On 11 July 2023, following a debate on the reduction of marriage fees, the General Synod of the Church of England supported a regional trial for providing “weddings free of all statutory fees”. An update has now been circulated with the papers for the forthcoming Group of Sessions for the meeting at Church House on 23 to 27 February 2024, and this is summarized below.
The motion as presented by the Blackburn Diocese called for the abolition of wedding fees on a national basis, and as such would have been straightforward, if controversial to implement; the amended motion called for a regional experiment to generate evidence in support of claims that a waiver of wedding fees would increase the number of church weddings and that donations could compensate for the loss of fee income.
The Faith and Public Life, Legal, Data Services and Comms teams undertook “considerable work” after which “it [was reluctantly] concluded that such a regional experiment cannot be designed in a way which could realistically provide the data intended and that attempting to do so would incur disproportionate effort, especially by the parish clergy, and cost. Alternative approaches to generating such data have proved to be dead-ends”.
The update states:
“. Whereas a permanent national waiver of fees could be implemented once and for all, and the desired consequences would either follow or not, designing an experiment to provide data on the likely consequences is much more complicated.
“. In the light of the difficulty in enacting the terms of the motion as passed by Synod, and bearing in mind that, for many, this was essentially a moral rather than an empirical argument, it is proposed that a review of the parochial fee structure be undertaken as part of the current review of Lowest Income Communities Funding (LInC) and Diocesan Apportionment currently being undertaken by the Finance Committee in the context of the Diocesan Finance Review, explicitly considering all fees for occasional offices and evaluating the financial impact of changing the system”.
The assessment addressed: the legal issues, [6, 7]; a regional experimental model,  to ; a Polling Option,  to ; an impressionistic survey ; and costs, , . On the broader issues associated with fees:
“. Given that the motion refers only to wedding fees, and wider questions about fees for occasional offices etc. are being raised elsewhere there may be advantages in considering all questions about fees together in a broader review. A Diocesan Synod Motion for the Diocese of London is currently tabled, calling for an element of funeral fees to be allocated to the PCC, and a PMM from the mover of the original motion on wedding fees, calling for the fee for a funeral to be set at zero, is gathering signatures. These, and related questions, would best be tackled a spart of one policy issue.”
On the basis of the above, it assessed whether this project was achievable, and in conclusion stated:
“. The Synod debate has shown that there is an appetite to reconsider the practice of charging fees for church weddings. This appetite may extend to other fees for occasional offices. In the light of the above, we suggest that the terms of the amended Synod motion will not provide data or other material that will materially inform a decision on the future of wedding fees and that the questions should be approached by other routes.
. We propose, therefore, that:
- a review of the parochial fee structure be undertaken as part of the current review of LInC Funding and Diocesan Apportionment currently being undertaken by the Finance Committee in the context of the Diocesan Finance Review, explicitly considering all fees for occasional offices and evaluating the financial impact of changing the system; and
- the Archbishops’ Council give further consideration to the moral and practical questions around parochial fees in the round, not just fees for weddings, with a view to bringing proposals relating to future parochial fee arrangements to Synod within the next 12 months.”
With regard to the costs of funerals, excluding parochial fees (where applicable), see the Competition and Markets Authority Press Release Funeral costs increased slower than inflation following CMA order issued on 9 February 2024.
 Scroll down. This PMM requested the Archbishops’ Council “to design, fund and implement a time-limited, regional trial of providing funeral services free of all statutory fees (retaining a reduced fee for the burial of a body or of cremated remains in a churchyard); and to report back to Synod on the impact it made on the number of funerals conducted, pastoral and missional contacts made, on charitable giving in connection with provision of funeral services, and on projected parochial and diocesan finances”. At the time of writing this post, the web page indicated: “ 0 signatures as at 15 September 2023″.
Updated 12 February 2024 at 09:37.