There has been a slow pattern of media articles on raising the profile of the costs of the Church of England. As you might imagine with the slow decay of church attendance, the opportunities for additional income over and above what the Church Commissioners fund can raise is diminishing.
In time the fund will be reduced catastrophically from an actuarial point of view and the CoE will have to sell property to make ends meet or dip into other people’s pockets to line their own.
They have known this will happen for decades and the decay first started over 100 years ago. There was a Church Rate tax that was compulsory and levied against land owners. This paid for the repairs of the churches. This was made non-compulsory in 1868 with the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act, after a long fight. The sentiment being that many did not want to pay for something they did not agree with. This is back in 1800s remember when Atheism was actually illegal. So no, this wasn’t militant atheists, but Christians who objected to paying to keep pretty buildings in lead flashing and stained glass. The quid pro quo was that if you did not pay the rate then you had no say in the running of the church. All is well and fair.
We roll forward through two great and bloody wars between ostensibly Christian nations, atheism became legal, and there was finally votes for women, the rise of secularism, the rise of humanism and of science, of the NHS, of compulsory education and freedom from religion, of human rights and no more death penalty. At the end we’re left with a rather different society and a church that has been living on borrowed time but it has forgotten its past of 1868.
Ever so slowly they’re looking to the taxpayer as the next teat they can latch on to. Now don’t get me wrong, I like church organs and see church buildings as a celebration of man’s ingenuity against gravity. Whilst they are paid for by Christians then their running and activities can be dictated and managed by Christians.
But if they are paid for by the taxpayer then the running and activities must be dictated and managed by the taxpayer in proportion to the spending and that is now overwhelmingly non-religious, if not a reasonable percentage that is anti-religious. Not a penny of tax money should go towards maintaining any church building if taxpayers are not allowed to have a say in how it is run and what activities take place.
Me ? I’m thinking for the Winter Solstice it would be nice to drink beer until dawn listening to the sounds of Toccata und Fuge. That is a penny I’ll be willing to spend – pull up a pew !