A few months back, when news of the Sydney Diocese’s spectacular financial losses finally became public, the oft-repeated line from apologists was “Wait until October, when it’ll all be made public in synod”. Those of us with some experience of the carefully choreographed performance that passes as a Sydney synod were more than a little cynical – but nevertheless we have waited.
Now that synod is starting next Monday it seems that more facts are leaking out: today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports the loss as actually $160 million - $60 million more than originally stated. Yes - you read that right, $160 million. Which at today's exchange rate is about $US145 million - a truly enormous sum of money.
Another article in the same paper reveals that diocese’s investment body, the Glebe Administration Board, had borrowed more than $150 million, which was combined with more than three-quarters of the diocese’s $388 million worth of “growth assets”' and - in blatantant contravention of responsible investment practice – 80% of this sum was invested with just one fund manager: Barclays Global Investors. Thus while other fund managers spread their exposure to risk by adopted a more diversified profile, the brightest evangelicals in the Communion had nearly all their eggs in just one basket: a move the Board’s CEO Steve McKerihan (who to be fair, was only appointed after this strategy was adopted - but before things turned predictably pear-shaped) amusingly described as “unusual”. What about “irresponsible” Steve? Or maybe “bloody stupid”?
Please let’s please not have any more dishonest spin about “everyone lost money in the global financial crisis”. Yes, of course they did – but very few responsible organisations were hit this hard as a result of speculative gearing. And to the best of my knowledge no other churches were: the Sydney Anglican Diocese was unique among religious groups when it comes to getting whacked as a result of borrowing money in order to gamble that stock prices would continue rising. Instead of steadfastly using what they already had to bring Christ to all the people here (not just the minority living in affluent and predominately Anglo-Saxon suburbs) they got greedy. The end was going to justify the means…
… meanwhile can someone please tell me how many cross-cultural outreach workers could have been placed in Sydney’s economically bleak south-west for just half of the $160 million of parishioners money our leaders have wasted?