Bishop of Manchester 4a
Church of England

Church of England campaigns for the living wage, but insists its clergy must claim tax credits

This is a guest post by Harold Pinker (pseudonym) – a Tory-inclined clergyman in the Church of England who fears that his ministry would be impaired (ie his prospects for joining the ‘Talent Pool‘ would be blighted) if he were to write under his own name.

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The Tax Credit system, introduced in 2003, exists so that the State can top-up the income of the lowest paid workers. The rationale behind it was that it is better for people to be in work, even when that work may not pay the same as being on benefits. It rewards those who are prepared to work, without creating an additional cost for employers.

This sound piece of Conservative doctrine, when implemented by a Labour government, resulted in a system that, although well-meaning, was soon being abused by unscrupulous employers to pay their staff less. Employers well knew that the State would pick up the bill up to a pre-determined minimum salary, and therefore could pay workers less, knowing that low pay would now be subsidised by the taxpayer. The entire system now subsidises employers who are not prepared to pay their staff a sufficient amount.

Fear not, however. The Most Rev’d and Rt Hon Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is on the case. He has repeatedly stated the case for a living wage, and has bravely made the case for those families dependent on benefits. On his website, the Archbishop says that “many low income households are still much worse off than in 2008, leaving them struggling to make ends meet and reliant on benefits to top up their incomes. For me these are hard-pressed families on poverty wages”.

But who are these “hard-pressed families” which are “reliant on benefits to top up their incomes”?

The national minimum stipend for clergy in England is currently £24,690. At such a level, a number of clergy are reliant on benefits to top-up their stipends. Indeed, a family with just one child, with one person earning the minimum stipend, could easily be eligible for Tax Credits. For clergy with larger families, the amount of Tax Credit income may well be greater than a stipend. Surely the Archbishop would be upset that many of his own clergy are “struggling to make ends meet”, and would want to ensure that the Church of England becomes one of those “responsible” employers of whom he is so fond.

Yesterday morning, the General Synod released its ‘Questions and Answers‘, amongst which was a question from the Rev’d Stephen Trott asking: “Since a number of clergy may be badly affected by the loss of income from tax credits in the near future, what plans are there to implement the Synod’s resolution of November 2002 to increase the national minimum stipend to a more realistic level over time so that no clergy need to rely on social security payments to supplement their income?”

The current Government is committed to reducing the amount of money used to subsidise low wages, and thus reduce Tax Credits. Although legislation has been stalled in the Lords, a reduction in Tax Credits is undoubtedly on the horizon. The Government position seems to be that those on lower wages should be paid more by their employers rather than by the State. If income is still insufficient to cover expenditure then employees will have to find better jobs – companies who pay less than is necessary will therefore begin to lose staff.

Clergy are particularly vulnerable to any changes to tax credit policy. Positions in the Church of England are all paid at about the same rate, and therefore moving job, or getting promotion, are not realistic options. Government changes to reduce the subsidisation of low wages and to encourage employees to find better-paid jobs will not have the intended effects on those who cannot change employer and where very few better-paid jobs are available.

What then was the answer from General Synod? How would the Church of England respond to the challenge of its own clergy being “hard-pressed families on poverty wages”?

Step forward the Right Rev’d David Walker, Bishop of Manchester and Chair of the Remuneration & Conditions of Service Committee. He replied:

The definition of a stipend in Generosity & Sacrifice, is payment ‘for exercise of office’ that ‘reflects the level of responsibility held’. The National Minimum Stipend cannot obviate the need for a spouse or a partner to work. We expect people to use welfare support where they are entitled.

These changes will affect clergy differently depending on circumstances such as family size, household income and disability status. To make a compensating adjustment to the National Minimum Stipend (NMS) would directly increase the starting level of pensions by the same proportions and would be a further cost to dioceses in future pensions.

Linking the NMS to a level that no clergy need draw on welfare benefits would not be directing dioceses’ financial resources to those of greatest needs. Bishops and dioceses already have the opportunity to pay grants and access funds through a range of clergy charities to deal with hardship.

In short – tough luck. The Church of England has decided that, whilst it is immoral for other employers to employ staff knowing that they will be reliant on benefits to make ends meet, it is entirely acceptable for her own clergy to be what John Sentamu referred to as “hard-pressed families on poverty wages”. The position of paying clergy insufficiently, leaving them reliant on welfare support and charitable hand-outs, is deeply incongruous with the Church of England’s own teaching on this matter and with the stated position of the Archbishop of York.

The Bishop of Manchester’s disingenuous statement that “Linking the NMS to a level that no clergy would need to draw on welfare benefits would not be directing dioceses’ financial resources to those of greatest needs” is factually correct, but it is not, I suggest, a solution that anyone is seriously countenancing. The solution is not to pay everyone in the Church at the amount that the most needy requires, but rather to ensure that none of our clergy is kept in a position where they are reliant on State subsidies in order to make ends meet. If this means that some clergy are paid more than others, then so be it – ‘distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need‘ (Acts 2:45). This is exactly the sort of solution that one might expected left-wing bishops such as David Walker and John Sentamu to support, but no: unfortunately the chance to criticise the Government over its Tax Credit policy has been too tempting.

The sad thing is that it will be parish clergy who are hardest hit by this ideological posturing, whereas the rest of the country will see bishops preaching one thing, while the Church does the opposite. Quite how we are supposed to encourage vocations in such a climate is beyond me.

  • Anton

    Nice to see another Wodehouse character resurrected!

    It is worth decoupling the issue of tax credits and living wage generally from the remuneration of clergy. The Reverend “Stinker” Pinker has stated that “This sound piece of Conservative doctrine, when implemented by a Labour government, resulted in a system that, although well-meaning, was soon being abused by unscrupulous employers to pay their staff less.” If money is on offer, what else do you expect companies to do? Their workers don’t suffer and they reduce their costs. I question the applicability of the term “abuse” for that. The real abuse is by people who work only two days per week because the government stops topping them up after that. It was an act of evil genius for Gordon Brown to introduce tax credits, which now cost all taxpayers and companies that create wealth approximately 30 billion pounds pa, having started at 4 billion in the first year.

    As for the living wage, this phrase is the best piece of marketing I have heard for some time. There is no such thing. The actual living wage depends on someone’s circumstances and varies from suburb to suburb, city to city, family to family, house to house. The aim is merely to get the legal minimum wage bumped up to the so-called living wage, an act which would cause many companies to fold.

    Conscientious clergy have my sympathy and prayers. Because the New Testament is clear that all Christians are priests, those clergy who are conscientious – rather than 18th-century callous – in the CoE system have to do the spiritual work that God intended most of a congregation to do. This is terribly hard for them and small wonder that many burn out. Liberal bishops who undermine their evangelical preaching don’t help either.

  • Jon Sorensen

    +1 Good article Harold critically looking at CofE talk and action.

    Remember this comes from CofE which gets special tax benefits and privileged seats at legislative branch. AND while they get their tax breaks they want tax payers to pay more… no wonder why secular people yawn every time CofE speaks…

    • alternative_perspective

      Although I agree with ur argument in general I think the problem comes from too broad a diversity of theo-political positions in the church.

      As Jesus said, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

      People who look upon the cofe, not just secularists, but those also within can see the divisions. Those on the outside ignore it consequently whilst those on the inside lament it.

      The cofe is going to have to face up to modernity eventually. It cannot continue its parish system and mediocre training when people are better informed and demanding. It is going to have to start prioritising and maybe when it does, when there’s actual pressure to change: some of the silly liberal spending will fallout and serious life changing works will get the boost they need.

      • Jon Sorensen

        “As Jesus said, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”
        I think he copied that from someone else. Sun Tzu and Roman generals said it earlier and he probably copied that from somewhere. And now almost half of the people in UK think that Jesus is just a legend…

        I don’t think training people will solve anything. People are walking away from Christianity and anyone can fact check Christian claims from they phone instantly…

        • Anton

          You are looking at Europe. It is not true worldwide.

          • Jon Sorensen

            True. In places where you can’t always fact check Christian claims Christianity is growing. Pope said that Africa is their main growth area and there Internet and smart phone usage is the lowest in the world.

