THE Church Commissioners are well-placed to ride out any storm in the markets caused by the result of the EU referendum, the First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, has said.
Speaking at the General Synod in York last week, a bullish Sir Andreas reported that the Commissioners had prepared well for Brexit by selling property, investing in private equity (currently delivering growth of 12.5 per cent a year), and forestry.
Indeed, the decline in the value of sterling since the vote had been of “great benefit”, as 45 per cent of their assets were outside the country.
Overall, the Commissioners had once again beaten their target of inflation plus five per cent by delivering an eight per cent return (News, 20 May). Over the past 30 years they were comfortably above target, with an average 9.7 per cent growth each year.
Even in a doomsday scenario of their assets falling in value by five per cent year on year, the Commissioners could continue meeting their funding obligations to the Church of England for a further eight years, Sir Andreas said.
Earlier during the Synod, members had debated an emergency motion on the EU referendum.
While the motion, which called on the Church to respond to the vote by building a “generous and forward-looking country” was supported overwhelmingly, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, cautioned against any suppression of either the anger that prompted some to vote Leave, or the anger felt at the result by some who voted Remain (News, 1 July).
Introducing the motion, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that “the signal has been set at ‘Danger’ for cohesion,” and urged the Church to work for integration, “not simply of different cultures, but within our own land; and, if we do that, we must also tackle inequality”. He noted the sharp rise in child poverty.
“The shock of Brexit must be one that forces us into a more just and fair society, and a more equal one.”
Commissioners unveil final grants before funding is trebled A FINAL round of grants from the Church Commissioners for diocesan projects has been announced, before the pot is tripled in size next year under the Renewal and Reform programme.
On Monday, nine grants, totalling £7.8 million, were announced to support schemes that support church growth and reach out to poorer communities.
From 2017, a shake-up in the distribution of money from the Commissioners to the dioceses — part of the Renewal and Reform project (News, 16 January 2015) — will mean that much more is put into this pot for dioceses to bid for.
In the past three years, about £7 million has been handed out each year; but, from next year, this will become £24 million. Dioceses will be encouraged to bid for money from this fund, which must be used to pay for new churches and ministries that serve deprived areas or grow the Church.
Hitherto, much of the regular Church Commissioners’ funding, which is drawn from its £6-billion investment fund, has been distributed through a formula that some critics have said rewards failure and decline by prioritising dioceses which are struggling the most.
Among the grants given out by the Commissioners this year are £1.26 million to establish a city-centre church in Derby; £1 million for the diocese of Exeter to help rural churches use their buildings for mission; and £1.25 million for Southwell & Nottingham to set up 25 “strategic resource churches” and a young leadership college.
The chairman of the Archbishops’ Council finance committee, John Spence, said: “We have a range of very different approaches here, but all of them are focused on strengthening mission and growth at grassroots level.
“The new Resourcing the Future distribution arrangements give both the oxygen for more such schemes from 2017, and the obligation on us all to seek to utilise the funds being made available in a quality way.”