A vision for our Diocese Film
"How is God calling us to be the Church to the people living in our diocese?"
Our Diocesan Mission Action Plan / Strategy was created in 2016 after a series of 'Follow' Events around the diocese. In 2021 we wanted to know how successful it had been. A series of listening and engagement events took place throughout 2021, led by Bishop Richard as he sought to identify how effective the previous five-year diocesan strategy has been, where there has been any impact and what changes we need to make as we plan for the future.
Our primary question is, “What can the diocese central function do to help our parishes, benefices and deaneries to flourish?
In October 2022 we launched our vision for the diocese which will lead us to 2030. The vision for all of us remains unchanged as we seek to proclaim Christ and grow disciples. We have moved to three core values which are at the heart of everything we do. These values are:
"Our values are at the heart of everything we do as we seek to proclaim Christ and grow disciples. This strategy is mostly about creating a framework to enable the local church to flourish but recognises that there are some things that will need to be stimulated centrally due to a lack of existing capacity or resources. "
You can find a copy of our strategy presentation here:
The results of all the feedback, alongside other engagement events conducted by Bishop Richard were reviewed and shared with rural deans, deanery leadership teams, bishop's council and the central diocesan staff team at several events held at the end of January 2022. A presentation with an overview of the findings set the framework for further discussion questions. The process of discernment led to a number of key decisions:
1. To retain our mission statement as this remained at the heart of what we are here to do: "Proclaim Christ and Grow Disciples"
2. Clearly identify three simple core values which are recognisable to everyone across the diocese
3. To set clear priorities which allow churches and schools the freedom to develop local plans whilst setting a focus for the corporate activities of the central diocesan structures
We were delighted to see nearly 300 people from across our diocese at the 10 listening events which took place during November and December 2021. We know that many people were unable to attend so we provided an online form for people to share their thoughts with us via email. We remain very grateful to all those who provided their reflections.
All the feedback we received from the events and survey replies were reviewed and analysed. The summary details were presented to Bishop’s Staff and deanery leadership teams in January 2022. These groups were asked to help shape the next stage of our strategy and discern the priority areas of focus that were presented to the Bishop's Council in February 2022.
The final strategy was shared with diocesan synod in late spring 2022 and the stated was launched at the celebrate events held in October 2022. IT is now our plan to continue to share our vision and priorities with deanery teams, clergy, lay and churchwardens throughout the remainder of 2022 and beyond. We hope that each deanery leadership team will be encouraged to use the strategy to link the local parish and deanery mission plans bringing a stronger sense of togetherness in our church life in this diocese.
We have now published the strategy on our website and created some dedicated resources including a presentation and supporting documentation. We will seek to provide regular engagement events for parishes and deaneries over the course of the years ahead to update on progress.
We encourage you to share this vision widely and to seek out ways to live the values in your local parish or school that will help us to grow God's Kingdom across Hereford diocese.
We know that many people continue to ask questions about the future of our churches and raise concerns about how our diocese is funded. There are many misconceptions about finance, structures and the purpose of the central diocesan structure and team.
The following frequently asked questions aim to answer some of the most common questions asked:
Historically, clerics lived off the income from benefactors, private means or parish land, and the more well-off clerics paid a tenth of their income to the Pope and then, after the Reformation, to the Crown. The significant variation in the wealth and living standards of ‘livings’, and therefore of clerics, was seen as something of a national scandal, and the first step towards greater equity in clerical income was taken by an Act of Parliament in 1703. Known as the Queen Anne’s Bounty Act, it established an endowment that used the money collected by the Crown to augment the incomes of the poorest livings. In the 1830s, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took over the historic land endowments of bishops and cathedrals to create a fund to pay for bishops and cathedrals and help towards greater equity. In 1948, the functions and assets of Queen Anne’s Bounty were merged with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to form the Church Commissioners. The investment from this endowment is now used to pay for all bishops and to contribute to other C of E costs, such as new ministry initiatives, all clergy pensions accrued before 1998, its 43 cathedrals, and national support structures (such as the Parish Buying and Parish Giving schemes). In 2020, the Church Commissioners spent nearly £100m supporting dioceses and their 13,000 parish churches, nearly £38m on episcopal ministry, and £20m on cathedrals. Diocesan common funds mostly emerged after World War II as the means for harmonising and paying stipends, although this process took until the 1970s. The Endowments and Glebe Measure of 1976 took all parish endowments into diocesan ownership across the Church of England, as a portfolio of restricted investment for dioceses to manage centrally as one portfolio to support stipendiary ministry. The Church of England receives no income from the government other than VAT relief on repairs to its 13,000 listed buildings. This grant scheme is worth up to £42m a year to listed places of worship. In 2020, , PCCs in the Diocese of Hereford contributed around £3.5 million through Parish Offers, while the cost of parish ministry and mission was £4.53 million. The shortfall of just over a million pounds had to be covered by other sources of diocesan income and left the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance with an overall deficit of £0.41 million. A similar level of deficit is projected for 2021-2022. Such deficits are not sustainable in the long term, as once assets are sold, they no longer generate income to help cover the gap between Parish Offers and the costs of parish ministry. The Hereford DBF invests every pound of Parish Offer in parish ministry. In effect, those groups of parishes whose Offer does not cover the costs of ministry are subsidised by other PCCs which pay more than their own ministry costs, as well as by DBF income derived from investments or asset sales. This principle of sharing the resources which God has given us, and the ongoing costs associated with providing and supporting ministry, are also why it’s important for financial contributions from parishes to continue during a vacancy.