          • Anton

            The argument in your first sentence cuts both says; it depends on your source, of course. Africa might be the main source of increase in Catholic baptisms but I place greatest weight on reports from where there is persecution, because conversion there means that people are willing to put their lives on the line for Jesus, as he did for them. There is a lot of nominal Christianity in Africa according to African friends of mine.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Christians seem to have this persecution complex. Just because people stay as Muslims under persecution does not make Islam true. Christians seem to think “people willing to put their lives on the line for XXXXX” somehow gives validity to their claim…

          • Anton

            That’s not what I said, nor implied. Anyone who is willing to die for their faith has strong faith, regardless of the object of that faith. What I am saying is that the Chinese Christians are not nominal Christians. And there are a lot of them and their number is increasing: contrary to your Eurocentric assertion that Christianity is on the wane.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I’ve been to China and I work with Korean Christians, Both countries have nominal and fundy Christians. People are the same everywhere.

          • Anton

            I’ve been to China too and you are not in North Korea where persecution of Christians is extreme.

            As a logical point, do you agree that where someone is likely to be significantly persecuted for adopting a particular belief (not necessarily Christianity), anybody who does so is going to be strongly committed to that belief?

          • Jon Sorensen

            It takes more courage to be openly atheist that openly Christians in almost every country on the planet.

            “As a logical point, do you agree that where someone is likely to be
            significantly persecuted for adopting a particular belief anybody who does so is going to be strongly
            committed to that belief?”
            No. Kids get indoctrinated early and often they are not strongly
            committed, but are more afraid of their parents to come out that anyone persecuting their beliefs. I see that in second generation Chinese and Korean Christians.

          • Anton

            Atheism isn’t a belief system (although secular humanism is).

            Growing up involves moving from what your parents told you to what the community tells you.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Often your community is only made you from people from you denomination. Growing up is start thinking yourself

          • Anton

            In China, which is what we are talking about, it is untrue that your community is your denomination. In the past you have quoted at me the small proportion of Chinese who are Christian. There can be no Christian bubble in such places.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I work with couple of Chinese Christians engineers in the mid-20s. Their parents are Christians but they seem to be fairly secular Christians.

            You should visit Mormon, JW or Pentecostal communities. Those bubbles are real, and they proselytize aggressively…

          • Anton

            Mormons dominate an entire state of the USA so that there it is true that your community is your denomination. Pentecostalists and JWs live in the wider community.

            What do you mean, please, by saying that those people you know are “secular Christians”?

          • Jon Sorensen

            For example Hill Song Pentecostals in Singapore and Australia have their own community while their kids are free to move around.

            “Secular Christians” [just my view] = believe that Jesus rose from the dead and Bible is the word of God, but this has pretty much nothing do with their lives. They go to church once a year, don’t pray, don’t choose their friends based on religion, support progressive values etc.

          • Anton

            Great definition – I couldn’t agree more! Where Christians get persecuted I don’t think that there are many of those. Are the 2nd generation Chinese Christians you know in a part of China where persecution goes on (it’s patchy in China) and do they answer truthfully when asked what they believe by the authorities?

            Not many pentecostals live in pentecostal “gated communities”, I think.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Good point about from which part of China my friends are from (Couple from Hong Kong and one from Beijing). I have never asked if their parents were persecuted, but I don’t think my friends ever got persecuted. I think persecution happens more in regional areas and also have other reasons too. I think Chinese only go after Church leaders of what they think are Christian cults. Regular members have little to worry.

            My good [now ex] friend joined Hill Song Pentecostal Church ten years ago and became heavily involved in that. Then in their kid’s birthday party their minister questioned me and figured out that I’m a non-Christian. They were told to cut all ties to me after they unsuccessfully tried to convert me in their mega mission event I went with him with a VIP pass. I’ve met them only once since then and only heard about them via mutual Christian friends. Even when they don’t live in “gated community” their life and mind is in “gated community”. When I met my friend (and his family) he was broke and unemployed, and early on my wife and I helped their family. But once I was outed as non-Christian they closed the gate to their community.

          • Anton

            I’m sorry to hear that and, based on what you say, I think they let Christ down.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Yes, it is a shame. However they did not let Christ down, but followed the biblical tradition of “they were not [one] of us”, 2 John 1:10, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11 and many other verses.

            Religion is divisive

          • Anton

            ALL belief systems are divisive – including nontheistic ones – because you either believe a particular one or you believe something else. It is not possible to believe in nothing. When people of differing belief systems meet, what counts is how those belief systems tell their followers to treat others. The New Testament is clear about how Christians should behave toward others, which is why I said what I did about those people.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Religions like Christianity and Islam has holy books telling how to exclude, shun or kill people who believe different things. Humanists do not have such holy books or doctrines.

            “The New Testament is clear about how Christians should behave toward others”
            No it’s not clear. If it was clear Christians scholars would agree how to behave. If it would be clear verses like 2 John 1:10, Romans 16:17 and 1 Corinthians 5:11 would not be there.

          • Anton

            Christians read the Old Testament to learn about God but it is about how to run a nation. Christians live according to the New Testament and you won’t find any verses advocating the maltreatment in personal interactions of non-Christians. 2 John 1:10 is, in context, about people who claim to be Christian yet deny one of the core claims of the Christian faith, and 1 Cor 5:11 about people who claim to be Christian yet don’t heed Christ’s call to lead a godly life. Romans 16:17 is again about divisive characters WITHIN the church. These verses are about hypocrites inside the church. All they say, moreover, is avoid them. I speak only for Christians, not for Islam. Humanists seem to think that abortion and, increasingly, euthanasia are OK.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I guess you don’t consider shunning a maltreatment and “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” is just being friendly.

            Humanists think that abortion and euthanasia are OK, because they truly care for people and give people right to decide the most important decisions in their life.

          • Anton

            Shunning is indeed maltreatment of a sort. I should have been clearer that I was talking about treatment of nonbelievers. This began when you were wrongly shunned by Christians.

            I should also have been clearer that I referred to involuntary euthanasia, which goes on to save government money in government-run hospitals in more and more European countries.

            As for abortion, the aborted lose all choice and lose their lives.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You will not find Humanist or many Christians supporting involuntary euthanasia. I don’t know where you got that idea.

            Abortion allows the choice not lose it. Abortion save lives.

          • Anton

            Involuntary euthanasia is inspired by the humanist idea that humans don’t matter. So is abortion, and to say that killing someone – the unborn child – saves lives – is a complete inversion of the truth.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Involuntary euthanasia is inspired by the humanist idea that humans don’t matter.”
            Complete ignorant nonsense. Find that in the humanists manifesto to make your case.

            “So is abortion, and to say that killing someone – the unborn child – saves lives – is a complete inversion of the truth.”
            Only if you think mother’s life don’t matter.

          • Anton

            Are you talking about situations in which the mother’s life is physically at risk if she continues to carry the baby? Or whether she just wants to continue the lifestyle she had before she got pregnant? I am talking about the latter, which is by far the more common case. If she didn’t want a baby then she shouldn’t have got pregnant. Having done so, she gains a responsibility to the unborn child she is carrying.

            The humanist manifesto is the tip of an iceberg of humanist writings that goes back 250 years and includes many 18th century Enlightenment philosophers. It’s not me who is ignorant.

          • Jon Sorensen

            So you are ok with abortion if mother’s life is in danger?

            “If she didn’t want a baby then she shouldn’t have got pregnant.”
            Tell that to a rape victim.

            “The humanist manifesto is the tip of an iceberg of humanist writings that goes back 250 years and includes many 18th century Enlightenment philosophers.”
            So? Hundred years ago Christians preached slavery, racial segregation… But my challenge still stands. Where in the humanist writings is “Involuntary euthanasia” endorsed? What does Amsterdam Declaration say?

          • Anton

            You are concentrating on the exceptions, so please clarify. When you said that abortion was unacceptable “only if you think mother’s life don’t matter”, did you mean your comment to apply to women who got pregnant by consensual sexual intercourse and who were at no risk of physical harm from their continuing pregnancy? That is the case in the great majority of pregnancies, of course. Please include a clear Yes or No in any reply.

            Hundred years ago Christians preached slavery, racial segregation

            Some Christians did, and they went against the word of Christ in the Sermon on the mount about treating others as you would like others to treat you. But other Christians preached and agitated against slavery and finally got it abolished throughout the British Empire.

            You are artificially restricting the discussion of involuntary euthanasia to one document, and I don’t accept that restriction.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Please include a clear Yes or No in any reply”
            How about you go first and answer my earlier question:
            So you are ok with abortion if mother’s life is in danger?

            “Some Christians did, and they went against the word of Christ in the Sermon on the mount about treating others as you would like others to treat you.”
            Bible can be used to justify anything…

            “But other Christians preached and agitated against slavery and finally got it abolished throughout the British Empire.”
            LOL. How come it took over 1000 years?

