The Church Commissioners
is a body managing the historic property assets of the Church of England
. It was set up in 1948 combining the assets of Queen Anne's Bounty
, a fund dating from 1704 for the relief of poor clergy, and of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners
formed in 1836. An earlier Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Commission
had been set up under the first brief administration of Sir Robert Peel
in 1835 with a wide remit, “to consider the State of the Established Church in England and Wales, with reference to Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues” (Minutes of the Commission, 9/2/1835); this body redistributed wealth between the dioceses and changed diocesan boundaries, and the permanent Ecclesiastical Commission was formed the following year.
The value of the Commissioners' assets was around £5.3 billion as at the end of 2006. Most of the income is used to pay clergy pensions.
The Commissioners also oversee pastoral reorganisation, the consent of the Commissioners being required for establishing or dissolving team and group ministries, uniting, creating or dissolving benefices and parishes, and the closing of consecrated church buildings and graveyards.
Present-day Commissioners are:
- the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York;
- three Church Estates Commissioners, who represent the Church Commissioners in General Synod – the Second Commissioner, currently Stuart Bell, is a member of Parliament and answers to Parliament for the business of the Commissioners;
- eleven people elected from General Synod: four bishops, three clergy, four lay people;
- two deans or provosts;
- nine people who are appointed by the Crown and the archbishops;
- six ex officio members: the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The Church Commissioners are based at Church House, Westminster, London. They are an exempt charity under English law.