Put “money” and the “Anglican Church of Canada” in the same sentence these days and you’re likely to hear something gloomy. But not all the news is bad.
In fact, Rev. John Robertson, the national church’s planned giving consultant, is remarkably upbeat, even in the face of dire reports that the church’s financial future may be in peril because of residential-school litigation.
“In just recent months, I have worked closely with donors who are going to be generous anyway,” Canon Robertson said. “They want the ministry to continue. They feel confident about the future of the Anglican Church and they want to continue to make a difference in people’s lives. There are donors in recent weeks who have said, because of recent events, it’s all the more reason to be generous.”
Indeed, just days before the interview in early December, Canon Robertson had received $600,000 in annuities from two donors, parts of which were to be given to their parishes and part to the Council of the North.
The annuity program currently holds more than $8 million. That represents gifts from donors who are still living, Canon Robertson explained. All that money is designated (e.g., $2 million to the Anglican Foundation of Canada, $1-million to General Synod, $2 million to dioceses, $900,000 to parishes) and held in the consolidated trust fund so no court can order it used to pay litigation bills. On the donors’ deaths, the sums are paid out to their chosen area of the church.
An annuity works in a couple of different ways. A charitable remainder trust irrevocably transfers property (cash, real estate or securities) to a church trustee. The donor keeps the income from the trust until death, when the trust principal becomes the property of the church. The donor gets a tax receipt for the present value of the interest.
A gift of residual interest allows a person to donate a residence while retaining the right to use it while alive, or a valuable piece of art he or she keeps until death, while receiving a donation receipt for the present value of the residual interest.
For example, one elderly woman is turning over $25,000 to a church trustee, Canon Robertson said. She will receive income on that $25,000 until she dies and she gets a tax receipt for $15,800 (the amount depends on the donor’s age). The woman wants her money to support young Natives so it will be deposited in the church’s aboriginal healing fund upon her death.
More than $1 million in annuities had been raised by early December 1999 and that was before an expected rush of year-end donations. Canon Robertson expected the sum to top 1998, a banner year.
“Anglicans are wonderfully generous people, by and large, particularly if you ask,” Canon Robertson said.
“There is currently a window of opportunity. There will be a massive transfer of wealth ? $1 trillion will transfer in the next generation. If we’re not there, generous and visionary Anglicans will give their money to Queen’s University or Kingston General Hospital.”
In other residential school news, the church’s general secretary, Archdeacon Jim Boyles, denied a report in the National Post on Nov. 20 that the church is “likely” to face bankruptcy in three to five years.
While he said bankruptcy is certainly a possibility, Archdeacon Boyles said the future is unknown. He said the only certainty so far is that current claims against the church far exceed the $10 million it estimates it has in assets available.
Archdeacon Boyles has been testifying in Regina recently at pretrial hearings related to the Gordon’s Residential School in the Diocese of Qu’Appelle. More than 200 claims have been filed relating to this school.
William Starr, who administered the school from 1968 to 1984, was convicted of sexual abuse and has served a jail sentence. The federal government settled out of court a number of claims from the later years.
Archdeacon Boyles said in a statement that the government has pulled the church into claims from earlier years. The diocese and General Synod argue the government was responsible, and thus liable, for the schools after April 1, 1969.
At the same time, at least one Native band seems ready to pursue alternative dispute resolution. The Kawacatoose Band in southern Saskatchewan is preparing to go ahead with a pilot project involving members of the band that attended Gordon’s, Archdeacon Boyles said. Each pilot project will involve meetings among the group of former students, the government, and the church, including both General Synod and the affected dioceses, to develop a process to validate claims and determine compensation.
The federal government is willing to compensate people only for proven cases of sexual or physical abuse, but Archdeacon Boyles said he hopes the process involving a group of claimants will also provide an opportunity for community healing.
“There may be ways that the compensation package in each case could include community initiatives to consider the broader issue of cultural deprivation,” he said.
Archdeacon Boyles also announced the Diocese of Cariboo will have its own lawyer to appeal the Lytton case the church lost this fall. George Cadman will continue to act for General Synod. Church officials hope the appeal will clarify the relationship between the diocese and General Synod. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon declined to distinguish between the two when she found the church responsible for 60 per cent of damages owed to a man who had been sexually abused at St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton.
The diocese has appointed a committee headed by Bud Smith, a former attorney-general of B.C., to explore options as it faces more legal claims in relation to St. George’s.