            “You are artificially restricting the discussion of involuntary euthanasia to one document, and I don’t accept that restriction.”
            Stop running away. My challenge still stands. Where in the humanist writings is “Involuntary euthanasia” endorsed? What does Amsterdam Declaration say?

          • Anton

            Bible can be used to justify anything

            In that case, given that the Bible has a very clear message, words have no meaning – including your words.

            Politicised Christianity is not authentic Christianity; real Christianity is a counter-culture, and that is why slavery was not abolished promptly.

            I am not running away; *you* are, in your ducking my question about abortion as anybody can see. I would not rule abortion out when the mother’s life is in serious danger from the biological effects of the pregnancy.

            Involuntary euthanasia goes on nowadays to free up hospital beds. Nobody calls it that, of course, but it is why elderly Netherlanders often prefer to be treated over the border in Germany (which seems to have learnt its lesson). Try Nietzsche for a start. The Christian view is that humans are in the image of God; the humanist view is that humans are merely intelligent aggregates of atoms.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “In that case, given that the Bible has a very clear message, words have no meaning – including your words”
            It’s not that word have no meaning. It the Bible does not have a unified message because different authors had different views, it is not clearly written and divine commandment theory overrules all rules. If it is clear why do pro/anti slavery/abortion/war/gun/euthanasia/trinity people can justify their view from the Bible? Wouldn’t a clear book be a lot clearer?

            Politicised Christianity is not authentic Christianity; real Christianity is a counter-culture, and that is why slavery was not abolished promptly.
            The True Christianity™ argument again. Everyone’s position is the real Christianity….

            “I am not running away”
            Yes you are. You haven’t answered: Where in the humanist writings is “Involuntary euthanasia” endorsed? What does Amsterdam Declaration say?

            “I am not running away”
            Yes you are. You demand “a clear Yes or No”, but don’t answer any question with “a clear Yes or No” but avoiding “I would not rule … out” just like true a politician.

            “women who got pregnant by consensual sexual intercourse and who were at no risk of physical harm from their continuing pregnancy?”
            You have to acknowledge the women are humans and they have rights, just like men and babies. Babies have same rights as everyone else.

            Christian logic:
            1) Christians fear monger that elderly are killed in hospitals in the Netherlanders
            2) Some Elderly Christians in the Netherlanders start to be treated over the border in Germany
            3) Christians cite that elderly Netherlanders often prefer to be treated over the border in Germany because they fear being killed as evidence
            4) Christian proof achieved even when nobody got killed in hospitals

            “The Christian view is that humans are in the image of God; the humanist view is that humans are merely intelligent aggregates of atoms.”
            I love it when Christian distort humanist position. That makes Christians/Christianity so easy to refute. Hopefully Christians never read Sun Tzu.

          • Anton

            OK wise guy, what do you think humans are?

            I’m very glad that you believe, in your response about abortion, that babies have rights too. That would presumably include the right not to be murdered, which the State upholds for all other humans?

            It’s not Christians who are frightened of being killed in Netherlands hospitals. It’s the elderly, regardless of their beliefs.

            I don’t know and I don’t care what the Amsterdam Declaration says. By what authority does it speak for all secular humanists? Secular humanism is a belief system that has developed for at least 250 years and its core tenet is that man is competent to solve his own problems, in most cases by better education and social engineering. Lenin, Stalin and Mao were secular. You ducked my comment about Nietzsche, by the way.

            The essence of New Testament Christianity is that it is a volunteer faith, an opt-in faith. Politics is about setting the laws. Laws compel. That is why the church should not be in politics as a collective, although in a democracy it is fine for Christians to represent their views in the same way as any other group. If you disagree then you had better tell me which verses refute that position and advocate political Christianity.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “what do you think humans are?”
            Not sure what you mean. Human are living creatures; products of evolution.

            Babies have right to life just like anyone else, but not on someone’s expense just like anyone else.

            “It’s not Christians who are frightened of being killed in Netherlands hospitals. It’s the elderly, regardless of their beliefs”
            Scaremongering is working well then…

            “I don’t know and I don’t care what the Amsterdam Declaration says. By what authority does it speak for all secular humanists?”
            Of course you don’t care, but you still want to propagate misinformation about humanist that they endorse “Involuntary euthanasia”.
            Of course you challenge the the authority of the Amsterdam Declaration, but you claim that humanist view is that they endorse “Involuntary euthanasia”.
            This is why Christian apologists are morally bankrupt.

            I didn’t get your point about Nietzsche. By what authority does he speak for all secular humanists? Same with Lenin, Stalin and Mao. If I want you to know Christianity should I ask you to try to read Breivik? This is the level of silliness you offer.

            “The essence of New Testament Christianity is that it is a volunteer faith, an opt-in faith.”
            Just like when Mafia offers their services. It is volunteer to opt-in… but of course if you don’t there is a hell waiting for you. Again this shows the bankruptcy of the message.

            “If you disagree then you had better tell me which verses refute that position and advocate political Christianity”
            Just listen to the US Republic party candidates or many other world leaders. God speaks to them directly just like God spoke directly in the Bible many times.

          • Anton

            So you are unable or unwilling to provide Bible verses to back up your claim? Why then should anybody take your comments about Christianity seriously? Tell me, what do all humanists have in common? I’ve made my suggestion about that, but you are (presumably) the humanist so go ahead (if you can).

            Perhaps you are aware of what Nietzsche said about inferior and useless persons and wish to avoid engaging with it in this discussion? It is why the elderly in the Netherlands prefer to be treated in Germany. When you are old and ill you might understand better how they feel and why.

            I did not say that (all) humanists endorse involuntary euthanasia, as a glance above will confirm. Please do not put words into my mouth. Involuntary euthanasia is a child of the humanist worldview.

            “Babies have right to life just like anyone else, but not on someone’s expense just like anyone else.”

            Sorry, that’s not coherent. Expense is not a factor in determining whether a born human should live or die, so why should it be a factor regarding an unborn human?

          • Jon Sorensen

            Sorry, which claim do I have to back up from Bible?

            You challenge “by what authority does it speak for all secular humanists”, yet you keep on pushing Nietzsche and ignore Breivik. Do you understand how silly your position is?

            ” It is why the elderly in the Netherlands prefer to be treated in Germany.”
            Do you have any evidence for this or is this just another Christian myth.

            my challenge still stands. Where in the humanist writings is
            “Involuntary euthanasia” endorsed? What does Amsterdam Declaration say?
            It’s your claim. I didn’t put words in your mouth… but you keep on running away…

          • Anton

            I have answered your question: I don’t know what the Amsterdam Declaration says and I don’t care, because secular humanism is not like (for example) Roman Catholicism, which has a single mouthpiece acknowledged as such by all Roman Catholics. Secular humanism is a movement based on a philosophy, and involuntary euthanasia is one of its consequences when its beliefs are extrapolated honestly. Try reading Nietzsche, for example, a highly influential secular philosopher who was at least honest about the consequences of life without acknowledging God.

            This website

            http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/holland/

            states that 7% of the people who underwent euthanasia in the Netherlands in a recent year suffered it involuntarily, and that 3% underwent euthanasia. That is more than 1 death in 500 due to involuntary euthanasia. As 136,000 people died there, that means more than 270 cases of involuntary euthanasia per year. This article

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2779624/Number-mentally-ill-patients-killed-euthanasia-Holland-trebles-year-doctors-warn-assisted-suicide-control.html

            states that, in 2013, 42 persons having mental illnesses were killed by lethal injection, a threefold increase on the previous year. These websites are not Christian.

            As for running away… you have gone quiet about abortion since my last question to you.

            I said that the New Testament cannot be used to justify coercion by Christians to promote their beliefs. (Christians read the Old Testament to learn about God in the days when he ran a nation, but that is for information only as the church is not a nation.) Your position is that the Bible can be used to justify any position. Please therefore cite the New Testament verses that you believe justify Christian coercion.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You don’t care what Humanists say, but you make claim what they say. Typical self refuting Christianity.

            That’s why you make nonsense claim like “involuntary euthanasia is one of its consequences when its beliefs are extrapolated honestly.”. Keep on doing it. Humanists can easily point out your nonsense which undermines all your arguments.

            Why are you still talking about Nietzsche??

            You go to anti-euthanasia group and DailyMail to get your facts about euthanasia. Do you go to Dawkins to get your facts about Christianity?

