The Church Commissioners' accounts for 1997 showed that George Carey's stipend will be pounds 51,020, while the Archbishop of York, David Hope, will receive pounds 44,700 and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, will receive pounds 41,660. Most clergymen earn around pounds 15,000 per year.
In the past 10 years, parochial ministry support by the Church Commissioners has dropped by two thirds to pounds 19.5m per year from pounds 57.4m. Payments for bishops and cathedral stipends, episcopal housing and administration and grants to cathedrals has risen by three quarters, to pounds 18.5m.
Yesterday the First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Michael Colman, welcomed the news that the commissioners' assets had grown during 1997 from pounds 2,976m to pounds 3,481m. Investments were being switched from property to equities, he said, with a view to long-term stability. During the 1980s the commissioners lost large sums of money in property deals.
But, he added, the pounds 205m raised by parishes in 1996 was too low to fund the clergy's pensions in future. The commissioners will pay only for pensions earned before 1 January this year, and in future dioceses and parishes will have to fund them. In addition, the commissioners' share of the clergy pay bill has been cut from pounds 62.7m in 1992 to 24.8m in 1997.
Instead, Sir Michael said, the commissioners had targeted grants to some of the neediest dioceses.
He defended the Archbishop's stipends but added that clergy who were prepared to work for pounds 15,000 were "very committed people". George Carey's pay was not much for what he did, he said.
"I think it is greatly to his credit that he manages on that. He has a position with a lot of responsibility. It's very little."
Stuart Bell, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough and parliamentary representative of the Church Commissioners, welcomed the fact that their investments had done better than the average.
"This continuing acceptance of responsibility and extra generosity from the parishes will enable the commissioners to continue to fulfil their core responsibility of supporting the church's ministry in poorer areas," he said.
However, Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said the church had not got its priorities right.
"To the rich shall be given and from the poor shall be taken away," he said. "The church appears to put the comfort of bishops above the needs of the parishes."