A retired vicar has said that the Church of England's decision to sell off a number of its redundant church buildings is absolutely essential as a means to provide for those who are struggling to find affordable housing.
Far from "killing the Church", Rev David Keigley told the Daily Mail that the selling of "virtually empty" church buildings is an essential part of the CofE's response "to the needs of the 21st-century Christian community" and will lead to church funds being administered "in a more practical, and fundamentally Christian way".
He said: "The vast majority of churches in England have been little more than museums for some time, and the cost of their upkeep cannot be justified when considering the minimal level of use. The wastefulness of the Church in this respect could almost be considered sinful.
"The only rational, and Christian, thing for the Church to do given the ongoing decline in church attendance is to sell off churches that are, literally, a waste of space."
A recent report from the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community urged the Church of England to examine how its 6,000 acres of "strategic land" could be used to deliver more affordable housing.
The Commission has spent almost two years researching the housing crisis in England, and warned that approximately eight million people of all ages live in "overcrowded, unaffordable, or unsuitable homes", while those in poverty "bear the brunt of this injustice".
The commission also recommended that the Church use its land assets to "promote more truly affordable homes".
Charlie Arbuthnot, the Chair of the Archbishop's Commission on housing church and community, told Premier that there are a number of questions the church commissioners will need to ask if the idea is to be a success.
"They can't just say, we've got this fund, it can all go to housing, because then there are all sorts of other things it can't go to," he explained. "So it's not a simple question to answer. But I think what we are saying is, our feeling is that there probably are ways in which maybe that 6000 acres could be used to deliver a higher amount of affordable housing than the strict demand to local authority is requiring."
Archbishop Justin Welby welcomed the report's "challenge to the Church", which he said was "uniquely placed" to "work to build not just more houses but truly affordable houses and stronger communities".