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Church Commissioners' 2009 results confirm long-term growth - level of support to the Church to be maintained

 

The Church Commissioners achieved a 15.6 per cent return on their investments during 2009.  Results announced today show that the fund has now outperformed its comparator group over the last year as well as over the past five, 10 and 20 years.*

Today’s results mean that the Commissioners’ current level of support to the Church – including increased pensions costs - can be maintained, in cash terms, for a further three-year period, from 2011 to 2013.

The Commissioners’ asset value has grown to £4.8 billion (from £4.4 billion at December 31, 2008), and the fund has been able to distribute £31 million more each year to the Church than if the investments had performed only at the industry average over the last ten years. The 15.6 per cent return was achieved against a comparator performance of 15.1 per cent for 2009.

In the last five years, the Commissioners achieved average returns of 6.6 per cent per year, against the comparator of 6.2 per cent. Over the past 10 years, the Commissioners’ total returns averaged 5.1 per cent per year, against the comparator group’s 3.1 per cent. Over the past 20 years, the Commissioners outperformed the comparator group with an average annual return of 7.8 per cent against 7.7 per cent.

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said: “The Commissioners’ mission is to support the Church of England’s ministry, particularly in areas of need and opportunity. To that end, we invest so we can meet our continuing commitments to the Church’s mission and achieve sustainable long-term growth.

“These results demonstrate how the Commissioners have tailored their investments to meet changing financial conditions and have prudently managed the Church’s historic resources.

“Looking across our portfolio, it is our property investments that have performed particularly well, both in the past decade and during 2009. They delivered an average total return of 11.2 per cent between 2000 and 2009, including 5.2 per cent in 2009, even after writing off our investment in Manhattan at the year-end.

“The fund’s performance means that we can continue to support the Church of England’s ministry to the whole country at a similar level to that of recent years, despite the difficult economic times.”

For several years the Commissioners have operated, with the support of their actuaries Hymans Robertson, a smoothing arrangement covering levels of distribution. They have paid out less to their beneficiaries than might have been possible in good years to increase the probability of being able to maintain a steady level of contribution to the Church’s mission and ministry in more challenging market and economic conditions.

Following an actuarial review earlier this year, the Commissioners have confirmed they can now maintain the current level of non-pensions support for beneficiaries in cash terms from 2011-13. This amounts to £94.6 million in each of the three calendar years.

Investments

The key elements of the Church Commissioners’ investment portfolio, as at December 31, 2009, are set out below. The levels at the end of December 2008 are in brackets.

Investments, including fixed interest, UK and overseas equities – £3,167.4 million (£2,661.4million); Investment properties, including urban, let land, strategic land and global indirect property holdings – £1,308.2 million (£1,300.8 million); Other net assets, including loans, short term deposits and cash – £339.6 million (£402.3 million).

Serving the Church

The Commissioners contribute to the ministry of each of the Church’s 44 dioceses, in addition to their major role of funding all clergy pensions earned before 1998. This contribution includes supporting the ministry of bishops and cathedrals, as well as parish ministry particularly in poorer dioceses.

In 2009, the Church Commissioners continued to provide significant support to encourage the growth of the Church’s existing ministries and new opportunities. Since it began in 2002, the mission development fund has given dioceses extra resources for parish ministry totaling £34.0 million, including £5.0 million in 2009. A further £5.2 million is to be distributed for this purpose in 2010.

A fund of £7.25 million, earmarked for investment in areas of new housing and other developments, has been allocated between 15 dioceses facing significant challenges and opportunities. Distribution of the grants began in 2009.

The Commissioners' total charitable expenditure in 2009 was £190.8 million (£189.1 million in 2008). Total non-pensions expenditure, including support for ministry within dioceses and for the ministry of bishops and cathedrals, totaled £81.6 million in 2009, compared with £84.8 million in 2008. Governance costs and other resources expended were £1.8 million in 2009 (2008: £3.6 million).

The main items of expenditure were (with 2008 figures in brackets):

• £111.0 million (£107.9 million) for clergy pensions based on service before 1998

• £42.0 million (£41.8 million) for parish mission and ministry, primarily to less-resourced dioceses

• £26.6 million (£29.3 million) for supporting bishops in their diocesan and national ministries, mainly for staff costs.

• £7.4 million (£7.5 million) for stipends of cathedral clergy and grants to cathedrals, mainly for staff salaries

• £3.8 million (£2.6 million) for other charitable expenditure including administration of national church functions, support for other Church bodies and church buildings.

 

Notes

*(See paragraph one). The comparator group quoted is the WM All Funds Universe. It is a collection of the investment results of UK pension funds and is widely used as an independent measure of the performance of funds. There were 218 funds in the 2009 universe, and there were 159, 139 and 100 funds that have been included in the sample for the last five, 10 and 20 years respectively.

 

The Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners play a vital role in supporting the Church of England as a Christian presence in every community. They contribute around 16p in the pound to the cost of the Church’s mission – most of the balance comes from the generous giving of today’s parishioners.

The Commissioners fund all clergy pensions earned before 1998. (Pensions earned since then are paid from the separate Funded Scheme, which is funded by contributions from dioceses and other Church bodies).

The Commissioners' fund is a closed fund, taking in no new money.

Actuaries assess the Commissioners' fund in detail every three years (with yearly ‘desktop’ reviews) to advise on how much they can safely plan to spend to maintain sustainable distributions.

The Commissioners manage their investments within ethical guidelines, with advice from the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

The Commissioners’ mission is to support the Church of England's ministry, particularly in areas of need and opportunity. Their main responsibilities are:

• to obtain a return from their diversified portfolio of assets, managed within an ethical framework, that will allow them to meet their pension obligations and to maintain, and grow over time, their support for the wider Church including supporting the work of bishops, cathedrals and parish ministry. The target long-term rate of return is RPI + 5.0% per annum.

• to administer the legal framework for pastoral reorganisation and settling the future of buildings closed for regular public worship.

The investments are managed on a total return basis and the Commissioners have the legal power, subject to periodic renewal, to spend capital for pension purposes. This proved crucial in 2009 when the capital used to pay clergy pensions rose to £81.4 million from £44.6 million the previous year. This was primarily as income in 2009, at £145.5 million, was £27.6 million lower than in 2008 as a result of dividend reductions on equity holdings and lower interest rates on cash.

The 33 Church Commissioners are:

• the two Archbishops;

• three Church Estates Commissioners, who represent the Church Commissioners in General Synod and (Second Commissioner) in Parliament;

• eleven people elected by General Synod: four bishops, three clergy, four lay people;

• two deans

• nine people who are appointed by the Crown and the Archbishops;

• six ex-officio members: the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament.

 

History

The Queen Anne's Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners joined in 1948 to form the Church Commissioners. Queen Anne's Bounty was a charity founded in 1704 to help poor clergy. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were given the estates belonging to bishops and cathedrals, so they could fund their ministry as well as the Church's ministry into new urban areas.

 

 

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