The Church Times has obtained and published a report to Church of England bishops and diocesan secretaries from the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. Stephen Cottrell. The report by the Vision and Strategy Group of the church sounds the alarm about the disruption to strategic plans caused by structural deficits for dioceses which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Details of the scale of the challenge are contained in a discussion paper circulated to all bishops and diocesan secretaries in the middle of last month. It confirms that the C of E’s income fell 8.1 per cent in the year to November 2020. It projects a further fall of ten per cent for 2021, calculated before the latest lockdown was announced. Expected savings on expenditure for 2021 are currently three to four per cent. These overall figures disguise a large variation between dioceses.
The document, Perspectives on Money, People and Buildings, seen by the Church Times on Monday, has not been made public, despite confusion from parish priests and others about media reports on its contents, and a declaration at the start: “Honest sharing of information on how those resources of money, people and buildings are being stewarded for greatest impact is vital.”
“There is deep concern about 2021,” the paper says. “Total budgeted income is projected to be down ten per cent in 2021 compared with 2020 budgets — although this data was provided before the current lockdown and the true picture for 2021 is not likely to be clear until later in the year.” Total expenditure, clergy spending, and diocesan staff costs were all projected to decrease by three to four per cent over the same period.
In the past, it says, the Church had survived decline only because “its historic assets have been large enough to enable it to subsidise parishes which cannot afford their ministry costs and by steadily reducing the number of stipendiary ministers.”