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Norwich Diocese plan to plug £2m income gap

The Diocese of Norwich has revealed a plan to restructure the way it raises finances from its parish congregations following a shortfall in income of £2m over the last four years. Keith Morris reports.

Piggy bankThe starting point of the proposed new system for 2014 will be that churches will be asked to pay for the cost of ministry which their communities actually receive rather than the present system of sharing out costs based on electoral rolls and congregation sizes, which currently means that 75% of parishes are subsidised by others.
The move follows a decision by the diocese’s Bishop’s Council to review the Parish Share system. “The present worldwide economic woes have caused many reviews to take place in the finances of nations and households alike. Parish Share is no exception and our present system of calculation and allocation was devised in what now seems like a different era,” said the council.
John Ashe, Archdeacon of Lynn (pictured below) and Chair of the Review Group, revealed in a letter to clergy and church officers earlier this week that the Bishop’s Council wanted a more radical attempt to find a system that can address the current shortfall in the cost of mission and ministry across the diocese.  
“Parishes across Norfolk already find over £6 million every year to pay for ministry through the Parish Share, on top of paying all local expenses and looking after over 600 church buildings, so there is much for which to be grateful,” he said.
JohnAshe“But over the past four years, our income has fallen short of costs by over £2 million; we cannot continue to spend money we do not have. The question of how we fund mission and ministry is urgent.
“The Review Group has met regularly over the past year and, in November, it presented to the Bishop’s Council the outline of a new proposal to take effect from January 1, 2014.  In doing so, the Review Group had in mind that over one-third of parishes do not pay what is asked of them.  The cost of ministry in over three-quarters of parishes is being subsidised by others,” he said
“The challenge has been to find a system that moves away from setting a Share based on the size of a congregation (Electoral Roll and Usual Sunday Attendance figures).  The proposed new starting point for the Share will be the actual cost of ministry within a benefice, while providing support for those benefices that need it.  We want to keep to the principle that we are a diocesan family of parishes where the strong support the weak, but we also want to recognise that the responsibility is ours to pay for ministry in our parishes.”
The detailed proposal will be presented to the Diocesan Synod, which will make a final decision on whether it goes forward, on March 16, and then to churchwardens and clergy in a series of meeting across the diocese in May and June.
Read more about this story at: www.norwich.anglican.org/article/1429

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