Coffers still need divine inspiration

WORSHIPPERS in Suffolk will still have to find more money, despite the Church Commissioners revealing today that they have had the best investment results for four years.

WORSHIPPERS in Suffolk will still have to find more money, despite the Church Commissioners revealing today that they have had the best investment results for four years.

The Church Commissioners' annual report and accounts for 2003 has just been released and during last year they capitalised on the recovery in stock markets since last spring.

There were positive returns on all assets, which were worth several billion pounds at the end of the year. The Commissioners can now modestly increase spending during 2005 to 2007, as well as meeting their pension obligations.

But Nick Clarke, spokesman for the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, said financial aid from the commissioners is reducing in the county during the next few years.


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He said the diocese is regarded as affluent and money from the commissioners, currently standing at about £293,000, will decrease to nothing within three years.

Mr Clarke said: "We commend the financial acumen of the Church Commissioners and are delighted that they have got such an impressive result, in difficult financial conditions on the world stock market.

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"But our money from the commissioners is set to decline to zero by 2007. We are deemed to be affluent, a prosperous diocese, and are called upon to support the work of the Church in less fortunate areas than Suffolk.''

Mr Clarke said the diocese has already started to address this and has launched a campaign encouraging people to be more generous.

In Essex Hiranthi Fernando , director of finance for the Chelmsford Diocese, said: "The recovery in the Church Commissioners' investment returns are welcome and will make a positive contribution towards our mission.

"This diocese will consequently be a small beneficiary. As welcome as this is, the reality is that we do not anticipate that these returns will significantly alter the contributions required from parishes to support parish ministry.''

First Church Estates Commissioner Andreas Whittam-Smith said: "These results show the long-term benefit of investing in a broad range of asset classes as well as of exploiting opportunities within them. The commissioners' property holdings have been a big contributor to this result.''

The commissioners continue to provide significant support for the Church's ministry, especially in areas of need and, over the last two years, dioceses have received extra resources for parish ministry: £3.5 million in 2003.

The commissioners' expenditure during 2003 went on areas including clergy pensions, clergy salaries, bishops' office and working costs and housing, grants to cathedrals and administration.

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