C of E wants yet more public funding for useless churches

C of E wants yet more public funding for useless churches

In August this year, Premier Christian Radio reported that thousands of churches in the UK are at risk of closing as they lose members of their congregation and are unable to meet building repair costs.

But the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, above, reportedly wants to avoid mass closures because:

Thousands of closed churches would send out a very powerful message: that the Church and the Christian faith have had their day in this country.

Opening a debate on a report by the Church Buildings Review Group on Wednesday, Inge, who chairs the group, said that it did not:

Underestimate the challenge our buildings pose, but neither do we want to minimise the potential for good and for the gospel which most of them represent.

The report recommends that the Church should lobby the Government for more money to support listed churches and cathedrals.

It was announced on Wednesday that the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme would remain open for the lifetime of this Parliament, and that the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund would be open for a second round.

Dr Inge welcomed the news, and expressed his hope that:

Significant help will be assured in the future. These buildings are effectively everyone’s heritage, and they are the jewel in the nation’s crown, as well as being flagships for the gospel.

Church buildings were the fabric of rural life, a laywoman from Hereford, Wendy Coombey, insisted.

They are also symbols of faith, and we should never underestimate the feeling of failure for the person who, after 800 years, is the person who walks away from a church building. Church buildings are one of the symbols of a sustainable rural future, and we should never lose sight of that.

The Vicar of (Christ Church) Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, Canon Jonathan Alderton-Ford, said that unlisted churches doing “vital work” were missing out under current funding policies.

MPs that he met, he said, were “bewildered” by the Church’s strategy:

Which seems to be to pour resources into churches where nobody goes, because they are in the middle of a field, but to neglect the ones that do wonderful work.

Sir Tony Baldry, who chairs the Church Buildings Council, told the Synod that the aim must be to make church buildings blessings, not burdens. But there were many challenges: in particular, the “significant numbers” of listed churches that served small villages.

We have to find a balance between those who want to keep every piece of heritage and artefact, and those who argue [that] the millions spent on maintaining church buildings would be better spent on people, and we can equally well serve God in tents.

The review group’s proposals were for:

A more strategic approach to the use of church buildings nationally, and in the dioceses as part of mission plans.

This would require:

Securing more assured financial support for listed cathedrals and church buildings in the long term.

In 2013, the average spending on each church building was about £10,000; in total, parishes spent £157 million on repairs and maintenance. One pound in every six spent by the parishes went towards building work.

In 2012 the C of E complained that the Government had removed zero-rated VAT status from the cost of alterations to listed buildings – without giving the Church an exemption.

The NSS’s Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood said at the time:

Many churches have architectural and historical significance that is worthy of state support, but so are many secular buildings that are also not exempt from this tax responsibility. They, too, are struggling, and some important buildings are falling into disrepair because the owners cannot afford to maintain them. Is the National Trust or English Heritage to receive the same perks?

The Church’s self-interest seems to know no bounds. Not satisfied with the VAT subsidy on repairs to listed buildings but ring-fenced to places of worship, it wants yet more preferential treatment. Much of this privileged tax funding is for the benefit of parishioners rather than as a part of the nation’s heritage preservation.

If we value our heritage, we should value all of it, not just churches. If churches are to receive grants from the Government to cover VAT on heritage building alterations, then grants should be made to all heritage buildings on the same basis.

24 responses to “C of E wants yet more public funding for useless churches”

  1. Steve says:

    You know, I bet all those disused churches would make excellent libraries (or schools, or other educational establishments).

  2. Brummie says:

    They would also make wonderful pubs, and really serve (in both senses) the community.

  3. Angela_K says:

    Remind me, just how obscenely wealthy is the CofE? They could sell some of their investments – including their investments in the dodgy loan company Wonga -to pay for repairs. A year or so ago our village christian taleban was banging on doors asking everyone to contribute money to church repairs, strangely they didn’t accept my offer of a can of petrol and matches to burn the place down.

  4. Ivan says:

    And they make even better nightclubs. You could call it Heaven…..oh, wait….

  5. andym says:

    As we saw we the cinema ad, although the C of E will play up to their image as well-meaning and unworldly when it suits them, they are a PR obsessed, money-grubbing, outfit ready to push their privileged position as far as they can.

  6. Broga says:

    My small local library, with its dedicated librarian, gives pleasure, education and a sense of community. It does this despite only being open on four half days a week. In April it will be closed although its cost is a trifle – less than many MPs claim on expenses.

    Unlike many churches the attendance is regular and it is never empty. Compare the benefits of this small library to most churches. The priorities are all to hell.

  7. Eric T says:

    The first change should be to make all churches, chapels, mosques, temples, and the rest pay business rates. Local authorities need the funds, not least to support services for older people,

  8. Stuart H. says:

    There are 9 churches within a mile of me serving a town with a population of 5,000, not counting two rival Baptist cults who hire school halls less than 100 metres apart. Average congregation of any is lucky to hit double figures most Sundays, and the only reason there are so many is that as soon as the congregation of any hits about 5 they have some sort of theological split. Christians don’t need churches saving, they need to grow up, learn to share and stop bickering.
    The argument over heritage misses half of the real story too. As soon as C of E in my area can get any church smaller than a cathedral into reasonable repair with government subsidy they close it, and sell off both the land and the rectory. In any ordinary building of architectural interest, the seller would be required to pay back the public subsidy used to substantially increase the selling price. Churches seem to be exempt from this.

