Letter: Sources of the Church's capital

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The Independent Online
Sir: Martyn Rogers (letter, 18 July) refers to the Church of England being financed by 'dead men's money'; this is a myth. Endowments are not, to any significant degree, from past bequests. Not much 'belongs' to the Church, except in the sense that your readers' taxes 'belong' to the Government.

The Church Commissioners' millions come largely from three sources. First, commutation of tithes - a tax on land, granted by Norman kings after the precedent set by Charlemagne, converted to a rent-charge in money terms by the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, and 'redeemed' by lump-

sum purchase in the 1940s.

Second, the manors and other land given by the Crown to bishoprics, etc - the medieval system of financing positions created within the feudal system, rationalised in the 19th century by the ecclesiastical commissioners. Third, Queen Anne's Bounty: a pious gift by Her Majesty to relieve the poorer clergy, whose ecclesiastical superiors (and their predecessors) had ignored the 'trickle-down' principle of the feudal system's economics.

The Church Commissioners greatly increased this endowment capital by skilful asset management in times of boom, and have reduced it again through much less skilful management in recession. This loss makes them less able to bail out Church members who do not contribute enough to pay running costs, and less able to maintain the Church of England as a state institution for non-members' weddings and funerals.

Losses from property speculation may be deplorable, but do not affect the argument that Church members should be interested and committed enough to support the living Church. But I fear that the C of E is more committee'd than committed.

Yours faithfully,

TIM BELBEN

General Synod Member for

Bath & Wells

Wells, Somerset

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