The Representative Body of the Church in Wales holds assets in trust on behalf of the Archbishop, Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Church in Wales – currently some 1,500 churches, 650 parsonage houses and £370 million of investments. It has charitable status and has to observe trust and charity law.
As a charitable institution, the Representative Body of the Church in Wales has a legal obligation to maximise its assets for its stated purposes. An example is when an ecclesiastical building is put up for sale, when the RB has an obligation to obtain best value from that sale.
What does the Representative Body do?
The Representative Body is responsible for looking after the assets of the Church in Wales to ensure that resources are available for the benefit of the whole Church. The buildings it owns enable church members to meet together for worship and other occasions and provide housing the Church’s clergy. The income from the investments it holds is used to provide grants to support the work of the Church in each diocese, and to pay towards clergy pensions.
The Representative Body works in partnership with the dioceses and parishes where a combination of central expertise and resources and local knowledge and people is the best way of achieving something. A good example of this is the maintenance of church buildings and churchyards: these are owned by the Representative Body, looked after by local parishes, and the RB provides help through advice on obtaining grants for repairs, or on compliance with legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act and other health and safety requirements.
The Representative Body itself meets three times a year, and once with the Bishops and diocesan representatives. Much of its detailed work is carried out by a number of committees, in areas such as investment, property, and human resources.
Where did the Representative Body’s assets come from?
When the Church in Wales was formed out of (and become separate from) the established Church of England in 1920 it was allowed to keep its buildings but most of its other assets were taken from it and given to local authorities to administer (called the Welsh Church Act Funds, still in existence). The Church was left with £1 million, which has since grown to £370 million. This has been possible for two reasons:
First, the Representative Body has always pursued a cautious investment strategy. It has considered the funds held on behalf of the Church to be too important to risk in speculation, and thus has managed to avoid the worst losses (for example the dot-com bubble).
Second but most importantly, two major fund-raising campaigns were organised – one in the 1920s and one in the early 1950s – to which the people of Wales gave extremely generously. The RB has always been deeply conscious of its responsibility in looking after this inheritance.
But the Representative Body has not protected these assets merely for their own sake. One-third of the total assets forms the Clergy Pension Scheme, and the income from the remaining assets is used to support the mission and ministry of all the dioceses.
How is the Representative Body’s membership made up?
The Representative Body meets three times a year and is made up of up to 26 church members from across the Church. Some have been brought in because of the position they hold (for example the Archbishop, or the Chairmen of the Diocesan Boards of Finance), others for particular experience in related areas (property, banking, investments) whilst nearly half the members are elected by the dioceses – one lay person and one cleric from each diocese.