Letter: Untie our priests to boost the Church

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: Stephen Trott ('Vicars in need of a shop steward', 24 August) raises a number of points over future pay and conditions for the clergy of the Church of England, but misses perhaps the single most pressing issue for them following the collapse of the Church Commissioners' funding: the absence of any housing provision other than the tied house.

At present, clergy are required by law to live in the parsonage house, which makes them, effectively, tenants in a tied house owned by the Church. The current stipend of around pounds 12,600 per annum reflects this 'benefit'. What, then, is the position for clergy on short-term contracts? Unless they have kindly relatives, working wives, or private means, they will be homeless at the end of their contract, and will have had little possibility of saving for a deposit on a house, or paying a mortgage, from the current stipend level.

If they manage to stay in post until retirement, the situation is still difficult. In the past, clergy could rely on help with retirement housing from the Church Commissioners, but this must now increasingly be questioned.

The tied clergy house benefits no one. It ties up huge amounts of the Church's capital in property ( pounds 10m in the Oxford Diocese alone). It ties up clergy families who otherwise would have the freedom and flexibility of their own house. It requires each diocese to employ staff and spend more money on maintenance.

It would surely be better to pay clergy an increased stipend, and allow them to build up equity in their parsonage house. This would eventually release large amounts of capital which could be better used for mission, and would enable clergy to buy their own house when they retire, or when their contracts expire. It might even make it a little easier for those few clergy who have had enough of parish ministry to move on.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD THOMAS

Communications Officer

Oxford Diocese

Abingdon on Thames,

Oxfordshire

25 August

Comments