Anglicans agree to trim costs
THE AFTERMATH of drought and the global financial crisis has led to a proposed rationalisation of church institutions and management across the three Anglican dioceses of Canberra and Goulburn, Bathurst and Riverina.
The proposal was supported yesterday after a day-long debate by the synod of Canberra and Goulburn, meeting in Goulburn. Synods of Bathurst and Riverina are still to meet, but as they are the major beneficiaries of the proposed changes, there seems little likelihood they will oppose them.
The changes would include: rationalising administration, corporate services and property management; further integration of Anglicare across the three dioceses; integration of the three Anglican Development Funds, and integration of the diocesan schools under a single schools commission.
Bishop of Bathurst, Richard Hurford, said there would be no need for any change if people simply wanted to continue to go to church on Sundays. But the Church wanted to continue to provide aged care, schools and conference centres.
He said the global financial crisis, the state of the rural economy and 10 years of drought had been really debilitating for people who would have normally volunteered their time or provided financial support.
''Institutions such as ours have limited resources,'' Bishop Hurford said.
Without volunteers, his diocese was having to pay specialists to do work once done by volunteers.
Further, proposals by the Australian Prudential Regulator would mean dioceses such as Bathurst and Riverina would no longer be able to operate their development funds. Hence he had approached the Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Stuart Robinson, with the suggestion of combining major church institutions.
The proposed changes would see each diocese retain their sovereign integrity.
''We are trying not to take away the identity of the three diocese,'' Bishop Hurford said. ''That would bring down opprobrium on us.''
Economy of scale under the proposed consolidations would make a huge difference, even with interest rates.
In a letter to his diocese to be distributed today, Bishop Hurford says, ''For a number of years there has been an awareness that the accumulating debt burden at the schools was becoming unsustainable. I profoundly regret that this matter has not been addressed adequately in the past few years and we must now face some very tough decisions.
''This matter requires urgent action. If we, as the diocese, do not implement a realistic recovery plan this year we will significantly undermine our ability to be part of God's mission.''
The Bathurst diocese had a profitability issue but not a solvency problem.
The diocese had a significant level of assets in excess of its liabilities.