Church of England's £7.8bn investment fund enjoys 'stellar' returns

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The Church of England's £7.9 billion investment fund saw "stellar" returns last year, the body which manages its assets has revealed.

According to the Church Commissioners latest financial report, figures show a total return on its investments in 2016 of 17.1%.

Compared to the 8.2% recorded in 2015, and an average return of 9.6% a year across the past three decades, the latest yield has been branded "stellar".

First church estates commissioner Sir Andreas Whittam Smith said the return of 17.1% in 2016 has exceeded its investment target of the rate of inflation plus five percentage points, or 7.5%.

"Contributing to this stellar outturn was a strong showing by global equities (+32.9%), partly reflecting the depreciation of sterling," he said.

"The combined property portfolios delivered a creditable 11.6% in a relatively weak market environment.

"Consistency has truly been a guiding principle for the fund."

The Church Commissioners' said it manages the fund in a "responsible and ethical way" and uses the money it makes to provide "funding and support for mission to churches, diocese and cathedrals throughout the Church of England".

And that funding is targeted towards mission opportunities, areas most in need, as well as meeting ongoing responsibilities for bishops, cathedrals and clergy pensions.

Secretary and chief executive of the Church Commissioners, Andrew Brown, said they contributed £230.7 million to the mission of the Church of England in 2016.

"This represents an increase on the previous year of 5.6%," he said.

"While this is only around 15% of the Church's overall income - most funding comes from the extraordinary generosity of parishioners - we are delighted to be able to play our part.

"Whether funding city centre churches, community projects in low-income areas or research programmes to examine how the church can grow, these returns make a tangible difference to the lives of thousands across the country."