THE First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, is to step down next summer before taking up the post of Master of Clare College, Cambridge, in October 2021. Her successor has yet to be announced.
Ms Minghella joined the Church Commissioners from Christian Aid in 2017 (News, 30 June 2017). The Archbishop of Canterbury said last week: “In the three years since she joined the Commissioners she has worked to increase the Commissioners’ funding available for mission, strengthened measures to steward the fund in perpetuity, and responded to the pandemic with a liquidity package for struggling dioceses and cathedrals” (News, 3 April).
He continued: “During her tenure she has overseen the development of a more sustainable infrastructure for our investment activities and commenced implementation of a new phase of climate engagement and divestment. The Commissioners will continue to benefit from her leadership and expertise until the summer of next year.”
The First Church Estates Commissioner chairs the assets committee of the Church Commissioners, responsible for managing its now £8.7-billion investment portfolio, and is a member of the Church Commissioners’ Board of Governors, the General Synod, and the Archbishops’ Council.
On her appointment, Ms Minghella said that she planned for the Commissioners to become more open and to prioritise ethical investment (Features, 23 March 2018). This would be achieved, she said, not simply through disinvestment, but by using the Commissioners’ shareholder position to lobby multi-billion-pound companies to improve their behaviour — particularly in response to the Paris agreement on climate change.
The national investing bodies (NIBs) of the C of E — the Commissioners, CBF, and Pensions Board — continue to hold investments of about £120 million in oil and gas companies, including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil. In 2018, the Synod instructed the NIBs to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies by 2023 unless the latter could prove that they were on the path to tackling climate change (News, 13 July 2018).
Since then, BP has voted in favour of a proposal to align its future plans to the terms of the Paris agreement (News, 24 May 2019). Less progress has been made with Shell and Exxon.
In January, the Commissioners pledged to invest only in companies working towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050 (News, 24 January).
Before joining the Commissioners, Ms Minghella had been the chief executive of Christian Aid for seven years, chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), and head of enforcement, law and policy, and international co-operation at the Financial Services Authority.
Last year, referring to the lack of women in senior posts in the C of E, the pay gap, and wider issues of inequality beyond the Church, Ms Minghella said that the journey towards a Church “perceived as genuinely concerned to include women as much as men” has “not so much miles to go, as continents to cross” (News, 11 October 2019).
She said last week that she was proud of what the Commissioners had achieved during her tenure, including “allocating over £900 million of funding for the Church’s mission in this triennium whilst engaging robustly with the companies we invest in on climate change, gender equality, and other key issues, and so ensuring that our investment activities contribute most effectively to the common good”.