To address the needs of communities affected by Cyclone Gabrielle the Anglican Church has established the Anglican Cyclone Gabrielle Response Group ‘Hāpaitia’. As part of that response the St John’s College Trust Board has released $250,000 in emergency funds for immediate deployment. Some would see this as a minimum response given the wealth of the Anglican Church. Most people do not appreciate how extraordinary that release of funds is. Despite the perception in society, the Anglican Church in New Zealand is not very wealthy and certainly does not have liquid assets it can quickly deploy.
According to a report from May 2020, the Anglican Church in New Zealand has assets worth about $2.87 billion. But those are the combined assets held on behalf of hundreds of parishes, dioceses and other organisations. The two wealthiest organisations in the Anglican Church by far are the Selwyn Foundation and the St John’s College Trust Board. The Selwyn Foundation provides services to senior citizens in Auckland (mainly), including a retirement village and affordable housing. St John’s College was established for the training and formation of Anglican clergy. The St John’s College Trust Board’s purpose has now been widened to fund education more generally in the Anglican Church. How responding to a cyclone furthers Christian education in the Anglican Church I’m not quite sure. Maybe it has been argued that the necessities of life have to be met first for people to access education. You can see how funding criteria had to be stretched to enable some of the Church’s wealth to be released.
Most of the other assets of the Anglican Church consist of property, property that often does not generate much wealth, but requires constant maintenance. The Diocese of Christchurch is fairly typical. The more than 50 parishes in the Diocese have more than 100 churches, in addition to halls and vicarages. Only few parishes also have rental properties. In addition, many parishes have funds that are invested through Church Property Trustees. There is also the Bishopric Estate: proceeds pay for the Bishop and his office staff. Finally, there is the General Trust Estate. Proceeds from this fund contribute to running the Diocesan Office, so that the quota (parish contribution) is not as high as it otherwise would be. Maybe this is one area where savings could be made, as the Diocese is relatively top heavy and always tempted to add more programmes and people. I should note that the Archdeacon for Regeneration and Mission is largely funded by the St John’s College Trust Board.
While some parishes struggle and others are financially comfortable, the Church as a whole cannot easily advance funds to individual parishes that have been hit by disaster or require exceptional maintenance. That’s why parishes depend on direct donations or on co-operation between parishes. In the case of the Anglican Cyclone Gabrielle Response Group ‘Hāpaitia’, the church has established an extraordinary mechanism to address an extraordinary need.