Partners in profit, partners in prayer

Sean Farrell reports on how Lambeth Palace enlists the great and the good of the City
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The Independent Online

The relationship between God and Mammon was extremely uneasy – even before the anti-capitalist Occupy protest camped outside St Paul's Cathedral.

The financial crisis had spewed forth a series of views and lectures about the ethics of moneymaking and the apparent lack of morality in some corners of the financial world. The Archbishop of Canterbury has intervened more than once to attack bankers for not taking responsibility for their part in the crisis.

Meanwhile, prominent religious City figures such as Ken Costa, the eminent former UBS and Lazard banker, and Lord Green, the former HSBC chairman, have been setting out their views on how faith can co-exist with wealth.

But amid all the hoo-ha, a discreet group that raises funds for and advises the Archbishop has gone unnoticed. The Lambeth Partnership was formed 20 years ago by the trustees of the Archbishop's Lambeth Fund. It comprises about 500 people, or partners, and its aim is to support the Archbishop's personal initiatives.

According to the its most recent published accounts, the partners "support the work of the Archbishop through prayer, by offering professional and other expertise, and by providing financial support for the Archbishop's activities".

The Lambeth partners meet three or four times a year at Lambeth Palace and the group also holds an annual meeting at which the Archbishop talks about his initiatives. Presentations are made to current and prospective partners at various times of the year and there are occasional gatherings to recruit new members. One was held earlier this month.

Lambeth Palace is keen to stress that the partners come from various walks of life but there is a heavy City presence among the fund's trustees, who direct and manage the partnership.

Until recently, Lord Green, well known as an ordained minister, was the chairman of the trust.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International, is also on the board and served as chairman before Lord Green. Lord Griffiths attracted notoriety when he told a meeting on City morality two years ago that the public should learn to tolerate inequality as a route to greater general prosperity.

Other financial figures include Humphrey Norrington, a former Barclays vice-chairman, David Saunderson, who sold his financial advice business to Ireland's IFG in 2001, and Sir Christopher Wates of the Wates property family.

Sir Ewan Harper, who was until recently chief executive of the United Church Schools Trust, has taken over from Lord Green as chairman of the fund. Sir Ewan was not availablefor comment yesterday and Lord Green was unavailable in Australia ongovernment business in his role astrade minister.

There are also a fair number of City types in the rank and file of the partnership, including investment bankers, lawyers, private equity dealmakers and headhunters. The Archbishop's chief of staff, Chris Smith, declined to give any further details about the group's membership or how it works – apart from stressing that the partnership was not a group of people from the financial world. Dr Williams has been outspoken in his views on the ethics of the City, accusing it of generating "almost unimaginable wealth... generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction".

Apart from fundraising, the advice the partners offer can include s putting Dr Williams in touch with people when he makes a trip or discussing business and financial matters. The membership, though varied, is said to comprise like-minded people who want to help the Archbishop in his goal of broadening the appeal of Christianity.

The Lambeth Fund's accounts give an insight into the partnership's activities. The Partnership Fund raised £152,054 in the year ended 31 March 2010 and spent a total of £162,845, of which £158,581 was for charitable activities. The spending left £122,712 of funds to be carried forward.

The Partnership Fund is separate from the Archbishop's Main Fund, whose value was £2.92m at the end of March 2010 but whose expenditure was less than half that of the Partnership Fund. The accounts state that the funds have "distinct objectives", with the Main Fund used as a long-term source of income, while "funds raised through the Lambeth Partnership are not retained as capital but are intended to be expended shortly after they are received".

The main activity funded by the partnership is the Archbishop's Fresh Expressions initiative, to which it has pledged £100,000 a year for three years.

Fresh Expressions seeks to encourage Christianity to develop outsidethe traditional setting of the church. Its projects include a surfer churchon Cornwall's Polzeath Beach, a Eucharist for Goths in central Cambridge and a youth congregation based in a skate park.

The other main partnership-funded initiative is the Michael Ramsey Prize for theological writing, to which it contributed slightly more than £20,000 in the year ended March 2010.

Whether the Archbishop consults the partners before he makes attacks on the City is not clear, but the links between the Church and the temple of money are much closer than many might imagine.