Church of England Priests’ Union Seeks 9.5% Pay Hike to Buy Daily Bread.

File Picture. The Church of England is historically known for pomp and pageantry, but at the parish level priests are having a hard time making ends meet.
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By Jonathan Mason-June 21st, 2023.

According to the white-collar union Unite, Church of England priests have submitted a formal pay claim to the church for the first time in history, according to the labor union Unite.

“While many will argue their work is a vocation, the simple truth is that on their current rewards they are among the working poor,” Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said in a statement.

The union, which represents more than 2,000 clergy members and lay officers in the Church of England, said it requested a 9.5% increase in the stipend paid to clergy, beginning in April 2024.

Graham added that the Church of England has over $13 billion in reserves and can afford the pay bump.

In a statement to NPR, a Church of England spokesperson said clergy members offer “unstinting spiritual, pastoral and practical support” to their communities each day.

The stipend is funded by contributions from congregations, but Unite is calling for additional central funding to be made available. It points out that the church commissioners’ investment fund, which supports the work of the church, is worth more than £10bn.

Sam Maginnis, a vicar in Horsham and a Unite activist, said: “The whole principle of clergy remuneration is that you’re given enough to be in a comfortable state where you can fully give yourself to your ministry and support and care for your communities, which more and more clergy households are unable to do at the moment.

“The demands of pastoral ministry are getting ever greater, but if people are worrying about whether they can feed and clothe their families, how are they going to be able to give that support to others?”

The church sets a national minimum stipend and a national benchmark stipend for clergy pay. Dioceses pay the stipends and can exceed the benchmark if they choose to.

A committee met Monday to make recommendations for clergy pay in the upcoming year, and the final recommendation will come during a meeting of the Archbishops’ Council in September.

Unite said it proposed increasing the national minimum stipend to around $37,000 and the national benchmark stipend to about $40,000.

Since late 2021, U.K. residents have seen their disposable income shrink because of inflation and high energy prices, according to the Institute for Government, a U.K. think tank. The economic crisis has been driven by a number of factors, including product shortages, energy industry problems and supply chain issues.

The Clergy Support Trust, a charity that provides support to Anglican clergy members and their families, said it helped over 5000 people in 2021 — more than any other year on record.

The Church of England has also set aside funding to help dioceses during the cost-of-living crisis, including an additional US$3.8 million for dioceses anda further $19 million to offset the high cost of energy bills.

As yet there have been no threats of industrial action by vicars and priests, and all concerned are praying for an equitable outcome. The Archbishop of Canterbury had no comment yesterday. The Archbishop himself earns a relatively modest salary of  £85,070 per year, about double the minimum wage that the parish priests are asking for.

Sources: NPR, BBC, The Guardian.
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