A FINANCIAL crisis that has forced the Bathurst Anglican diocese to sell Holy Trinity church’s historic bluestone hall in Orange has left parishioners angry and disappointed.
Max Madden and John Gibb say Holy Trinity Anglican parish will lose a significant source of income from the hall, which is rented out and provides 30 per cent of the parish’s income.
Mr Madden is angry Holy Trinity parishioners have worked hard over the last few years to ensure the financial viability of the parish, including raising funds for urgent restoration work on the church, only to have it stripped by the Bathurst diocese headed up by Bishop Richard Hurford.
“I have personally written to the bishop expressing my deep concern and offered some solutions, but the lack of transparency in the decision making has left people feeling gutted,” he said.
Mr Madden expects feelings to be running high at tomorrow’s forum at Holy Trinity church hall organised by the diocesan head office to allay parishioners’ concerns.
“What I fear is there will be a walkout from the parish because some people are just so upset,” he said.
In a letter to parishioners in March this year Bishop Hurford flagged the sell-off of church properties to try and claw back a debt of almost $40 million, with the majority of costs incurred in the operations of schools in Dubbo, Bathurst and Orange.
In the letter Bishop Hurford said a minimum of $8 million needed to be found in the immediate future, with schools left to manage the remaining $30 million debt.
Mr Madden and Mr Gibb were disappointed Bishop Hurford would not answer questions relating to the plan the church had to generate funds to cover the massive debts when he addressed parishioners in Orange recently.
“There is just this code of silence which is completely unacceptable and this is why I am speaking out,” he said.
Mr Gibb said Holy Trinity parishioners had a great deal of respect for the rector Canon Frank Hetherington, who they say has done his best to work with parishioners to generate income in the Orange parish.
Mr Madden said he couldn’t understand the thinking of the diocesan office to sell property that is generating income for the church.
“Just as late as a few days ago we were told if parishioners could raise the money we could buy the hall for $885,000,” Mr Madden said.
“Realistically that building is worth no more than $510,000 which makes absolutely no sense from a financial perspective.”
Orange’s historic bluestone hall hosted the first official church service at Holy Trinity in 1858.
Reverend Hetherington declined to comment on the issue and Bishop Hurford’s office said he was unavailable for comment.