CHURCH SALE ON
THE Anglican Church’s decision to proceed with a plan to sell 108 properties to help fund redress for survivors of child sexual abuse has been met with opposition in the Central Highlands.
After giving in-principle support to the Redress Fund Ordinance bill, the synod, made up of clergy and laity, voted to sell the properties to provide the money to pay past victims of childhood abuse on Saturday.
St Augustine’s Church at Macquarie Plains, St James the Less Church at Osterley, St John the Baptist Church at Ouse, St Mary’s Church at Gretna, St Mary’s Parish Hall at Gretna, and St Peter’s Church, hall and cemetery at Hamilton are among those to be listed for sale.
All Central Highlands properties are still operational.
Central Highlands Mayor Loueen Triffitt said the churches and cemeteries needed to remain in community hands.
“These churches and the cemeteries are used for funerals, weddings, meetings,” Cr Triffitt said. “The residents are very angry, heartbroken, upset, and confused.”
Bishop Condie said the vote represented a momentous day.
“Today is a great day for survivors of sexual abuse who have been damaged by the historic failures of the Anglican Church in Tasmania to care for children,” Bishop Condie said.
The vote was passed after hours of passionate debate which appeared to be split between those from rural and city parishes.
Almost all the 76 churches slated for sale are in Tasmania’s rural areas.
The synod was told the properties to be sold were either already surplus to needs or likely to become so because of dwindling congregations.
Bishop Condie said there was a “very amicable and peaceful meeting and a robust discussion”.
“I understand the emotion connected to churches as buildings. But this is about redress and that is what motivates me,” he said.
Central Highlands resident Ron Sonners, who is part of the Hamilton parish, tried to stop the motion to sell property but his attempt at Saturday’s Anglican Diocese of Tasmania synod did not win support.
“Losing the building in which we worship will have a serious impact on the parish,” Mr Sonners said.
“We have wounds from a former paedophile priest which are just healing and we are slowly getting people back into the church.
“I do not accept that we are unviable as a parish.
“This vote does not shake my faith and we will continue as a parish in some form, but it would be fair to say we feel sidelined.”
There is now a period in which parishes can seek a review of the decision to sell a property, and make a case for its exemption. Parishes have until October 1 to make their submission. The Diocesan Council will make its final decision on the future of any properties in dispute in December.
Cr Triffitt said the Central Highlands Council would include a motion on its agenda for this month’s ordinary meeting that consideration be given for the council to hold a community meeting or meetings to discuss the church’s decision.
Ouse resident Scott Ashton-Jones hoped properties in his region were granted an exemption.
“It will be our view in the community of the Central Highlands that not many of them ought to close,” Mr Ashton-Jones said.
“The church is going to have to make a very good case to the citizens of the Central Highlands to close any of them.
“The important thing here is this ought to be a result of the parish and the community having a serious input rather than a token one.”