Since becoming Rural Dean, I've been approached by many members of Chelmsford South churches who want to talk about the way parish share is levied. Sometimes they say that we are wasting time talking about vision when we should be finding the right way to apportion the parish share. My answer is always that parish share is a vision thing.
As far as I know, there are two basic means by which parish shares are levied: on the basis of average attendance and on the basis of the cost of a parish's ministry. Let's call these the "attendance model" and the "ministry cost" model.
The Ministry Cost model
A parish with 1 stipendiary clergyperson pays around £35 000 for her/him, plus something towards diocesan and area team costs; parishes with two stipendiary clergy pay double this, those with "half a priest" pay £17 500, etc.
This is the system used in London and Europe Dioceses, and by most free churches.
Compared to our present system, this would be financially advantageous for parishes like West Hanningfield without stipendiary clergy, and parishes like Great Baddow with relatively few stipendiary clergy (less than about 1:85) per average weekly attender.
The Attendance model
A parish pays around £650 per average weekly attender per year, adjusted for the affluence of the area.
This is the system used in Southwark Diocese.
Compared to our present system, this would be financially advantageous for parishes like South Woodham Ferrars with relatively few average weekly attenders (less than around 85) per clergyperson.
We in Chelmsford South, on the other hand,
presently use a formula about halfway between these two models, with each parish paying 50% of its ministry costs plus a pooled amount depending on average attendance, adjusted for the affluence of the area. The formula was agreed by the deanery in 2003, and Harry, our Deanery Treasurer, is entirely impartial in the way he applies it to the present situation.
In 2008, we will revisit this subject, and deal with it as a vision issue. For example, if our vision is accepted by synod next week, it says that one of our values is "a longing for more disciples for Jesus" - I would expect proponents of the ministry cost model to argue that the attendance model penalises churches for gathering more disciples! (A sizeable number of large Southwark churches refuse to pay their parish share because it constitutes, in their view, a "tax on church growth"). At the same time, I would expect proponents of the attendance model to argue that another of our values is "working together across parish boundaries", and that therefore churches with high attendance should be expected financially to help out churches with low attendance. Either way, it's a vision thing, and we need to make the decision based on our common vision; then we can ask Harry and our hardworking Treasurers to come up with a formula that will work in practice!