UK: The men from the ministry - a look at how the Church of England is run. (2 of 4)

UK: The men from the ministry - a look at how the Church of England is run. (2 of 4) - It would hardly be surprising if so many organisations, each with a finger in a large but nonetheless limited pie, sometimes disagreed on how the money should be spent

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It would hardly be surprising if so many organisations, each with a finger in a large but nonetheless limited pie, sometimes disagreed on how the money should be spent. However, it is the separation of powers which vests the assets in the Church Commissioners and the policy-making function in the General Synod which seems to cause most difficulty. In practice, the division may be honoured more in the breach than the observance; the first Church Commissioner (who is broadly responsible for its financial as distinct from political or pastoral duties) is also chairman of the CBF.

Sir Douglas Lovelock supervises capital assets amounting to roughly £3 billion in his role as first Commissioner and a further £630 million in his capacity as chairman of the CBF. He sees this dual function as a vital bridge, but others argue that it puts him in an invidious and altogether too powerful position. One former employee at Church House recalls occasions when he has intervened in staffing decisions that were more properly the sphere of the General Synod on the basis that it is he who writes the cheques.

A second cause of friction is the precise nature of the Commissioners' investment policy. A pending court case will determine whether "financial responsibilities must remain of primary importance", as the Commissioners argue, or whether, as the Bishop of Oxford believes, assets should be invested in a way which more actively promotes Christian values.

In fact the tensions between the Church Commissioners and the General Synod have as much to do with the Commissioners' function as mediators between Church and state. A number of clergy have expressed high regard for their contribution to the provision of homes, stipends and index-linked pensions. What most disturbs the General Synod, it seems, is that, despite being the voice of the Church, it has no power to create ecclesiastical law without endorsement from Parliament. Yet it is the second Church Commissioner, Michael Allison, MP, to whom falls the task of representing the Church in the House of Commons. Thus, tired of being the poor and comparatively impotent relation, the General Synod is now chafing at the bit.

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