The financial crisis in the Diocese of Leeds represents a wider failure in the Church of England to share resources fairly, according to the Bishop of Burnley.
The Leeds diocese is facing a £3 million deficit and has told staff that up to 14 people will lose their jobs. As well as voluntary redundancies, some compulsory redundancies will be made.
According to the Guardian, the diocese's defined benefit pension scheme will close at the end of the year and jobs will be re-evaluated to 'ensure the correct levels of pay' have been set.
The diocese was hit by a shortfall in its parish share – the amount contributed by churches to central funds – of nearly £1.8 million last year and by the need to contribute nearly £1.7 million to its lay pension fund.
However, Rt Rev Philip North, who has been vocal in his advocacy of a fairer distribution of resources throughout the Church of England, tweeted: 'A northern diocese is "in crisis" because of a debt of less than one per cent of the funds held by some southern dioceses. This 'crisis' is no more than a symptom of a much deeper financial and spiritual institutional sickness.'
Referring to the biblical passage that speaks of the early believers 'selling their possessions and goods' for the sake of others in need, he said: 'The solution is in Acts 2.'
A northern Diocese ‘in crisis’ because of a debt of less than 1% of the funds held by some southern Dioceses. This ‘crisis’ is no more than a symptom of a much deeper financial and spiritual institutional sickness. The solution is in Acts 2. https://t.co/ZGnvW86z8t— Bishop Philip (@BpBurnley) July 31, 2018
He told Christian Today there was a 'shocking disparity' in wealth between richer and poorer dioceses which impacted on their ability to undertake mission. 'In ex-industrial areas there is no safety blanket,' he said.
He said the situation was 'highly urgent', adding: 'We are refusing to be obedient to the Scriptures – why do we think God will honour us as a Church?'
He called for a redistribution of the Church's wealth, either through 'serious generosity' from richer dioceses, or by measures taken by the General Synod to centralise resources and distribute cash to where it is most needed.
North argued in a Church Times article in June that the current system was unjust and discriminated against less wealthy areas. 'Within each diocese there is a long-established principle that money should be redistributed from richer parishes to poorer ones so as to sustain Christian ministry in less well-off communities. There is, however, no comparable mechanism for redistribution between richer and poorer dioceses,' he said.
He called for 'a voluntary change of heart from the "haves", and an acknowledgement that we are a co-dependent community of Christians'.