A Church of England diocese based on the Isle of Man has warned that it will be forced to sell of churches in order to evade financial ruin.
In a document released addressing the matter, the diocese of Sodor and Man said that the financial consequences of the coronavirus lockdown had been "catastrophic for the diocese" and forced them to take immediate action to consider the potential liquidation of church assets. "The lockdown triggered by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) from March 2020 onwards with its necessary closure of churches for several months has brought us, along with many other dioceses, to the brink of financial ruin," the diocese added.
In a bid to stake its case for the church sales, the diocese argued that "holding on to buildings regardless of all other considerations will be disastrous", partly because the "cost of maintaining them may in some cases draw funds away from where they are needed and will have a greater impact on our sustainable mission and ministry".
"The retention of some buildings of dubious value for mission and ministry but which may easily be saleable for serious money denies funds we will need to ensure the Church can continue to serve the Lord and the island for the century ahead," it said.
The diocese pointed out that the other denominations present on the Island are logging similar attendance figures to the Anglicans, despite being in possession of significantly fewer church buildings. "We note that two of our thriving island denominations own or use without ownership less than 10 buildings and have numbers of worshippers that rival our own total attendance figures; we have 41 church buildings at the time of writing, as well as church halls," they wrote.
"There is a widespread acceptance both within and outside the church that we can’t afford all the church buildings we currently have, and that as in many cases those buildings are seeing a declining attendance and house ageing congregations we do not need all the churches we have."
The diocese added that it needed to "realise some of those high value assets which are also a financial liability whilst we hold on to them" and recognise that many of the buildings "have greater value in the marketplace than they do for the mission of God and the ministry of his Church".
"By realising these assets over the next few years it will relieve the strain on some PCCs who are struggling to maintain all their buildings and pay their fair share towards the cost of being a diocese," they added. "By realising this capital we can invest the money in a more strategic manner on those buildings which are most likely to be fruitful in the mission of God going forward, and which might therefore not only survive but thrive, and be enabled to generate revenue through growth and adaptation."