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Synod: Diocesan investments

21 November 2014

ON TUESDAY afternoon, the Synod gave first consideration to the Draft Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure.

This was "a short and technical" draft Measure that "will not . . . set many pulses racing", John Booth (Chichester), who chairs the steering committee, said. The Measure would allow diocesan boards of finance (DBFs) to "make decisions about the investments held in their diocesan stipends funds" in the same way as they could about "other charitable assets under their control".

The existing rules prevented dioceses' investing their diocesan stipends funds on a "total returns" basis, "which may deliver most, if not all, of their returns by way of capital".

Mr Booth said that there was a distinction between income returns and capital gains; and that current rules required capital gains to be re-invested. "As a result, dioceses may find that they are locked into an unhelpfully restrictive investment policy because of the need to generate income to preserve their ability to make stipend payments."

He said that "Passing a total-return resolution is not a licence to spend money now without regard to the needs of future generations. In deciding how much of their unapplied total return to apply in any year, the DBF would have a duty to exercise its power in a way that does not adversely affect its ability to further its purposes now and in the future."

Canon Christopher Lilley (Lincoln) told the Synod that the proposal had been well received at the inter-diocesan finance forum. "They, like us, would like to spend some of the capital growth as if it were income," he said. "We languish at the bottom of the giving tables, but, in the meanwhile, we wish to use some of the capital growth on our stipend fund to help kick-start the new initiatives in mission and discipleship."

Paul Boyd-Lee (Salisbury) said that he backed the principle behind the Draft Measure, but cautioned that it was important to build up diocesan reserves. Elizabeth Renshaw (Chester) said that she thought that the Draft Measure was both "sensible and timely", and could allow dioceses to employ more stipendiary clergy than they could presently afford.

The draft Measure was committed to a revision committee.

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