Australia diocese proposes closing most of the churches in Newcastle
in the Diocese of Quincy case.
The text of the settlement agreement — mediated by Prof John Douglass of the University Of Richmond School of Law following a 8-9 January 2013 meeting — has not been released so far as it must be signed by all parties and receive the imprimatur of Bishop Jefferts Schori.
A statement from the national Church’s press office noted the proceedings were closed and no news bulletins would be released by the parties, however sources at the meeting report the final document is an “amicable” resolution to the dispute. THE DIOCESE of Newcastle (Australia) has begun a consultation on re-organizing the diocese, with one proposal making redundant nine of the city’s 15 Anglican churches.
A copy of the draft report leaked to the Newcastle Herald last month recommends closing the congregations due to falling attendance and rising costs. Several of the congregations are in areas that have seen a shift in population with a flight to the suburbs.
Nine congregations would be closed, and the remaining seven reorganized into “tiers”. Tierone churches are churches with a congregation of more than 450 and capable of sustaining a ministry and administration team, tier-two churches have a congregation of more than 250 people with two full-time staff and tierthree churches have more than 150 members and one staff member.
‘‘Churches falling below these benchmarks may not be sustainable in the longer term,’’ the report stated.
Only one parish, Christ Church Cathedral, with an average Sunday attendance of 250, would qualify as a tier one church under the scheme.
Selling redundant buildings and redeploying assets to serve middle class families with children was a more rational use of church assets, the report said. ‘‘The opportunity for the Deaneries lies in a consolidation of the wealth of resources to help tap into the emerging young professional class of families and couples.’’
However, the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Rev. Peter Stuart, said the leak of the report was unfortunate as it gave the impression the proposals were diocesan policy. The report “does not represent the views of the Diocese but contains preliminary data which will be the subject of consultation in parishes beginning in January,’’ the bishop said.
In 2010 the diocese launched a five-year plan to revitalize the diocese, updating the way it undertakes mission and ministry in the 21st century.