The Church commissioners — the trustees who manage the assets of the Church of England (who also included the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Speaker of the House of Commons!) — this week published news of record profits from investments for 2007. The 33-strong board announced overall returns of 9.4 per cent on their investments last year and a 9.5 per cent total return on invested funds over the past 10 years.
The commissioners will report that the value of assets under their management has grown to £5.67 billion and that their fund, which is a closed fund accepting no new investment, has been able to return £37 million more each year to the Church over the past decade than it would have done if it had performed at the industry average.
Reporting this news, the Daily Telegraph said “Congregations should not start planning for new roofs and church halls, however, as the commissioners say that their funds contribute just 17 per cent of the total running costs of the Church of England – the balance being made up from the pockets of congregants and Diocesan investments.”
Oh, (the reporter and the commissioners forgot to mention) and hundreds of millions from the taxpayer.
Despite having this fantastic stash (and that is only a small proportion of its total wealth, which is tied up in property, such as shopping centres and farmland) the Church of England continues to sting the taxpayer for church repairs, gigantic tax concessions, grants from statutory bodies, subsidising of its ‘chaplaincies’ in hospitals, prisons and the armed forces, and hundreds of millions ploughed into church-run schools.
However, despite all this, the Church continues to plead poverty, whingeing about a growing pension bill for retired clergy. It is also agitating to be exempted from paying water bills (a change in the way this is levied means that suddenly the church has to pay its way like everyone else.) Yesterday representatives of the Church of England, Methodist and other churches met officials from Ofwat, the industry regulator, to argue that they shouldn’t have to pay for the water they use in the same way that everyone else does. After all, they’ve only got £6 billion in the bank.
And even in secular Australia, the churches have managed to get their greedy hands into the exchequer. You can read about the objections to that here