A fundamental flaw in Diocesan relations with Parochial Church Councils is that they regularly fail, and at every level, to realise that the PCC is important and should be treated as an equal, respectfully and without condescension.
The PCC is a legal entity and the equal of the diocese, in law at the very least. The parish share is so often presented as a demand by the diocese for money that must be paid by the PCC, ‘or else’.
This has lead, in so many places, to a climate of despair and has stifled mission more than anything else in the English National Church today.
Tell people that they have to pay, or else, and the response will be to fill them with fear, dread and insecurity. Planning, foresight and joy will fly out the window faster than you can say, “Shit; the vicar’s retiring; we will never be given a replacement”!
Whilst the organisation of the New Testament Church was often beset by struggles and personality clashes, it did make it clear that giving money to Jerusalem was to aid those in need.
Now I don’t want to engage in any other comparison with the early church because the situations are very different, of course. However the fundamental point I am making is that our leaders, and especially those dealing with finance, have forgotten that the parish share is a voluntary gift, given to assist those less fortunate than themselves.
The drive to decentralise responsibility for accountability to a non legal entity, namely deaneries, in some diocese is adding to this misunderstanding because the outcome is often that finance comes to be understood as a ‘local’ matter.
Having the resources to sustain the Gospel is not a local matter; it is a national, in fact an international matter.
Whist the Church of England continues to promote the ‘quota’ as a ‘must pay’ issue then the possibility of us understanding the real need, both here and abroad, for adequate resources to proclaim the Good News is stifled. And Treasurers everywhere loose sleep, have bad marriages and die early.
To root out the language that demands and threatens and replace it with language that asks and explains would be a radical step. It would engage with PCCs positively and enable us all to understand what the quota is about, in fact it might attract greater scrutiny of what the quota is spent on. Get these bits right and I am certain that PCCs would seize the vision, make every joyful effort to pray for and to work for more resources and I am also certain that they would be blessed and find that they could, voluntarily, give more.