Did you see Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail columnist, on Question Time last night. She pointed out that most clergy stipends are less than the proposed benefit cap at £26000. LBW for bishops, I think?
I’m obviously not getting out enough. But did you see John Redwood on Wednesday’s Newsnight responding to a question about his understanding of the roots of English nationalism? He suggested that it was rooted in resistance to Europe. I’ve seen enough of nationalism which is founded on negative imaging of others.
I suspect that it is a question of perspective to some degree.
I’m glad to hear you say what you’ve said about clergy housing and largely I agree. I’m in the lucky but still unusual position of living in my own property and know what a positive difference it has made to my own ministry.
However, I can’t really get away from the fact that a lot of the people who are on benefits would see a large house provided for one’s working life provided at no cost and (rather oddly in my view) without being seen as a taxable benefit as being worth quite a lot.
Add that to the fact that though not quite having a job for life, clergy are rather tricky to get rid of, and I think that a lot of people would see it as something that can’t simply be explained by the bald fact of the level of stipend.
Melanie was forgetting clergy housing, the value of which can be presumed to take their remuneration above the proposed benefit cap.
That’s not to excuse low clergy pay mind. Nor to minimise the frustrations of tied housing. Nor to excuse a stipend increase of below inflation. (Which I call a pay cut).
However, I don’t think it is quite the LBW that it seemed to be.
I understand but I don’t agree. Having this very day taken possession of the house which we hope eventually to live in when retirement comes around …. I am very aware that the ‘tied housing’ benefit is worth precisely nothing at the point of retirement. I am not in agreement with the ‘sell all the Rectories and let clergy live in their own homes’ view. But it is not the whole story to say that clergy housing is part of their remuneration. I am also aware that, at the point at which we first bought a house in 1996, it was possible to cover the mortgage with rental payments. The subsequent rise in house values – even with the recent falls – has made that much more difficult.
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