The Church Commissioners today published their results for 2011, with performance slightly under-par, but still pretty good over the longer term. The bit that puzzled me most was this:
£37.7 million (£46.8 million) for parish mission and ministry support, primarily to less-resourced dioceses
£30.8 million (£27.5 million) for supporting bishops, including Archbishops, in their diocesan and national ministries, mainly for staff costs.
The main figure is 2011, with the 2010 figure in brackets. I had a look through the full report to see if there was any reason why support for mission should decline by 20% whilst support for bishops rose 10% at the same time, but couldn't find anything relevant.
The report itself gives details of several projects supported by special grant funding, and Andreas Whittam Smith's introduction notes:
In Leicester, traditional parochial ministry done to a high standard in the Anglo-Catholic tradition is producing good results. Liverpool Cathedral stages informal services at the same time as traditional ones. In St Andrew’s Clubmoor, church members have developed an impressive array of community projects including debt counselling and a food bank. In North Kensington, St Francis Dalgarno Way will shortly employ a children and families worker in what is a deprived area with a high proportion of young people. And in Worcester, a ministry for young people has been successfully developed despite a lack of parental involvement.
From which can be drawn the conclusion that as the Church can grow in such challenging areas, it can succeed anywhere. Nowhere is out of bounds, nowhere is beyond reach. Moreover it seems that different traditions of churchmanship can have equally good results. What mattered above all was the quality of local leadership, clergy and lay people alike, with the diocese providing backing where needed. (my emphasis)
Which begs my question: if this is so, and if this is one of the prime objectives of the Church Commissioners, why is funding declining in this area? Is it because the Dioceses aren't asking for the cash, because projects in new housing areas, are going on the back burner, or some other reason? I'm genuinely bemused. And I can't figure out the 10% rise in bishops costs either.
The other thing of note in the full report is page 11: £12m of Research and Development funding into church growth, including the church growth research project, and putting hefty money to 'help replicate church growth in areas of deprivation'. Watch this space, it's encouraging that the CofE is finally getting to grips with this. I'd love to see a more consistent approach at Diocesan level, but that too is about the 'quality of local leadership'.