OUR SAY: No winners as church battles to salvage finances

IT is hard to understand how the Anglican Diocese of Bathurst could get itself into such a financial pickle that it faces the prospect of a court-ordered fire sale, which could cripple the church in western NSW.

From Oberon in the east to the Queensland border and west to Cobar, the Bathurst Diocese contributes to the Christian spiritual life of tens of thousands of Anglicans.

What should not be forgotten is that it also provides pastoral care and support to many people in communities large and small who ask for help.

All this will be at risk if the legal fight between the diocese and the Commonwealth Bank runs its course and the bank wins.

There is a high degree of autonomy within the Anglican Church and the signals coming out of the Bathurst diocese are that it is very much up to the parishes within the diocese to raise the money needed to run the legal fight with the bank.

That doesn’t mean the extended Anglican Church in Australia won’t offer financial aid, but like many local church members and other observers they would be expecting a much more frank explanation of what went so horribly wrong.

In 2012 the then bishop Richard Hurford blamed much of the $38 million debt on cost blow-outs in the building and running of Anglican grammar schools in Orange and Dubbo.

At the time Bishop Hurford said selling the schools was not part of the salvage plan but a year later they had both been sold, but the debt remained about $25 million.

Anglicans across the diocese would be devastated by a widespread sell-off of church property, but given its track record many would also be very reluctant to keep putting their hand in their pocket to prop up the church.

Saturday’s diocesan crisis meeting will be a grim and emotional affair but before they are asked to make some very personal sacrifices church members deserve a very candidate explanation of what went wrong and the prospects of putting it right.


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