No. Parish boundaries have sometimes changed over the years, and some parishes have been merged (such as Stoke Prior with Ford) or divided (such as Madeley, which is now three separate parishes) as populations rise and fall. Incidentally, the Diocese of Hereford has by far the fewest number of people per stipendiary minister ca. 5,000in the Church of England./p>
No. There have been no examples in at least the last decade – and probably much longer - of churches in this diocese being closed for any reason other than at the request of the parish. There is no plan to change that approach. In fact, the boot is on the other foot: if parishes request us to start the closure process, we usually ask them to explore all other possible alternatives first. If, as a last resort, we do start the closure process, we do so slowly and carefully and consult all interested parties, including local clergy and PCCs. There is then another entire round of public debate after closure when plans for re-use of the building are consulted upon. It is not easy to find a new use for a closed church, as they are nearly all highly listed and protected buildings. We have churches that have been closed for 15-20 years and have not yet found a sustainable future. Finally, one very practical reason not to close churches is that the cost of insuring and maintaining closed churches falls on the DBF, and that money is then not available for other things. There are many imaginative and successful examples in the diocese of encouraging new ways of using church buildings without closing them. Parishes and local clergy are at the heart of the mission involved in those projects and will remain so.
The Endowments & Glebe Measure 1976 centralised parish assets so that they could be managed as a portfolio of income and investments in order to resource ministry across all parishes within each diocese.
In 2022, the total direct cost per stipendiary minister in the Diocese of Hereford is forecast to be just over £80,000, of which about a third is the stipend. The other elements are national insurance, pension contributions, housing costs, training (for incumbents and curates, readers and other church workers), and a share of direct local ministry support costs, such as safeguarding. The Hereford DBF then uses the rental income from surplus clergy housing and the parochial fee income (i.e. the share of the fee it receives from life events in a parish) and the savings made when there are vacancies to offset this figure, leaving a total net cost of £63,400 per stipendiary clergy post.
The Bishop of Hereford and senior team seek to deploy sufficient numbers of ordained clergy to meet the evolving pastoral and missional needs of the 360 parishes in the Diocese of Hereford but need to balance this demand with the financial resources available. In addition to annual inflationary increases, each time the number of clergy in the diocese is reduced, the average cost of each stipendiary clergy post rises slightly because the training and support costs are shared between fewer people.
The Diocese of Hereford already had the lowest operating costs of any diocese in the Church of England, yet between 2017 and 2020 it made further savings of £715,000. 40% of this is related to a reduction in stipendiary clergy. The other 60% of this was a reduction in the central office team from 31.2 people (full-time equivalent) to 26.4 FTEs, excluding those positions which are externally funded. Only the direct local ministry support elements (such as the parts of the Parish Giving and church buildings teams that are not externally funded) are included in the ‘local ministry support’ element of the costings for a stipendiary minister.
Church buildings are usually the oldest, most architecturally elaborate and most visited buildings in any community. Over time, the costs have escalated because of the age of the building, the lack of traditional craftsmen and materials, insurance, and changing expectations (e.g. of heating and lighting, which would at one time have been a luxury, as well as the provision of additional facilities). Even the much newer church buildings require significant levels of maintenance, and all buildings must be insured and are subject to the costs of a changing regulatory environment (e.g. health & safety and disability access).
The Bible tells us that all things come from God (1 Chronicles 29:14) and that we are stewards of these gifts (e.g. 1 Peter 4:10). Steward (both in English and Greek) means ‘housekeeper’; we are responsible for looking after resources – including the planet – for future generations, and Jesus reiterated the call to his disciples directly and in his parables both to use our resources wisely and not to build up treasure for ourselves on earth (e.g. Matthew 6:19). Giving is part of God’s grace and response to our generous God, and we are called to give cheerfully and willingly, according to our means and even beyond our means, sharing what we have with others so that no one has too much and no one has too little (e.g. 2 Corinthians 8). We give to the church because we believe in sharing our faith with others, in caring for people, and in gathering as local churches and part of a worldwide community of followers of Jesus – it is no accident that the Greek word for community and communion is the same. As Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 8, giving is part of how we express not only our faith but also our love. Parochial Church Councils are charities, although most, as charities with an income of under £100,000, are ‘excepted’ under charity law. So is the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance and, like other charities, PCCs and the HDBF are funded through a mixture of private voluntary donations, legacies, grants and investments.