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Bishops must declare outside earnings in wake of Greensill scandal, General Synod member urges

Gabriella Swerling
·3-min read
The Church Of England General Synod University of York - Charlotte Graham 
The Church Of England General Synod University of York - Charlotte Graham

Bishops must start declaring outside earnings and register their interests in wake of Greensill lobbying scandal, a Synod member has urged.

As General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, prepares to meet later this month, a raft of controversial motions have been submitted calling for radical change.

Private motions calling for bishops to be paid the same as parish priests, for bishops to comply with a register of interests and for the Church of England to be subject to Freedom of Information laws are among the proposals aiming to garner enough signatures to bring the motions up for debate later this year.

The private motions have been submitted by Sam Margrave, a lay member of General Synod.

He made the comments that “freedom of religion does not mean unaccountable cronyism” in a wide-ranging interview with The Telegraph which also addressed concerns surrounding the future of parish churches and “cronyism” within the upper echelons of the Church.

“We know Bishops in the past have been embroiled in expenses scandals,” he said. “The Church of England has £9 billion worth of assets and each diocese spends millions of pounds a year.

“We need clear rules and a memorandum of understanding for clergy or Bishops working outside of the Church. Bishops have book deals and some clergy work in other roles.

“We simply have no idea how Bishops are using their influence or power, as members of the House of Lords or leaders in their communities.

“Who do Bishops invite to their palaces for tea? Are deals done in Bishops mansions or using Bishops connections?”

David Cameron-Greensill lobbying scandal explained
David Cameron-Greensill lobbying scandal explained

His comments come after it emerged that a top official joined a financial firm while still working for the Government.

Greensill Capital is at the centre of a row about access, influence and lobbying that has engulfed Westminster.

The scandal has prompted the Government to announce a review of contacts between top officials and ministers, including former prime minister David Cameron, and the now failed finance firm.

Mr Margrave, a former local councillor, said he was hopeful of getting enough signatures to bring the motions up for debate later this year.

He added: “We know the culture of the CofE is broken and deals are done behind closed doors.

“There is social nepotism between many Bishops, senior staff and others in high office. “We need to know who Bishops or senior staff are linked too… There is no standards board, no register of interests and no accountability.

“Unlike events in Greensill, right now we would not even be able to access communications or records of wrong doing in the Church of England.

“If the Church of England doesn’t get their house in order and support calls for a register, accountability and openness - then the Government should step in here too…

“If MPs are going to look at lobbying, recognise the Church as a Public Authority with access to those in power and make sure that any involvement in anyone in the Church in contracts or negotiating deals is not ignored.”

The Church of England declined to comment.