Monday, April 29, 2013

Jesus weeps

"Of the $38 million left for the church’s operating budget, some $4 million was spent on communications, $3 million on philanthropic grant spending and $2.5 million on the church’s music program, church officials said. Nearly $6 million went to maintain Trinity’s historic properties, including the main church building, which was built in 1846; St. Paul’s Chapel; and several cemeteries, where luminaries including Alexander Hamilton and Edward I. Koch are buried. The remainder went into the church’s equity investment portfolio."

The whole report on Trinity Wall Street's mega-investments is here. Makes for interesting reading on how to make as little information as possible to the people who matter.

Let us do some arithmetic.

From Trinity Wall Street's property investments $38 million is surplus after costs.

$4 million is spent on communications. Wow!

$2.5 million is spent on the church's music programme. Hey, choirs cost!

$6 million maintains the church's historic properties. Fair enough. Anglicans know that stone church cost their weight in gold.

So now we are down to 38-4-2.5-6= $25.5 million dollars to spend with a certain freedom and flexibility, what with no worries mate about the choir, organ and buildings.

Let me see, what would Jesus do?

(1) That would be what Trinity does: $3 million on philanthropy and $22.5 million into "the church's equity investment portfolio" ($160 million in 2011). Always sound investment strategy to grow the equity base!

(2) That would be to give all the surplus away: $25.5 million. I can think of a cathedral project or two which would be greatly helped!

(3) That would be to ... what do you think?

It is difficult, as an Anglican (these trust funds are all over the Communion) knows.


Jethro said...

This makes me think of the very college I am sitting in right now!

There are so many places in need of this kind of money. So many parishes that could do with a well trained full time ministry team to grow a congregation. So many overseas initiatives that could use an injection of cash to get them standing on their own two.

But we have it all chained up in trusts and we call it stewardship! And the trusts that could be put to good use get fought over and misused. It makes me very sad.

I think Jesus would give it all away and then produce more. Or is that naive of me?

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
One of the telling line items for me was the rector's $475K salary, swelling to $1.3M when including pensions, allowances, health care etc.
And isn't $106M of expenses based against $160M of property income rather a lot? I know you have management fees, maintenance, taxes, etc, but if 2/3 of the income from my rental property was going on expenses, we'd be asking if it was worth it, unless there was significant appreciation in value!

TWS have certainly invested their financial wealth soundly and that is a good lesson for many dioceses and churches who have been poor stewards. Even the mighty Sydney diocese recognised its poor stewardship of its property and trusts in the wake of the GFC.

But I would list three concerns:
1) Are they using these resources to build God's kingdom or a kingdom for themselves?
2) Their grant program isn't no strings attached. I know many Global South dioceses don't apply to them or other TEC donors because recipients have felt pressure not to speak out about false teaching and immoral living in TEC.
3) The rector's salary reflects a worldly approach to ministry as an organisational CEO rather than a servant of Jesus Christ.