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Church of England clergy demand pay rise for the first time

by Kelly Valencia

For the first time, clergy in the Church of England have submitted an official demand for a pay rise.

Priests who are members of the faith-workers' branch of the Unite union have requested an increase to their stipends of 9.5 per cent.  If granted it would see the minimum annual payment increase from £26,794 to £29,340 from April next year.

Speaking to Premier, Rev Sam Maginnis, a vicar in Horsham and a member of Unite, said many clergy households are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

"Analysis recently carried out by the Clergy Support Trust …showed that in 2022, nearly 1/5 of clergy households are having to rely on charitable aid in order to make ends meet.

"And given the increasing pastoral demands being placed upon clergy - having to support households and families within their local communities, within their parishes, the church needs to ensure that clergy are actually in a stable and happy home environment to be able to have the emotional capacity to carry out their ministry."

Last May, the Church of England created a £3m fund for dioceses, to give grants to vicars and lay workers feeling the strains of the rise in energy bills. However, for Rev Maginnis, the fund only shows the church does have the financial capacity to increase stipend levels, if it chose to.

"I think it shows us that if the national church is able to find three million pounds quickly in order to alleviate immediate hardship, then there are certainly reserves available to provide regular pay," he said.

"In any other employment setting, if nearly 1/5 of your employees were having to look to outside charities in order to be able to feed and clothe their family and heat their houses, there would be outrage over that."

As well as their stipend, clergy receive accommodation and the payment of some bills such as council tax.  A review of clergy remuneration in 2020 and 2021 found that in some cases the total package could add up to £50,000.

It is the first time the Archbishop's Council will consider a request from the workers' union before making their final recommendation on stipend levels to the General Synod, the church's governing body, in September.

Last year, the Council recommended a five per cent increase for the 2023/2024 year.

However, stipends - like salaries - are ultimately awarded at the discretion of each diocese, with some paying the minimum and others able to afford more.

The Church of England said: "Our clergy provide unstinting spiritual, pastoral and practical support to their communities on a daily basis.

"We know they make this huge contribution against a backdrop of a cost of living crisis both for them and those they minister to. We are mindful of this, and of issues of affordability for dioceses, in the deliberations over the annual recommendations for the minimum and benchmark stipend levels."

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