Church of Iceland challenges cutbacks in govt support for clergy stipends

The Bishop of Iceland has called an emergency meeting of the church’s executive council to respond to the government’s proposed cutbacks

The Bishop of Iceland has called an emergency meeting of the church’s executive council, the Kirkjuráð, for 14 August 2015 to respond to the government’s proposed budget which calls for a cutback in support for the Lutheran state church. The Rt. Rev. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland told reporters today the proposed cutbacks would mean a reduction in clergy stipends. “If cuts continue to be made, the church will not be able to shoulder responsibility and fulfill its duties,” she said according to a report published by RÚV. The Church of Iceland’s 300 congregations are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of church property. However, the church’s 157 ministers are paid by the state. Annual support for the national church from the state in 2015 has been budgeted at 4.1 billion ISK ($31 million), with the average clergy stipend set at approximately $53,000. In 2008 Iceland’s three major commercial banks failed, and the country’s economy came near to collapse. The government responded by cutting its annual budget deficit from 9.2 per cent in 2009 to 0.2 per cent in 2011, and for the past two years has offered balanced budgets. Government cuts in spending have been made across the board, and the 2016 budget will see the Church of Iceland share its part of the cost reduction. Critics note the across the board cuts have hit social programs the hardest, and have objected to calls for increased defense spending in fiscal year 2016 due to recent Russian excursions in the Arctic. RÚV reported the Church of Iceland, the Þjóðkirkjan, was likely to file an appeal with the Ministry of the Interior asking the wage cuts be rescinded.

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