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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
'Church to desert deprived areas'
vicar
Lay people are to be asked to work as unpaid priests
Some priests may lose their jobs because of a financial crisis in the Church of England.

Changes in the allocation of Church funds have left 13 dioceses, many with large urban areas, significantly poorer.

Under the changes, approved by the General Synod last month, grants to individual areas will be calculated by average income rather than by the traditional measurements of deprivation such as housing and crime rates.


I think the church commissioners and the archbishops' council have made a big mistake

Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark
Many areas, such as Liverpool, London and Chester, will lose out, although some, including Sheffield and Norwich, would actually gain.

Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark has accused the Church of making a 'big mistake' by supporting the changes.

The Southwark diocese, which has about 35,000 churchgoers, has estimated it will be 1.5m a year worse off.

Bishop Butler said: "I think the church commissioners and the archbishops' council have made a big mistake in changing their grant allocation formula and it does discriminate against dioceses that have the largest numbers of urban parishes.

"Most of our urban congregations in south London are made up of black and Asian people. In no way are they on the average income of the yuppie.


The views of some of the bishops of dioceses which are likely to receive smaller allocations are already well known

Church spokesman
"It is an utter nonsense. Nevertheless we are faced with 1.5 million a year less - we have to make that amount of cuts or we challenge the dioceses to give extra."

Clergy cannot be sacked - but the next few years may see a steady transfer of priests away from the poorest parishes where they are needed most.

Among the options being considered are a reduction in the number of archdeacons, who act as mentors for priests in difficult parishes, curates and assistant priests and the loss of specialists in areas including education and homelessness

Substantial cuts

The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, said the Church was failing in its duty to the poor.

But a Church of England spokesman said: "The views of some of the bishops of dioceses which are likely to receive smaller allocations are already well known.

"The two Archbishops said at the time (when the issue was debated in July) that there was no question whatsoever of the Church of England now or in the future withdrawing from the inner cities."

The Church, under pressure from clergy living longer, has already asked congregations to find an extra 12m a year to meet a shortfall in pension funds.

Lay people are to be asked to train and work as unpaid priests, helping out in their parishes in their spare time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Religious Affairs Correspondent, Robert Pigott
"There has been a steady decline in the Church's funds"
Father Ken Bowler
"The problem is how many we can afford"
'Congregations have already been asked to pay more'
The BBC's Religious Affairs Correspondent, Robert Pigott
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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