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Church of Ireland General Synod: Investment fund grows by 21 per cent without fossil fuels

13 May 2022

Representative Church Body report brings good news

CHURCH OF IRELAND

The chairman of the executive committee of the Representative Church Body, Henry Algeo

The chairman of the executive committee of the Representative Church Body, Henry Algeo

THE Church of Ireland no longer holds any direct investments in fossil fuels, and will have no indirect investment either by the end of 2022.

There was other good news from Henry Algeo, who chairs the executive committee of the Representative Church Body (RCB), when he gave its report. The central investment fund had increased by 21 per cent last year, to €239 million — a figure not seen since 2006 — and the continued growth of general funds “has allowed us to continue to increase our expenditure incrementally over the past few years”.

A review of clergy remuneration and benefits had resulted in the the development of a new “Dignity in Church Life” policy addressing clergy parental leave. A need for enhanced protection for ill clergy was also being developed, and both policies should be in operation by the autumn, Mr Algeo said.

The Archdeacon of Armagh, the Ven. Terry Scott (Armagh), seconded the report. How the Church had met and worked had changed immensely, “and maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing,” he suggested. “The phrase ‘Back to normal’ is one often used — however, it needs to be taken with a bit of a health warning, as not everything about the ‘old normal’ was either good or healthy.”

Suggesting that a mixed economy of both remote and in-person meetings was surely the way forward, he reflected: “We have learned that a degree of remote working brings with it benefits not just in terms of people time and cost but it also has a positive impact environmentally.

“In that context, the approval of the RCB staff Right to Request Flexible Working policy is surely a step in the right direction. It will allow staff to work up to four days a week from home, depending on role and department needs.”

He was thankful, he said, for the initiative under which every parish received a Covid-19 grant earlier this year; but an even greater benefit was that “here was an incidence of central Church being able to help, albeit in a small way, every Church of Ireland community throughout this land.

“That sense of being part of a bigger family, bound together in love, can only be strengthened by such actions. Its ultimate value and worth went well beyond the actual monetary amounts received” [€800,000].

In light of the flexible-working initiative for RCB staff, Gillian Purser (Cashel, Ferns & Ossory) expressed her frustration and disenfranchisement at having had to resign from membership of the committee of Bishops’ Appeal and also from the Episcopal Electoral College for the election of a new Bishop for her diocese — the latter position requiring attendance at three meetings in Dublin.

Not a cradle Anglican, she had been drawn to the Church of Ireland because of its lay involvement. “I have 20 days a year leave. Most of us who are working, do,” she pointed out. “Why can we not also have remote meetings for lay volunteers? It shouldn’t just be the retired or those wealthy enough to take a day off. . . And if unemployed, how can you afford it? Students? Young working families? They can’t afford the time or money to be here.”

She drew loud applause for her concluding request: “I ask the RCB and the Standing Committee to allow more people of more varied age and social class to be part of the decision-making process of the Church of Ireland.”

David Whyte (Dublin & Glendalough) voiced concerns in the Republic of Ireland about the climate-proofing of rectories and the cost to parishes. Rectors, he pointed out, “are not householders for the purposes of retro-fitting”. Stephen Trew (Down & Dromore) agreed with the World Health Organization that the biggest threat was climate change, on which decisive action was needed. “How many of you clergy live in cold and draughty homes?” he asked, calling for a “cosy-clergy-home scheme”.

The Bishop of Tuam, Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, wanted to see better financial support than the current €500 given to the provision of worship in the Irish language, something warmly supported by the Revd Jack Kinkead (Dublin & Glendalough).

Scott Brown (Connor), a retired GP, noted that there was nothing in the budget for occupational health. Trials and tribulations had increased for long-serving, hard-pressed clergy, and the elephant in the room was that every diocese had one or two parishes that were dysfunctional because of a relationship breakdown [with their rector]. Was it really “more important to pay ever-mounting legal fees, or look at re-examining health services?”

Synod accepted the report.

Read other reports from the Church of Ireland General Synod

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