We're having a meeting next week in Wells for local clergy to think about financial issues - the credit crunch has hit central finances, pension funds etc. 2008 saw a dreadful year for the Church Commissioners, though with a 25%+ rise in the stock market this year, I'm guessing things have improved a bit.
One of the options on the table is a possible pay freeze for 2010-11. Twitter conversations suggest at least one Diocese has already decided on this. From what I can gather this is a national consultation which all Dioceses have been asked to take part in, and respond during the autumn. It's a tricky one:
- some clergy can cope with this better than others, so it's difficult for us to make a decision corporately when we'll all be affected differently. I would vote for a freeze if it just affected me, but I'm aware that things are tighter for other clergy, so don't really feel it's my place to decide on their behalf.
- depending on which inflation measure you look at, a 'freeze' in pay is not much different from an inflation-linked increase. Given that we have houses provided by the CofE, the one which excludes mortgages is the logical one, which currently stands at 1.6% (the figure including mortgages is -1.3%)
- The question of solidarity with church members, who are also looking at pay freezes, has been mentioned. Would this have come up if the CofE wasn't in a financial hole? I'm just asking. The other way of showing solidarity is to use our pay increase to help other people out, surely it's better to provide practical help than simply to jump into the same pit as everyone else? Still thinking this one through....
- The question is a good one: we are so used to pay, living standards etc. increasing as a 'right' that it's quite a shock to think things might go the other way. If we're going to live in a way that's caring to the planet and loving towards our neighbours across the globe, then it's probably at a lower standard of living than what we've got used to.
The meeting next week is one of the 'non-essentials' which I'm dipping out of in my hernia recovery phase. It wouldn't surprise me if there's at least one call for less money to be spent on central posts at Diocesan and national level, given that these have stayed constant, or even risen, at the same time as parish clergy and congregation numbers have fallen.