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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.
In 1992 it was revealed that the Church Commissioners had lost £500m through bad investments. This figure was later revised up to £800m, a third of their assets.
The value of the commissioners' assets was around £5.5 billion as at the end of 2012. By September 2016, it was valued at £7 billion. The income is used for the payment of pensions to retired clergy whose pensions were accrued before 1998 (subsequent pensions are the responsibility of the Church of England Pensions Board.
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.
There are 33 Church Commissioners, of whom 27 make up the Board of Governors as the main policy-making body, with a further 6 who are Officers of State or Government ministers. Board Members are either elected by the General Synod of the Church of England, or appointed by either the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Crown. The Board of Governors is composed of all of the commissioners apart from the First Lord of the Treasury, the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Lord Speaker.
The Second Church Commissioner (Andrew Selous), who is a Member of Parliament appointed by the Queen and who represents the Church Commissioners in the General Synod and answers to Parliament for the business of the commissioners
The Third Church Estates Commissioner (Eve Poole), who is appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and who represents the Church Commissioners in the General Synod
Three clergypeople elected by those members of the House of Clergy who are not deans (Bob Baker, Christopher Smith, and Stephen Trott)
Four laypeople elected by the House of Laity (April Alexander, Peter Bruinvels, Gavin Oldham, and Jacob Vince)
Three members nominated by the Crown (Suzanne Avery, The Lord Best, and Duncan Owen)
Three members nominated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York acting jointly (William Featherby, Jeremy Clack, and Mark Woolley)
Three members nominated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York acting jointly after consultation with the Lord Mayors of the Cities of London and York, the Vice Chancellors of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and others (Hywel Rees-Jones, Poppy Allonby, and Graham Oldroyd)