The Church of England was threatened yesterday with a parliamentary scrutiny of its finances and organisation by the Commons Social Security Committee, which is examining changes in pensions policy proposed by the General Synod.
This apparently arcane topic has revived tensions between the General Synod and a minority of MPs passionately interested in church affairs, among them Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead who chairs the committee.
Mr Field believes that the church should reform itself by means of a Bill, which Parliament can modify, and not by a measure, which is a law that Parliament can only accept or reject as a whole.
Philip Mawer, the General Synod's secretary-general, told the committee that removing the administration of clergy pensions from the Church Commissioners was necessary if the laity were to pay their share. The commissioners, who manage the Church of England's assets, lost pounds 800m in property speculation in the late Eighties.
He said a "fundamental shift" was taking place in church funding, with parishes and dioceses taking on more of the burden.
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