Diocesan Finances and clergy reductions: How are we doing?

Published: 9th November 2020

Diocesan Secretary, John Preston, looks at how our finances are doing and our progress towards the planned reduction in clergy posts:

John Preston, Diocesan Secretary2020 has been a year unlike any other and the pandemic has impacted every area of our lives  - church life is now very different to this time last year!  Yet, as I reflect on how we’re doing, I’m extremely thankful – to friends and colleagues across the Diocese, and to a generous God whose provision continues to help us navigate this pandemic.

Thank you to all who have continued to give to their local church, supporting mission and ministry locally, and enabling the work of the church to continue. Our parishes have been amazing and Parish Share contributions, which essentially fund the cost of our clergy, have held up better than we could have expected. We are still projecting that we will see a significant reduction on last year’s contributions – but that’s inevitable given the huge impact on the parish economy. Thank you too to all who have contributed to the Diocesan Ministry fund which is helping to fund our clergy in these difficult times.

Our DBF team have also done a great job. Thanks to those who graciously agreed to have their roles furloughed, we have been able to get a sizeable six figure contribution from the government to staff wages, and we have made savings in a whole range of other areas, for example as travel hasn’t happened and events have moved online. We’ve made a big move towards being paperless – with major savings in postage and photocopying costs. These savings won’t match the shortfall in Parish Share, but we now hope to keep the overall deficit below £1 million and we’re continuing to work to keep it as low as we can.

That’s important as it’s likely that 2021 will be just as challenging as 2020, if not more so. It’s clear that church isn’t going to get back to normal any time soon; and that means an ongoing impact on church finances – and of course, many parishes and the DBF will have used up a significant portion of their reserves this year.

A significant worry is whether these financial challenges will result in us needing to reduce clergy numbers still further.  We’ve already said that the numbers of stipendiary clergy will need to reduce by at least 15, and possibly up to 30.  The good news is that despite the pandemic, the continued contribution of Parish Share along with cost savings achieved means that we’re still working to the 15 post reduction -  but we think we need to achieve this by the end of 2022. 

By the end of 2020, we will already have reduced the number of clergy posts by 4.4.  We’ve done this by adjusting ministry patterns - in some places allowing a priest to move to serving on a house-for-duty basis, or by replacing a stipendiary priest with a Community Missioner or a non-stipendiary priest.   We can also see how we can reduce 5.5 further posts in 2021, and another 2.2 in 2022, arising from natural moves and retirements that we are already aware of. A total of 12.1 posts altogether.   We expect that other possibilities for reductions in posts may arise in the next couple of years to enable us to meet our target of 15.  This doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped filling vacancies – there are some posts that it’s right to fill and we will continue to do this. Each vacancy is carefully considered as it arises, and in some cases put on hold whilst local discussions take place.

It’s clearly essential that we continue to manage our finances effectively. However, I’d suggest that it’s even more important that we focus on building the health and sustainability of our churches in the coming years. None of this is helped by the pandemic, but as a DBF we’re committed to doing what we can to support you in mission and ministry as we work together to grow as Kingdom People. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help you.

This is one of a series of periodic updates – watch out for the next around early February.

John Preston, Diocesan Secretary

Page last updated: 9th November 2020 4:17 PM
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