  9. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Do people living in listed houses get government support? Again, religion wanting special privileges.

  10. John Humpf says:

    Thousands of closed churches would send out a very powerful message: that the Church and the Christian faith have had their day in this country.

    And guess what … that message is one of the few recently emanating from the CoE that is grounded in truth.

    Use the buildings for some other purpose…
    Mosques are popular these days.
    Bijou Shopping Mall
    Antiques Centre
    Snooker Hall
    Live Music Venue
    Soup Kitchen and Homeless Refuge
    Self Storage Facility
    Gaming Arcade

    Come on Mr Welby … there are dozens of uses.

  11. gedediah says:

    As the man says, the Church and the Christian faith have had their day in this country. They can donate the buildings to people who will fix them up and use them – lots of young people are struggling to afford their first home.

  12. carlynot says:

    How about they turn them into counseling centers for all of the church abuse victims?

  13. Brummie says:

    Well said Carlynot.

  14. Dianne Leonard says:

    This is happening in the US too. Last time I took my mom to church, about 5 years ago, the total congregation, judging from the people who walked out, was about 30-40. That church has gone from 5 masses when I was a girl, to 1 or 2 today. I never remember the church being so empty when I was young. And that church owns a whole block of buildings–tax free, as all churches in the US are. I wish we could get rid of the tax exemption.

  15. Clive Bond says:

    Same story in Australia. Some churches have been turned into homes, restaurants and museums.

  16. AgentCormac says:

    ‘…the Church and the Christian faith have had their day in this country.’

    And the problem with that is what, exactly?

  17. Stephen Mynett says:

    So, the CofE waste a stack of money on a publicity stunt, already knowing their advert probably would not be accepted in cinemas, now they are begging for more money from the tax-payers, many of whom do not want anything to do with their beliefs. They are just a bunch of arrogant creeps living well past their time.
    As Angela pointed out they were happy to invest in Wonga, perhaps now they should go to them for a loan.

  18. Stonyground says:

    “Thousands of closed churches would send out a very powerful message: that the Church and the Christian faith have had their day in this country.”

    Actually, they had had their day decades ago. They maintain a bit of an illusion of still being relevant with the help of the establishment and the BBC but When I was a teenager in the seventies our family was seen as being slightly odd because we still went God bothering on a Sunday morning. Our family were Methodists, a few still are, and the chapel was always pretty much empty and most of the few that were there were oldies.

    That particular chapel is now a house, another in our area has been converted into flats and another is the HQ for the St. John’s Ambulance group, I did a first aid course there. Methodist chapels do have the advantage of being more modern buildings so are presumably easier and cheaper to maintain. The Methodist chapels that remain seem to get decent turn-outs presumably because they are pooling members from the ones that have closed. That would seem to be the obvious answer to the CofE’s problems, close the majority of the churches and have the remaining ones full on a Sunday morning.

  19. barriejohn says:

    Stonyground: The one reason that the CofE will never adopt such a common sense approach is that in their eyes this is a Christian (ie Church of England) country; the population is Church of England (by default); and the whole country has been divided up into dioceses and parishes so that we all know our place and know who our spiritual masters are. They are going to cling to that arrangement like a drowning man clinging to a lifebelt, and merging parishes goes right against its very principles.

    Anglican churches are, indeed, much more difficult to adapt to other uses (it’s obvious from Bargain Hunt that a great number of nonconformist chapels have been converted into auction houses), but they do represent much more of our history, which, religion apart, presents problems. Personally, I would like to see the buildings preserved for that reason, but in the absence of some obvious use, who is going to pay for their preservation?

  20. Dionigi says:

    Same as the aritocracy who fritter away their money thay could give the ones with special historic and architechtural value to the nation and rent them back at low rates. The government could then charge entrance fees for the tourists who want to gawp at them.

  21. 1859 says:

    ‘…that christianity has had its day in this country.’ Amazing – a bishop speaking the truth – although I do NOT trust a clergyman with such a smug smile (just look at him – ‘Dr.Odious Fucknose’).

    They talk on and on about ‘heritage’ and all the ‘good’ the church has done! What about the fucking centuries of lies, of promoting fairy tails? What about the heritage of psychological damage they have caused? Olde worlde stone buildings at the heart of the community? Then let the community have a different heart – one that does not peddle crap. If this does mean that christianity has had it’s day in this country, I for one will celebrate!

  22. Brian Jordan says:

    When I were a lad, when small churches/chapels closed down (yet, it was happening way back then) they were often turning into printing works. Apparently the layout favoured that use but I suppose printing is on the way out now as well. It would be fun if they were turned into strip clubs, but I fear they’d be too cold for the performers!

  23. dennis says:

    I spent thanksgiving in Seattle Wa. with my wife’s nephew and his family. he is a social worker and a preacher (proselytize at social worker jobs, you know he does) but due to the 2008 financial collapse here in America the strapped bankers decided to rent out one hour spots for congregations of any religion. I asked about the “Secular Hour” but they just turned and walked off. this gives the preacher an allusion of success because the fellowship (did I use that term; O’ dear) now meets in a bank building and not the preachers home. the bank building just so much irony their I just love it. I do hope the bankers get their money up front.