Ralph Collins and Peter Cranna at the 32nd Synod. Photo by Uniting Communications.
Ralph Collins and Peter Cranna at the 32nd Synod. Photo: Uniting Communications

Rebuilding finances for mission

Finance, Investment and Property (FIP) Board chairperson Ralph Collins and Finance and Property Services (FAPS) director Peter Cranna addressed the 32nd Synod saying the Synod office’s finances are in a stable condition.

The Synod Reserve Fund (SRF) is a reserve to cover unexpected costs or meet ongoing expenses if all other income ceased. This fund is being rebuilt, with a goal of approximately $13 million by 2022. It is expect to be close to zero by June 2016 having been approximately negative $30 million after the global financial crisis.

“We are in a stabilised financial situation, are rebuilding reserves and expect this to continue for another six years,” said Ralph. “This will help us weather the next storm when it comes.

“We are working hard to get to a place that enables the church to respond to issues.”

He said the aim is to rebuild reserve funds as quickly as possible while not disadvantaging opportunities the church wished to take.

The FIP Board are considering innovative ways of funding the church’s mission which is “always a difficult matter when revenues are steady or declining and requests for funds and costs are increasing”.

Ralph used two examples of churches helping other churches to achieve their mission. Forest Lake Uniting Church’s capital building project has been assisted by both the Redcliffe and Trinity Grove Wilston Uniting Churches. And North Lakes Uniting Church has been assisted by the Windsor congregation.

Ralph also stressed the importance of linking property strategy with mission strategy.

FAPS director Peter Cranna reminded Synod members that he was only talking about the Synod office budget in this forum.

Peter split finances into operating funds and specified funds (money set aside for a particular purpose: bequests with specific conditions and the Mission Development Fund).

He said net assets as at 30 June 2015 (audited) were $48 million (split into operating: $44 million and specified $4 million)

“This hides the fact that the Synod Reserve Fund is negative,” he said.

Peter acknowledged that the agencies fund the Synod operations to a significant extent. He also said half of the money the Synod receives is spent on mission-related activities.

“I have picked up a lot of talk at this Synod around the need to release more funds for mission. That is what FIP and FAPS is doing and we look forward engaging with you on that.”

Comments on the report included Rev Mark Cornford’s request for a public annual report, to which Peter said regular financial information is going to Synod Standing Committee.

Rev Dr Rob Brennan asked how congregations can share what they have with congregations in need. The response was that the Forest Lake and North Lakes examples are a trial and will help develop policies to enable this.

Brooke Prentis asked what the Synod’s involvement and responsibility is with the Assembly Mapoon Appeal. Peter responded that this was an issue for Synod Standing Committee.

She also asked about consideration for Congress when properties are sold in terms of offering Congress properties before they are sold or giving them a percentage of the sale in recognition of stolen land and rent. Brooke said she was aware of other synods doing similar things.

Peter said that was part of the overall reimagining of these funds and is in conversation with Calvary Presbytery about this issue.

The Synod endorsed minutes of appreciation which were received for long-serving retiring board members Bob Cambridge and Bruce Peden at their final FIP Board meeting on Friday 20 May.

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