            DailyMail says:
            “Studies suggest that if such deaths were added to the figure then euthanasia would account for one in eight – about 12.3 per cent – of all deaths in the Netherlands”
            Really. Do you really believe that?

            How about you link to a real study not some advocate group and we can discuss about the facts?

            I’m not sure about what I need to say about abortion. Fetus has same rights as anybody else and women have right to their own body. What else you want me to say? Bible clearly supports abortion as it’s example shows it.

            “Please therefore cite the New Testament verses that you believe justify Christian coercion.”
            I don’t need a verse. Divine Commandment. If God commands genocide or to kill your son – it morally right. If God commands you not to do genocide or not to kill your son – it morally right. Everything is relative and Christianity is a relativistic moral system.

          • Anton

            You are right: Christianity IS relative to God. What you are ignoring, though, is what God actually commands Christians to do. I assert that he requires them never to use coercion in the furthering of the Christian faith. If you disagree with that statement then please provide the verses from the New Testament to the contrary. (Christians are not under the commands in the Old Testament; we read it to learn more about how God ran a nation, which the church isn’t. Christians are bound by the New Testament.)

            “Fetus has same rights as anybody else and women have right to their own body. What else you want me to say? Bible clearly supports abortion as it’s example shows it.”

            Isn’t there a clash of rights between mother and foetus in your first sentence? And where does the Bible support abortion, please?

            “You don’t care what Humanists say, but you make claim what they say.”

            Your first sentence does not match what I actually said. I said that I don’t care what the Amsterdam Declaration says. It is not the first, only and last word about secular humanism, is it? Do you deny that Nietzsche was secular and influential?

            “You go to anti-euthanasia group and DailyMail to get your facts about euthanasia.”

            You grumble if I use Christian sources, now you grumble when I use non-Christian ones. If you dispute that 7% of the people who underwent euthanasia in the Netherlands in a recent year suffered it involuntarily, and that 3% underwent euthanasia; or that in 2013, 42 persons having mental illnesses there were killed by lethal injection, representing a threefold increase on the previous year, then please provide alternative figures.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Christians are not under the commands in the Old Testament; we read it to learn more about how God ran a nation, which the church isn’t. Christians are bound by the New Testament.”
            I would also avoid OT. That unchanging God did to horrible thing in OT that if I would hate to defend those. And Jesus did say he came to abolish the Law like the ten commandments and stuff..

            “Isn’t there a clash of rights between mother and foetus in your first sentence?”
            There might be. If there is a clash of willingness to co-exist then you can’t force it. The Baby has the same rights as mother.

            “And where does the Bible support abortion, please?”
            Numbers 5:11-31 has the correct abortion practice

            “I said that I don’t care what the Amsterdam Declaration says. It is not the first, only and last word about secular humanism, is it?”
            How do you know if you haven’t read it?

            “Do you deny that Nietzsche was secular and influential?”
            I have no idea. None of the humanists I know share his views. Do you have any evidence of this claim?

            “You grumble if I use Christian sources, now you grumble when I use non-Christian ones.”
            Yes. I don’t care if it is Christian or non-Christian. I just want the study with data.

            “If you dispute that… then please provide alternative figures”
            You made the claim so you provide the evidence. Just provide the study where those numbers came from. Sure you do your own fact check and don’t trust DailyMail as you scientific data?

          • Anton

            I did provide the evidence. Now you are disputing it. So it is up to you to knock it down. Saying that you don’t trust the source is a lazy and unconvincing way to do that. How would you convince others who are willing to give credence to those figures? What about that other website giving stats to six significant figures?

            You ask for evidence that Nietzsche was secular and influential? He is taught as such in university philosophy departments throughout the world.

            I wrote: “I don’t care what the Amsterdam Declaration says. It is not the first, only and last word about secular humanism, is it?” You replied by asking: How do you know if you haven’t read it?

            Because it was not written on behalf of the leaders of a hierarchy whose word is accepted by all secular humanists. Secular humanism is not like Roman Catholicism. Who is the Pope of secular humanism, whose every word secular humanists have to accept? Did such a man commission the Amsterdam Declaration?

            The Baby has the same rights as mother.

            I agree. Those rights presumably include the most basic, the right to life. That precludes abortion, except possibly when the mother’s life is at grave risk from the biological effects of the pregnancy.

            As for Numbers 5, it is a test for adultery, and if a woman is found guilty then she suffers a horrible death. She may or may not be pregnant by either her husband or her lover at that time. This is not about abortion. The death penalty for women does not generally take account of pregnancy across various jurisdictions.

            Jesus did say he came to abolish the Law like the ten commandments and stuff.

            Actually he said the opposite: see Matthew 5. There is nothing in the Old Testament I am ashamed of, but I am not under the laws therein as they are the legal code of a nation, not of church.

        • alternative_perspective

          Jon, you are falling for the genetic fallacy.

          You assert that because we can unveil the origin of a thought, that origin undermines the truth of that thought.

          Perhaps you’re antireligious because you were brought up in a virulently atheistic household or are committed to some sin you feel convicted by or because some religious person offended you. Do any of those positions comment at all on the intellectual validity of atheism? Of course not. If atheism were true it it would not be falsified by the the negation of any one of those origins. The truth content is independent of the origin. Jesus, perhaps, repeating the comment first uttered by Sun Tzu doesn’t make the comment somehow less true.

          Now of course certain things could falseify Christianity, such as producing the body of Jesus. But it is worth noting that at the resurrection not one critical party denied the empty tomb of Jesus. So u then have to develop other theories to explain this.

          As for most people thinking that Jesus is a legend, well most people are ignorant and only are acquainted with radical skeptic who occasionally capture the headlines and start a meme which propagates through the internet.

          Even atheist scholars agree that Jesus lived. No one in any scholarly circle denies his existence. Nowadays none dispute the claims of the Easter narrative, where obviously they differ is in the interpretation and explanation. You can fact check that for yourself.

          Training of course would help. It would help put to bed the kind of popukar arguments circling the internet that you have picked up on and the fallacious argument on which scepticism, such as yours, seem to be based.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Jon, you are falling for the genetic fallacy. You assert that because we can unveil the origin of a thought, that origin undermines the truth of that thought.”
            No, I didn’t. I agreed with Jesus’ statement. Just pointed out that your God copied other people.

            “Perhaps you’re antireligious because you were brought up in a virulently atheistic household or are committed to some sin you feel convicted by or because some religious person offended you.”
            Perhaps you are Christians because you hate the truth.

            “Now of course certain things could falseify Christianity, such as producing the body of Jesus”
            Nothing could falsify Christianity. How would you even identify him? Many Christians still believe that shroud of Turin is real even when is scientifically falsified.

            “As for most people thinking that Jesus is a legend”
            Because he never existed, and Paul and Gospel writers never actually met him.

            “Even atheist scholars agree that Jesus lived.”
            If you have read them you would know they don’t agree.

            “No one in any scholarly circle denies his existence.”
            Yes because faith based unis would kick them out.

            “Nowadays none dispute the claims of the Easter narrative”
            You haven’t read about it so you don’t even know the disputes

            “where obviously they differ is in the interpretation and explanation”
            LOL. because even Gospel writers didn’t manage to keep the story straight

            “You can fact check that for yourself.”
            I did. Mark and John can’t even agree on the day of crucifixion

            “Training of course would help”
            Looks like you need it more than me….

    • Dreadnaught

      I like to think that I am a realist and to that extent when I ask myself would I wish to be an atheist in a European Muslim country or an atheist in a European Christian country – it’s a no-brainer.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Unfortunately many Christians see those two as the only options. I don’t.

        yeee Christianity is better than Islam,,

        • Dreadnaught

          Then I can only assume you are not a realist.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Religions come and go or evolve to something else… Changes are happening faster than ever

          • Anton

            Could I ask you (both) to define a “Christian country” before using or assuming the phrase?

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Christian country” = where Christians have special privileges

          • Anton

            Understood. I don’t ask for that.

          • Jon Sorensen

            But it is the reality in most western countries…

          • Anton

            Is it?

          • Moley

            The CofE are more than welcome to give up their bishops in the HoL, their massive property portfolio, faith schools, exemption from the Equality Act and to start paying tax whenever they like.

          • Anton

            I have said that I don’t support legal privileges for Christians or the church. What I questioned was the claim that such privileges exist in “most western countries”. Can you show that?

          • Moley

            Well to be fair we are the only nation, other than Iran amusingly, to have unelected members of a religious group in a position of actual power, but I’d be interested if you can name a Western country where they don’t get the rest of those privileges.

