This article published in the Daily Telegraph on 20 July 2023 is a cut version of the report below:


The CofE’s General Synod meeting finished last week (on Tuesday 11 July 2023).  Synod is the body which governs Church legislation and ‘notes’ the budget – in theory.  In practice, it is choreographed by a ruling group on the Archbishops’ Council.

For example, General Synod has never been allowed to vote on the Archbishop of York’s “Vision and Strategy” programme, which includes the creation of 10,000 new ‘churches’.  However, billions from central funding have been allocated, and jobs created, to fund and staff speculative initiatives at the parish system’s expense.

The day before Synod, “Save The Parish”, just 2 years old, held a conference reasserting the value of parishes ‘in action’ in local communities.  Senior Church representatives joined STP supporters from around England to hear compelling speakers. Church leaders are moving from chucking brickbats at STP to dialogue and describing it as a force for good, appreciating its voluntary effort to analyse the CofE’s financial figures and empirical evidence.

Parish churches provide spiritual and pastoral care with huge social and financial value (£55bn per annum, according to the National Churches Trust report “The House of Good”).  So why continue pouring central funding into alternative projects with dismal outcomes and poor accountability, as described in February 2022’s independent “Chote report”?  STP founder Revd Marcus Walker noted Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”.

STP unites supporters from varying traditions, ages, backgrounds and political standpoints.  STP has brought the future of the parish onto Synod’s agenda after a conspicuous absence. This Synod included a debate on ‘revitalising the parish’ and discussed the parish under several agenda items.

However, this sadly showcased the tokenness of support for parishes.  A ‘Governance Review’ motion on Sunday approved new centralising structures, potentially reducing resistance to schemes that would sideline parishes.  Its lack of independence, oversight and accountability looks troubling.

In Monday’s revitalising parishes debate, every single bishop voted against an amendment proposed by Marcus Walker to reroute central funding from large projects to poorer parishes.  That night, a debate on church closing legislation laid bare the intentions of the Archbishops’ Council’s inner circle.

In 2021, there were over 1600 objections to an infamous paper numbered GS2222, dubbed the “Church Closers’ Charter”.  It stated that the CofE’s 42 dioceses intended to scale up parish church closures by fast-tracking the process.

Following the outcry, the CofE declared that it had listened and understood the public lack of trust.  It asked STP for trust and help to improve this legislation.  It seemed churlish to refuse.  Participating in the ‘reference group’ provided an opportunity to rebalance the policy to benefit parishes.  Parishes could have been offered legal advice, mediation, even travel expenses to hearings on their church’s future.

But no.  Shortly before Synod, new paper GS2315 emerged.  At Synod Canon Flora Winfield, dismissing publicly-expressed reservations of reference group members, suggested that the impetus for change came m from Synod members (parish representatives).  Yet the new paper offered nothing to support parishes except a nebulous notion of ‘better pastoral conversations’.  She opposed Marcus Walker’s amendment to retain current parish rights of representation.

The premise that the parishes are currently treated properly is false.  The present church closure regime leads to many cases of institutionalised diocesan bullying, as witness the postbag of STP volunteers.

The new paper sounds worse than its hated predecessor; but, shamefully, Synod compliantly approved them both. If converted into legislation, it destines the CofE to the sad results of delocalisation, a looming disaster which is painfully obvious in the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales.

The Church’s protestations of love for the parishes ring hollow.  Central funds are channelled to bureaucrats who produce unAnglican, upside-down schemes to reduce rooted local parish clergy, converting clergy into area manager-supervisors, while lay people take services: a potential safeguarding nightmare. Vicars are increasingly brave about supporting STP publicly.  Alarm over the role of ‘oversight minister’ is spreading.

Anyone who loves parish churches needs to stand up and be counted.  Register as a supporter on (  Write to your MP.  Stand for General Synod in the next elections.  Help STP scrutinise whether the Church Commissioners can properly spend funds originally intended for parish ministry on alternative schemes which now undermine it.

1 Comment

Emma · 2 July 2023 at 9:01 pm

“Bishops need small mouths but enormous ears!”

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