Church of England charitable donations fall despite increase in income

The parish share is a voluntary contribution paid by each of the 12,500 parishes for the work of the church in each diocese and beyond. It can range from just a few thousand pounds to over £200,000 a year.

Rev. Simon Grigg, the Rector of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, London, known as the ‘Actors’ Church’ due to its location in the heart of the West End and its long-standing association with the theater community, said: ‘My guess for the reasons for this would be : It all comes down to the centralization of the Church that has been going on for the last 30 years.

“The central church has made more and more demands on the parishioners for the parish share. It has risen and risen ridiculously. My community share is expected to be around £86,000 a year.

“People are going to be generous to their local church, but that proportion is going up and up. It is a total failure to understand our churches… I can understand why individual church members‘ dues are increasing – they are under pressure to pay the church share.

“And now they have to start trimming that ridiculously bloated central church. People will fight for and support their local church, but they have no support or love for the diocese or church house.

“The 30-year experiment is over… and the money needs to go back to the communities. The people who run the Church of England either don’t understand or love the parish system.”

“Hard to swallow for local community members”

Rev. Robert Campbell Paget, pastor of All Saints Church in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, responded to the data and added: “Sadly, ‘ridiculous’ is hardly an exaggeration given the empirical evidence and stated intentions.

“The argument for more donations from the parishes, but with fewer and fewer officeholders – and even those just meant to ‘manage decline’ – is hard to stomach, and not just for the families and businesses of the local parishioners trying to look after their Cutting back opportunities goes against sound financial and strategic sense.

“My own PCC for several years [Parochial Church Council] has reduced its voluntary offer to the diocese until we are presented with a realistic growth strategy that does not involve the sale of family silver in the form of church property or maintaining a nearly seven-figure current deficit.

“Increasing centralization in the Church of England in general, throwing money at virtue signaling projects – not the same as ‘charity’ – and hiring more and more advisers and experts will only hasten its implosion as an institution.

“It’s the hierarchy’s strategic planning and financial acumen that we question: localism, not centralism, should be the order of the day.”

“Overburdened” Churches

The parish portion often goes toward vital resources like paying a pastor. However, parishioners and clergy in the countryside warn they have been forced to share a vicar in several parishes, or claim they have been threatened with not getting a vicar unless they pay thousands of pounds to the church.

The wide range of proposed donations is intended to reflect the varying sizes of churches and the difference between very small operations in rural areas versus larger urban churches with more parishioners and resources.

However, a significant increase in the parish share since the 1990s has “overwhelmed” the parishes – church leaders, treasurers and clergy have claimed.

According to The Telegraph’s analysis of the latest publicly available data, CofE has halved the proportion of its money it spends on charitable donations in 30 years.

Since 1989, the Church has reduced the proportion of charitable causes in total spending from 11.5 percent to 5.5 percent in 2019.

In fact, the Church’s annual material expenditure has increased from £500 million a year to around £870 million, an increase of almost 80 per cent.

However, the amount given to charity has fallen from £58million to £48million over the same period.

The numbers also show that the average churchgoer is giving about three times more in real terms in 2019 than in 1989.

For example, in the 1990s churches experienced an explosion in donations through round plates and planned giving, meaning the average churchgoer would give £11.80 in 2019 (up from £4.10 in 1987).

Across the 44 dioceses, average payments range from £7.20 in Lincoln per individual churchgoer per week to £17.80 in Guildford.

“All expenses of the Church are charitable”

The numbers come as data showed Sunday church attendance has almost halved in 30 years. Between 1987 and 2019, the number fell from around 1.2 million to 679,000. In London, however, the number of churchgoers rose from 52,700 to 53,600 during the same period – an increase of 1.7 per cent.

A CofE spokesman said: “Parish churches do great community service in their local communities every day. These include soup kitchens, support for the homeless, food banks, English courses to help people find jobs, support for the elderly, working with schools and other community organizations, bereavement and other counseling.

“All church expenses are charitable including this amazing work being done by clergy and parishioners and there are 35,000 social action projects like this being run by our parish churches. Church donations to third-party charities are just part of their extensive missionary work.

“Church charitable spending has increased over the long term in line with charitable giving to the Church, and we are grateful to those who faithfully support the Church’s mission and service. At the same time, the total parish share has increased by less than inflation.”

Comments are closed.