Church Commissioner Questions: covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, woodland holdings

On 15th October 2020 MPs put questions to Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, on covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, and woodland holdings. A transcript is below:

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Church Commissioner Written Answers: ethical investment, St Margaret’s Westminster, Christian persecution, South Sudan, church schools, coronavirus, church buildings, lead theft, Beirut explosion, marriage, mental health, ordinations

On 14th September 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous MP answered eleven written questions from Jim Shannon MP, on ethical investment, St Margaret’s Westminster, Christian persecution, South Sudan, church schools, coronavirus and church buildings, lead theft, the Beirut explosion, marriage, mental health, and ordinations: Continue reading “Church Commissioner Written Answers: ethical investment, St Margaret’s Westminster, Christian persecution, South Sudan, church schools, coronavirus, church buildings, lead theft, Beirut explosion, marriage, mental health, ordinations”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government for clarity about Covid-19, singing and face masks in churches

On 22nd July Lord Lexden asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the Written Answer by Lord Greenhalgh on 26 May (HL4184), what discussions they have had with (1) the Church of England, (2) the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and (3) other Churches, about the reopening of church buildings for private devotional prayer and public worship.

The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question focusing on singing and compulsory wearing of face masks:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, many of our churches and cathedrals are desperate to enable small groups of singers, perhaps four singers standing five metres apart from each other. Is there any possibility that that will be allowed soon? Secondly, will the Minister tell the House whether there are any plans for the compulsory wearing of face masks in places of worship?

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Bishop of Salisbury asks Government about Green Homes Grant eligibility

On 20th July the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, received a written answer to a question on the green homes grant.

Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL6798 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the green homes grant on 8 July (HC Deb, col 976), whether (1) clergy housing, and (2) buildings open to the public and run by charities, such as churches, are eligible for that grant.

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Bishop of St Albans asks Government for reform of Gift Aid rules to help churches and charities struggling financially

On 9th July 2020 Lord Black of Brentwood asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial sustainability of churches and places of worship.”The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, legislation has not kept up with the practice of public giving or developments in technology, especially now, when, as a result of the pandemic, cash carries the risk of infection. Charities, including churches, can currently claim only on cash and contactless gifts—not on online gifts and donations. Will the Government consider allowing online donations to qualify for gift aid, as part of the gift aid small donations scheme? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government for reform of Gift Aid rules to help churches and charities struggling financially”

Church Commissioner questions: church building reopening, weddings, housing, public worship, music, online services, family life, church finances and the Transition Pathway Initiative

On 25th June 20202 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons, on: church building reopening, weddings, housing, public worship, music, online services, family life, church finances and the Transition Pathway Initiative. A transcript is below:

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about historic buildings

On 21st May 2020, Lord Cormack asked the Government “what steps they are taking to support (1) museums, (2) galleries, and (3) historic buildings open to the public, affected by the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Church of England alone has 16,000 church buildings, over 12,000 of which are listed. We are at the bedrock ​of our communities and thus can be at the heart of recovery. I therefore make three points. First, we are rich in assets, but the pandemic means that income is plummeting, and budgets were already tight. I therefore urge the Government at least to remove VAT on repairs to historic buildings.

Secondly, government often brackets us with the hospitality industry. Are we hospitable? I hope so. Are we historic? Yes. Does such categorisation meet our distinct needs? No.

Thirdly, the Church encompasses buildings and people. Our impact on people will define us, so how we respond pastorally to the pandemic from our buildings will leave the deepest impression.

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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Reopening Churches

On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on the reopening of churches, from Tracey Crouch MP.

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford): 902801 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church of England has made of the potential effect on public health of reopening churches.

rsz_1andrew_profile_2Andrew Selous: The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its own guidance to clergy in light of Government and public health advice.

On 5th May the House of Bishops issued new guidance, which can be seen at: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings

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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals during Covid-19

On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions, from Rachael Maskell MP and Barry Sheerman MP  on the reopening of churches for baptisms, weddings and funerals:

Rachael Maskell (York Central): 902797 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the Commissioners’ timetable is for enabling churches to reopen safely for funeral services after the covid-19 lockdown.

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Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners do not have responsibility for setting a timetable for the reopening of church buildings for funeral services.

Current guidance from the House of Bishops is not to conduct funeral services in church buildings because of widely expressed concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct such funerals safely, including being able to clean churches thoroughly between services to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. This is guidance, not instruction.

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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Coronavirus and Reopening of Churches

On 18th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions on the reopening of churches, from Dr Luke Evans MP and Andrew Rosindell MP.

Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth): 45480 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps is the Government taking to work with churches and dioceses to ensure the safe opening of churches for religious worship.

Andrew Rosindell (Romford): 45018 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is planning to take to allow it to reopen churches as soon as possible while limiting the risk of spreading covid-19.


SelousAndrew Selous: The Church of England is committed to the reopening of buildings in a phased way, in accordance with the rules, restrictions and timetable established by Government. On 5th May the House of Bishops issued guidance, which can be seen here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings

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