The Church(es) of England?

I have something of a soft spot for the Church of England, having grown up in it, though it’s been rather a long time since I was a regular attender. But I think this article is probably correct when it starts with:

The archbishop of Canterbury must acknowledge that disestablishment has already happened, and look to a future that deals with reality.

I particularly liked one of the illustrations of this point:

The Diana funeral was about half Anglican, and half teddy bears.

Actually, I’ve always thought that the church would probably benefit from disestablishment. This article makes the case for decentralisation, as well.

Now, I know little of church finances, but I suspect that very few current congregations could actually support their clerical staff if it weren’t for the church’s central endowments and investments. No doubt some distribution mechanism could be sorted out, even if the parishes were to be more independent.

But I do remember, sitting in a dull sermon somewhere as a child, realising that if congregations really took the biblical principle of tithing to heart, then it would only take nine people to support a vicar at the same standard of living as they had. Or ten, of course, if the vicar wanted to tithe as well!

Something for the faithful to ponder…

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“disestablishment has already happened”

Not entirely. Britain remains one of a handful of states that reserves positions in its Government for religious leaders. (The others I can think of are Iran and the Vatican. Even the Tibetan government-in-exile is removing the explicitly political role of the Dalai Lama.) And they don’t just sit there either – the Bishops have been vocal in Parliament on several recent issues, and important in several crunch votes.

“it would only take nine people to support a vicar”

Not these days! My rule-of-thumb is that the cost to employ someone is double their gross salary, and the only people I know who tithe do so out of their take-home pay.

The Christian principle, of course, is quite clear: sell all you have, and give to the poor. Even fewer even aspire to that one …

Yes, you’re right, of course – and my ‘nine people’ was a calculation made at a blessed age when I knew nothing of pensions and national insurance 🙂

I tend to work on a one-and-a-half times gross salary basis, but that’s perhaps because my recent companies have been startups in inexpensive offices without too many perks!

A vicar, of course, doesn’t usually have to pay for a mortgage; accommodation is paid for by the church, which should be more tax-efficient, especially when it’s a charity (another contentious topic!) Many of the buildings are somewhat expensive to maintain, but they are also not typically furnished to any great standard of luxury… and so on.

Perhaps a better guess is that it takes about 15 tithing people to maintain a vicar, and another 5-10 to maintain a church?

I’d expect the actual church buildings cost a huge amount more to run than the vicar. Where a parish church has multiple staff and an old building – even one recently restored – the running costs of the church plus parish hall, meeting rooms etc, will be far more than the cost of vicar, curate & deacon plus housing that my old parish had. Unless the congregation bring fuel to keep the place warm while the service is on as part of their tithe!

Well I knew all those c’church services would reap some benefit in the end. Dad spotted you on tv the other night and I thought I’d look you up.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser