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Campaigners claim the Church lost £8bn from selling historic homes

Sun 17 Sep 2017
By Tola Mbakwe

Christian campaign group Save Our Parsonages  has warned that England's vicarages and parsonages may soon all be gone due to 70 years of them being sold off.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the group estimates that 8,000 historic houses have been sold by dioceses since the Second World War. It claims that those homes could now be worth a total of £8 billion due to the growing value of property.

The group said over the years modern church leaders have ditched historic buildings and opted for private houses.

An example of this is in the diocese of Bath and Wells where a 19th century vicarage could be put up for sale.

Amelia Bennett, 72, a member of the local parochial church council, told the paper the building is usually used for community events by the parish.

"It's a beautiful architectural set-up, we've got lovely almshouses and we feel it really belongs to the village, it doesn't belong to the diocese," she said.  

Save Our Parsonages opposes the sale of church rectories and parsonages on pastoral, practical, and financial grounds. It also takes into account community and heritage reasons.

Anthony Jennings, director of the group, said churches are running out buildings.  

"We're dealing with two or three cases at the moment - in the past it was 10 at any one time. Two or three years ago the rate started to slow down," he said.

He believes young clergy feel guilty about living in nice parish parsonages and thinks the dioceses also have a part to play.

"One quite worrying issue is this issue about privacy, because the dioceses are trying to push this idea that it should be a private house. Our idea is about community.”

"In the past everyone knew where the vicar was and now they wouldn't, because he's on a housing estate.”

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said: "The priority of the Church nationally and locally is to serve the community.

“Sometimes the diocese and parish decide to replace clergy housing to this end. Each case is decided on its merits locally."

A spokeswoman for the diocese of Bath and Wells said the sale of the vicarage “will allow them to provide a more modern and manageable home for the new associate priest they are seeking to appoint… and allow that person to concentrate on working alongside the Rector and PCCs to further the ministry and mission of the church…”


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