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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Parishes asked to aid clergy pensions
Vicar baptising a baby
Long-living clergy are adding to finance problems
The Church of England is asking congregations to give more to the collection plate - to make up a hole in its pension fund.

The Church of England needs an extra 12m a year because of the poor performance of investment markets and the fact that clergy are living longer.

Pensions for the church's 11,000 parish priests were once provided from investment of assets.

But over the last 20 years these assets have dwindled to about 4.2bn, half of which is already earmarked to provide clergy pensions.

To protect this strategic reserve, the financing of clergy pensions and much of their stipends, or allowances, became the responsibility of parishes three years ago.

The new church pension fund has performed better than most.

Long life

But recent returns on new investments have been relatively poor.

The fact that clergy are living two or three years longer than the population average adds to the problem.

The result is a shortfall of 12m a year on the funds needed for future pension payments.

The Church of England is looking to parish collections to help their finances.

Last year members of the clergy launched a campaign for a pay increase, saying their allowance was not a living wage.

Clergy receive a stipend averaging 16,420 a year, plus accommodation, but campaigners said they should be paid a salary of at least 20,000

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