Paid ordained ministry is a key part of delivering mission within the Anglican Church. However, there is so much more to ministry; chaplaincy within schools, colleges, prisons; reaching out to minority or excluded members of society; making new Christians and growing the church through making new connections in a huge variety of ‘non-traditional’ church contexts. Add to this a plethora of requirements on the church; safeguarding, governance and compliance. Much of this vital work goes unseen by many, but is all part of why everyone’s giving makes a difference, and why mission is at the heart of Common Fund.
During a ‘vacancy’ the Diocese continues to incur ministry-related costs; fees to voluntary ministers, upkeep of and improvements to clergy housing, training of new ordinands and curates, legal costs, etc. Your Parish Offer to the Common Fund does so much more than ‘pay for a bit of a vicar’.
It’s vital that the parishes of a benefice that finds itself in ‘vacancy’ make every effort to demonstrate good stewardship, generous giving, proper financial management, and financial viability – or are actively working on a plan to make themselves financially viable and sustainable. Prospective clergy, viewing advertisements and Parish Profiles will be keen to ensure that they benefice they might wish to come to, is both financial stable and has a generous heart; and they are likely to be considering any number of alternative appointments. Ensuring Parish Offer continues to be met during a vacancy is a key way of demonstrating this.
As the church, ‘the Body of Christ’ we are members together and we are interdependent on each other. Together our pooling of Parish Offer to the Common Fund enables the provision of ministry across the diocese; your giving during a vacancy will be supporting essential ministry and mission elsewhere; during a vacancy in another parish, continuing Parish Offer to the Common Fund from that place may well be helping to fund ministry in your communities and churches.
At one level this can be seen as just being a question about money; a necessity to ‘pay the vicar’. However, there is much more here, that goes to the heart of our faith and beliefs as followers of Jesus Christ. What we have, we have in common, and this is never truer than when we are thinking about the mission of the Church. Common Fund is actually a ‘mission fund’, to which all of us, through our personal, regular, planned giving, can contribute. Those who have more should contribute more to this work, along with those who have less.
This is key to answering the question “Why do we still make a Parish Offer to Common Fund during a vacancy?” Common Fund is not a contribution to ‘buy a bit of a vicar’. Rather, it is the pooling of all our giving and resources to allow the mission of the church to flourish and to allow ministry to respond to changing circumstances. It is biblical based on Acts 4:32, where we read that everything was held in common, with benefactors laying at the feet of the Apostles the proceeds of their property sales. So ‘Common Fund’ does what is says on the tin; it’s our way of attempting to give sacrificially for the good of the whole and this giving is always in response to God’s overwhelming generosity to us.
Don’t keep the answers to yourself! Reproduce this FAQ resource and share with your PCC, in your local church magazine and with members of your wider congregation.
On our Parish Offer page you’ll find more helpful information about the Common Fund including a short video clip you could show to your PCC as part of a wider discussion.
Further Help and Support
If you would like any further help and support to your parish, in connection with any of the points raised here please contact a member of the Diocesan Finance Team or one of our Parish Giving Advisers.
If the income of a PCC is over £100,000 it should be registered with the Charity Commission. If the income is less than £100,000 the PCC is currently* treated as an 'excepted' charity and will not have a Charity Commissioner registration number. If a PCC is asked for its governing document, the PCC should state that it is governed by two pieces of legislation:
- "The Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956'' as amended, and
- the Church Representation Rules (contained in Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969 as amended).
* The current 'exception' from registration for religious charities such as Church of England PCCs has been extended by The Charities (Exception from Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 No.55 until 31 March 2031, although we can expect the Charity Commission to require some larger PCCs to register during the 2020s.
A PCC can download a PDF document that includes the church name, address and church code from the 'More Information' section of its A Church Near You listing (example). This PDF, which is an extract from the Church of England’s database of churches, can serve as a certificate for churches requiring proof of their charity status when registering for online and card-based giving. You will need to request a certificate by clicking on the download button and filling in a short form.
Note that a PCC will have an Inland Revenue charity reference number if it submits claims for the recovery of Income Tax on Gift Aid donations. Self-evidently, this is not the same as a Charity Commission registration number, but it may be accepted by certain organisations as supplementary evidence of the PCC's charitable status.
Statutory fees are those fees payable to the Diocese for wedding and funerals. The portion of the fee that is due to the Diocese can be found in the Parochial Fees Table.
The PCC income for the year must only include the fees that are due to the PCC and not the full (gross) fee collected for the wedding/funeral.
Where the accounts are produced on an accruals basis, the portion owed to the Diocese is entered as a creditor. When the fee is paid over to the Diocese, the creditor will reduce to zero.
Where the accounts are produced on a receipts and payments the simplest way to account for this is to include a contra column/account which records both the receipt and the payment. At the end of the year, the contra column/account should total zero. To avoid difficulties at the year end, it is recommended that all Diocesan fees are paid over within the accounting year.
Where there is an agreement between the family and minister that part or all of the collection is to go to a nominated charity, then the PCC is acting as collecting agent for the nominated charity. The collection should be banked by the PCC and a corresponding payment made directly from the PCC to the charity. The simplest way to account for this is as above where both the receipt and the payment are recorded in a contra column/account which nets down to zero. Neither the income nor the payment is included in the PCC's annual accounts.
Further detailed information on funeral collections is available here.