          • Anton

            I’ve made no claim so I’m not going to do the work but there aren’t Established churches in most European countries and off the top of my head I suggest France. Certainly Italy from 1870 to 1929, although I don’t know what remains post-WW2 of the 1929 Lateran Accords between Mussolini and the Vatican. And you can bet that in the European countries that were behind the Iron Curtain there were no church privileges in that era, and I doubt that any were granted after the Curtain came down.

          • Moley

            We’ll get there one day.

          • IanCad

            For something that comes and goes, the two thousand year old Christian religion must be doing rather well in your book.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Christians managed to survive first 300 years by being nice to everyone and once they got to power it got aggressive and killed the competition. That evolutionary trade was key to it’s dominance. Now that it does not have supreme power in some countries it has evolved to be a nice again. Christianity has been very successful reinventing it when needed.

            But then again humans have been around 200 000 years and Christianity only 2000.

          • Anna

            For the first 300 years, to be a Christian, you risked everything the world had to offer.

            After Constantine made it the official religion of his Empire, Christianity became ‘paganized’. All of a sudden, ‘Christians’ included all sorts of people who had no real knowledge of the faith or commitment to Christ – Roman officials, nobles, peasants. Many had never really renounced their old religions, but chose to pour their old wine into new wineskins.

            Unlike the Christians of the past, this lot ‘chose’ Christianity not for eternal life, but present convenience. Soon the Bishop of Rome elevated himself a position similar to the Roman Emperor – resulting in the split with the Orthodox churches. Lay people in Europe knew nothing of the Christian faith and did not have the Bible in their own languages.

            The Reformation movement sought to restore Christianity to its original, uncorrupted form; and had some (partial) success.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “For the first 300 years, to be a Christian, you risked everything the world had to offer.”
            Nonsense. This is a Christian legend. Just read your own Church fathers or scholars like Stark. It was more dangerous to be Mithras follower when Christians got to power.

            “The Reformation movement sought to restore Christianity to its original, uncorrupted form”
            LOL, like every single Denomination. Protestantism rose from Catholicism and inherited some of it’s later inventions like trinity. Original Christians were not trinitarians.

          • Anna

            It is a bit difficult to have a discussion with someone who was ‘around at the time’ and knows it all…

            So according to you persecution of Christians is a legend. What is your evidence for this? The apostles Paul, Peter and John write about such persecution… Polycarp… Nero… Pliny the Younger… Valerian… etc, etc.

            There is much historical evidence for the persecution of early Christians. Perhaps not in the country you come from, but certainly my ancestors (from an ancient eastern Christian tradition) had some experience of such persecution.

            … like every single Denomination. Protestantism rose from Catholicism…

            The Orthodox churches did not branch out from Catholicism, but had a contemporaneous origin.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “The apostles Paul, Peter and John write about such persecution”

            My Bible say Peter and John were illiterate. What persecution Paul claim/did himself?

            “… Polycarp… Nero… Pliny the Younger… Valerian… ”
            Suetonitus tells that Nero didn’t like to kill people even criminals. Emperor Constantine’s Oration did not mention Nero, but did mention Valerian persecution 253-260 CE. Pliny the Younger didn’t know Nero’s “persecutions” and did not go after Christians because of their faith. I’m not sure if Polycarps death is midrash or not, but occasitonally religious leaders get killed if they don’t follow the law. Christian persecution is mostly fiction modern people like you want to propagate to round up the troops,

            “There is much historical evidence for the persecution of early Christians.”
            What evidence?

            “Perhaps not in the country you come from, but certainly my ancestors”
            We all have ancestors who were forced to follow Jesus. Christians persecuted people for 1500 years.

            “The Orthodox churches which did not branch out from Catholicism, but had a contemporaneous origin also believe very strongly in the Trinity.”
            Yes. All trinitarians branched out from the truth fairly late.

    • Moley

      “Remember this comes from CofE which gets special tax benefits and privileged seats at legislative branch. AND while they get their tax breaks they want tax payers to pay more”

      Yeah but they’re being oppressed because that advert isn’t going to be shown in cinemas. Don’t overlook that.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Christian persecution complex = “we are oppressed” in the UK. Did Starbucks forgot the Jesus logo from the Christmas cup also in the UK or can’t they discriminate anymore?

  • Ali Campbell

    Woah there boy, just hold on. Having lived on a stipend . . . and now NOT living on a stipend, it is not as straightforward as you make out. Many people are NOT receiving tax credits because they are earning too much . . . BUT, they ARE paying £1000+ rent a month out of their salary . . . you don’t mention that little bit of info. We found it hard on a stipend, but nowhere near as tough as it is now! The lack of awareness of the “benefits” culture (I mean within the church and clergy in general) is staggering : house provided, diocese doing maintenance and if you work for a church, PCC doing stuff aswell, extremely cheap loans to buy cars, benefits from working from home, a great pension scheme when many don’t have one . . .

    • CliveM

      In fairness the house is provided while you work. Either money still needs to be put aside for retirement or they can buy during work and rent out. Either way on the stipend this will be difficult.

      • Ali Campbell

        Agreed. But, salaried workers for the church – full time children’s, youth and families workers get nothing like this. Many would be happy with the equivalent of a minimum stipend (never mind the four bedroom house, council tax paid + water rates covered)! Let’s prioritise the REALLY poor among us who are in full time ministry, it isn’t the clergy.

        • Andym

          Don’t forget the SSMs!

          • Ali Campbell

            Agree with that too. Depends on their personal circumstances – I would imagine (from the ones I know) some giving hugely sacrificially, others can afford to . . . but, again, a mixed bag of provision and support depending where you are in the country.

        • Phil R

          The church should not be paying for these jobs to be done at all.

          Traditionally these jobs were done by the church community.

          If you cannot afford to pay for quality people to lead then you cut the overheads

          • Ali Campbell

            I can’t agree with your first statement above having given (so far) 18 years to full time youth ministry . . . (after 10 as a volunteer, doing it as part of the church community . . . )

          • Phil R

            Ali

            The church should be pleased with your work. I am sure that you do a fantastic job.

            However, it is not something that the church should pay a salary for. There are loads of jobs that frankly do not need doing.

            While we are at it is not the chuch’s job to pay for medieval buildings, organists, the huge numbers if Bishops and other non essential personel

            Reversing the disastrous policy of women’s ordination would also save a great deal.

  • Sir Walter Tyrell

    It is a sadly understandable that in today’s climate a Church with investments valued at £6 billion, otherwise largely reliant on collections from parishioners, and with expensive assets to maintain might actually not be easily able to find the money to pay 28,000 ministers a living wage, Times are hard.
    However, you cannot lose sight of the basic principle that the minimum cost of labour is the cost of keeping labourers alive and in the style to be expected by the most modest members of society. For a commercial organization, the money to pay workers and provide a return to investors should come from customers. If the customers won’t pay enough to keep the workers alive and keep the investors interested, then that organization should not exist.
    It’s actually a simpler equation for non-commercial organizations. If you can’t pay your workers, you can’t survive. The Church cannot thrive entirely on the self-sacrifice of its paid Ministers or rely on the enforced generosity of the taxpayer. Either the Church needs to find new ways of generating income or the clergy might have to be slimmed down further. One way of slimming down would be to develop a more part-time Ministry, with the clergy being encouraged to follow St. Paul’s injunction to the clergy in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, but would the Church have the courage to send the clergy out to practise the Christian religion in the world of everyday work?

    • Coniston

      Regarding the Church’s investments, how much of it forms its pension fund?

      On another point, should a clergyman aim to join the ‘Talent Pool‘ and attempt to climb the greasy pole?

      • Sir Walter Tyrell

        I cannot find a separate pension fund itemised in the Church Commissioners’ accounts but the net present value of the pension obligation is given as £1.8 billion. So, if there is no separate fund, that is the amount of investments that have to be set aside from the existing assets to fund pension rights earned to date.
        I believe that the figure of 28,000 ministers includes retired clergy, so there is no additional number of ministers to support from this, although some administrative staff and others may not have been included in this figure.
        As for joining the talent pool, the pseudonymous Mr. Pinker will need to use his own judgment, with God’s guidance, as to whether that is the best use of his own talents.

        • Sigfridiii

          The figure of 28,000 ministers is wildly inaccurate – there are less than 8,000 in receipt of a stipend.

