The Diocese of Truro (alongside many Diocese in the Church of England) is engaged in a major review at present called ‘On The Way’. The rationale behind ‘On The Way’ is to present a balanced budget for the Diocese in 2023. This will lead to the reduction of stipendiary clergy (ie full time Vicars).
A large number of consultations have taken place and are currently taking place throughout the 27 parishes in the Deanery of Penwith. Please read below the papers presented and resulting from these, together with articles from other sources which has lead to the setting up of ‘Save The Parish’ campaign (If you would like to join this campaign please press on the link below).
It is obvious to everyone in Penwith that the Parish-Church-as-we-know-it is under threat. We are told that under current rates of payment of Parish Share contributions over the 27 parishes of Penwith Deanery from 2023 we will only be able to ‘afford’ 5 stipendiary priests instead of the current 11.5 posts. This will dramatically alter the offering of the Churches and their service to the Parishes.
There is now a nationwide campaign just been launched to ‘Save The Parish’. It’s target is to keep the Parish Church intact, whilst calling for a major reduction in the number of bishops, archdeacons, and Diocesan and National Church bureaucracy. When you go on this link: https://savetheparish.com/ you will first be asked to join General Synod (you may or may not like to do that) but if you scroll down there is also a letter to read and if you agree with it please sign up for this campaign.
The attached documents below explain the context of the bigger picture in the Church of England (of which we are only experiencing the brunt at the sharp end in this current time of Reorganisation) and that is the plan to create 10,000 new lay-led churches and where stipendiary clergy are regarded as ‘limiting factors’. You can read the voice of many caring clergy as a result of this announcement that they are regarded as now ‘limiting factors’ by the hierarchy of the Church. I fully support this letter at the end of this attachment.
The articles/papers are presented in date order first (with the most recent at the top of the list).
Archbishop’s ‘sleepless nights’ over Church cuts – Daily Telegraph article:
|The Church Closers’ Charter Emma Thompson has a hugely important article in the Spectator today, about a piece of draft legislation heading to General Synod. There is a proposal for draft legislation heading to the General Synod. Its name is ‘GS2222’, but we call it the Church Closers’ Charter. |
It is designed to make closing and selling churches easier for the dioceses. Read the Spectator article here If it is passed, it will make closing churches easier and remove or reduce PCCs’ and local people’s rights of consultation, representation and appeal. There is a small window to object now – which closes on October 31 (this has recently been extended from September 30).
We have prepared a short “How to object” document, which you might want to read before making any objection and which might help steer some of your answers. Read the ‘How to object’ document here
We have also consulted a QC and asked him to look at the proposed measure, so you don’t just need to take our word for it that this is bad. Here is his analysis, and the text of his response to the consultation, which may be of use to you. Read the analysis and response here If you feel strongly that this is a mistake, please act. All you need do is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st October, stating that, with regard to diocesan church closure plans, you object to any reduction in the rights of PCC and local people to be consulted and to appeal.
If you have time to do more, you can fill out the whole consultation document; please use the documents above to object in greater detail.
Please do object strongly – and please forward this on!
Over the past few months, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury have repeatedly assured us that they love parishes and parish churches. ‘I am passionate that the parish is essential,’ the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church Times recently. The Archbishop of York went so far as to describe the parish as ‘the beating heart of community life in England’. So why are they supporting a change to church law to make it easier to close parish churches?
The paper which proposes the change is at stage one of a three-stage approval process. It has the unsexy name GS 2222, so I call it the ‘Church Closers’ Charter’. Its introduction is written by someone whose job title is Head of Pastoral and Closed Churches, and she writes that the purpose of the legal change is to simplify existing legislation so as ‘to manage the disposal of churches no longer needed for regular public worship’, for which there needs to be ‘faster processes which would allow for an increase in closures over time’.
The need for simplification, she says, was identified ‘after discussion with dioceses’. The Church of England’s comms teams have mastered the art of shrouding significant changes in bureaucratic language so dull that few bother to read on to discover what is actually happening — hence GS 2222. The proposal made its first General Synod appearance in July. It is now at the stage of public consultation (which ends on 30 September) before it goes back to General Synod in February.
A close reading of the document shows that it very much does not just propose to simplify existing legislation. It is an un-transparent, anti-democratic piece of proposed legislation which will, if implemented, shift power from the local (parishes) to the centre (dioceses).
It is a stealthy power grab. The C of E is missing a chance for real reform. What it should do is to reduce bishops and central bureaucracy The document reveals that the Church’s dioceses are, collectively, considering tripling the rate at which churches are closing. It confidently earmarks up to 356 (unspecified) churches for closure, and implies that dioceses may have their eyes on many more.
