Worshipping Money

The Archbishop has joined with the Occupy movement to call for new taxes on the bankers.

He says:
“The best outcome from the unhappy controversies at St Paul’s will be if the issues raised… can focus a concerted effort to move the debate on and effect credible change in the financial world.”

The archbishop said he supported the main proposals of a recent report from the Vatican calling for widespread financial reform. He is advocating a 'Robin Hood tax' for all financial transactions in the UK.

What he does not seem to understand is this is not a tax on bankers is a tax on everybody. We own the banks through our pension schemes. If we were to introduce a 'Robin Hood tax' then all of our financial services industry would move to countries that did not have the tax. The banks employ hundreds of thousands of workers at normal wages. This tax would be on our pensions and jobs. It would destroy tax income, not generate it.

I have a better idea. If we want to tax the rich lets look elsewhere for parts of society that have too much money.

Lets look at the Church of England.

The COE was created by Henry VIII so that he could get divorced. When he did so the country was largely Catholic. The Catholic church was extremely rich and was a core part of the political system.

Henry VIII dissolved most of the monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland. He sold off the gold and land and used it to pay for government.

Over the centuries the COE grew. It acquired land. It built churches. Many of these things were paid for by rich donors, possibly as a way of getting into heaven, possibly as a way of avoiding tax.

In modern times the COE has been in serious decline.

Weekly attendance has halved over 40 years.

The number of people being baptised into the faith has dropped by two thirds.

The congregation is getting older and older.

As they die out the church dies with them.

In the mean time the Church has changed. It is no longer just a place of worship, it has sold off much of its land and closed thousands of churches. It has created a modern investment fund to replace the lost income from a decline in the donations from worshippers.

The modern day COE is not as rich as the Catholic church was in the days of Henry VIII, but it is still very rich. The Church of England spends around £1.2 billion per year, around two thirds of which comes from donations. Around 17% of the remainder, or £202.5 million in 2010, came from profits from the 'Church Commissioners' investment fund.

In its last accounts the 'Church Commissioners' fund was worth £5.3 billion. While still technically a charity, the Church of England is effectively running a financial institution.

Their annual report describes them as:
The Church Commissioners manage an investment fund of
£5.3 billion, held mainly in property and shares. The fund and
the obligations attached to it derive from the Commissioners’
parent charities of the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively
Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners,
which were set up to improve the incomes and housing of
clergy and to extend their ministry into new urban areas.
The Commissioners’ work today supports the Church of England
as a Christian presence in every community.

Profits from the Church Commissioners are spent on:
- Supporting poorer dioceses with ministry costs
- Providing funds to support mission activities
- Paying for bishops’ ministry and some cathedral costs
- Administering the legal framework for pastoral reorganisation and settling the future of closed
- church buildings
- Paying clergy pensions for service prior to 1998
- Running the national payroll for serving and retired clergy

To this end they claim to provide:
The Church’s network of around 13,000 parishes, 16,000 churches and 20,000 ordained and lay ministers offers spiritual care for all who might wish to engage with matters of faith and community action in a Christian context.

The Church of England has been closing churches as the number of worshippers declines. Since 1969 they have closed nearly two thousand churches. Of these:
- 463 were demolished or disposed of
- 342 were preserved (with state funding)
- 276 were turned into residential housing
- 163 were turned into monuments or museums
- 150 where turned into civic or community causes
- 160 were given to other Christian bodies
- 58 were turned into offices or retail

Over £47 million has been raised since 1969 from disposing of closed churches and the related land.

The Church Commissioners is not just a financial institution, it is a very successful financial institution. They aim to return 5% more than inflation over the long term. They managed to outperform the WM All Funds universe, averaging 6.3% a year compared with 4.5% for WM. In 2010 the fund achieved a total return of 15.2%.

The fund is run by the Church of England, but that does not mean that they invest all of their money in England. Non sterling-denominated assets made up 43.7% of investments at the end of 2010. Over the last 10 years they have invested in:

UK shares3.3%
Non-UK shares4.4%
Rural land (let)17.0%
Rural land (strategic)14.9%
Global indirect7.4%

The Church Commissioners are a charity yet they are run as a profit centred investment fund. The fund has a large portfolio of property that it rents out.

- It owns many residential properties in the expensive London market, where it is increasing rents by 3%.

- It owns a large portfolio of investments in UK retail park and shopping centres.

