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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
One-third of clergy 'in debt'
The Synod
The General Synod will make the final decision on pay
Many Anglican clergy are in debt and struggling to pay bills but morale remains high, a survey suggests.

Nearly one-third of Church of England clergy are in debt, with more than one in 10 who rely solely on their stipends struggling to pay bills.

Two-thirds of the Church's 10,000 clergy and 100 licensed lay workers responded to the wide-ranging survey, commissioned to furnish information for a review of clergy pay which will make recommendations in the autumn.


We have never said that the majority of vicars are on the breadline

MSF
Professionals' union MSF, which represents 1,500 clergy, has campaigned for salaried contracts, better pay and improved conditions.

The survey found 68% of clergy reported themselves as debt-free, excluding mortgages, interest-free credit and car loans.

Of those in debt, 15% owed between 5,000 and 10,000 and nearly one in 10 had debts of more than 10,000.

Richer flocks

And 11% of those who relied solely on church pay, known as the stipend, reported struggling to pay the bills.

This figure rose to 17% where clergy had a non-earning spouse and dependent children and relied solely on church pay.

Many clergy reported serving flocks whom they believed had a higher standard of living than them.

Where the stipend was the sole source of income, nearly half, or 47%, said their standard of living was below that of the majority of households in their parishes.

Asked what they considered was a "reasonable" stipend - currently set at just under 17,000 for the average vicar - more than half of full-time clergy said it should be higher and one in 10 said it would be more than 25,000.

'Excellent' morale

In spite of these findings, nine out of 10 clergy rated their job satisfaction and morale as adequate or better.

Ranked by diocese, the highest percentage of clergy reporting "excellent" levels of job satisfaction was in Winchester at 34%.

The report, based on questionnaires filled in by 6,295 clergy, was entitled Generosity and Sacrifice: the results of the clergy stipends survey.

It will inform the clergy stipends review group, set up by Archbishops' Council in 1999, which is due to report in the autumn.

The responses received included questionnaires filled in by 100 licensed lay workers, 56 archdeacons, 18 bishops, 13 deans or provosts and 61 residentiary canons.

Employment protection

A spokesman for MSF said: "We have never said that the majority of vicars are on the breadline or are having to sell the Big Issue.

"But they are not being remunerated according to their professional status and, more importantly, we mourn the lack of employment protection and protection from discrimination which a salaried employment contract would provide.

"Some of our clergy live in tied houses that most council tenants would not dream of living in."

The union has campaigned for holiday cover and rights for ministers to be able to buy equity in the church houses they occupy.

The Archdeacon of Blackburn, John Marsh, chairman of the clergy stipends review group, told BBC News Online the findings were not surprising.

But he said he had been "pleasantly surprised" by the healthy state of morale in the Church.

"The professional agency [who carried out the survey] were amazed - it was far higher than in any other group they had done."

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See also:

14 Nov 00 | UK
Clergy appeal for pay rise
14 Nov 00 | UK
Who wants to be a vicar?
19 Mar 00 | Health
Chaplains reject pay offer
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