In the last two newsletters I wrote about church funds. Most of those funds are held in trust for specific purposes and there generally is not much money flooding around. Many parishes, including those looking after iconic church buildings, struggle to finance the upkeep of those buildings. Still, the churches, including the Anglican Church, hold quite significant funds and significant property resources.
I would argue that it is important how these funds are managed. We all understand that some events are not appropriate in church buildings. What about the funds from which some of the money for upkeep comes from? They certainly should not be generated by investments in armaments, pornography, and other socially destructive industries. That’s why some funds are now invested through socially-responsible investment firms with a blacklist of certain stocks. However, in 2021 journalist Rod Oram found that the Anglican Pension Board still invested considerable amounts in questionable stock. The Prophets make it clear that ill-gotten gains brought in offering to the Temple are sinful, and not good.
Even more than that, as part of the church’s stewardship it should not only avoid the most destructive investments, but rather work positively for the mission of God and the good of society. That would not only fulfil our duty to God, but also the expectations of society. It is never good to be seen as a greedy, acquisitive organisation, particularly since the Church relies partly on the goodwill of greater society.
That need for achieving a greater good in asset administration was, for example, recognised when Synod in 2021 voted that when the land of the former St Luke’s Church in Manchester Street would be sold, preference would be given to social impact investment. The land has recently been put up for sale with the marketing material making no mention of that synod direction. Maybe CPT is working at that direction in the background, but that has not been communicated publicly. Therefore, the impression of a greedy church that only goes for the biggest buck has been allowed to grow. In this case that is even more so, because the land is apparently the burial ground of Tautahi, the Māori chief from whom the te Reo name of Christchurch is derived: Ōtautahi. The Church has to be more open and careful in the way it handles its wealth.