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12 July 2013


THE Synod approved the Archbishops' Council's Draft Budget and Proposals for Apportionment for 2014 on Monday afternoon.

Andrew Britton, who chairs the Archbishops' Council's Finance Committee, began his last budget speech to the Synod by acknowledging that the past six years had been a "very difficult time for parishes, dioceses, and the national church institutions".

"As a Church, we have shared the pain suffered by the national and global economy since the onset of the financial crisis, and in the subsequent recession," he said. However: "the Church has come through that period better than many other organisations, and rather better than was feared five years or so ago."

He said that there was "an urgent need to appeal to our membership, especially to the new members of growing churches, to support the many new activities being undertaken in parishes".

The Revd Christopher Hobbs (London) was concerned about the reduction in the planned contribution to Churches Together in England; and questioned whether the reduction of funding for Fresh Expressions, from £100,000 per year to £40,000 per year, would be enough.

Sister Anne Williams CA (Durham) welcomed funding for lay training, and suggested that work could be done to help people to discover their talents. She also called for support for the Church of England's uniformed youth organisations, saying that "the Church Lads' and Girls' Brigades bring lots of children into the church, but also their parents."

Canon Peter Spiers (Liverpool) said that a glass door had been installed in his church so it looked open. "One of the unintended consequences is that when we are preaching, we look out and see lots of people, and realise that, for many people, we are irrelevant."

He questioned the reduction in funding for Fresh Expressions. "For every one person involved in Fresh Expressions, another four come along. . . We should be investing in Fresh Expressions, and not putting the majority of our resources into traditional expressions of church."

Julie Dziegiel (Oxford) said: "The most effective way of promoting stewardship is to tell the congregation what the money is spent on; not during the annual meeting, but in services where the message can be reinforced by the preacher."

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) suggested that the Church had been "bounced into" having a mission-agency pensions fund. The Church ought to support the agency by giving it a grant; pension funds should be supported by the "responsible employer".

Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) spoke as a Church Commissioner. He wanted to praise both the education department and legal department, and suggest that their allocations were insufficient. With regard to the latter, he reminded the Synod of safeguarding incidents, and the "substantial number of potential claims", along with clergy-discipline claims: "Any of these cases could cost at least £500,000."

The Revd John Dunnett (Chelmsford) spoke to counter Mr Hind's comment about funding the mission-agency pensions fund. First, there was "something symbolic" about this support, reminding the Church of its "ties". Second, it enabled clergy to move from parish posts to mission agencies with "relative ease". Third, it was a "very effective multiplier", encouraging others to add to what was given by the Church. He also wanted to suggest that the mission agencies were "responsible employers".

Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield) was grateful for the increase in the grant to the Anglican Communion Office, which, she said, was "very much appreciated". "The work of the Anglican Communion relies on contributions from provinces and Churches across the world," she said. "The Church of England is the largest contributor. . . There are parts of the world where contributing anything at all is impossible."

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) echoed the thanks given to Andrew Britton and the Archbishops' Council for the money designated towards youth evangelism.

Joy Gilliver (Chichester) was pleased with the focus on discipleship and lay ministry, and wanted to know whether the extension of common awards in the training of Readers and clergy in CME 4-7 would be voluntary, as this training was funded by the dioceses rather than nationally.

Linda Ali (York) thanked the Synod and the Archbishops' Council for building work with black-majority churches into the budget; as well as work to extend vocations among minority-ethnic people. But she expressed a cautious note about the work of the mission agencies. Mrs Ali formerly chaired USPG (now called Us); and said that the "work of mission agencies has fallen off the agenda of parish churches. We need to ensure that we don't sideline mission agencies, whose work is vital these days."

The Synod approved £13,066,150 for training for ministry; £10,088,945 for national support; £1,269,161 for grants and provisions; £739,500 for mission agencies' clergy-pension contributions; and £3,953,896 for the CHARM scheme.

The proposals for apportionment to the dioceses were also carried.

A PRESENTATION on the Church Commissioners' annual report followed on Monday evening.

The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, confirmed that the Commissioners' fund was valued at £5.5 billion at the end of last year. This was despite its having always been assumed that the absolute requirement to meet pensions would mean that the size of the fund would decline over time. The target was inflation plus five percentage points.

There was a risk of complacency, but, he said, "We just have to do the work to create real growth." Two themes were becoming more important: financing and participating in research into church growth, and "trying to become more intentional in the way that our distributions are made".

The Commissioners were spending £300,000 on inquiries into church growth, and had just finished a programme of giving grants to churches in deprived areas, which were doing "extremely well". Another new initiative was joining a consortium bidding for more than 300 branches of RBS. This would mean a five-per-cent market share of the SME market, and a two-per-cent share of UK personal current accounts.

Two American firms were leading the consortium, and the other investors were Standard Life and Rothschild Investment Trust. If successful, the aim was the establishment of a strong regional bank that would trade as Williams & Glyns.

The aim was twofold: to make a good investment, and to make a good bank. At the moment, they were involved in an "enormous programme of due diligence", including looking into IT systems, which were "notoriously poor" at RBS. Until the end of May, the fund was 12.7 per cent ahead: it was going to be "quite a good year". But the risk of the eurozone's breaking up, and the dangerous situation in the Middle East remained.

Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) asked whether the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) would be publishing its review on climate change and would pay specific attention to concerns about oil and gas.

Mr Whittam Smith said: "I would think so." The relationship with the EIAG was "getting better and better".

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) requested a comment on the implementation of the Living Wage, and what impact that might have on jobs.

Mr Whittam Smith said that the Commissioners were committed to the Living Wage, but that there were "quite a few special difficulties". For example, the Hyde Park estate employed many porters and gardeners. What they were paid was fixed in the terms of the lease with tenants, and could not be loaded on to tenants; so the Church would have to pick it up separately. This would be done "gradually".

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) observed that 40 per cent of stipendiary clergy were due to retire this decade. Could the pension fund cope with this? Mr Whittam Smith said that the clergy pension scheme was "very, very well covered".

Penelope Allen (Lichfield) asked would the Commissioners assure her that they would not invest in future? Mr Whittam Smith could not give this assurance. There were two approaches that could be taken to firms engaged in "activities which can be disapproved of": refusing to address, or entering into dialogue.

Paul Hancock (Liverpool) asked about the level of the commitment to the RBS consortium.

Mr Whittam Smith explained that RBS had been ordered to sell the branches by the EU as part of the understanding of the British Government when it poured £14 billion into RBS. In terms of the Commissioners' investment, the "lot size" was "within our normal boundaries", and they hoped to own shares for a "long time".

The Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Ven. Peter Hill (Southwell & Nottingham), asked whether there could be more money for churches in deprived areas, and if so, when?

Mr Whittam Smith hoped that there would be more.

Paul Neville (Wakefield) asked for assurance that the Commissioners would support churches undertaking essential repairs. Mr Whittam Smith confirmed that this would be the case under the chancel-repair scheme.

Sally Muggeridge (Canterbury) asked whether the Commissioners could consider keeping open some of the churches in the process of closing. Mr Whittam Smith said that the number of churches being made redundant was small, 17 a year. He said: "You could make an argument to say it could be more. Not all are in the right places, and there are other ways of doing church."

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