IN A last ditch effort to halt the sale of the Orange Anglican bluestone hall, a caveat has been lodged on the property with the NSW government’s Land and Property office.
The lodging of the injunction by a parishioner of Orange’s Holy Trinity church could see the battle go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The hall, along with several other properties in the Anglican diocese of Bathurst, are part of a fire sale by the church to address a financial crisis which has seen the church’s three Anglican schools in Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo incur the majority of a $38 million debt hanging over the diocese.
The church is also selling off the historic rectory buildings in Molong and Millthorpe (pictured), among other properties in the region.
A parishioner from Molong told the Central Western Daily church members are enraged as income generated from the rectory rental is helping fund the church in Molong.
The rector in Molong has purchased a home privately.
A packed forum at Orange’s Holy Trinity on Sunday did little to allay parishioners’ fears.
The church enlisted the help of counsellor Marilyn Wilson, who spoke to the gathering and provided support for those struggling with the proposed property sell-offs.
Max Madden, though vocal at the forum, felt sorry for Ms Wilson.
“She was like a lamb being led to the slaughter,” he said.,” he said.
parishioner John Gibb who lodged the caveat with the NSW government Land and Property Division said feelings were running high at the meeting.
“People are very, very angry,” he said.
“As far as I can see there is absolutely no precedent for what is happening here,” he said.
“In other situations this would be called bankruptcy,” he said.
Mr Gibb, along with fellow parishioners Ernest Shave and Rob Westcott have been part of an investigative team trying to explore all possibilities to save the hall from sale since the issue of the selloff was flagged by Bishop Hurford earlier this year.
Mr Gibb, a chartered accountant with 40 years’ experience, said a decision by the Bathurst diocese to borrow money and on lend it to the three schools in the Bathurst diocese has been a disaster with the schools a millstone around the church’s neck, jeopardising the financial future of the diocese.
In the Holy Trinity Anglican Church notes handed out to parishioners on Sunday, Reverend Cannon Frank Hetherington said he was notified on Friday, June 22 by the Diocesan Property Trust the bluestone hall was to be urgently listed for sale.
Reverend Hetherington told parishioners he wrote to the bishop expressing frustration and regret. Holy Trinity has budgeted this year for $50,000 income from the hall and will now struggle to balance it’s budget.Earlier this year Bishop Hurford in an open letter to the diocese said the solution to the current financial woes involved the transfer of sufficient debt off the balance sheets of the schools to the Anglican Property Trust. He said this would allow the schools to trade successfully, with the transferred debt being services and eventually repaid by the diocese as a whole.
Bishop Hurford said the minimum amount of debt to be transferred is $8 million which will leave the schools to manage over $30 million in debt as part of their normal business operations.
Bishop Hurford was in meetings in Sydney all day yesterday, but was emailed a list of questions relating to church finances by the CWD.
A spokesman said the bishop will respond at the first available opportunity.