to the bone. It is interesting to note that parish share has declined in real terms by 7% over the last decade, while the amount spent on salaries, wages and honoraria has increased by 19% (Parish Finance Statistics 2019). However, an all-or-nothing choice between a stipendiary priest or none at all, in the manner in which it is often presented to parishes, seems rather too stark. More flexibility would give… Read more »
Giving would increase. Especially legacies. Not everywhere, but it would be a matter of filling gaps not universal provision. There would be direct partnerships and links and, no doubt, the church commissioners would help too. But the whole drift would be towards self sufficiency where possible. The current system is extremely off putting to anyone thinking of making a gift or legacy to a parish.
I am interested in how those possibilities would work, as I question how many of all those “woulds” will turn out in reality. Few in this forum will question the need for some reform in favour of parish ministry but, when it’s “not everywhere”, the suggestions above will not ensure improvements to provision of ordained ministry outside the wealthiest parishes.
Agreed. We need a fully transparent parish share system, where parishes pay the full cost of the clergy (c.£60k for a stipendiary priest), with say a 50% reduction for UPA’s. If parishes can’t or won’t pay they have non-stipendiary or lay ministry or they close.
And it’s time to abolish the 40+ diocesan offices and do the admin/finance/HR/safeguarding nationally (not in London). This would free up significant resource.
I agree we need transparency, but the first part of this would spell the end of the majority of parishes in England, and be the death of any notion of national (local) coverage. It is also highly regressive- exacerbating the already extant biases favouring parishes in rich areas. £30k is beyond most parishes in areas of significant deprivation. It also encourages the invidious sense of parishes being in some sort of competition with each other for resources. We need to properly embrace the ethical imperative of richer parishes supporting poorer ones (and by-the-by kick out the old lie that poorer… Read more »
You highlight a very important point. I suspect that we are probably living beyond our means, which is why I have suggested a basic remuneration of £13,000 from central funds, topped up by parishes wherever possible. It may be that we’ll eventually have to adopt something akin to the system in place for Roman Catholic clergy, or ordain more priests in secular employment. Fundamentally, there is a huge difference between, on the one hand, an institution comprising an agglomeration of loosely connected charities with nationwide coverage, and, on the other, a unitary taxpayer-funded organisation such as the health service, education… Read more »
Yes of course. But there is no “magic money tree” and any move which would increase the size of the total cake, for example increased giving even to some churches, would be good if the richer parishes took seriously their moral obligation towards poorer ones. It is not totally clear that what are seen as punitive taxes is the way to do that. At present parishes are definitely in competition with each other for resources because the centre holds the purse strings— and also in competition for “human resource” because of the central control on appointments. Any richer parish which… Read more »
Those of us who live in parts of the Anglican Communion without large central funds have been operating on something like this system for a long time. In my present diocese parishes are responsible for their clergy salaries (we don’t have rectories so clergy are paid realistically to take the cost of housing into account) and building expenses, and also pay assessment/apportionment to the diocese to help cover diocesan and national church costs. Some of the assessment money is used to provide support grants to parishes that can’t afford to pay their full costs. Most rural parishes are multi-point, and… Read more »
If people really want to save parishes (rather than ‘save the parish’, which seems rather abstract), one way might to be to identify parishes that are thriving, look into the sort of ministry that is offered in those parishes, differentiate between the underlying principles (which are transferable) and the locally specific factors (which are not), and then encourage others to reflect on those principles and how to apply them in their own situations. One example of this approach a few years ago, in the North American context, was Ron Crandall’s excellent book ‘Turnaround Strategies for the Small Church’ (1995), revised… Read more »
Ah but if you did that you’d probably need people to identify those parishes, investigate what might be transferable and then encourage others in best practice.
And you’d probably want to employ them at a diocesan level and give them some sort of job title like Church Growth Advisor.
And then you’d be told off for “wasting” money on meaningless centralised posts instead of putting it toward reducing parish share. Which is what SoP wants.
If we could see the outputs of such diocesan posts we would not call them “wastes of money”. The problem is we don’t see those outputs because it is easier for these people to jump on the evangelical coffee bar church train than roll their sleeves up and genuinely try and support struggling parishes by importing good ideas rather than introducing competition, which we are paying for through the parish share. We have such an archdeacon with special portfolio in our diocese. He has yet to set foot in our church since his appointment several years ago, he is too… Read more »