Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Cash Crisis Confronts Chelmsford Diocese

All clergy in the Diocese of Chelmsford have received via e-mail a copy of a letter from the Chief Executive, Steven Webb, appealing for an increase in parish giving to save the Diocese from an impending financial crisis. He asks that the letter be shared also with treasurers and PCC secretaries. The letter reads as follows:


October 2008


Dear Parish Priest,


This is an unusual letter from me and I hope that the fact that I am writing it will give you some indication of the seriousness of the situation.


You do not need me to tell you about the “Credit Crunch” and the downturn in our national economy. Neither do you need me to tell you about the financial pressure that many individuals are under at the moment but I write to ask for your assistance in coping with these pressures as we work together for the benefit of everyone within our diocese.


Our diocesan income comes primarily from the parishes and by far the vast majority of our spending goes directly into paying for the ministry within our diocese.


Until August we were doing quite well compared to our target but in August we saw a significant decrease in the parish share payments compared to what we expected to achieve.


In September we have seen a slight pick up but not enough to make the combined figures for August and September as good as the same period in 2007. If we are to reduce our deficit in line with our plans, we must all do better than 2007.


I know that the current economic situation puts everyone under pressure, but please can you use your best endeavours to encourage people to keep the levels of giving at the highest levels possible.


We are in the process of formally approving our budget for next year and it is due to go to Diocesan Synod for formal approval in November. It is a good budget that continues to build on our improving financial rigour.


However, that budget has been drawn up on the assumption that parish share payment would continue to improve. If the current trend continues we will end up being in a worse position at the end of 2008 than we were at the end of last year. That will alter our expectations for next year and it will create difficulties. We will need to look at areas where further cost savings can be made during 2009 if it does not improve.


We are doing as much as we can in our office and at committee level but we really do need your help in encouraging people to support our ministry. In the last few days two members of staff in our diocesan office have left employment with us. I have decided not to replace them at this moment in time, although it is necessary to recruit one half time (much lower paid) member of staff to help those of us remaining in the office. I am grateful to the members of staff who will be absorbing the extra work. I mention this to reassure you that we all take this situation seriously and that we never look only to parishes when things get tough. Compared to many dioceses and similar structures we already have a small office staff and it has just got smaller.


The most significant areas of expenditure are on payment of clergy, pensions, and clergy (including curate’s) houses. Reducing expenditure in these areas is undesirable but if income decreases then we must look very carefully at where corresponding cost savings can be made.


Therefore, I would appreciate it if you could find an opportunity soon to encourage your congregations to do as much as they can to keep giving levels up and please speak with your treasurer and PCC secretary to share this message. The Diocesan Board of Finance will continue to keep a close eye on matters and will stand ready to assist you in any way we can.


Thank you in anticipation of your support in this matter.


Yours sincerely


Steven G Webb

Chief Executive

Diocese of Chelmsford

01245 294410


No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy.


Peter Kirk said...

(Location withheld deliberately but in Chelmsford diocese; John, you know where)

As the church council secretary of a church which pays its full quota, I would find it offensive to receive such a letter. (In fact I have not done, perhaps because it is not being sent to such churches.) Some churches like mine have made huge efforts over many years to pay our quotas which we then see increasing year on year, far faster than inflation. Other churches have simply given up trying to pay and instead rely on the rest of us to subsidise them.

In most cases the problems in those churches which are not paying in full are nothing to do with lack of generosity but are symptoms of something else seriously wrong in the church. For example one once prosperous parish in my deanery has been well down on its quota in recent years because its new vicar managed to lose more than half of its congregation through poor leadership skills. The problems of churches like this will not be solved by sending out begging letters to them, or to those of us already paying more than our share. The problem at root is not financial but spiritual and needs to be dealt with as such.

Sam Norton said...

Time to abolish the parish share system....