Letter: The church needs frankness, rather than apologies

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The Independent Online
Sir: As one member of the General Synod who has been in the fore in criticising the Church Commissioners both before and since their serious financial difficulties came to light, I welcome Frank Field's letter to Dr Carey (Section II, 16 February).

He is right to stress the serious situation facing the Church of England at this time. This calls for firm leadership from the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops. They must try to ensure that the run-down in the commissioners' allocation to parishes is, as far as is possible, spread out over two or three years so that the whole parish system is not put at risk.

Where I disagree with Mr Field is in his call for more public apologies. A full apology was given to church members by a leading commissioner, the Bishop of Chelmsford, at last November's meeting of the General Synod.

This is not the time for further recriminations, but for frankness from the commissioners. I agree with Mr Field that Sir Michael Colman, the new First Church Estates Commissioner, has made an encouraging start and deserves the church's backing in his efforts to reform the commissioners. What I believe church members also want to see is that the reform involves some immediate and further significant reduction in the pounds 12m administrative costs of the commissioners and allied bodies.

Mr Field writes that the 'laity are not going to give money to the commissioners'. No one is asking them to do so, but what we are being challenged to do is to double our average weekly giving to around pounds 5, not an insuperable task.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID WEBSTER

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

16 February

The writer is a member of the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England.

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