A chance for the community to be heard
The Synod was in a sombre mood as it resumed the debate from the March meeting as the Diocesan Secretary, Richard Butler, reminded the Synod that last year, the Diocese was £600,000 overspent. The overspend has been increasing each year for the last three years and he reminded those present that this cannot continue. We need either to bring in more income, or make drastic cuts in the number of stipendiary clergy. It was in the light of these sobering figures that the parish share debate resumed.
Canon Sally Theakston, a member of the Parish Share Review Group, introduced an amendment on behalf of the Group which took into account the concerns expressed by Synod in March, namely concerning the perceived lack of consultation, and concerns about what support might be offered to those who will struggle to pay their Parish Share in the future.
She reminded Synod that more than 2100 lay leaders and clergy had attended the Central Visitations during May, and of those who sent in responses to the Parish Share presentation, 83% had agreed with the proposals for reforming the way in which Parish Share is allocated.
A long debate ensued in which many questions were asked and answered, and in which relief was expressed that those parishes which could quite easily pay their Parish Share, but choose not to, would be held to account. An additional two amendments were put forward including a request for an on-going review of the system, and both received the majority vote.
Bishop Graham powerfully reminded the Synod that Parish Share is not a "tax" but that giving joyfully is a vital element of discipleship. He said that we are being asked to give in order to fund the passing on of faith to next generation, and to think of Parish Share as paying for what we receive is "astonishingly consumerist". "It's all worth the effort if we want to proclaim the faith to the next generation", he concluded.
At the conclusion of the debate, the motion to accept the new system for the allocation of Parish Share was passed overwhelmingly, with 87 voting in favour, 7 against, and 6 abstentions.
A longer report will be posted on the website later this week and will also feature in Across the See.