Church Facility Costs Hinder UK Mission

While maintaining historic buildings in the Church of England costs $450 million, a recent report claims such expenditures are coming at the cost of the church's mission budget.

One of the report's authors says it would be more convenient to meet in houses during the winter when it's difficult to heat churches. Nearly half of of the parishes in the church have less than 50 weekly attendants.

"The reality is that the Church of England is blessed with substantial resources compared with the Christian Church in many parts of the world," according to a report by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Right Reverend Peter Price.

"Yet, in many places, it has difficulty affording its existing ministry, whether because of low levels of personal income and/or giving and/or low membership," the report said.

A General Synod will meet next month and will include discussion on financial issues facing the church.

The report suggests that "new money" be found, instead of trying to reallocate existing funds. Some suggestions posed say that lay members of the church should perform voluntary work and that insolvent churches should be closed.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, Bishop Price said that the savings could be used to further mission work.

"(The) Church of England is looking at the whole question of pioneer mission leaders, experimenting with different patterns of church in different localities." He added, "Some of those will meet in people's homes, some of those will meet in churches."

He also suggested that well-performing churches currently receiving government funding should forgo the help in order to help struggling congregations. One of the main problems was the number of small churches, and their financial viability.

A common point made in our submissions from dioceses was that the number, cost and inflexibility of the Church's buildings were hindering its mission," stated the authors of the report.

About half of the nation's 16,000 parishes have less than 50 weekly members.

Although a few dioceses will need to reduce the number of clergy by nearly one-third to compensate for financial difficulties, a spokesman said such measures would not extend across the entire church.

The spokesman acknowledged, however, that the Church of England is "blessed with substantial resources" compared to many churches around the world, but has difficulty in its ministry because of several factors, including low income, giving and membership.