Is my parish required to pay the parish share?
Judging by the questions we are asked it is increasingly common to find people asserting that parishes are required by law to pay the Parish Share or Quota. In fact, if anything, it is unlawful to insist that it must be paid.
Parish share and quota are names to describe the same thing. Whilst there is a strong moral obligation to meet the parish share there is no legal obligation to do so. It is a voluntary contribution. The following is taken from Mark Hill “Ecclesiastical Law” which is the standard text book on such things:
"The diocese raises funds by way of a voluntary taxation known variously as the diocesan quota or parish share. Each parish is asked to contribute towards diocesan expenditure in accordance with that parish’s needs and ability. In like fashion, each diocese is asked to contribute to the expenditure incurred by the Archbishops’ Council through the Central Board of Finance. The payment of quota is probably not a legally enforceable obligation, since its lacks the qualities of a binding contract. Indeed, the levying of the quota which is in the nature of a quasi-tax may be unlawful, since it is not done under the authority of Parliament. Only a parish confident of being and remaining self-financing is in a position to take the bold step of not paying its quota." (Section 3.85)
If it is unlawful to levy the quota then anyone telling parishes that they must pay is not just misleading them but acting unlawfully!
Hill's final comment indicates that it is possible for parishes to take on to themselves the full financing of their work. Of course this should include bearing their part of the cost of Diocesan and National church costs including the training of future clergy.
Hill also points out that the only reference to parish share in legislation is in the Synodical Government Measure 1969 s 5(4). This Measure gives Deanery Synods the power to decide how to divide up the parish share within a deanery if that is delegated to it by the Diocesan Synod.
It should also be noted that under the Diocesan, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 a Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee is required to take into account financial matters in the conduct of its business. Dioceses will vary in how they understand this but clearly where parishes are unable to meet the costs of the ministry they enjoy, after allowing for historic assets held by the Diocesan on behalf of parishes, this may affect issues of deployment and amalgamations.