Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Next for FCA? Giving money in gospel partnership

One of the issues presented at the FCA launch was that of funding. It is a fact that not everything which is funded by parish contributions (‘quota’, etc) within the Church of England is something which FCA types would always want to support.

However, it is surely also a fact that paying your way in the Church of England and, if possible, supporting those who cannot afford to do so, is a moral, scriptural and gospel obligation. (Indeed, this was one of the things brought out in Bishop Wallace Benn’s talk.)

For this reason, I have never been a particular enthusiast for so-called ‘quota capping’ —restricting the money one will pay in quota —and even less for quota cutting. If one belongs to a supra-congregational Church one’s fellowship in the gospel is expressed through funding support, not through funding reduction.

Yet at the same time I am painfully aware that the funding system of the Church of England is, as Canon Bob Jackson has identified, based on socialist rather than gospel principles. It is about ensuring a slice of the cake for all and sundry, paid for by what is effectively a tax on the putative ‘rich’, rather than cheerful partnership in evangelism and mission.

Thus we always seem to be on the horns of a dilemma. Every now and then, some radical segment of the Church (usually one which can afford to do so) cuts its quota to express its frustration at what some other radical wing (often one with episcopal powers or backing) has done. But the outcome is usually just to alienate the radical non-givers from rest of the hard-pressed, if not so radical, givers.

It creates some self-satisfaction, and great annoyance, but little reform. Meanwhile the ‘system’, which is able to soak up huge amounts of financial damage, rolls on unchanged.

There is, however, a simple and workable alternative which would both ensure that a good deal of ‘quota’ giving went to causes of which the givers would approve and which, at the same time, would meet all one’s quota obligations. It is not perfect. It would not stop some money being spent in ways the givers might regret. But then the same is true of our taxes, and we know that we should all pay them (Rom 13:6-7).

So here is my simple system for radically changing the financial workings of the Church of England without penalizing the dioceses or defaulting on one’s obligations, or even having to make significant changes in the present structures.

1. Set up a charity. Let’s call it, for the sake of argument, the FCA Ministry Support Fund (MSF for short), using lay people with financial and charities expertise. The terms of this charity are to fund ministry in the Church of England amongst parishes affiliated to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

2. Set up diocesan administrative branches of the MSF, again using voluntary lay expertise.

3. The local administrators invite parishes in each diocese affiliated to the FCA to contact them with offers to make a donation. These offers would be based on a percentage of their quota.

4. The administrators simultaneously invite clergy on the diocesan payroll who are affiliates of, or in parishes affiliated to, the FCA to request grant support for their ministry.

5. The local administrators then work out how much is needed from the donor parishes to meet the grant requests from the affiliated clergy.

6. The administrators write to the donor parishes asking them to send a cheque to help meet the requested grant support. The cheques should be payable to the FCA MSF.

7. Having cashed the cheques from the parishes, the administrators make out appropriate cheques to the ministers who have requested grant support. NB: it is essential that all the money received from donor parishes is paid out to stipendiary ministers in the same diocese.

Now this is where it gets clever. At the end of the financial year, every minister in the Church of England who is on a diocesan payroll fills in a pink form called the PUN. On it, he or she enters all income received from sources such as fees for occasional offices, chaplaincies, etc. All such ‘additional income’ is deducted the following year from the minister’s stipend paid from diocesan central funds. This ensures that everyone gets paid basically the same, even though in ‘good’ or ‘fallow’ years there may be slight peaks and troughs. Provided the form is filled in with honesty, the system is self-regulating, and has been in place for years. So ...

8. The minister who has received an FCA MSF grant puts the figure in the appropriate box on that year’s PUN form.

9. The administrators send to the donor parishes an account of donations received and ministers supported. Obviously the ‘income’ and ‘expenditure’ figures should be the same.

10. The donor parishes send a copy of these accounts to the Diocesan Board of Finance pointing out that £X of their quota has been paid via the FCA MSF which supports ministers within their Diocese.

11. Next year, the amount paid to ministers in receipt of income via the FCA MSF for that diocese is reduced by the DBF (via the Church Commissioners), and the whole thing begins again.

The result is that quota is paid in full, dioceses are only very slightly inconvenienced until the system settles down, and as much money as possible goes directly to the presumed ‘good guys’.

