The Church of England has accused Spectator magazine of spreading "misinformation" after it claimed that sweeping cuts are being planned nationally following a "hammer blow" to finances during the pandemic.
In the article, 'Holy Relic - The Church of England as we know it is disappearing', rural parish volunteer Emma Thompson said that cuts to paid clergy posts in the Diocese of Chelmsford last November are to be rolled out nationwide, putting the parish system at risk.
In a statement responding to the article, William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England, called the claim "ludicrous".
"Nor is there is a national drive to close churches," he said.
Mr Nye admitted that some dioceses were having to adjust the balance of paid clergy and other ministers, but said it was "imaginary" to think that there was a national plan in place to roll out cuts and sell off buildings.
He said the proportion of people entering into paid ministry this year was 43 per cent higher than eight years ago, and that while a "small number" of church buildings close each year, over a hundred had been "planted or reopened or revived" in the last five years.
"This matters because truth matters," he said.
"It matters because this kind of misinformation is damaging and demoralising to clergy and laity in every corner of England who have been worshipping God and serving their neighbours in extraordinary new ways, despite the restrictions we have all faced during this pandemic.
"There is no national plan to roll out cuts to clergy or to buildings. We need our clergy and our lay volunteers - all are part of the people of God - and we need our church buildings, which are a precious resource for the whole nation."
He added: "These are challenging times but facts and perspective are important. The Church of England has been worshipping God and serving our neighbours for many generations. I am confident that we will continue to do so, bringing the Gospel of Christ to every community for many generations to come."