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Church Commissioners

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Refugees from Afghanistan

Churches up and down the country have been co-ordinating gifts of cash, clothing, toys, prams and other items to Afghan refugees. Church members have taken Afghan families to buy shoes and other items and have offered them houses and flats.

I thank the hon. Member for his answer. However, the biggest issue that we need to address is the provision of housing. Clearly the Church of England has a significant estate; I am grateful for the discussions that we are having in York about how we can use excess estate to support Afghan refugees. Will he ensure that across the Church of England, the estate is maximised so that we can home as many Afghan refugees as possible?

I can tell the hon. Lady that lowest income communities funding from the Church Commissioners helps dioceses to support parishes such as St Mary’s, Scarborough, that have been at the forefront of our effort to help Afghan refugees. I can also tell her that in the diocese of Chelmsford, five vacant vicarages have been allocated to refugee households, including to Afghan refugees.

Number of Ordinands

In 2020, despite the pandemic, 591 people were recommended for training for ordained ministry—the highest figure for 13 years. Ordinations to stipendiary ministry have increased by 43% since 2013, reflecting our commitment to the long-term resourcing of the Church of England.

What assurances can my hon. Friend provide the House that the Church of England remains fully committed to parish ministry? I have seen how important it has been during the pandemic at a range of churches in Blackpool, such as Holy Cross.

I am delighted to learn of the good work of Holy Cross and other churches in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I can reassure him, because the Archbishop of York said in July that

“the means whereby we will serve and reach our nation…is a parish system revitalised for mission.”

Over the past year and a half, we have seen the very best of the parish system, finding creative ways to proclaim the unchanging love of Jesus in meeting the needs of those suffering in the pandemic, in quite extraordinary ways.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that response. Has consideration been given to offering bursaries to cover not simply the cost of fees but the cost of living for older ordinands with families who want to go into the ministry but have family obligations that need funding?

I will certainly take that suggestion back to the Church Commissioners, and we will look at it seriously. I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a serious interest in these matters, and we will get back to him.