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Church of England to pump £3.6bn into parishes and fund more social action

By Harriet Sherwood and Kalyeena Makortoff
Justin Welby said the C of E had been heavy-handed in concentrating funds on urban churches in recent years.
Justin Welby said the C of E had been heavy-handed in concentrating funds on urban churches in recent years. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty

The Church of England is to pump £3.6bn into its 12,500 parishes over the next nine years in an effort to halt its decline by increasing “mission activity” among young people and disadvantaged communities.

The money – a 30% increase in funding from the church commissioners, who look after the C of E’s central assets – will support social action projects such as food banks, and help the church achieve its target to be carbon net zero by 2030.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, admitted the C of E had been heavy-handed in concentrating funds on urban churches in recent years. “Allocating money in the past was perhaps, if we’re honest, a bit too driven from the centre. Now we’re trusting the dioceses much more,” said Cottrell.

Rural parishes have complained that they have been starved of cash, which has been diverted to inner-city churches. As a result, churches have closed and clergy jobs have been lost, according to a campaign group, Save the Parish.

Welby said: “Over the last few years, the priority has been very much for the more heavily populated areas. Having listened carefully to what people were saying, this [funding] is for everyone, including the rural areas.”

The core of the extra funding will be used for programmes that focus on young and disadvantaged people, deliver social action work, address racism and cut the church’s carbon footprint.

It will support churches in the poorest areas of the country and fund more clergy in frontline ministries, including chaplaincies. “This funding will help the C of E raise its game in its service to the nation,” said Cottrell.

The archbishops announced the funding increase from St John the Evangelist church in Balby, Doncaster, which runs a “multibank”, providing food, clothing and essential items for people in need, and a free coffee shop and drop-in centre.

Cottrell said: “It gives me no joy in saying the Church of England has been in decline for a while. I’m not going to get depressed about that … What I’m going to do is focus on how we can best live and share the gospel.” The C of E could learn from the Balby church and others like it, which had been revitalised by social outreach work, he added.

Welby pledged that the church would “speak out” about the cost of living crisis. “People in really quite good jobs, not minimum wage jobs, [are] finding that they just can’t make ends meet,” he said.

The national funding from the church commissioners accounts for only 20% of overall costs, with the biggest share coming from churchgoers’ donations.

The increase in the national grant has been made possible by returns of 13.3% on the commissioners’ investments last year, according to financial results for 2021 published on Wednesday.

The commissioners increased their stake in Alibaba as the Chinese e-commerce giant became embroiled last year in a sexual assault scandal that led to a police investigation.

It is the first time that Alibaba has appeared in the commissioners’ list of top 20 shareholdings since reports were first published online in 2013. It puts the company among the commissioners’ largest equity holdings, which last year included Amazon, the Google owner Alphabet, the Facebook parent company Meta, Visa and Microsoft.

Reports emerged in December that Alibaba had fired the female employee who last summer accused her manager and a client of sexual assault during a work trip to the city of Jinan in Shandong province.

Alibaba had previously said that it had suspended “relevant parties” for violating its rules and that it had a “zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct”.

A spokesperson for the church commissioners declined to comment on specific investments, but said they had a “controversies policy” that assessed companies quarterly. “We always retain the right to restrict companies on an ad hoc basis if their activities fall foul of our ethical investment policies,” the spokesperson said.

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Dive Deeper:
Church to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ to help with cost-of-living crisis
Some £3.6 billion will be spent over the next nine years, it was announced on Wednesday.
Former Oxford college dean and senior cleric to leave Church of England
Martyn Percy cited a ‘parlous state of safeguarding’ and ‘culture of bullying and harassment’ in the church
Anglican disunity on same-sex marriage threatens to tear the church apart
When same-sex marriage was legislated by the Commonwealth in 2017, it quickly became a potential flashpoint in the Anglican Church…
First illegal migrants to be told about relocation to Rwanda this week
First flights are expected to take place in the coming months, the Home Office said
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Orthodox Christian churches are drawing in far-right American converts
Orthodox Christianity is a relatively small faith tradition in the U.S., but in recent years it has expanded to new…
Risk of LGBT refugees sent to Rwanda facing persecution over sexual orientation is ‘justified’, says Home Office
Government also acknowledges Muslim deportees could face risks – but claim this is ‘justified’
Get all your news in one place