It also envisages more clergy dispossessions (dismissals) and considers ‘possible limitations of rights of representation or appeal’. The dioceses, in other words, would be made less accountable, just at the moment when many wanted to hold them to account. Parishes own vicarages, but the dioceses take the proceeds if vicarages are sold.
Currently, parishes have the power to push back, but if the proposals of the Church Closers’ Charter are enacted, it will be much easier for dioceses to sack vicars and sell their vicarages, as well as to close churches and sell parish-owned buildings. Parishioners would have little right to object. I can see why bureaucrats want GS 2222 to pass. If you were in charge of closing churches in a diocese, you too might want to speed up and simplify the system.
The idea of endless devoted locals holding up what you see as an inevitable process would be exhausting. Perhaps you’d convince yourself that elderly, church-going congregants are anyway dying out, being replaced by net natives who don’t care about buildings. The tragedy is that the pandemic proved this assumption is false.
A University of York survey found that, during Covid, even 75 per cent of the non-churchgoing public wanted churches open as places of solace and reflection. The reality is that millions of non-churchgoers value their local church even if they don’t visit much, and they count on its continuing availability for the joyful and solemn human milestones of births, marriages and deaths. And if there must be church closures, there needs to be a proper national plan and a proper discussion, rather than this self-serving attempt to license dioceses to flog our heritage piecemeal.
The C of E is missing a chance for real reform. What it should do, instead of eliminating parishes, is reduce bishops and central bureaucracy. It should give power and agency to the parishes from the dioceses, not vice versa. It should enforce accountability and listen to the voices of parishioners, who know what their parishes need. Are there any churchgoers who want to see their donations fund more communications officers? How much more logical it would be, spiritually and financially, if the Church leaders embraced people’s love for what’s local: the vicars who live among us, the buildings which are part of our heritage.
The demise of the parish system is not inevitable. If the Archbishops are truly ‘passionate’ about the parish, they should tear up the Church Closers’ Charter. As it is, it’s as if they are denying that the revolution is coming, even as they build the guillotine.
(Emma Thompson, The Spectator, 23 September 2021)
Evidence for why ‘Save The Parish’ is needed falls into two broad themes:
a) the way in which dioceses and the central church use the funds at their disposal and
b) an increasingly managerialist or ‘top-down’ approach to governance.
‘Save The Parish’ Manifesto – click to read.
Are you a member of Deanery Synod? If so, could you email us, with your name and diocese, so that we can pass your details on to people who need nomination in your area? Click here to do so. We have not one but two guides on how to stand, both by people who have stood and won for the House of Laity. The first is by Prudence Dailey, of the Diocese of Oxford. The second is by Justin Brett, who has represented both Oxford and Chicester in his time.
Standing for the House of Clergy is exactly the same, except those eligible to stand are: Any member of clergy who holds ecclesiastical office in a diocese or cathedral or who has permission to officiate can stand in an election to the House of Clergy for their diocese. Clergy representatives (known as “Proctors”) are elected by their peers, i.e. other clergy persons in that diocese.
Thank you to everybody who has written to suggest proposals for what we should stand on. Those who know General Synod know that it is unusual for people to offer a common policy platform but we thought it was actually really important for Save the Parish to be more than an emotional spasm lamenting the slow death of the parochial system but a movement making positive suggestions which might make a serious difference to the finances and independence of parishes across the country. To that end, we offer you this more thorough document.
Click here to Read Save the Parish’s manifesto
- In case it seems off-puttingly technical, our objectives can be summarised as follows. You can copy and paste this into your manifesto if you wish:
- To support the archbishops in keeping their pledge to support the parish as the best means of evangelism.
- To put the “frontline first”, ensuring that resources that properly belong to and are generated by the parishes remain at parish level, freeing up laity and clergy for mission.
- To ensure that law and projects which initiate from the centre all support and enhance the parochial system by integrating the Strategic Development Fund into the parish and opposing the revision to the Mission & Pastoral Measure which would make it easier and quicker for the dioceses to close churches, make priests redundant, and throw priests out of their homes.
- We believe that effective mission requires the prioritisation of spending on good theological education as a crucial investment.
- We will call for a Church-State commission to agree a national plan to protect and preserve historic parish buildings.
Losing Parishes Would Devastate The Church – George Carey – article from The Telegraph (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/08/14/losing-parishes-would-devastate-church/)
Alison Millbank’s address to the Save The Parish meeting at St Bartholomew the Great in London on Tuesday 3 August
Below are various documents which explain the process.
If you have any questions, please speak to a member of the Benefice clergy.