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Day 2

Report of the Representative Church Body Presented to Synod

The report of the Representative Church Body was received at General Synod in the Millennium Forum, Derry/Londonderry, this morning.

Presenting the report, Henry Saville, highlighted the services offered by Church House including support for property transactions, administration of trusts, investment management, treasury management, payment of (some) clergy stipends, administration of Clergy Pension Fund and payment of pensions, provision of legal support and library.

In addition, he said there was a degree of cross over between the trustee body and Standing Committee and said particular support had been developed and provided in the areas of charity legislation and safeguarding.

Mr Saville said that all the activities required a strong and effective management team, incorporating in particular, financial management.


Addressing the issue of finances, Mr Saville said that, unlike preceding years, the executive reported a decrease in total balances on General Funds for the year 2018. But, he said, a historic inability to live within our means had been brought more under control in 2018 and was forecast to remain so in 2019.

“Whilst the excess withdrawal in 2018 was significant, much of this was due to the exceptional item of €3.35m relating to the closure of the Staff defined benefit pension scheme. The outturn before that exceptional item was an excess withdrawal of some €60,000, a reduction of €500,000 from the prior year,” he said.

The reasons for this improvement were a reduction of cost of operations and allocations of almost €300,000 and an increase of incoming resources of over €200,000.

He made the point that the reduction in allocations was a movement in the wrong direction. “One of our objectives must surely be to attain a level of financial resilience and performance to create the opportunity for a growth in allocations,” Mr Saville stated.

The budget outturn for 2019 projected a small surplus of permitted withdrawals over cost of operations and allocations, he said adding that within that there was a continuing squeeze on the total allocations figure which he reiterated must be a priority to reverse.



For the first time in some years the value of total general invested funds fell from a total of €184.4 million at 31 December 2017 to €167.7 million at 31 December 2018, Mr Saville reported.

The last quarter of 2018 was a very difficult period for equity investments, he stated. He said that the RB portfolios were positioned defensively but were still hit hard. The funds have recovered strongly over the first quarter of 2019 reaching a figure of €178.7 million by 31 March 2019. He said the investment market continued to be volatile, partly reflecting an uncertain economic outlook globally and more particularly local (i.e. European in its broadest sense) political uncertainty and the knock–on effects. 

Environmental, social and governance issues continued to feature in the management of the investment portfolio. There was a continued investment in new green initiatives including a number of renewable energy projects as well as divesting elements within the fossil fuel sector.

Mr Saville said that an important development this year was the digitisation of trusts project. The benefits included security of legal records, accessibility and increased efficiency and long term cost savings.

Mr Saville paid tribute to the Head of Property & Trusts, Mr Trevor Stacey, is retiring this month at the end of a career within Church House spanning more than 45 years. “Trevor will undoubtedly be very well known to many in the hall – he has been Head of Property and Trusts for more than 20 years; during that time Trevor has not only overseen a number of significant property related projects within Church House but has also ben tireless in giving of his time and expertise to property committees at both Diocesan and Parish level the length and breadth of the island, travelling regularly to meetings that, as you well know, frequently run late into the evening,” he stated.

He highlighted the work of the RCB Library and their continuing project to digitise their records.

In relation to the closure of the Staff Defined Benefit Pension Scheme, he said there had been extensive engagements with members of the scheme and their representatives and agreement was reached in March 2019. He thanked the members of the scheme for their positive and professional approach.

He acknowledged the dedication of all the staff of the RB in conduct of their professional delivery of services. 


Seconding the report, Bishop Ken Good (Derry) said he was pleased to address Synod before his retirement and express his appreciation to the RCB for the great work elected members and staff do.

Bishop Good recalled the history of the RCB which was formed soon after disestablishment and was given the onerous responsibility of holding and safeguarding the financial and property assets of the church. In 1870 the RB became the charitable trustee for the parishes and dioceses of the island of Ireland. He said that the RCB’s role had evolved considerably to provide services to the wider church.

“This service role will become even more important as the Church of Ireland looks to the next 50 years. Why do I say this? Because, as Mr. Saville has noted, the statutory burden of compliance and the heavy demands of reporting are increasing all the time so that – without a central service to support us – we risk exhaustion and exasperation at ‘reinventing the wheel’ again and again at a parish and a diocesan level,” the Bishop commented.

