Synod to debate Parish Share options

As synod debates the important issue of Parish Share we examine the two options being proposed as a way forward.

A central debate at tomorrow’s meeting of Diocesan Synod will be looking at proposals for the reshaping of our Parish Share system. Following a commitment to Diocesan Synod to review our system a working group was established to look at options and report back this month. They were charged to carefully, prayerfully and critically examine our system and look nationally to see if there is anything we can adopt or adapt.
Parish Share is important. It is the way we fund our mission and ministry across our diocese. It is an expression of our togetherness as a diocese mutually supporting each other. Yet as it is about finance it is inevitably contentious. It is the single biggest expenditure item for most PCCs and DCCs so it is bound to receive attention.
It could be argued we don’t have to change. At 98%+ our collection rate is rightly the envy of other dioceses. And the amount we are asking is based on a realistic assessment of our ministry costs. Our diocese has made great strides to eliminate waste and focus expenditure where it matters – on the mission and ministry work of our parishes, chaplaincies and priests.

 But the fact that we are in a strong position means this is a good time to review the options open to us. Doing this from a position of strength means we are more likely to make sound, principled, reasoned decisions. And that’s what we believe Synod will do tomorrow.

There are two options being discussed.

·         Option 1 – Updating the current system
·         Option 2 – An alternative deanery based system

The proposal before Synod is essentially that they choose between the two options and give the working group a mandate to do some further work on a more detailed proposal for March 2015.

Rev Mark Stanford who chaired the working group said “I have worked in one of the most deprived and now the most affluent parishes in our diocese so I see this from all angles. We have two good options and are looking for a steer from Synod as to which approach they want us to develop."
The options in detail
Option 1 – Updating the current system

Currently Parish Share is calculated by essentially using two factors
  • Adult attendance at Sunday services
  • The Socio economic condition of the parish.

In this system congregations are assumed to be typical of the age and income of the parish. Those in the least deprived areas will be asked to pay 3 times as much per head than those in the more deprived and growing congregations are expected to pay more. We introduced a minimum share in 2013 but we have no maximum.

The proposal is to use the same basic calculation whilst modifying some of the methodology. So attendance will include a measure to take in account midweek attendance. We would also move to look at an average attendance over 5 years to smooth out growth or decline and reduce the annual impact. We will continue to use the government’s Indices of Multiple Deprivation but will reflect the current data – this will still focus on the parish not congregation members’ income data. We would also look at capping reductions and increases, raise the Minimum Parish Share threshold and introduce a Maximum Parish Share cap. And we will slightly revise the way in which attendances are averaged out.

Effectively this is a slightly modified version of what exists. It aims to reflect changes in the way church is organised and smooth out some of the factors that provide distortions to the exiting system.
Option 2 – alternative deanery based system

The aim for this is a flexible system which enables deaneries to decide how many stipendiary clergy they wish to deploy and how much each parish would contribute to the cost. It is still a system of mutual support with the contribution required for an incumbent linked to the socio economic information about that parish.

This system is based on 3 pieces of information
  • Deanery decision on the number of clergy they deploy
  • Socio-economic conditions of the Deanery
  • How the national Church Commissioner funding is applied to the deanery.

There will be six steps to the process
1)      We set a standard cost per stipendiary incumbent (currently £56,000 per year)
2)      We work out the socio-economic cost of each deanery
3)      We work out the number of Church Commissioner funded posts per deanery
4)      We work out the cost of each stipend for the deanery
5)      The deanery decides how many stipendiary clergy it needs
6)      Guided by their mission and pastoral committee the parishes and deanery work together to decide how much each parish contributes.

This is new ground. It continues with our commitment to devolve decision making and we will give plenty of support to help deaneries and parishes work through the system. We believe it makes a clearer link between the deployment and payment of clergy in a local area.

Transitional relief

Any change to the system will have an impact. For some parishes this will be greater than others so we will have a system of transitional relief to smooth the impact.

Both options have been carefully thought through and are strong robust options for the future. Synod will need to decide which is best placed to help us continue to support our mission and ministry to every community in our diocese.

News & Events

The Parish Share Review Group

The Review Group was made up of the following: 
2 members from the DBF Finance Committee 
Rev Mark Stanford (Chair), Holy Trinity Formby – Sefton deanery 
Peter Owen, St Luke’s Crosby – Sefton 
6 members from Diocesan Synod 
Rev Amanda Fairclough, NSM, St Margaret Orford, General Synod – Warrington 
Rev Simon Fisher, St John Tuebrook – West Derby 
Adrian Hardy, Treasurer, Wigan St Michael – Wigan 
Rev Richard Jones, St John Burscough – Ormskirk 
Rev Bill Matthews, Eccleston St Thomas/St Helen St Mark – St Helens 
Philip Stott, Billinge St Aidan, Bishop’s Council – Wigan 
The group was serviced by staff at St James’ House 

Download the full document

The offer system

The review group examined the offer system popular in a few dioceses but felt this was not the right way forward for our diocese. The group felt the system where parishes say what they can afford and then senior clergy and diocesan staff try to allocate staff accordingly was 

1.Essentially Congregationalist without a commitment to mutual support.
2.It disconnects what may be offered with the ministry received giving a sense of “we want our vicar come what may”
3.It creates a notion that giving the least possible is acceptable
4.It may not allow us to place clergy where they are best called to serve.

Fundamentally the review group believed that it would lead to further clergy reductions.