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Justifying the Resourcing the Future proposals

by
06 March 2015

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From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, - Mr K. Peters (Letters, 27 February) questions whether the General Synod should have voted to borrow from the future. On the contrary, I believe that there are good reasons that we should not be surprised by the Synod vote to break "intergenerational fairness" and move forward on releasing additional funds from the £6 billion endowment fund of the Church Commissioners.

I am surprised that there has not been more support for the initiative of the First Church Estates Commissioner in putting this before the Synod, and more calls for opening up the issue how much might be distributed.

The Synod was told that the "Church Commissioners are willing to open up the way they could fund growth initiatives". Provisos were added: only if there was a genuine crisis; and if safeguards were present to ensure that it was spent well.

But there is a further reason for action. It may have escaped church attention that the current austerity has been very good for one section of the economy, and that is the invested-funds sector. The Western economies' loose money policy has boosted investment returns of the large funds; and so the Church Commissioners' endowment fund has done relatively well during the years of austerity and cheap money.

This means that the argument for redistribution by way of bringing forward expenditure is a subtler one: the pot that is available is bigger because of the austerity. It follows that distributions that are made to support mission could be seen as slicing off some of the above-normal returns, and not as borrowing from the future of the Church Estate.

The big issue for the Resourcing the Future team is just how much of the endowment to "slice off annually" and put into diocesan hands for backing strategic plans for growth, which are combined with a strong bias to the poor (dioceses) - while the door is open.

PHILLIP RICE
General Synod member
23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU

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