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Tough times for church building new connections

Undeniably, the past few months have been extremely challenging for The Anglican Church and many Tasmanians.

Our desire to join the National Redress Scheme to fulfil our obligations in providing redress to survivors of child sexual abuse meant we needed to raise capital.

We believed that selling some of our assets was the best solution.

I recognise that this has been a difficult process for parishes, families and communities. I thank everyone for their input and patience.

Our Redress Proposal was endorsed by our Synod (annual gathering of 150 representatives from Parishes across the state) in June. Between June and October, we have been consulting widely on what should happen to listed properties and how else parishes could contribute.

Each parish with property proposed for sale, or accounts to be levied, was able to lodge a submission making a case for the property, or account, to be exempt.

The Diocesan Council received 23 submissions from parishes, which related to 34 properties on the ‘for sale’ list. Community feedback was extended by 1 month to allow the community more time to make submissions.

Over 200 pieces of correspondence were received from community members. This correspondence included feedback relating to the sale of properties generally, objections relating to 38 specific properties proposed for sale, and a number of expressions of interest to purchase properties.

Guidelines for community groups and parish submissions were published and all feedback was assessed against these criteria.

For example, community input needed to address criteria such as: the significance of the place to the community; historic/cultural heritage; the importance of the property to the wider Tasmanian and Australian community; and the potential future need for a church presence in the area. This input was then taken into consideration alongside the views of the local parish.

An Appeals Panel reviewed all parish submissions and community input received through the consultation process. They provided recommendations for consideration by the Diocesan Council.

Membership of the Appeals Panel comprised three members of Diocesan Council; an Architect with extensive rural ministry experience; and the former Bishop of Bendigo Diocese who has led the National Anglican Church’s Sustainability Taskforce.

The Panel was supported by the Project Manager for the Redress Scheme and Mr Harvey Gibson as independent Probity Advisor, to ensure our process was fair to all.

The Diocesan Council considered the appeals that were received and on Saturday 1st December made its final decision about the properties to be sold and accounts to be levied.

The final decision is to exempt 34 properties from sale, most of which hold significant historic and cultural heritage value. The remaining 73 properties will be sold in a strategic and staged manner over the coming years. Not all requests have been granted, which I understand will be difficult for some communities.

However, through the public consultation process, we received several expressions of interest from community groups, for purchase or transfer of property. Our Redress Team will be in touch with each community group and all other interested parties over the coming weeks.

I believe that the Council’s decision has achieved the right balance between raising funds and taking parish and community input into account. I can assure you that the decision-making process has been applied consistently, with rigour, upheld in prayer.

Earlier this year I expressed my hope that the Anglican Church in Tasmania, in response to Jesus’ call for sacrificial service in Luke 9:23-24, would respond with courage and thankfulness to the huge task of meeting our Redress obligations.

I am humbled by the sacrificial decision-making that has occurred across our Diocese. I commend the discipleship and willingness to be generous to help meet our Redress obligations.

I am encouraged by those parishes who took the opportunity to look at how they make use of their buildings, who met the challenge to embrace change, and have already begun reimagining their ministry.

The past months have increased the connections between church communities and their local community. Confident in God’s care for each one of us, I hope these connections will continue to grow and bring renewal to the church in Tasmania.

 

The Right Reverend Dr Richard Condie

Bishop of Tasmania

Tuesday December 4, 2018 (The Examiner & The Advocate)

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