- Its retail tenants include Jimmy Choo Couture, Cocomaya (fine chocolatier and artisan bakers), Casa Malevo, an Argentine restaurant, De Roemer (specialist cashmere jewellery and handbags) and Viola, an independent fashion boutique.

- The Church is supposed to be about worshipping god, yet it holds a 'Christmas shopper event' to drive people to worship consumerism so that it can make a profit out of a holy holiday.

- It owns a lot of farm land and is increasing rent by a whopping 14.5%.

- It buys a lot of land purely for investment purposes. It then sells it at high prices. Purchasers include private sector housing estates, a Marks & Spencer flagship store and an energy from waste facility.

- It invests in foreign real estate, including investing in North
America, Central Europe, Singapore and Vietnam. It made a profit of £7.9 million on an investment in residential developments in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

- It profits from owning and running care homes in the South East of the UK.

- It owns large areas of forest from which it produces timber, focusing on North America.

The Church Commissioners is a registered charity, so they are exempt from taxation on their income and gains which are spent on charitable purposes. As such, they use tax avoidance.

Running a successful investment fund requires high quality staff. In 2010 it employed 158 people (down from 162 in 2009) plus a further 82 managing the property portfolio. 42% of the staff are women and 16% are from ethnic minorities.

These staff do not come cheap. The total spending for 158 staff was 8.4 million, which breaks down to an average cost per employee of over £50,000.

It employs 18 people on salaries above £60,000 (over twice the national average salary):
£60,001 to £70,0007
£70,001 to £80,0003
£80,001 to £90,0001
£90,001 to £100,0001
£100,001 to £110,0001
£110,001 to £120,0001
£120,001 to £130,000-
£130,001 to £140,0002
£140,001 to £150,0001
£300,001 to £310,0001

Note: these figures do not include very generous pension schemes.

The Church is closely linked to the political class. Sir Stuart Bell MP was a commissioner for many years, but has recently been replaced by Tony
Baldry MP.

So where are we.

We are being lectured by Rowan Williams FRSL, FBA, FLSW, Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England. He tells us that the rich need to pay more taxes.

At the same time Rowan Williams is responsible for a very wealth and very successful investment fund which avoids tax by claiming to be a charity.

This fund invests nearly half of its money abroad, creating jobs for foreigners while it's congregation suffers from unemployment.

This fund invests in the expensive London property market, where it pushes up prices and rent.

This fund encourages the worship of consumer goods by funding shopping centres and holding Christmas shopper events when it should be promoting the worship of god and Jesus. It is proud of the fact that it rents shops to up market chocolate makers and fashion boutiques.

The fund invests in farm land, selling it off at a profit to developers or renting it out to farmers at ever increasing rents, pushing up the cost of food for the poor.

This so called charity employs 158 people at an average cost per employee of over £50,000. It employs 17 people on salaries over £60,000, with the top salary of over £300,000.

Williams was previously Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales, making him the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times not to be appointed from within the Church of England. He spent much of his earlier career as an academic at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

Rowan Williams should not be lecturing the 1% to pay more taxes on behalf of the 99%. He is the 1%.

In the mean time the Church of England is becoming less and less relevant to the daily lives of the people of England. The Church has lost over half of its congregation over 40 years and the number of people being baptised into the faith has fallen by over two thirds. It is on its way towards extinction.

There has been much speculation that the Anglican Communion is on the verge of fragmentation. Is it any wonder?

If Rowan Williams wants to help the 99% then lets start by removing the charitable status from the Church Commissioners investment fund.

Lets then focus it on improving the living conditions of the English people who donated to the Church of England, not handing out massive salaries to the people who work for the Church.

Lets create jobs for the needy by investing 100% of the wealth in this country so we can create English jobs, not investing nearly half of the wealth in far off lands and creating jobs for foreigners.

Lets provide food for the needy, not push up rents for farmers so that food is more expensive.

Lets provide housing for the needy, not push up residential rents to pay for church pensions.

Lets enrich the lives of the English people, not try to enrich the Church by encouraging the people to buy from Church owned shops selling things that we don't need.

Lets focus the Church on making Christmas about Jesus, not profits.

Above all, lets make the Church of England about worshipping God, not about worshipping money.

If Rowan Williams does not agree to all this then I'm sure that we can learn a few lessons from Henry VIII.

No comments:

Post a Comment