          • Sir Walter Tyrell

            Thanks for the information, Sigfrid. The 28,000 figure was from the Church of England’s website. I was aware that this include unpaid workers including Lay Readers with a licence to preach but had not realized that the proportion in receipt of a stipend was so low. Some others, of course, might be in receipt of a salary. However, it does change the picture somewhat and perhaps the Church should simply be paying its clergy more.

      • Moley

        At around £6.7bn I can’t imagine it being much. Well, unless they pay pensions until you reach Methuselah’s age.

      • Sigfridiii

        About 1/3 of the investment fund is set to be spent on pensions.

  • Charlie P

    While entirely sympathetic to the general argument, I do think clergy need to careful about making comparisons of their own situation with people on low wages. The living wage which Sentamu is advocating would equate to a salary of about £15k, which makes the clergy NMS look very generous.

    • Ian

      Too right. I understand my wife and I are not yet paying for any children but we do run a regularly used car and rent a sizeable house on below 15k a year. Should I make it through the ordination process, it will feel like we’re rich!

      • magnolia

        In many parts of the country you couldn’t run a car and rent a sizeable house, and eat and pay heating on below 15K p.a. In fact just the rental alone for a sizeable house would wipe that off, and more. As for London…..

        • Ian

          True, but you can forget that 18k because as a member of the clergy you’d be given a house, no? That’s the sort of situation I was referring to anyway, I have the utmost sympathy for any clergy that do have to buy and maintain their own properties on that stipend.

          Also, depends what you mean by sizeable I guess. It is fashionable in the UK to live well beyond your means and think you’re hard done by.

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      You basic point is clearly true but does understate things a bit.

      I don’t know exactly in what context Sentamu was talking about a living wage, but under the Chancellor’s plans (£7.20/hour in 2016, at least £9/hour by 2020) a minimum wage job (37.5hours/week) would pay £14,040, rising to at least £17,550.

      Using the figures from the Living Wage Foundation (£9.4/hour in London, £8.25 elsewhere) gives annual salaries of £18,330 & £16,087.

      • magnolia

        I get the distinct impression that 37.5 hrs work a week for most clergy would be a remote dream. Double it and add some most like!

        • James Bolivar DiGriz

          It really does annoy me when people see something with one or two words in common with something they want to talk about and post it as if it is a reply.

          Charlie P. made a comment about how the NMS compared to a minimum wage job which, de definito, is not a clergy job.

          I did not say that clergy work a 37.5 hour week, I made absolutely no comment about the length of a clergy week.

          What I did comment on was the salary (not the hours) of a reasonably typical, full time, non-clergy job minimum wage job relative to the NMS.

          • magnolia

            I didn’t say you did say that; but was just reaching towards the realisation that if you reckon the no. of hours worked, add the benefit of a house, subtract an amount that recognises aspects like being on duty all hours, for some living in a fishbowl, lack of privacy,and using house for meetings/offices, it really is not far off minimum wage, and possibly less, which accords with the conscientious nature, by and large, of the clergy.

            The hours worked or potentially on call are a vital aspect of making ends meet and I cannot see the problem mentioning them at all.

  • sarky

    Hypocrisy in the church?? Hmmm, who’d have thought.

  • IanCad

    This living/minimum wage issue is one that baffles me.
    So; as I understand it, if a person is working in a low wage job the state will top up his income to a level deemed sufficient. If that same person is out of work his income will be almost the same. The wise man will stay at home and study.
    It is a sorry fact that employees have different abilities. Some are unable to produce, in work, what the employer is willing or able to pay. Pink slip, P-40 time.
    Given that the true socialist is outwardly very mindful of those of lesser capabilities, it seems to me that the minimum/living wage harms those very people whom the left professes to speak for.

    • Anton

      Yes. It was electoral bribery by Gordon Brown.

    • Moley

      Yeah, it makes much more sense to do what the CofE did, not bother paying the minimum wage and instead choose to invest in the growing payday loans market instead.

      Much more “Christian” way of looking at the issue.

  • David Keen

    To supply some of the missing maths in the article: a clergy family with one or more children under 16 on the minimum stipend is eligible for tax credits, I should know, we get them. I also get to live in a 5 bedroom property free of council tax and maintenance bills, which is a blessing but also at times embarrassing. I would need to earn pretty much double what I do now to afford that if I wasn’t a vicar. As a benefit in kind it takes my remuneration to well over £30k a year.

    In the last tax year our tax credits and child benefit added up to around £5k, I’m not sure how many children you’d need to have to take this over £25,000, I think the answer is probably ‘too many’. If we can’t expect the state to subsidise CofE wages, we certainly can’t expect it to subsidise choices about how many children clergy families have, regardless of the financial implications. (Though if your curate has just had septuplets, we could make an exception)

    Ok, so we raise the clergy stipend. Along with extra NI and pension contributions, that would be, what, £5k per vicar? A 20% increase in the wage bill? Which is either paid for by congregations who may also be financially struggling, or sacking 1 in 5 clergy to reduce the payroll. Where is the justice in that? Some clergy are worse off than we would be because we don’t claim all our working expenses from our parishes – knowing that if we did, the parish would be even further into the red than it is now. Many clergy are ‘subsidising’ their parish churches, there would need to be a radical change in parish incomes to see that reversed.

    • Moley

      The CofE could always sell some of their multi-billion pound property portfolio to fund it all. Only joking.

      • magnolia

        Yes, you must be, as then we would see retired clergy in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have worked hard all their lives out begging in the streets, as it is their pensions which are paid out of those funds, though of course the State would pick up most of the tab, partly through the NHS, partly through having to pay employees to cover all the voluntary work they do, and partly through pension credits and housing benefits, which would then be down to you and your taxes would go up.

        • Moley

          True, I’m not sure how they’re going to fund those people with a portion of the £6bn of investments…

          • magnolia

            Well you clearly haven’t researched how the money is spent, as you appear not to have looked at the relevant charts and figures. Until you do it isn’t worth discussing as you are writing from guesswork, suspicion and maybe even prejudice without good knowledge and really rather right off the top of your head. The C of E is open about the figures which are available and published. No secrets.

    • sarky

      Welcome to the real world.

    • Phil R

      David

      We need decent quality men in charge of our churches. 30 to 50 k is not unreasonable

      This will cost jobs? Good

      Sack the women and half the men and we might just save the Anglican Church in the UK.

      We could reverse decline tomorrow. But like all institutions in difficulty we need to be ruthless.

      • alternative_perspective

        Quite let the dead look after the dead.

        The parish share is used ineffectually, to subsidise churches where the priest is a bit wooly about Jesus and turning up for a ritualised friendship group.

        I’m not saying friendship groups aren’t important… They’re vital. And I’m not completely against ritual but they are means and not ends.

        • Phil R

          Quite , a friendship group is not a church

  • Phil

    I work in a church, not CofE or as a minister, i would love to be on that kind of money! I work full time, and have 3 children, yes the government shouldnt be subsidising churches or companies that pay a small amount, but without a financial understanding, i cannot see how everyone can be paid £30k? Surely as god called us all to live with what we have and share from it, leaders in god’s church shouldnt be moaning about the little they have but like the congregation we should all look at how it is spent and divided, I often wonder why “celebrity” tele evangelists are constantly asking for money, if god wants it to succeed then he will prompt those with the funds to support it, another challenge for those “church attendees” perhaps at whether they are listening to God

    • IanCad

      Good man!
      Caesar should not be charged for God’s work.

    • Moley

      What, is an income bigger than McDonalds, billions of pounds in investments and another in property not enough for the CofE?

      • Barry

        Income is not profit. There is no national CofE income. Each local church is a separate charity.
        Our church’s income is circa £150k.
        Of which £60k goes to the diocese to pay for whatever they spend it on (oh the stipend of the vicar)
        £24k maintaining the building
        £30k for a youth worker to run youth and children’s activities for 200+ kids in our community
        £5k on insurance
        £12k on heating/lighting etc
        £14k on an living-wage staff salaries (admin, cleaning, toddler co-ordinator)
        £13k to charity
        £9k on evangelism, discipleship, service costs.

        And yes – that doesn’t add up – we’ve budgeted a £6k overspend this year against £20k of reserves.

    • Phil R

      Phil

      You deserve a just renumeration from your church

      £30 is not at all unreasonable with three children and a non working spouse.

      The church you work in should realise that

  • Phil R

    The stipend needs to be updated.

