The Church Commissioners are accountable to Parliament.  The General Synod is a devolved administration whose legislation (Measures) have to be approved by Parliament.  One manifestation of this constitutional arrangement is that Parliamentary Questions can be asked of the Church Commissioners.  This is done through the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, Member for South West Bedfordshire.  Any MP can ask him a written or oral question and he will obtain a response from the Church Commissioners, which in turn he passes back to the questioning MP.  Oral questions are only heard a very few at a time and about once per month.  Written questions generally get a response within 10 days.

All Parliamentary Questions and answers are published by Parliament and therefore in the public domain.  Questions and answers pertinent to Save The Parish will also be published here on our website.  Asking a question about concerns you might have about the future of your parish is a good way to get your MP involved.  As a constituent, your MP should support you in asking questions of the Church Commissioners.  But you do not have to use your own MP.  If you know of a supportive MP from another constituency you can ask them to submit your question.

Save The Parish will be very grateful for your help in the asking of information-seeking Parliamentary Questions, as using this mechanism encourages MPs to recognise Parliament’s role as the ultimate authority over the Church of England and to engage with the issues affecting local parishes

Top tip:  As you can see from the style of questions and answers below, the Church Commissioners appear unwilling to give much information in response to a question.  Persistence is needed to ‘drill down‘ with tighter and tighter wording each time you ask.  Try to make the link between the responsibility of the Church Commissioners and the nature of your question.  They like to hide behind the independence of the dioceses, but many of the policies and resources flow from the Church Commissioners, via the Archbishops’ Council (of which they are a part).

Thank you and good luck.

Leicester

PQ153706

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141113, and with reference to the finding of the report Growing Deeper that where there is an increase in stipendiary clergy, there is a greater likelihood of growth, a decrease in stipendiary clergy is more likely, on average, to lead to decline, what impact is expected on the size of the worshipping community (as defined in Statistics for Mission) in the Diocese of Leicester, as a result of implementing Shaped by God Together, in which each Minister Community may have only one ordained oversight minister; and what the five-year budget forecast is of giving across the Leicester Diocese as a result of the implementation of Shaped by God Together.

A.

The plan referred to has been developed by the diocese of Leicester, which is responsible for the mission of the Church of England in that diocese. All dioceses are seeking to grow their worshipping communities and wherever possible to create financially sustainable churches, in order to sustain the mission of the Church across the entire country.

Lincoln

PQ153707

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141113, and with reference to the finding of the report Growing Deeper that where there is an increase in stipendiary clergy, there is a greater likelihood of growth, a decrease in stipendiary clergy is more likely, on average, to lead to decline, what impact is expected on the size of the worshipping community (as defined in Statistics for Mission) in the Diocese of Lincoln, as a result of implementing A Time to Change Together, in which across the new Deanery Partnerships the total number of stipendiary ministers will fall; and what the five-year budget forecast is of giving across the Lincoln Diocese as a result of implementation of A Time to Change Together.

A.

The plan referred to has been developed by the Diocese of Lincoln, which is responsible for the mission of the Church of England in that diocese. All dioceses are seeking to grow their worshipping communities and wherever possible to create financially sustainable churches, in order to sustain the mission of the Church across the entire country.

Liverpool

PQ153708
To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141113, and with reference to the finding of the report Growing Deeper that where there is an increase in stipendiary clergy, there is a greater likelihood of growth, a decrease in stipendiary clergy is more likely, on average, to lead to decline, what impact is expected on the size of the worshipping community (as defined in Statistics for Mission) in the Diocese of Liverpool, as a result of implementing Fit for Mission, in which teams will cover bigger areas; and what the five-year budget forecast is of giving across the Liverpool Diocese as a result of implementation of Fit for Mission.

A.
The plan referred to has been developed by the Diocese of Liverpool, which is responsible for the mission of the Church of England in that diocese. All dioceses are seeking to grow their worshipping communities and wherever possible to create financially sustainable churches, in order to sustain the mission of the Church across the entire country.

Wigan

PQ149136
To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the Transforming Wigan project in the Diocese of Liverpool, if the Church of England will provide figures for the worshipping community in each of the (a) 29 former parishes and (b) 7 new parishes in the deanery of Wigan in the Diocese of Liverpool in each year from 2016 to 2021.

A.
While financial accounts of parishes are publicly available on the Charity Commission’s website, it is not the policy of the National Church Institutions to publish the data on attendance and finances that they request from individual parishes, because the right to publish is not given by parishes when they provide the data to the national Church.

PQ149137
To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the Transforming Wigan project in the Diocese of Liverpool, if the Church of England will provide figures for parish giving in each of the (a) 29 former parishes and (b) 7 new parishes in the Deanery of Wigan in the Diocese of Liverpool in each year from 2016 to 2021.

A.
While financial accounts of parishes are publicly available on the Charity Commission’s website, it is not the policy of the National Church Institutions to publish the data on attendance and finances that they request from individual parishes, because the right to publish is not given by parishes when they provide the data to the national Church.

