With apologies to overseas readers for a momentary focus on a local matter, I have been thinking that it is unlikely that Kiwi Anglicans will seriously consider voting in November's election for the Don Brash-led ACT Party (which, in political spectrum terms, is far right cum monetarist). For the best of reasons - desiring to support people by supporting the most caring (or apparently caring) political party - Anglicans here will profess to voting for just about any party except the ACT Party. At times our synod resolutions resemble policies of the Labour, Maori and Green parties, but we can be pretty certain that, just quietly, many Anglicans do vote for the National Party.
But here's the thing about our church, how does it run in financial terms? If we "follow the money" in our church, where does the money come from that pays for ministries and missional initiatives? I suggest there are three significant sources. In no particular order of ministry priority or size of resource, first, we have a fair share of the chaplaincies which are funded by government money (health, military, prisons).
Secondly, we have some significant trust funds which pay for offices of the church. The main trust available to the church as a whole is the St John's College Trust which pays some $12 million annually to fund educational via St John's College and via episcopal units. There is also the General Church Trust which pays the bulk of administration costs for our whole church, includng costs of General Synod meetings. Then episcopal units have access to endowments and trust funds. Across seventeen episcopal units there is significant variation so that some bishoprics are completely endowed and others only partially so, some dioceses can pay substantial costs of curacies and others cannot. Finally, some parishes are endowed, and a few of those are well endowed.
Thirdly, there are offertories. In my understanding the majority of stipended parish positions, lay and ordained, rely on money paid through offertories. In general terms city parishes collect most offertories in the "better suburbs" which is more or less commensurate with the suburbs in which there is high employment of residences. In some dioceses a certain amount of socialism may occur in respect of this source of funds as better off parishes may be asked to contribute via their share of the diocese's costs to the subsidization of ministry and mission in the less financially viable parishes.
In short, the economy of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia relies on the overall NZ economy functioning well. Our Trust funds yield greatest returns to the church, along with increase in capital base, where the environment for investment is healthy. Our offertories tend to grow in response to the needs and visions of the church where people are in employment. The warmth of the government's affirmation of the chaplaincies it funds also seems to vary with the health of our economy.
The most important question facing any democratic country in a general election is the question of its future economic well-being under its next government. All the desires in the world for better health systems, improvements in education, appropriate targeting of needs with welfare and so forth are whistles in the wind if the economy is malfunctioning.
Unfortunately in NZ we have often not understood this most important question. We often fool ourselves that the most important question is who is most fit to distribute our wealth, or who offers the most care to the most needy. Prior to those sorts of questions are more important questions such as how is wealth being created in our country? Allied with that is this question, what economic policy over the long term will sustain the creation of wealth in our country?
If I am right, then Anglicans (and others, of course!!) should take seriously what a Don Brash-led ACT Party has to offer our economy. I realise ACT will propose some social and political policies around principles of choice and equality which, however important they may be, tend to put people off voting for ACT. But on the matter of the economy, Don Brash is committed to our economy growing, developing, and rising in wealth but with the catch that his policies will not yield immediate gains. In fact, probably the opposite - a yield of immediate pains.
Now I can almost imagine the comments which may come in response to pressing this challenge. But I wonder if commenters tempted to protest might help us all by offering their recipe for the future prosperity of our country! After all, we Anglicans know the value of being the church which sticks around through all the ups and downs of history. If we still want to be here in 2050, what kind of economy will best serve the financial resourcing of our church through the next 40 years? Our instincts are to vote for wealth distribution, but some careful thinking might suggest we vote for wealth creation instead.
[Disclosure: I have never voted for the ACT Party, or, in his previous political life, for Don Brash].
Being a democracy we have alternatives. Anglicans might also consider voting for the Mana Party whose leader thinks that Osama bin Laden was a freedom fighter.