    It needs to take into account family size, spouse’s wages and number of children

    I think the stipend for single clergy could be reduced and the stipend for married clergy who’s spouse is earning is reduced, in some cases to nothing.

    it seems ridiculous to me that a local vicar claims a stipend, has a rent free 6 bedroom Victorian vicarage and spouse works in a local hospital as a Consultant.

    The gross family income is well over 150K. The children attend private schools, they have two new Range Rovers and a big boat on the local river.

    The extra 24k the vicar earns is not significant in the family finances.

    (BTW, it is not envy that motivates this comment. We have two new cars on the drive a big house and comfortable lifestyle inc private schools for the children)

    Another successful vicar I know with a wife who looks after the children rather than send them to a day orphanage and 4 young children is almost completely dependent on tax credits to make ends meet.

    I would consider that a fair stipend for a vicar with a wife and young children with a congregation of say 300 is 50K. For those with a regular congregation of 50 then 30K is more appropriate. (We need to reward successful vicars)

    But more important, the total family size and income needs to be considered, inc the “free” housing in deciding on a level of stipend. There should be no double incomes.

    • sarky

      You couldn’t resist getting a little boast in could you Phil.

      • Phil R

        I did ponder this post but the alternative is to appear envious of the lifestyle.

        I must admit there is a degree of envy. They have a very nice lifestyle with the very little effort

    • Hi

      “The gross family income is well over 150K.”

      Confused : I thought vicar and clergy were supposed to take vows of poverty etc to be in the holy orders?

      Also, I can’t get over the parish share stuff. In my religion the congregation has to pay a membership fee to pay for the synagogue, rabbi, mikevah,burials etc…. No money . No Rabbi .

      • Phil R

        Increasingly the role of the vicar is becoming a good second income for women. It tops up a real middle class salary rather well. It is extremely flexible timewise, fits in with family life and does not require too much effort.

        Ideal job for a woman……

        Or indeed a feminised man who’s wife has a real job.

        • Hi

          Thanks for answering my question. You seem to imply that being clergy in the church is not about God but about lifestyle choice for self betterment?

          • CliveM

            Hannah

            I’ve known plenty of Church Ministers (a friend of mine even married one) and none of them did it for the money or lifestyle. Although, like everything it is likely some join the full time ministry as they like the authority or possibly respect it will give them. Poor deluded fools!!

            No the CofE ministers don’t take a vow of poverty, but neither are they excessively well paid. The £150k example Phil quotes will have been due to the Consultant Wife. In today’s day and age, fewer and fewer wives of Vicars are willing to simply be seen as a free helper and have their own careers.
            Like the rest of society. I would suspect in Jewish circles you will have Rabbis in the same position.

            With regards who pays and why aren’t parishes self financing, the CofE is tasked with maintaining a Parish system, where everyone in England has the right to be buried (or otherwise disposed of) by a CofE Vicar. It is, as you know, the established Church. So even though not all Parishes are financially viable, the Church has to maintain a presence. Hence they get subsidised.

            Independent Churches, have to be self financing, but then they don’t attempt to cover the whole country with a parish system.

          • Hi clive

            Ok that makes sense. Thanks for the info.

          • Phil R

            Like all things it is shades of grey

          • magnolia

            From you, guess that’s 50 then…

          • Phil R

            Good books.

            Christians should read them

          • Hi

            Okay. It’s your faith , best wishes in sorting it all out.

    • Barry

      Question – how would you define a successful vicar? If you start with a congregation of 25 and grow it to 50 are you more or less successful than someone working with 2-3 colleagues who starts with 400 and “grows” it to 300? Also – Bible tells us God gives the growth.

      • Phil R

        The first is successful the second is not at all so the answer is simple.

        The second team that grows a church from 400 to 3000. We do have those, is more successful than the vicar who simply doubled the congregation.

        Numbers are important. Growth also seemed to be directly linked to orthodox biblical doctrine and practices.

        Jesmond in Newcastle is a good example.

        • Barry

          Phil – I’m a big fan of JPC too (though I did once throw up there as a kid – nothing to do with the preaching).

          Cards on the table time….I’m a vicar south of Watford and I’d love to have the cost of living problems Tyneside based clergy must have! I think a bigger regional weighting to the stipend would be helpful rather tham a growth related pay scheme. (Because God gives the growth so I’d prioritise biblical faithfulness over success any day.) We grew 6 years in a row then dropped 10% in one year because 4-5 key families decided to sell up / retire to the country or moved for career. Why should I get a pay cut because they want to live in the countryside?

          Anyway we aren’t too badly off – because my wife works full time. We were getting further into debt before she went back to work.

          • Phil R

            “Anyway we aren’t too badly off – because my wife works full time. We were getting further into debt before she went back to work”

            That is the real issue. Why are stipends so low? Because there are loads of non clergy paid roles and female clergy.

            Why is female clergy an issue? Because they should not provide spiritual leadership, they undermine the role of the man in the family and the rationale for ordaining them in the first place was that there were too few men (On a stipend I don’t blame them) coming forward. (Or is it as today there were plenty of men wanting ordination, but the “wrong sort” of men are/were coming forward — Ask any prospective ordinands from JPC about the support they get from the Cof E (LOL) or “horror” indeed anyone who wants to train at Oakhill.)

            Of course the other rationale for ordaining women is to reduce the decline in membership of the CofE and CinW. That rationale seems to be quietly forgotten.

      • Barry

        Phil – you misread my post. I said “grow” from 400 to 300 (ie shrink) you picked £50k for 300 in church. There are a number of ways to get there! Size alone is not a measure of success.

        BTW why would you say the sole vicar who grows from 25 to 50 is doing worse than the giant staff team at a place like Jesmond? JPC has 38 staff listed on its website (presume not all full time). So why should the vicar be better rewarded than anywhere else?

        • Phil R

          They should be better rewarded because we need to keep their skills.

          BTW it is worth noting that the Bishop refuses to have anything significant to do with the the most successful church by a long way in his diocese. Why? Because Jesmond’s success is built on orthodox (non liberal) teaching

  • carl jacobs

    How many people work for the Church of England in non-parish positions?

  • bmudmai

    Non-clergy in Church usually earn between 10-20k I would say and have to pay for their house. Frequently they are expected to devote more time than their contracted hours and frequently attend and do things which are outside their remit.

    There are far greater concerns than that of the clergy stipend. The average wage in the UK is £26,500 (which is skewed by super-high wages) which means they are only £1500 below the average and if they are in post, they live rent-free. On top of this, majority of clergy will have a house which they rent out and receive an income from. If they don’t own a property, they can easily get a mortgage on a small property somewhere which they can rent out (buy-to-rent). Majority of clergy I have come across seem able to afford to spend money on indulgences such as wines, port, sherry etc.

    If the clergy work 60hours a week on £8 an hour, they then cover their salary. Many clergy work between 50-60hours but that includes all their voluntary time as it were. Many lay members including Job + church voluntary time will do similar hours.

    But it is equivalent to a greater salary because of the rent-free life. A terrace in much of the country costs roughly £7000 a year to rent. So in some senses that is equivalent to a £31900 salary.

    • magnolia

      You omit expectations from your calculations. Yes, you might see a bottle of wine or sherry as an indulgence, but can they seriously entertain parishioners to supper without offering a glass of wine? To ask whether someone would like a glass of water or some orange squash or a tomato juice might be all very well, and necessary if s.o. is driving, but it is seen culturally as downright inhospitable and would greatly decrease their availability to be there “for all sorts and conditions of [people]”!!

      • Moley

        Aren’t they supposed to be grateful for whatever food stuff they get?

        • magnolia

          Do you offer people cheap food and cheap non-alcoholic drinks when entertaining? I don’t see the point of your comment.

          • Moley

            How does Grace go again?

            “For what we are about to receive may the Lo…. is this Lidl’s own brand you cheapskate?! I’m not eating this rubbish”

          • dannybhoy

            We buy a lot of our food from Lidls. Christian hospitality has nothing to do with the price of the food and everything to do with the grace with which it is served.

          • Hi

            Aldi, poundland and home bargains are also good places to get good deals (for me not the food of course ). Our culture is that it is mitzvah for a visitor has to be made to feel like their part of the family, never allowed to go away without a beverage or if hungry food. There’s one tradition we have of Kucharera /Tavola di Dolci which is a (silver ) tray set containing sweets you’re offered , then water and strong Turkish coffee. It’s something our ancestors picked up in their trading , from the Jews in Izmair and the Balkans.

          • dannybhoy

            “Shopping snobbery” is a horrible thing Hannahle!
            Hospitality is one of the ways we express God’s love to each other, and giving is a blessing.

