The Money!

By popular request — and entirely unsurprisingly — we’ve been asked to address what’s happening with parish finances. I’ll be (and remain) blunt: the single biggest source of concern in all these MA conversations has been the directive that, henceforth, our finances will be done together centrally. This is understandable: people have worked hard over decades to pay the share, build reserves, keep churches running, and imagine the possibilities that wise investment and planning could build in the parish. This is not a small deal; it would not be fair to say otherwise.

However, it is equally important to say that, if we allow this process to be driven by fear or protectionism, we will get nowhere good — and fast. We can’t pretend that the change isn’t big. But we can choose to enter the process distrustfully, or — on solid theological and practical grounds — we can resolve to approach this by having one another’s backs.

An instinctive reaction may be to fear that “they” are coming to take away the assets we’ve worked for. But let’s take a moment to identify who “they” are. Are “they” the Diocese? Or the Church in Wales? Or some faceless MA structure? No. “They” are our fellow Christians, neighbours who worship nearby on Sunday, who have given their time and energy — just like us — and worked just as hard to care for their church’s resources. If we worry that “they” are coming for “our” money, then perhaps the real question to ask is this: are we interested in coming for theirs? No? Well … then why assume anything less of them?

Yes, the accounting will work differently. Yes, we’ll have to trust our fellow Christians to care for our money as they care for their own (just as we will have to step up and look after theirs). But to be crystal clear: by law, the restricted funds your church holds cannot simply go into a general pot. They will remain restricted. Fundraising for your church can still happen: anything advertised as “for St. Ermintrude’s Church funds” must, legally, go to benefit St. Ermintrude’s Church.

As the Transition Team continues its work, together with our treasurers, we will need to agree on how to structure and fund MA operations and parish share and split the burden fairly. However, it is not envisaged that local churches will lose access to designated funds they bring into the MA, nor that the general fund will lose sight of its original funding sources. The means of access and the process of accountability are yet to be established — we will keep you informed. But latitude and generosity should be the watchwords here, and churches should be trusted to handle day-to-day costs responsibly.

It will be in everyone’s interests to prioritise the well-being of our neighbours — because in doing so, we can have confidence that they will prioritise ours. This achieves the exact same goal as “protecting what’s ours”, but without all the awkward stuff that usually goes with that. It may even do the job better.

In the end, the Church’s money isn’t like the money in your bank account; the Church’s money is God’s; we are entrusted with stewardship. Our purpose, as individual churches and as a collective, are mission, ministry, and pastoral care. Either our money serves those ends, or it has no other point. If we start our conversations there — the strength of our ministries — and get that right, we will know what to do with the money.