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Norwich Synod backs plan to tackle £2m deficit

BishopNorwich370A radical plan to tackle an accumulated deficit of £2m in the Norwich Diocese expenditure over the past four years and secure its future ministry was overwhelmingly backed by the Diocesan Synod on Saturday (June 15). Keith Morris reports.

The Diocesan Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of new proposals for the allocation of Parish Share contained in the 40-page booklet The Responsibility is Ours – Review of Parish Share – Supporting mission and ministry in 2014 and beyond.

Diocesan Secretary, Richard Butler, reminded the Synod that last year, the Diocese was £600,000 overspent. The over spend has been increasing each year for the last three years and he reminded those present that this cannot continue. “We need either to bring in more income, or make drastic cuts in the number of stipendiary clergy,” he told Synod.
The proposals to reform the Parish Share have also been presented to over 2000 lay leaders and clergy at a series of recent meetings across the Diocese.
Addressing the issue prior to Synod, the Bishop of Norwich (pictured above) said: “It is astonishing to reflect on the millions of pounds given each year in parish share. It is the generosity of God’s people which enables the diocese to sustain an effective ministry in 577 parishes. Yet we face a problem. Since 2008 we have had successive years in which not enough money has been raised to meet the costs of the ministry deployed across our parishes. The cumulative deficit now exceeds £2 million.
“The policy in this diocese has been to sustain the number of our stipendiary clergy as far as we can, and to increase the numbers of self-supporting clergy and readers alongside them. We have had to reduce stipendiary numbers just a little, given the overall reduction in numbers of clergy in the Church of England as a whole but we have avoided the radical reductions which have been pursued in some dioceses in order to balance the books.
“Our present provision of ministry would not present problems if every parish paid its share in full. Our aim must be to ensure that all benefices make a sufficient contribution for the cost of the ministry they receive.”
The aims of the proposal include greater transparency and reflecting the realistic costs of ministry in the way Parish Share is calculated.
Parish Share covers two thirds of the costs of clergy stipends in the Diocese and is currently based on churches electoral rolls and Sunday attendances, but taking no account of actual costs of ministry.
Currently, over one-third of parishes do not pay what is asked of them and the cost of ministry in over 90% of parishes is being subsidised by others. The current £700,000 annual deficit is despite substantial cost reductions already put into place.
The cost of maintaining hundreds of historic churches is also a big factor.
From 2014 under the agreed proposal, there will be two elements to the Share. The larger proportion will be related to the actual cost of ministry within the benefice. The second will contribute to mission across the diocese where that mission needs wider support.
Bishop Graham reminded the Synod that Parish Share is not a "tax" but that giving joyfully is a vital element of discipleship. He said: “We are being asked to give in order to fund the passing on of faith to next generation, and to think of Parish Share as paying for what we receive is astonishingly consumerist. It's all worth the effort if we want to proclaim the faith to the next generation," he concluded.

At the end of the debate, the motion to accept the new system for the allocation of Parish Share was passed overwhelmingly, with 87 voting in favour, 7 against, and 6 abstentions.
Read more at www.norwich.anglican.org

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