An open letter from William Nye to Martyn Percy
The following open letter was published today from William Nye, Secretary General, Archbishops’ Council, to the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.
I have been following with interest your exchange of letters with Adrian Hilton about Renewal and Reform. I wouldn’t want to comment on all the issues raised; it’s good to have a debate like this going on. But I would like to correct one point in your second letter published today.
You say there is a “proposed initiative of the ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda: namely to divert funds away from needy and over-stretched rural parishes, and hand the money over to successful, ‘growing’ suburban parishes.” And you go on to call it “despicable” and “incomprehensible.”
That’s not quite the language I tend to use about ideas from other Christians. But I can see that you would have grounds to be upset if there were such a plan. But there isn’t.
I infer that you are referring to the plan, approved by the General Synod, to replace the current (Darlow) formula for distributing income from the Church Commissioners’ endowment. Up to this year, dioceses have been free to spend it as they wish, whether on urban, rural or suburban ministry. From next year half of the available funding will be distributed to just over half of dioceses as money they can spend only in their Lowest Income Communities (so in the poorest parts of the country), and half will be available for all dioceses to apply to for investment in new growth opportunities.
What the latter half of the money is spent on (some £24 million in 2017) depends what ideas dioceses come up with. But in the pilot phases of this in the last couple of years, projects supported have included Exeter’s ‘Support for Rural Churches’ programme, which has received £1 million specifically aimed at engaging 100 rural churches, and creating four rural resource hubs.
Other examples include Southwell & Nottingham’s ‘Growing Disciples: Wider, Younger and Deeper’ which aims to establish 75 new worshipping communities reaching into all parts of the diocese: urban centre, outer estates, market towns and smaller rural communities; and Carlisle’s ‘God for All: Establishing New Mission Communities across Cumbria’ which involves establishing 35-40 new collaborative ‘Mission Communities’. There is absolutely no bias either against rural areas, or in favour of suburban areas. And there is a very strong bias to ministry among the poorest, whether urban or rural.
Secretary General, Archbishops’ Council
11th Nov 2016