Remote and isolated rural churches urgently need support, said the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr John Inge.
The challenge to support hundreds if not thousands of churches in thinly-populated parishes must be recognised by central government, he said.
In an upbeat speech, he said that many churches were currently in a much better condition than the “parlous state” of two centuries ago.
However, he stressed that rural churches, which were “the jewel in the crown of the national built heritage” had to have active and sustained financial support from Government.
Dr Inge, who was a former Bishop of Huntingdon, said that the annual cost for long-term backing to maintain and preserve such key heritage buildings would be “peanuts” in the context of total government spending. While reluctant to be drawn into a precise figure, he suggested that annual support of around £50 to £60m could make a significant impact
“We must continue to make the case for support all levels of government,” he added.
As the chairman of 2015 report into church funding, Dr Inge said that it recommended wherever possible that churches could be adapted for greater community use. As a member of the Taylor report, he also said that it might not be possible for large numbers of rural, remote churches. This was certainly true, for example in the Diocese of Norwich, and also in the Diocese of Exeter, which also faced similar challenges.
Dr Inge, said: “If I had any message to this conference, it would be: Lobby consistently for more State assistance.”
We must impress on government for greater state assistance. “These buildings are everyone’s heritage. The trouble is people don’t realise that they have a responsibility towards them,” he added.
Across Europe, churches were given State funding to maintain the fabric of buildings but not in the United Kingdom, said Dr Inge.