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Church is running at a deficit

17 May 2013

THE Synod was told, in the report of the Representative Church Body (RB), that the Church of Ireland was operating at a deficit of €5.7 million, when it required €7 million each year to fund expenditure on ministry.

The Revd Robert Neill said: "This demonstrates that we continue to live beyond our means."

There were only two items to which the parishes and dioceses contributed: the episcopal levy, and the child-protection levy. Mr Neill said that that the policy of total return was adopted last year, and all investments performed to the market indexes. The two unit trusts exceeded the benchmarks, and held €235 million in assets between them. He commended unit trusts to parishes as a useful investment tool.

He called for a restructuring whereby the assets of parishes and dioceses should be considered for use for the benefit of the whole Church. He said that the concept of sharing resources was identified years ago, but had not happened yet.

The report was seconded by the Bishop of Cork, the Rt Revd Paul Colton, who said that civil law was increasingly impinging on the internal life of the Church. One example that lies ahead would be increased regulation of the Church as a charity, he predicted.

"With more robust regulation will come additional legal expectations of trustees," he said. He suggested that trustees might want to consider vesting in the RB.

Looking at RB reports from the past 143 years, he said that they were increasingly ordering their lives using informal rule-making, or soft law. "There's nothing wrong with using soft law - international bodies, governments, and many institutions are relying on it - but we do need to be sure, I believe, of certain things: first, we need to be aware that it is happening; second, we need to ensure that those rules, made informally, are published; third, the people of the Church need to be able to find them, and have access to them; and, fourth, those informal rules need constantly to be tested for consonance with the primary laws of the Church," he said.

The Very Revd Thomas Gordon (Leighlin) said that he could not understand the price of some of the courses in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, particularly the Foundation Course, which cost €2100.

Canon David Crooks delivered his annual report on the succession lists.

Geoffrey McMaster (Glendalough) suggested that the Socially Responsible Investment report was simply giving the Church the comfort that it was seeking. He said that the Church should let multinationals know of their expectations. Maureen Lannigan (Cashel & Ossory) asked whether the Church should be investing in companies that had factories that operated with intolerable conditions.

The report was adopted by the Synod.

The Synod adopted Motion 12, authorising the RB to make an allocation of €4.1 million from general funds in 2013.

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