This system is actually workable, provided one sticks to what is outlined above. (In fact for a while in Chelmsford we made it work on a small scale.) It is more a case, I believe, of ‘where there’s a will’.

Revd John P Richardson
8 July 2009

As a PS, it is worth pointing out that this would essentially do the same as was once done by that venerable body, The Additional Curates Society. This was set up in the nineteenth century to provide curates to Tractarian parishes that could not afford them. Constitutionally, therefore, it was somewhat ‘partisan’, as indeed an FCA fund would be. However, the institution learned to cope, and today the ACS is regarded as part of the scenery, no more controversial than CPAS or the Church Times' Train a Priest fund. (A typical case, I think, of what George Melly called ‘Revolt into Style’.)

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  1. Does this system assume that parishes and their ministers are both of the same mind? It's not inconceivable that may not be true.

    Lynda Buckley, Plymouth

  2. Lynda, this system does require the agreement of minister and PCC from the donation point of view. Legally, the disposal of monies collected by the church is their responsibility (and their choice).

    However, any individual could 'opt in', just as he or she could opt to keep fees from weddings and funerals rather than assign them immediately to the diocese. In the case of the PUN, it makes no difference whether or not you do this (unless you get a huge amount of fees) as it all comes off next year's stipend anyway.

    In the first instance, therefore, I would anticipate a relatively small number of donor parishes in any one diocese, but I also anticipate this would grow.

    Incidentally, a PCC could use this method to support their own minister rather more directly than through the quota, should they choose.

    As a last point, not all dioceses, of course, operate a 'quota' style system.

  3. On this scheme each parish is still paying the quota and each minister is still receiving the same amount in total. I don't see the advantage. The "direct support" is illusory.

  4. O/T here, but you may be interested in highlighting that Professor Paul Helm is running a series evaluating Tom Wright's response to John Piper on 'Justification', and whether Wright has misunderstood the Reformers (as I think he partially has):

    Mark B.

  5. David, if I can take each of your points in turn:

    1. On this scheme each parish is still paying the quota

    As was stated, this is not about quota capping or cutting. Indeed, why should it be, when we are members of the same Church committed to supporting one another?

    2. each minister is still receiving the same amount in total.

    This is exactly what I would hope as a minister!

    3. I don't see the advantage.

    The advantage is twofold: quota over and above 'costs' is directed to FCA parishes, and mutual support becomes more directly relational between donor and recipient, rather than being a 'tax' based system.

    4. The "direct support" is illusory.

    On the contrary, the direct support becomes more real.

    Where this particularly kicks in in with the support for churches which cannot pay their way, even regarding the costs of their minister. It would be perfectly possible for the minister to receive all his or her stipend from donor churches, thereby incidentally ensuring that their donations go to a 'good cause'.

    I think you will find the reaction of diocesan authorities to this scheme will tell you whether it creates any real change or not.

  6. vic Van Den Bergh9 July 2009 at 17:55

    There was a proposal a few years back for parishes to engage in 'Giving as Mission' whereby the parish paid the diocese what it cost rather than the parish share quote. The difference between 'cost' and 'share' was then given to a like-minded parish to enable them to pay whatever they cost the diocese.

    this way those churches which were orthodox (or the same flavour) were supported and no money when to support liberal or otherwise churches and ministries.

    This was seen as supporting parishes who were smaller and/or developing, establishing relationships and acting as Christians (a la Acts) and ensuring that none of the believers went without.

    All seemed a fair proposal for those who were otherwise speaking of merely withholding the share.



  7. John,

    I am trying yo follow the money flows. As far as rich evangelical parish is concerned, they have diverted part of the quota but their outgoings are not affected. As far as poor evangelical parish is concerned part of their ministers salary has been paid by rich evangelical but as his salary from the diocese is reduced this has no effect. Does their quota remain the same? As far as the diocese is concerned, the reduction in quota received, is matched by the reduction in stipends so they have the same money for other things.

    Now, gifts after the quota had been paid could be made to the other church.

    On what basis do you decide which cost to deduct from the quota? Are you just paying your won salaries and pensions? Do you accept the need for bishops, archdeacons, training etc? Is it just subsidies to other parishes you may not like that cause the problem?