 

PQ149138
To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the pastoral reorganisation of Wigan in the Diocese of Liverpool, Scheme 08072019, if the Diocese will provide figures for the (a) requested and (b) donated Parish Share in each of the 29 former parishes and the 7 new parishes in each year from 2016 to 2021.

A.
While financial accounts of parishes are publicly available on the Charity Commission’s website, it is not the policy of the National Church Institutions to publish the data on attendance and finances that they request from individual parishes, because the right to publish is not given by parishes when they provide the data to the national Church.

 

PQs on Dispossessions.

PQ137966

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, how many clergy of incumbent status have been dispossessed in each of the last five years, broken down by (a) diocese and (b) year by year; and how many schemes, including dispossession of office, are being prepared.

A.

Under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 clergy may be dispossessed of their office when changes are made to the administrative geography for worship, ministry, and mission, such as parish or benefice boundaries. The table below summarises the number of dispossessions for 2017-2021 by diocese, based on the date when they legally came into effect. There are currently 5 schemes where the process has been started, but where we do not yet know the outcome.

Year Diocese clergy dispossession
2017 0
2018 Gloucester 1
2019 0
2020 Portsmouth 6
2021 St Albans 2

 

PQs on Mega-parishes.

PQ141113

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the Church of England’s report, entitled From Anecdote to Evidence, what planning assumptions have been made in dioceses where large parish structures are being implemented in relation to the consequent fall in congregation numbers and drop in giving.

A.

In the area of parish structures, the From Anecdote to Evidence report has been superseded by more recent research reports called Growing Deeper and Stronger as One. Both reports can be viewed at: Findings and reports | The Church of England(opens in a new tab)

This research has shown that there is no statistically significant relationship between the number of churches within a benefice (the benefice structure) and numerical growth or decline, once clergy numbers, geography, population change and initial church size are taken into account.

The specific planning assumptions are for individual dioceses and not the Church Commissioners.

 

PQ141114

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the announcements of the cities of Leicester, Lincoln and Liverpool on plans to implement large parish structures in February 2022, what arrangements will be put in place to compensate for the loss in local pastoral care.

A

Local strategies are for individual dioceses to work out, not the Church Commissioners.

In each of these cases, the change in structures are to enable effective ministry, including pastoral care, to be present in communities given the challenges in the overall numbers of clergy and the financial challenge facing the Church, especially post-Covid. In each of the cases there is an anticipation of better pastoral care than under the status quo.

 

PQ141115

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what estimate he has made of the potential net financial saving of areas that plan to implement large parish structures.

A

Local strategies are for individual dioceses to work out, not the Church Commissioners.

These large parish structures are not primarily about achieving financial savings, but ensuring that there is effective ministry and service to the community, given the financial and other constraints that the Church faces.

The dioceses of the Church of England are not-for-profit organisations, and so all funds are reinvested in the work of the Church, and the proposed changes are about how to use these funds in the best possible way to serve the whole of England.

 

PQ141116

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what alternative approaches to savings were considered at the same time as large parish structures and why were these alternatives rejected.

A

Local strategies are for individual dioceses to work out, not the Church Commissioners.

These large parish structures are not primarily about achieving financial savings, but ensuring that there is effective ministry and service to the community, given the financial and other constraints that the Church faces. Where funding has been awarded by the Church Commissioners, there has been a requirement to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and these have been scrutinised by funding award panels.

 

PQ145801

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what plans the Church of England has to change the definition of a parish; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 on the definition of a parish.

A.

There are no plans to change the legal definition of a parish.

The Mission and Pastoral Measure carries forward from previous legislation a well-established legal definition of a parish in section 105: Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 (legislation.gov.uk)(opens in a new tab)

The Church Representation Rules also contain a definition in rule 82: Church Representation Rules online – part 8 | The Church of England

 

PQ148039

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141116 on Church of England: Finance, where funding has been awarded by the Church Commissioners to facilitate bringing about large parish structures, what (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages were identified during scrutiny by funding awarding panels.

A

Funding is not given to dioceses solely for the purpose of facilitating large parish structures, but this may be a part of a wider plan that is funded by Strategic Transformation Funding, and scrutinised by the Strategic Investment Board, a subcommittee of the Archbishops’ Council.

The aims of the funding are to support major change programmes that fit with a diocese’s strategic plans and make a significant difference to their mission and financial strength. Alongside this they must help develop flourishing mission and ministry over a 5-10 year period, demonstrate a sustainable financial and people plan, and design a clear pathway to a thriving and sustainable future, with a clear plan for growth.

The assessment criteria are based around ‘Strategic Impact’ (e.g. is there a hope-filled vision embracing all contexts and traditions, a robust analysis, analysis between options, evidence or convincing logic in the approach, defining roles of clergy and lay ministers, alignment with evidence) and ‘Programme Delivery Confidence’ (e.g. is there a detailed financial plan, capability and capacity for change, a detailed measurement framework, and support for the wider cultural and emotional aspects). It would not be appropriate to reveal the internal conversations of the Strategic Investment Board, but all projects would be required to meet these criteria to access funding.

It is for individual dioceses to make decisions about the appropriate numbers of incumbent stipendiary ministers for that diocese, and also to make financial planning assumptions appropriate to their context.

