St John Newland cuts off funds to the Diocese of York over General Synod actions
The parochial church council (PCC) of one of the largest churches in the Diocese of York has voted to suspend payment of its “free-will offering”, the money given by Parishes to the Diocese to fund its mission and ministry, in protest to the actions of Archbishop John Sentamu at the General Synod of the Church of England earlier this month.
In a letter dated 17 July 2017 the pcc of St John, Newland, in Hull informed Dr. Sentamu that “to indicate our serious concern with the present state of affairs the PCC will withhold its free will offering until further notice.” Free-will offerings fund approximately 60 per cent of the diocese’s income. In 2016 total free-will offerings were £8,115,000 out of £13,966,000 in total income. The diocese suggests the amount of the free-will offering or quota at a rate to cover the costs of clergy stipends and a proportional share of costs. The diocesan operating surplus for 2016 was £508,000. St John, Newland contributes £46,000 in free-will offerings to the diocese, and also paid the stipends of two of its clergy out of its own resources.
The Diocese of York consists of 610 churches served by 190 stipendiary and 100 non-stipendiary clergy, along with 300 retired clergy. The diocese is required by law to pay the stipends, housing and pension costs of the clergy. Congregations are not required to make a free-will offering under canon law.
With Archbishop Sentamu in the chair, this month’s synod considered motions including votes on calling for a ban on gender conversion therapy and instituting liturgies for those who have chosen to change genders. Dr. Sentamu’s comments from the chair during the debates, have elicited concern. During the debate on a ban on gay therapies, he said: “The sooner the practice of so-called conversion therapy is banned, I can sleep at night.”
Dr. Sentamu also denounced the capitalist economic system, noting that individuals should not have the right to unfettered private property. He urged the government to adopt a fiscal policy that made clear private property was not above public control. “Our taxation system should make clear that while private property may be an efficient way of ensuring that our resources are stewarded and cared for, it is in no way absolute. We don’t ‘own’ our money; we ‘care for’ our money as part of the whole human resource or our social flourishing.”
The archbishop also rejected calls to align the church’s social teaching with the Gospel. In an amendment to item 48 General Synod delegate Andrea Williams proposed inserting the clause “as revealed in the Bible and taught by the church” to a motion calling for politicians to “prioritise the common good of all people.”
Archbishop Sentamu responded: “If you’re going to serve the whole community please don’t limit our language…The Word became flesh and sadly we are now making it Word, Word and Word again. Resist the amendments.”
The video record of the proceedings showed that as Dr. Sentamu was chastising Mrs. Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was seen to be clapping and nodding in agreement. Her amendment was rejected.
The Text of the statement as given to Anglican Ink stated:
To his Grace, the Archbishop of York,
The PCC considers the response by the Archbishop of York to Mrs Andrea Williams’ amendment of Item 48 at the July General Synod of the Church of England, 2017, in terms of what was said, to indicate theological ineptitude at best and error at worst; and how it was said, as intemperate and ungodly. As such there was a failure to meet the standard required of a bishop according to Titus 1:7-9. Neither did the Archbishop display his canonical duty to ‘with all faithful diligence…. banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same’ in relation to Item 58.
Accordingly, this PCC no longer has any confidence in the Archbishop of York in ‘all things spiritual’ and requests that he expresses repentance for what took place.
The PCC looks forward to receiving an indication of repentance from the Archbishop and will offer prayers to that end.
The PCC has also been grieved by the general direction of the Synod and the appalling manner in which those who hold to the teachings of Jesus have been ridiculed, mocked and scorned. We fear that the Synod has imbibed the ‘spirit of the age’ and we request satisfactory assurances from the leadership that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable and that it will work towards creating a more courteous and biblically responsive environment in the future.
In the meantime, to indicate our serious concern with the present state of affairs the PCC will withhold its free will offering until further notice.
The resolution was passed unanimously.
Mr Timothy Benstead,
Lay Chair of St John, Newland, PCC
17th July 2017