Monday, 7 July 2008

Giving As Partners: how to get over quota without penalizing your diocese

At the All Souls meeting on July 1st, Archbishop Peter Jensen challenged the delegates to find ‘English solutions for English problems’.

The first task is to identify English problems — what is it that is causing the Liberal drift and the continuation of the Liberal hegemony in the Church of England? Having done that, we just might be able to come up with some solutions.

One of the problems that has been addressed in the past is funding. In many Anglican dioceses, funding of ministry is achieved via ‘centralized pooled funding’ — usually referred to as ‘quota’ or ‘family purse’. In principle this is a good and ‘Christian’ way of doing things. In practice, it is not only inefficient and ineffective, as Archdeacon Bob Jackson argues in his book The Road to Growth, but it also means that ministry is funded irregardless of its content — orthodox or otherwise.

The reaction of funding parishes has often been to impose a ‘quota cap’ of some sort — limiting the amount of money paid to the diocese and spending it elsewhere. Sometimes there have been little outbursts of such ‘quota capping’ in response to offence taken at some diocesan action or other.

The result of this, however, has been largely limited and negative. Quota capping hits the total diocesan budget and involves everyone, rather like the class that is given detention because one pupil made a rude noise. It also creates deep local resentments. Jackson’s point is partly that quota itself sets up inter-parish competition and damages relationships. Quota capping exacerbates the problems this causes.

It was in view of this that some years ago I came up with a proposal called ‘Giving As Partners’ — GAP for short.

The beauty of GAP was that it used the existing financial systems of the Church of England to allow parishes to target support to one another: to enter into partnerships of giving and receiving.

Most importantly, it was not a quota cap. The partnership parish received the money it needed to support its ministry, but the diocesan budget was not hit at all as a result. There was also the advantage that anyone who paid quota could play — technically even if they were not nett giving parishes (although that would make it a bit pointless in reality).

The means to this simple end involves the so-called ‘Pink Form’ that clergy fill in each year. Any income received from sources such as fees or chaplaincies is entered on this form and the following year it is deducted from the minister’s salary. GAP money was to be paid directly from the giving parish to the receiving parish’s minister. The minister would then declare the money received on next year’s Pink Form and receive correspondingly less from ‘quota’ sources the year after.

Although this would involve a small ‘peak and trough’ effect in one year (as does any sudden rise in a minister’s income from other sources), eventually the whole thing would balance itself out and settle down.

Unfortunately, although Church Society published a booklet presenting the arguments for GAP, and although we briefly made it work for a while here in Chelmsford, there was no take up anywhere else. This was, I think, a great shame, as it was definitely workable. Some people seemed to think it was not radical enough in penalizing ‘bad’ dioceses. My point is that it was never designed to do that. To repeat, the diocesan budget based on quota is not hit at all by this system. What is does do is create partnerships in giving and receiving financial support and thus goes part way to solving an English problem with a very English solution.

The GAP paper can be downloaded as a pdf file here.

John Richardson
7 July 2008

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  1. Hi John - the final link to the GAP paper doesn't seem to work.

    Lots of agreement with you on this topic!!