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Letter to the editor of The Independent, published in the paper edition on 27 April 2001 but not included in the newspaper's online edition.
Church in good shape
Sir: The article Ten years into his reign, is Dr Carey presiding over a church facing ruin? (23 April) is misleading.
The Archbishop of Canterbury presides over a church which is in good shape to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Where is the decline in a church which this year, under God, will ordain almost 500 new deacons and make a similar number priests (the seventh year of increase)? Where is this ever dwindling of congregations when studies show that we have been undercounting attendance by between 27 and 40 per cent? And what of the large number of parents demanding more C of E schools? Or the widely appreciated response by the parishes and dioceses to the distress of floods, rail crashes and now foot-and-mouth?
Finances are not steadily deteriorating. It may not always seem like it when the collection plate comes around, but many parishes are in the black and the Commissioners assets are now double what they were in 1992 and staying well ahead of what comparable funds have achieved.
True, the cost of providing the very modest pensions to clergy is increasing just as it is for the rest of the population, not least because we are living longer. But we are not selling off half our assets. We are simply implementing a strategy to reduce the Commissioners involvement over time whilst building up a new pensions fund at £35m a year. So the real story is how the parishes are shouldering the stipend and pensions costs of the clergy they have been praying for, whilst together worshipping in and maintaining their beautiful buildings, ministering to their communities and, by the by, providing some £50m in giving for mission each year.
Yes, that is the real story. The generosity and perseverance of the people of God, the steadfast people, the timid seeking people, and occasional worshippers, even those who support the Church of England from afar.
The Rev Dr WILLIAM BEAVER
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