Supporting the Church of England: responding to
changing needs through history
From before the Norman Conquest, clergy of the Church in England
received income from their living. Tax on that income was paid to
the Pope and, after the break with Rome in the 1530s, to the Crown
Queen Anne's Bounty
The poverty of many clergy prompted Queen Anne to use that tax
revenue to set up "the Governors of the Bounty of Queen Anne for
the Augmentation of the Maintenance of Poor Clergy" in 1704.
Governors applied funds selectively to improve poor clergy's income
and, in time, to provide and repair parsonages for incumbents of
In 2004 the Church Commissioners marked the tercentenary year of
Queen Anne's Bounty with a commemorative service and the
publication of an illustrated history. Click here to read it.
The Church Building Commissioners
In 1818 the Church Building Commissioners were created by
Parliament to create new parishes and provide new churches in areas
which had seen rapid population growth during the years of the
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were founded by Parliament
in 1836 to reorganize dioceses, abolish surplus posts in cathedrals
and take over both the responsibility for funding bishops and some
cathedral costs, and the assets that had supported those
responsibilities. The surplus income was to be used "for the cure
of souls in parishes where such assistance is most required". They
had a major role in financing churches for the new population
centres that grew up in the Industrial Revolution and in supporting
the stipends of the clergy who worked there.
In 1856 they took over the work of the Church Building
Commissioners and from 1907 they became involved with providing
The Church Commissioners
Formed by a merger in 1948, the Church Commissioners
inherited the assets and the work of both Queen Anne's Bounty and
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The initial focus of their work
was on improving the income of clergy, aiming for national
consistency of provision (1951 onwards). Milestones since 1948
1950s: First "Green Guide" on parsonage design;
Commissioners take on clergy pensions and set up non-contributory
clergy pensions; grants made for new churches in new population
areas; £1 million provided over 25 years for improving
1960s: Pastoral Measure introduced, with the
Commissioners playing a large part in its administration.
1970s: Appointed first Central Stipends
Authority (the Archbishops' Council now has this role);
Commissioners' campaign to ensure no clergy are paid below
recommended levels and they help dioceses with costs; central
payroll service introduced for all stipendiary clergy.
1980s: Improved clergy pension package
(two-thirds of stipend, lump sum on retirement, benefits for
widows); loans for clergy retirement housing, curates and
deserted clergy wives; new drive to tackle unsuitable clergy
housing - over the following years, £38 million allocated to
the Parsonages Renewal Fund; clergy car loan scheme
introduced; General Synod empowers the Commissioners to
support the Church Urban Fund and £1 million a year is paid out
from 1988 to 1991.
1990s: By the early '90s the Commissioners'
fund was over-committed and spending was higher than could be
sustained over the long-term, especially with the growing cost of
clergy pensions. Pressure to maximize income led to
over-investment in commercial property (particularly development)
which went sharply into decline in the early 1990s.
Church-wide review led to the Pensions Measure 1997, which provided
for parishes to pay for most clergy pension rights earned from
January 1998 and for a new funded scheme to be set up for this
purpose. The Commissioners provided transitional relief and remain
responsible for clergy pensions earned on service up to 1998.
Review of the Church's central structures also led to the
establishment in 1999 of the Archbishops'
Council to give strategic direction to the Church
of England's mission, while providing the Church Commissioners with
a clear focus upon their asset management functions and Church
support. As a result of the reshaping of the Commissioners'
commitments and their financial reforms, the future cost of clergy
pensions is being shared with the wider Church, bringing the
Commissioners' financial commitments to a level they can meet, and
assets are invested in a balanced way in line with independent
Funds (other than for pensions) are being distributed only at a
level that can be afforded in the long term, balancing the
interests of today's and tomorrow's beneficiary, based on
independent actuarial advice.
1999: Key strategic objective to "increase our sustainable
support for parish ministry in areas of need and opportunity"
2002: Creation of Parish Mission Fund to support parishes
innovative mission and outreach projects. Since then, £35m paid out
in mission development funding.
2007: Moved from 1 Millbank base to Church House,
Westminster. For the first time all the Church's national
institutions come under one roof.
2007: Commissioners facilitate Dioceses, Pastoral & Mission
Measure which was the most substantial piece of church legislation
for over 20 years and which supports a mixed economy of traditional
church structures and fresh expressions of church.