Sunday Telegraph: Church of England plans to sell off its palaces

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Resplendent with moats, gatehouses and banqueting halls, bishops' palaces are among some of the grandest buildings in the country.

Now, however, the historic homes, which have belonged to the Church of England for centuries, could be sold off in a bid to raise money for cash-strapped parishes.

A confidential internal review is examining whether the diocesan bishops' houses, nine of which are palaces, are appropriate for the Church to keep. The bishops' residences are worth about £120 million, but cost up to £9 million each year to maintain.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)

19 Comments
Posted February 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. larswife wrote:

So does that mean the ABC’s residence will be up on the auction block soon (grin/wink)?

February 25, 7:05 pm | [comment link]
2. Adam 12 wrote:

Trinity Wall Street to the rescue?

February 25, 7:15 pm | [comment link]
3. Wilfred wrote:

Just my luck that this opportunity should arise when the dollar is weak!  Is it too late to apply for one of those sub-sub-primes?

February 25, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
4. KevinBabb wrote:

What’s a penthouse apartment in Manhattan bringing these days?

February 25, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Dr Sentamu’s efforts to use Bishopsthorpe for mission purposes were pretty much shot down in flames.  I was disappointed to see that Fulham Palace, a superb property on the Thames in central London with a large park was pretty much handed over to the local council.  What a superb opportunity for providing a resource for London Christians.

I remain to be convinced that handing over property to our Church Commissioners for sale will be good stewardship or that the resources will be well applied.  We are pretty hopeless with finances.

Grumpy Pageantmaster

February 25, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
6. Cennydd wrote:

I recall Jesus saying something to the effect that the rich man should sell all that he owns and give the money to the poor.  Seems to me that the CofE should heed what He said.  Selling these drafty millstones and giving the proceeds to charity would be appropriate.

February 25, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
7. Chazaq wrote:

Homeless English bishops.  Perhaps the folks from Stand Firm in Mississippi can send them some FEMA trailers to live in.

February 25, 11:00 pm | [comment link]
8. Henry Greville wrote:

It is the disestablished churches of the world that have done more on behalf of the Kingdom of God than the Church of England ever has. The CofE’s palaces should have long ago been sold and the profit put to use in the mission of reconciling the world to God. Unfortunately, far too many of the English are raised to believe that the CofE, rather than Parliament and common law, is what truly undergirds their society and guarantees their freedom.

February 25, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
9. driver8 wrote:

In my experience, many bishops don’t like living in such accomodation. The buildings are costly to maintain and it’s hard to find a practical function for them. The money will doubtless come in useful.

It’s worth recalling that you can only sell the family silver once, though.

(It’s inspiring to have one such as Cennydd among us, who could only, without irony, make such a comment since he has given all his worldly goods to the poor. Bravo!)

February 26, 12:35 am | [comment link]
10. Y Cymro wrote:

In defence of my fellow Cymro I can say that the Church of England (and to a lesser extent the Church in Wales)  has lived on its real estate and investments for years and has not really addressed the problems associated with its decline in membership! I think that Anglicans in North America (especially the US) cannot imagine that the clergy (all of them) in the CoE receive free housing,utilities, car expenses etc!

It almost sounds like a type of welfare dependence.

February 26, 4:50 am | [comment link]
11. Boring Bloke wrote:

I am reminded of the farmer who decided to repay his debt by selling off his land to developers. Problem is, once the money ran out, he still had the same costs, and nowhere to farm for his income.

The underlying problem with the Church of England is that our mindset (in general) is not focussed towards mission. We are not evangelising well enough. Solve that, and the other issues will go away. Selling the palaces is not going to solve the problem. While I agree that Bishops do not need to live in palaces, and might be better off in smaller homes, the palaces do represent a significant resource. Rather than give them up, we should work out how to use them for God’s mission.

February 26, 5:35 am | [comment link]
12. Harvey wrote:

The Diocese of West Michigan had to rid itself of a 2 million dollar stone monster for the same reason.  It could not support it.  I’m not sure what the money will be used for, but I think I can guess where some of it is going.  One good thing they did - The existing graveyard remains church property.

February 26, 10:27 am | [comment link]
13. Cennydd wrote:

Boring Bloke, the answer should be obvious:  Use the proceeds from the sale of these properties to help the poor and needy in Britain….just as Christ said; not necessarily by giving them money, because that is so often misspent, but in other ways.  Health services are provided free of charge, of course, but there are other ways of helping….such as low-cost housing, etc. 

The funds from the sale of those properties could go a long way toward helping those in need….IF they’re managed properly.

February 26, 10:48 am | [comment link]
14. recchip wrote:

It may sound wonderful to “kick those bishops out” but it does bring to mind a very serious problem I have seen in many “orthodox” Anglican/Episcopal groups.  Many priests (and I would assume bishops) in the non-ECUSA churches are woefully underpaid.  I have an aquaintance in one church in Florida who cannot even get health insurance though his parish (which has a Gothic Style Stone building-they are NOT a poor parish.)  I know of a bishop in another situation whose total package (including housing allowance) is $52,000 and on this he has to live in a major metropolitan area. 
We need to make sure that we support our clergy sufficiently so that they can concentrate on preaching the Gospel and giving pastoral care.  It was always “understood” that the parish should remove financial concerns from the rector so that he and his family would not have to worry.
So, kick the bishops out of their palaces, absolutely, but don’t go too far in the other way.  If we demand clergy with advanced degrees (MDiv) and 24/7 availability for pastoral care, we need to be willing to pay for it.

Note, I speak without any self interest.  I am not a cleric but I am a vestryman and a member of a diocesan(NON-ECUSA) Board of Trustees so I am aware of the financial side of things.

February 26, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
15. driver8 wrote:

#10 In my limited experience of TEC, priests are better paid than priests in the COE, and at a minimum receive stipend plus housing allowance (or live rent free in the parish Rectory), generous pension and health insurance.  In wealthier parishes and as diocesan bishops, some TEC clergy are, in my opinion, scandalously overpaid. (When the starting point for discusison of TEC pay rates is the secular corporate world, something has gone really badly wrong in ecclesial and clerical formation).

February 26, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
16. Y Cymro wrote:

In the Church in Wales the basic stipend for incumbents is 21,000 pounds a year (remember does not matter whether have a congregation of 18 or 80) then you add housing and utlities, and free healthcare on top. Now multiply that by two (roughly) thats about 60,000 Dollars a year.

Now admittedly with my limited experience living in the Midwest most clergy I know do not make that much money!

February 26, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
17. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Well, maybe they can build some more interfaith centers giving Muslims the largest space when they have more funds for missions….
http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2008/02/cofe-pays-25000.html
(see article above)

February 26, 4:47 pm | [comment link]
18. magnolia wrote:

i am not sure, i think historical structures should stay in the family. can they not turn sections into inns? surely there is some way short of selling to make things equitable. just last weekend i heard about ‘tours’ in local british parishes where one can stay with local families and be shown around the area; all the money paid goes to the parishes…i think they are taking the easy way out and in the end be left with nothing. i don’t know how history will judge that.

February 26, 5:55 pm | [comment link]
19. driver8 wrote:

A comparison based on exchange rates is unhelpful. A more realistc comparison might be purchasing power. In my experience is the housing that makes a major difference. Whereas in the UK housing is provided for parish clergy, in TEC it is often not. Thus parishes contribute to an asset with long term investment whose value accrues not to the diocese or parish but to the priest. Over the long term that makes a very significant financial difference. (FWIW the median compensation package for TEC clergy in 2006 - not including pension and healthcare - was $62,793) .

February 26, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
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