Diocese of Chelmsford to cut back on paid clergy numbers

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

The Diocese of Chelmsford is scaling back the number of paid clergy posts due to ongoing financial challenges. 

The plans were discussed at its diocesan synod held earlier this month. 

A report presented to synod titled "An Approach to Reducing Stipendiary Numbers" warned that current approaches were unable to plug the financial gap. 

The diocese has been gradually reducing stipendiary posts since 2011 "in response to the high average age of clergy and the inevitable rate of retirements". 

In light of this, all deaneries have been working towards the diocese's "minimum sustainable number" of 215 paid posts by 2025. 

However, funding cuts have reduced that predicted number further down to 202. 

"These approaches remain valid but are now not sufficient to address the financial crisis we face," the report reads.

The extent of the challenges has prompted the diocese to bring forward implentation of the 2025 goal, with a meeting of the finance committee last month approving plans to cut paid posts from 275 to 215 within the next 18 months instead of five years.

The report said that the goal was to "prune in order to enable growth". 

"Care will be taken not to cut posts that have strategic potential," it said. 

Responding to the news, Kieran Bush, vicar of St John's Walthamstow, urged the diocese to do more than "manage decline".

"It's good the diocese is responding to this financial crisis which was already looming before coronavirus," he said.

"It's unfortunate that all this comes at a time when we have neither a CEO nor a diocesan bishop.

"In the New Testament, spiritual growth comes as people grasp the counter-cultural message of the apostles and live it out. So the diocese needs to encourage and not undermine that message if it hopes to see growth and not simply manage decline."