Parish ministry is at the heart of the mission of the Church. The Church Commissioners will distribute £1.2 billion between 2023 and 2025 to support our mission and ministry—a 30% increase on the current three-year period—and the lion’s share of this funding will be used to revitalise parish ministry.
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that the relationship between a parish priest and his or her congregation is the single most important element of outreach and service for the Church, and as such, its support should be the primary objective of Church funds?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why the Church Commissioners continue to fund increasing numbers of ordinands. In 2020, 570 new priests were ordained and there were 580 in training, with only 320 retirements. Innovative ways of attracting clergy from many backgrounds include the fantastic work of both the Peter and the Caleb streams, which I would commend to his parishes.
I can tell my right hon. Friend, who I know takes a close interest in these matters, that by far the largest share of diocesan expenditure goes on parish clergy, and many diocesan secretaries are reducing central costs to support parish ministry. We should remember that hard-working diocesan staff support parishes, church schools and chaplaincies on vital issues such as safeguarding, vocations, ministry training, youth work and social action, none of which I am sure my right hon. Friend would argue with.
Order. Unfortunately, this is about the Church Commissioners, not voting.
I thank the Second Church Estates Commissioner for his reply. Rural communities have been greatly disadvantaged by covid, with Zoom meetings as a method of contact, and attendance at churches has started to lessen as well, so there has to be a new method of reaching out in parish ministry. The hon. Gentleman referred to extra moneys for this process. Within that process, is there more help for those who need cars for travelling out to meet people face to face? That is perhaps how the future of parish ministry will be.
I am grateful to the hon. Member, and I really appreciate his interest in these matters. As I have said, the Church Commissioners are increasing the funding to the frontline by 30% over the next three years —£1.2 billion—and it needs to go on exactly the type of initiative that he suggests.