Confidential plan to sell Anglican churches  

MORE than half of Newcastle’s Anglican churches could be sold off for commercial or residential development under a radical proposal to make over the Diocese.

A confidential draft report obtained by the Newcastle Herald reveals the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle could make nine of its 15 Newcastle and Newcastle West churches ‘‘redundant’’ as part of a future growth strategy.

Problems detailed in the report include falling congregation numbers, maintenance problems, lack of financial contributions, no on-site parking, fire risk issues and disconnect with community.

Four of the churches being considered for sale are heritage listed.

The report, put together by consultants NBRS+Partners, has created a storm among parishioners who have labelled it a ‘‘disgraceful cash grab’’.

Many fear the recommendations will be pushed through before the appointment of a new bishop following the retirement of Dr Brian Farran as Bishop of Newcastle earlier this month.

Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Peter Stuart, said yesterday he was ‘‘disappointed’’ that the confidential document had been leaked to the Herald.

Bishop Stuart said the review began months ago with full knowledge Dr Farran would be retiring.

‘‘It [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,’’ he said.

‘‘A report on the review will be presented to the Diocesan Council sometime in 2013. At that time the council will consider what action to take.’’

The report reviews parishes in the Newcastle and Newcastle West Deaneries with the aim of developing a 15-year masterplan.

Parishes of St Stephen’s Adamstown, St Paul’s Birmingham Gardens, St Thomas Carrington, St Peter’s Hamilton, St Mark’s Islington, St Margaret’s Jesmond, Church of Good Shepherd Kotara South, St John the Baptist Lambton and St Andrew’s Mayfield could face the chop.

The remaining seven churches have been grouped as tier one, two or three according to their potential in terms of attendance, location and performance.

According to the report, rankings would determine staffing levels and investment to boost attendance rates.

Tier-one churches are listed as having 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 tier-three 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 states.

Christ Church Cathedral is the only parish identified as a tier-one church with the potential to attract more than 450 people to Sunday services. It has the largest Sunday attendance rate of 250 people and attracts the most annual donations of $221,250.

The report states that many of the Diocese’s buildings have ‘‘strong character’’, are in prime locations and warrant investment to improve relevance to young families.

‘‘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.’’

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