The government has doubled down on its stance to deny an exemption for clergy under new plans to lower migration levels.
The proposals state that overseas skilled workers must be paid a minimum of £38,700 - a threshold that proves challenging for many church workers coming to the UK to serve.
During a session in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Worcester, Rt Rev John Inge, asked for further clarification regarding the status of the Tier Two Minister Religion Visa in light of the new financial threshold.
Lord Sharpe of Epsom, representing the government, responded: “That question was asked to me the other day in a different context. And I suggested to the Rt Rev prelate who asked me that perhaps the church should look at paying their vicar more. After all, they are, I think, one of the more sizable landowners in this country and can probably afford it,” he replied.
Lord Sharpe was referring to the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham Usher, who had posed a similar question earlier in the week following the announcement of the new migration plans.
At the time, he told Bishop Graham that the new threshold was not “unreasonable” nor “unfair”.
Showing his discontent with Lord Sharpe’s answer, Bishop John shared a post on social media saying it was “sad” Lord Sharpe “can only offer a cheap jibe against the CofE”.
He continued: “Our clergy are actually paid more than the threshold. I was asking on behalf of those of other denominations and faiths, and religious.”
The Church of England's latest figures indicate that the National Average Stipend (NAS) stands at £27,770. Additionally, vicars typically receive housing, and bills such as council tax are covered. It remains unclear, whether tied housing and pension contributions are factored into the new required threshold.