          • Hi

            Where have I demonstrated shopping snobbery?

          • magnolia

            It was Moley, and he made it up. Think he might have been lobbing it at me, but I agree with dannybhoy anyway! It is quality not price that counts, and there is nothing like direct correlation there!

          • Hi

            My comment wasn’t about price, but the kosher status of the food stuffs, particularly meat and wine. The fruits and some branded items might be ok. I’d have to check with the relevant kashuart authority.

          • dannybhoy

            Doh!
            Not you, girl!
            I meant in general.

          • bmudmai

            if it was one bottle of wine for the occasional parishioner tea (as lets be honest, majority of vicars aren’t host to that many and certainly aren’t in such areas which require such snobbery) I wouldn’t comment but in reality many vicars have the wine, sherry, port, whiskey, brandy in for their own consumption. In fact, quite a few certainly have more than the occasional glass and are pushing the limit on what is acceptable for the clergy.

            The Methodist Church had been growing for many years whilst they were tee-total, it didn’t seem to hinder their ministry.

            But as I say. I’m referring to something more than the odd hospitable moment. Plus, I don’t think to argue for a pay rise etc. can really be based on some need to drink wine, port, sherry, whiskey, brandy etc.

            If you don’t want to agree on the alcohol front, many clergy spend a lot of money on a variety of other things (which many can’t afford) such as golf memberships (often not in their parish), Ipads (or other top-end technical equipment), house cleaners etc.

            And yes, they can seriously entertain the parishioners without offering them a glass of wine. If they can’t, then maybe the parishioners need some better guidance.

          • magnolia

            I couldn’t comment on those hitting the bottle; the reasons will be both complex and sad, and probably mirror those of alcoholics across the country.

            However it is easy to criticise other peoples’ spending, but that is undesirable on a minor level for it is hard to know the whys and wherefores and most are working very long hours. Also if they have a cleaner maybe they also have an office or meeting rooms, or rooms which hold meetings within the house. To a certain extent people buy time, and those working long hours may not have time to shop around, which would increase expense. If conscientious people with young families say they are finding it hard to manage, and most clergy are very conscientious, I see no cause to doubt them.

            I really cannot see computers and mobile phones as luxuries; they are just standard office equipment these days and you will be deemed ineffective without.

            As for entertaining no one wishes to be served very indifferent fish soup and see the cat looking hungry and put out 😉

          • bmudmai

            In regards to technology, my point is that they don’t need high-end technology. Can save a couple hundred quid and get a decent tablet or computer etc. Most clergy have no need for the high powered, high price items they buy.

            I’ve rarely met a conscientious clergy in regards to spending.

            The cleaner isn’t a problem if the wife works. However, if the wife is a housewife that should part of her ‘job’.

            The clergy should live as the humble not in comfort and lavish.

          • magnolia

            “The cleaner isn’t a problem if the wife works. However, if the wife is a housewife that should be part of her “job”.

            Oh dear; how many assumptions there are there ….

            For a start the wife may be a husband, in which case you can probably more easily see why his best service to God is not necessarily frequent unpaid menial labour. He may be well qualified at something in his own right. He may wish to work from home. He is not an unpaid live-in servant, starting with office cleaning before 9.00. That is the way of death, the way of small-mindedness, scrimping and penny-pinching, not the way of life for the church.

          • bmudmai

            So clearly you missed the bit about ‘working’. If you work from home that’s different to being a housewife.

            Most Churches have offices in them if you are going to be so pedantic about not cleaning your own office.

            And you are right, in CofE we allow women clergy, easy to forget. Same applies for opposite gender.

    • cybervicar

      I have to laugh at the bit about buying a house. If you are on a stipend only and your wife is a housewife with young kids there is NO chance of getting your own house. I know a lot of young married clergy who exist by juggling credit cards. Clergy housing is a mixed experience and the cost of basic decoration often falls to the house dweller. Carpets are a luxury item. I’m lucky where I am but I have seen clergy really struggle. Congregations are mostly not interested and dioceses turn a blind eye.

      • bmudmai

        Clearly you don’t know much about buying a house. You would buy-to-let. You can get a mortgage at around 100k (which can get you an apartment or small terrace in most of the country) and then you let it out. You won’t be losing money.

        The CofE would be better to financially train clergy (say CAP Money) than raising the wage. Let them learn to live without middle class standards. Suddenly they can afford to live.

        Also, if money is so tight, maybe the wife should find a small part time job whilst the kids are at school or look into a small sidelight type business (like selling knitted scarves) to assist with the income.

        • Barry

          Of course, with the recent changes to the buy to let taxation rules, especially about how it’s taxed, the buy-to-let option isn’t as attractive as in the past.

      • Hi

        If the bishops are so left wing, perhaps clergy should have a trades union to get better wages and working conditions.

        Also the issues you raise aren’t unique to vicars : the great unwashed have money issue too and as a vicar you’ve chosen to go into a job which you must have known doesn’t give the big bucks. Indeed the cultural values of the leadership seems to me that being monied is heavily criticised as greed, lending is usury and being poor is a virtue .

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      “The average wage in the UK is £26,500 (which is skewed by super-high wages)”
      No it isn’t. That figure is a median not a mean.

      • bmudmai

        Ah fair point, I take back what’s in the brackets then. Doesn’t change much of my point mind you.

    • magnolia

      The Inland Revenue having looked at this in detail, (well they would have, wouldn’t they?) do not ascribe full rental value to the mode in which the property is on average employed and enjoyed.

  • chiefofsinners

    The CoE is still structured as it was in the days when it was funded by tithes as well as offerings, and the clergy were the second sons of the barons, who came with an income of their own. However the real blame for the current position lies at the feet of the congregations, who give too little, and the majority of the population, who all want a village church and a vicar but don’t want to pay for it.
    Before you all nod and upvote, go to the Donations tab of this website and observe that the total is at £113, where it has been for at least four weeks to my knowledge.

  • chiefofsinners

    And that picture at the top – is it a caption competition? – how about ‘Bishop meets Dalai Llama’

    • magnolia

      Love it!

      • chiefofsinners

        I’m hoping to get into the shallow end of the talent pool (on the basis of being shallow, rather than talented).

    • William Lewis

      Bishop denies “unnecessary expenditure” for Nativity scene.

  • Ivan M

    30-40k for a vicar with family is a reasonable figure given living conditions in the UK. As long as there is an Establishment Church, priests with families have to be paid, for they have to look after their kids. The evangelical churches impose a tithe of 10%. This is a substantial amount, the preachers feel justified by invoking some aspect or other of the OT, but it amounts to the same thing.

  • Watchman

    God will pay for anything which He orders. As He does not seem too keen to pay clergy wages one wonders whether or not He requires their services. Perhaps they should take a page out of the Apostle Paul’s book and support themselves doing a proper job while carrying out their duties. Where is the theological mandate for full time clergy?

    • chiefofsinners

      1 Corinthians 9 verse 14

      • dannybhoy

        If that is in fact what they do.

        • chiefofsinners

          Yes – and it’s a big if, I know. I expect it’s in the job description somewhere between growing a beard and modelling baggy knitwear.

    • dannybhoy

      “God will pay for anything which He orders. As He does not seem too keen to pay clergy wages one wonders whether or not He requires their services.”
      (Hands to face, eyes wide, sharp intake of breath..!!!!)
      I think it would be best if a minister earned their own living, and would then be shielded from being manipulated by members of the congregation.
      The early church leadership setup is to my mind the best. Elders with various ministries, one senior elder/overseer (pastor).
      There is no place in the NT for Bishops with robes and palaces.

      • Watchman

        I must admit, Danny, that I was thinking about the evangelical concept of dead works: being overactive and achieving absolutely nothing because we had not stopped to discover what God wanted us to do. So much effort in the church seems to be poured into meeting the expectations of mammon, trying to ensure that we appeared to be “Christian”.

        I think of George Muller, a local man, who lived totally by faith: he ran orphanages and never asked anyone for a penny; he knew that God would provide and George was never disappointed. How different is the church now, obsessed by trying to make ends meet rather than living the gospel and trusting that He would provide if we sought His will.

        • dannybhoy

          George Muller, a wonderful man of faith.

          http://www.georgemuller.org/quotes.

          I do agree with what you’re saying here. I think the natural man tends towards building structures to meet a need. The need is met, the structure remains and becomes the need.
          It’s spending time waiting on God and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit, rather than those of the organisation.