Church Finances

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24 February 1997.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 12:00, 24 February 1997

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what projection of (a) church attendances and (b) contributions per church member are used by the Church Commissioners in carrying out their responsibilities for budgeting in respect of church finances. [15558]

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

The Commissioners do not make projections of church attendances or giving levels, although both factors are taken into account in the selective allocations made to dioceses for stipends. The proposals for changing the funding of clergy pensions will increase the cost of ministry that is borne by parishes, and the Commissioners have closely consulted dioceses on how quickly the cost of pension contributions can be absorbed.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

As pensions and other costs to the Church are likely to increase, will the Church Commissioners consider making a statement to the effect that they do not mind whether their congregations are traditional Anglican, old prayer book, or happy clappy, as long as there are loads of people in the church? The big test for the Church is that it should recruit people and welcome them whatever their style and volume of worship. If people can also give some money the Church should welcome that, but for heaven's sake let us not have divisions between one group in the Church saying that the old style is best and another saying that modern music is better. Let us get them all in—the more there are, the more successful the Church will be.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am happy to give a general endorsement to the hon. Gentleman's approach. Issues of churchmanship should not have any bearing on the support that the Church gives or receives in respect of pensions for its retired servants. Nor should political factors carry significant weight; congregations can be not only happy clappy, but militant tendency and even national front. The politics of the pew are known to fellow members of the congregation and in more exalted circles.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the 801-year-old Lichfield cathedral, which yesterday evening held a service for Lichfield girl guides? I had the privilege to attend, but not in any capacity as a girl guide I hasten to add. The cathedral was packed and virtually every person present made a large contribution to its funds.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am very glad to hear about the splendid performance of Lichfield cathedral. My hon. Friend and I have a personal friend among the cathedral staff. I know that the staff and the cathedral chapter are very much encouraged by my hon. Friend's assiduous and consistent support for their work.