Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answers to questions from MPs on 10th March 2023:
Jerome Mayhew MP (Con): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make an assessment of the adequacy of local authority grant funding available to parish churches to upgrade their facilities.
Andrew Selous MP (Con): It is the view of the National Church Institutions that Local Authority and Parish Council grant funding is not being made available to parish churches on a consistent basis, due to a lack of clarity in interpretation of existing law, specifically the Local Government Acts 1894, 1972 and the Localism Act 2011.
The Church Buildings Council, following legal advice, has concluded that the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 and the Local Government Act 1972 allow for all Local Authorities, including Parish Councils, to contribute to the upkeep of church property under certain circumstances – mainly related to the public benefit achieved. A briefing note is available here: Local Authority Investment | The Church of England(opens in a new tab)
In Sir Bernard Taylor’s 2017 Review of the Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals, a recommendation was made that the law be clarified. See pp.31-32: The Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)(opens in a new tab)
The Bishop of Bristol is bringing amendments to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill in the House of Lords to clarify the law. She has the support of heritage bodies and the National Association of Local Councils. The Bishop’s amendments would enable parish churches to be treated the same as other faith and community buildings, which can apply for small grants to improve public access, upgrade facilities such as kitchens or toilets, or enable repairs of guttering, stonework or windows.
Mr Ben Bradshaw MP (Lab): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the Office for National Statistics classifications for land use in rural and urban areas, how many and what proportion of parishes are classified as rural; and how many and what proportion of newly ordained stipendiary curates have commenced curacy training in a parish classified as rural in each of the last five years.
Andrew Selous: The most up to date Office of National Statistics dataset relating to urban and rural communities is expected to be published in the summer. Until this has been mapped and applied to the data held by the National Church Institutions (NCIs), it is not possible to provide the information requested.
The NCIs do not request statistical information about stipendiary curates as part of their routine annual survey of parishes. The most recent data available on the number of stipendiary curates can be found in the one off special project published in 2015 called ‘Released for mission, growing the rural church’, which is available here: https://www.churchofengland.org/news-and-media/news-and-statements/released-mission-growing-rural-church(opens in a new tab)
For more than a decade the Church Commissioners have financially supported dioceses to increase the number of ordinands they can afford to send for training. Funding has recently been allocated to dioceses through the Ministry Division of the NCIs to ensure ordinands can be supported in posts of first responsibility. This month the Church Commissioners announced a further grant (through the Strategic Mission & Ministry Investment Board of the Archbishops’ Council) of £5.6 million to continue to support curates as they move into their next posts. This will benefit both urban and rural parishes. More information can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/clergy-posts-funded-through-ps56-million-national-church-england
Jim Shannon MP (DUP): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions he has had with representatives of the arch-diocese of Jerusalem on damage to graves at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion in January 2023; and what steps he plans to take to (a) help promote religious acceptance and harmony in the UK and (b) prevent vandalism at cemeteries.
Andrew Selous: The escalating violence in Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories is of deep concern. Representatives of the Church continue to work closely with the Department of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the British Consulate in Jerusalem, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and other faith leaders in the city. The Archbishop of Canterbury remains in close contact with the Archbishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Hosam Naoum, and the Bishop of Southwark regularly visits the region with Roman Catholic bishops as part of the Holy Land Coordination Group.
Following the attacks, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement that read, “The desecration of Christian graves in Jerusalem is a blasphemous act. I join the Chief Rabbi [Ephraim Mirvis] and religious leaders in Jerusalem in condemning it and hope those responsible will be brought swiftly to justice. As we continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land, I stand with Archbishop Hosam Naoum and other Jerusalem church leaders in calling for respect, protection, equality and justice for its Christian community – who are the Living Stones of the church.”
Interviewed immediately after the attacks Archbishop Naoum spoke about the increasing use of exclusion, segregation, and intolerance alongside increasing attacks on the holy sites.
The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have urged all sides to “actively reaffirm their commitment to a promotion of an environment of safety, mutual respect and religious tolerance in the Holy Land.” They also called for assurances to be given to the Christian community in Jerusalem following the increasing levels of extremist threats against them. At a recent meeting with the Jordanian Parliament Committee of External Affairs in Amman, the Heads of Churches raised concerns about the future of a continued presence of Christians, specifically Arabic Christians, in Jordan, Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The statement by the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Hosam Naoum, can be read here: https://j-diocese.org/wordpress/2023/01/04/statement-on-the-recent-vandalism-and-desecration-of-the-protestant-cemetery-on-mt-zion-4-january-2023/(opens in a new tab)
The statements of the Patriarchs and Head of all Churches in Jerusalem can be read here: https://j-diocese.org/wordpress/2023/01/05/head-of-churches-statement-on-the-recent-vandalism-desecration-of-the-protestant-cemetery-on-mt-zion/(opens in a new tab)
The statement of the World Council of Churches can be read here: https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-statement-on-desecration-of-historic-protestant-cemetery-in-jerusalem
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