 

PQ148040

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141115 on Church of England: Finance, what metrics the Church of England used to measure effective ministry in dioceses planning large parish structures; and what steps the Church of England plans to take to measure effectiveness of new ministry arrangements

A.

Funding is not given to dioceses solely for the purpose of facilitating large parish structures, but this may be a part of a wider plan that is funded by Strategic Transformation Funding, and scrutinised by the Strategic Investment Board, a subcommittee of the Archbishops’ Council.

The aims of the funding are to support major change programmes that fit with a diocese’s strategic plans and make a significant difference to their mission and financial strength. Alongside this they must help develop flourishing mission and ministry over a 5-10 year period, demonstrate a sustainable financial and people plan, and design a clear pathway to a thriving and sustainable future, with a clear plan for growth.

The assessment criteria are based around ‘Strategic Impact’ (e.g. is there a hope-filled vision embracing all contexts and traditions, a robust analysis, analysis between options, evidence or convincing logic in the approach, defining roles of clergy and lay ministers, alignment with evidence) and ‘Programme Delivery Confidence’ (e.g. is there a detailed financial plan, capability and capacity for change, a detailed measurement framework, and support for the wider cultural and emotional aspects). It would not be appropriate to reveal the internal conversations of the Strategic Investment Board, but all projects would be required to meet these criteria to access funding.

It is for individual dioceses to make decisions about the appropriate numbers of incumbent stipendiary ministers for that diocese, and also to make financial planning assumptions appropriate to their context.

 

PQ148041

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141114 on Church of England: Finance, what steps the Church of England has taken to assess the effect of removing incumbent stipendiary ministers in the Leicester, Lincoln and Liverpool dioceses on the quality of pastoral care

A.

Funding is not given to dioceses solely for the purpose of facilitating large parish structures, but this may be a part of a wider plan that is funded by Strategic Transformation Funding, and scrutinised by the Strategic Investment Board, a subcommittee of the Archbishops’ Council.

The aims of the funding are to support major change programmes that fit with a diocese’s strategic plans and make a significant difference to their mission and financial strength. Alongside this they must help develop flourishing mission and ministry over a 5-10 year period, demonstrate a sustainable financial and people plan, and design a clear pathway to a thriving and sustainable future, with a clear plan for growth.

The assessment criteria are based around ‘Strategic Impact’ (e.g. is there a hope-filled vision embracing all contexts and traditions, a robust analysis, analysis between options, evidence or convincing logic in the approach, defining roles of clergy and lay ministers, alignment with evidence) and ‘Programme Delivery Confidence’ (e.g. is there a detailed financial plan, capability and capacity for change, a detailed measurement framework, and support for the wider cultural and emotional aspects). It would not be appropriate to reveal the internal conversations of the Strategic Investment Board, but all projects would be required to meet these criteria to access funding.

It is for individual dioceses to make decisions about the appropriate numbers of incumbent stipendiary ministers for that diocese, and also to make financial planning assumptions appropriate to their context.

 

PQ148042

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 18 March 2022 to Question 141113 on Church of England: Finance, and with reference to the Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment research, published in August 2016, what financial planning assumptions have been made in the dioceses of (a) Leicester, (b) Lincoln and (c) Liverpool on parish giving over the next five years.

A.

Funding is not given to dioceses solely for the purpose of facilitating large parish structures, but this may be a part of a wider plan that is funded by Strategic Transformation Funding, and scrutinised by the Strategic Investment Board, a subcommittee of the Archbishops’ Council.

The aims of the funding are to support major change programmes that fit with a diocese’s strategic plans and make a significant difference to their mission and financial strength. Alongside this they must help develop flourishing mission and ministry over a 5-10 year period, demonstrate a sustainable financial and people plan, and design a clear pathway to a thriving and sustainable future, with a clear plan for growth.

The assessment criteria are based around ‘Strategic Impact’ (e.g. is there a hope-filled vision embracing all contexts and traditions, a robust analysis, analysis between options, evidence or convincing logic in the approach, defining roles of clergy and lay ministers, alignment with evidence) and ‘Programme Delivery Confidence’ (e.g. is there a detailed financial plan, capability and capacity for change, a detailed measurement framework, and support for the wider cultural and emotional aspects). It would not be appropriate to reveal the internal conversations of the Strategic Investment Board, but all projects would be required to meet these criteria to access funding.

It is for individual dioceses to make decisions about the appropriate numbers of incumbent stipendiary ministers for that diocese, and also to make financial planning assumptions appropriate to their context.

 

PQs on Wigan:

PQ148043

To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the Transforming Wigan project in the Diocese of Liverpool, (a) how much Strategic Development Fund funding has been awarded in each of the seven years of the project and (b) what assessment has been made of the effectiveness of that funding.

A.

The Transforming Wigan project was awarded £900,000 of Strategic Development Funding in 2014, which was drawn down in full by the end of 2019. As with all Strategic Development Funding projects, the project was subject to ongoing monitoring and evaluation by the Strategic Investment Board. The programme has generated significant learning, as well as generating outcomes around starting new church communities, engaging young people, developing new leaders, financial sustainability, and community support.