He wondered how the RB could determine what services were needed. “I would suggest that RB staff should continue to do what they are already doing: engaging with and listening to – and maybe even visiting – rectors, Select Vestry members, diocesan secretaries and even bishops! We are all appreciative of the fact that, in recent years, RB staff have held seminars around the country providing pension advice, GDPR advice and Safeguarding advice. These initiatives have been much appreciated. By meeting with and listening to the needs of parishes, the RB is able to determine what services are most needed to reduce the burden that parishes are facing in relation to compliance, regulation and reporting,” he said.

He illustrated the relationship between the mission of the church and the service of the RB with reference to city walls – not the walls of Derry/Londonderry but the walls of Jerusalem in the reign of Nehemiah. He said that Nehemiah was given permission by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the wall of the city and given resources. But he said it was not the resources that rebuilt the walls, it was the people who were inspired by Nehemiah.

“As I retire after 42 years in ordained ministry, I can confidently say that I have come to appreciate and value a growing unity of purpose between the RB and the Standing Committee,” he said. “I am struck by a more harmonious working “next to” or “alongside’ each other, particularly in recent years, such that parishes and dioceses are being supported by a more cohesive sharing in God’s mission in the church and in the world.”

Points made during the discussion on the report covered the following areas:

·         The work of the investment committee and the staff was recognized for their superb work on behalf of the work. The returns support the mission and ministry of the Church.

·         Green investment packages are outperforming those which include fossil fuels.

·         The RCB’s green investments now exceed those in fossil fuels by a margin and the RCB only now invests in just one fossil fuels company.

·         The Church Fabric and Development Fund enabled the development of a training programme for lay pastoral visitors in Meath and Kildare and Dublin and Glendalough.

·         Tributes were paid to Dr Michael Webb for his work as chair of the RCB Library.

·         More information was sought about bequests in the Republic of Ireland.

The report of the RCB was adopted.



Three motions in relation to the report were moved.



That the General Synod hereby authorises the Representative Body to make the following allocations from General Funds in 2019:

A.      Maintenance of the stipendiary ministry

• Episcopal costs

• Chaplaincy costs

• Miscellaneous                      €132,722

B.      Pension related costs              €111,186


C.      Training of ordinands                         €1,062,010

D.     General Synod activities         €980,923

E.      Miscellaneous                         €15,837

Total                                              €3,472,205



That, in accordance with the provisions of Section 25 (b) of Chapter XIV of the Constitution, the following be elected as a member of the Church of Ireland Pensions Board: Rev John Auchmuty


That the General Synod affirms the Church of Ireland’s commitment to meeting its legal obligations under data protection legislation and commits to demonstrating the highest standards of governance, risk management and compliance.

Proposing the motion, Bishop Paul Colton (Cork, Cloyne and Ross) said the motion was rooted in human dignity and pastoral care. He suggested that privacy and dignity were not nuisance inventions by the EU recently. He said GDPR reshaped how organisations approach data privacy but as a Church we should embrace it for higher reasons. He said names were precious, personal information and data mattered, they had human implications. It was a privilege to be entrusted by people with their personal data and that deserved the highest standards of care, he stated.

The motion was seconded by the Revd Andrew Forster (Armagh) who said the new reality was the law. It had increased the already heavy burden of administration within parishes but the RCB had put resources in place and data protection officer, Rebekah Fozzard, was available to advice. She has compiled resources for the Church of Ireland website and held GDPR seminars in the dioceses. She offers one to one meetings in parishes in relation to specific needs. He encouraged everyone to work closely with the data protection officer. There were serious implications to failing to be compliant, he added.

Speaking to the motion Blair Halliday said that the Church of Ireland directory had a list of all the readers but it was useless because there were no contact details.

Dean Maria Jannsen (Waterford) said she bought an industrial shredder and cleared out her filing cabinet which had miles of useless information in a process that took 16 weeks. She said it seemed a big mess but it meant get rid of every piece of paper that you don’t need to have and that you don’t have permission for.


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