Uniting our future


Property evaluation framework and process

By Robert Costa
Chairperson Uniting our future Project Control Group

The Project Control Group (PCG) has endorsed a property evaluation framework and consultative process, both of which have been approved by the Property Board. All property assets considered for divestment will be evaluated through this framework, which takes into consideration missional and commercial considerations, however recognising the overriding objective to generate $56m of net funds by 31 December 2014 as approved at the May 2013 Synod.

We will strive to generate these funds as early as possible, as we will save approximately $200k per month if we extinguish the debt component of the $56m earlier. With this in mind, and to ensure that assets are given the greatest opportunity to achieve optimum value, the property assets evaluation process began recently.

There are seven key steps to this property evaluation framework. An important part of this framework is the consultation with and between congregations, presbyteries, agencies, schools and colleges, and other UCA entities.

The steps are as follows:

Step 1 Deferral filter
Recognising that we have insufficient time to evaluate all 2,500 (approximately) properties held by the synod of Victoria and Tasmania, a deferral filter will be applied to reduce the number of properties suitable for initial evaluation. The deferral filter takes into consideration three characteristics:
Value – for example, initially properties that are valued at less than $1 million will be deferred.
Location – for example, properties located in outlying rural areas that typically require long timeframes to sell will be initially deferred.
Type – In accordance with the resolutions passed at the May 2013 Synod (resolutions and, four categories of assets held by the synod of Victoria and Tasmania have been excluded for divestment. These are:
Centre for Theology & Ministry
Manses occupied by ministers
Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress land and buildings in Tasmania
Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress land and buildings in Victoria.

Additionally, in this initial phase we will not evaluate complex assets such as:
Property assets that are held under trust or tax-effective structures, or are designated for specific purposes (eg educational properties)
Property assets with legal structures that limit how the proceeds of a sale are distributed/utilised
Business assets (i.e. operating businesses including agencies, institutions, schools, camps and colleges).

Step 2 Priority list
Following the application of the deferral filter, a Priority List will be formed. This will include consultation with relevant UCA entities, noting that special cirumstances apply.

1. Step 3 Evaluation
Each of the properties on the Priority List will be evaluated with equal weighting to be given to the missional and commercial considerations.
As a part of the evaluation process, the PCG will also consider the market value of each property asset and the sale method that is likely to deliver the optimum outcome.
This process will continue until the objective of generating $56m of net funds is achieved. If our initial focus does not identify properties of sufficient value, we will need to identify additional property assets and/or consider other asset types for divestment.

2. Step 4 Approval
The Project Control Group (PCG) will review, and if appropriate recommend to the Property Board, the outcomes of the property asset evaluation process. In the event that a proposed asset is approved for sale by the Property Board, then the asset will be prepared for sale shortly thereafter.

3. Step 5 Implementation
As noted above, to maximise the price achieved, every asset identified for divestment will be given the opportunity to attract the highest price. A sales campaign will be developed that reflects the specific characteristics of each asset.

4. Step 6 Contracts
A 90-120 day settlement period is expected, which is consistent with the market norm. This period also takes into account the usual slowdown in market activity over Christmas and New Year.

5. Step 7 Settlements
A settlement marks the occasion when funds are received from the sale of a property. Recognising the aim to generate $56m of net funds as early as possible, the initial focus will be to sell properties that can settle before 31 March 2014.

For further enquiries write to listening@victas.uca.org.au.


Urgency to property divestments

By Penny Mulvey

The significance of Uniting our future is beginning to be felt across the Church after all congregations, agencies and institutions received letters from the Project Control Group (PCG) last month.

The letter invites congregations and agencies to prayerfully consider properties that might be surplus to requirements to help generate the $56 million of net funds required by 31 December 2014. Signed by the chairperson of the Uniting our future PCG, Robert Costa, the letter provides details of what is a very tight timeline.

Congregations were asked to respond to this invitation by 5 August. The letter states that a list of preferred divestments will be finalised by 31 August after a series of meetings between presbyteries (which will liaise with congregations), agencies and the PCG.
A series of eight questions were also sent as a tool to assist congregations and presbyteries when considering whether a property should be nominated.

The questions are designed to help congregations reflect on how the property is currently used and what plans they might have into the future. For example, one question asks: ‘What evidence exists in support of this property playing a vital role to the mission commitments of the presbytery and congregation?’ Another asks: ‘To what extent is the property fit for the particular purposes of worship, witness and service practiced by the congregation and/or groups using it?’

The letter also invites individuals, congregations, agencies and institutions of the Church to consider making a financial contribution to Uniting our future. The moderator, Dan Wootton, acknowledged that the synod of Victoria and Tasmania is at a crossroads, as it seeks to honour the significant decisions made by the May 2013 Synod meeting.

“Uniting our future invites us to be part of God’s narrative for refreshed and revitalised faithfulness,” the Moderator writes in the appeal flyer.

The Uniting our future Fund has been established for people to make non tax deductible donations to the ongoing sustainability of the Uniting Church synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

Presbyteries have held special meetings to discuss the implications of Uniting our future, to consider potential properties and to hear the pain, anguish, anger and possibilities that such a program has produced.

Crosslight is receiving letters which reflect the difficult journey upon which the Church has embarked in an effort to honour its financial commitments and to secure a financial base for the future.

In other news relating to special circumstances, the Church had been involved in a legal dispute which had delayed the final settlement of Acacia College. This has now been resolved, and the Property Trust (VIC) has repaid the first loan of $7.7 million to UCA Funds Management. This does not impact the May 2013 Synod meeting resolution of raising $56 million by 31 December 2014.

Pilgrims: walking worthily

By Mark Lawrence
General Secretary, Vic/Tas Synod

Can we journey together in faith, hope, and love?

The Basis of Union reminds us we are ‘a pilgrim people, on the way to the promised goal’. While pilgrims have a goal, the art of pilgrimage is focused in being constantly attentive to the present.

Within a journey, pilgrims are invited to be fully present to the present. This means giving deep attention to the place, companionship, and experiences of the moment: purposefully becoming increasingly aware of joining God in the context in which they find themselves. As they do so, something of the goal of the pilgrimage is gifted to them.

The image of being on a pilgrimage is appropriate as we journey through this time of ‘special circumstances’: Uniting our future. How will we travel in faith, hope, and love: in ways that will speak of Christ’s compassion and desire for unity? How will we travel together to see more clearly the ‘goal’ that shapes our future; and in doing so, offer hope in the present?

Are we prepared for the difficult elements of this journey? Some are about to travel into unfamiliar, testing territory. How will we support those for whom ‘letting go’ brings great pain? Are we expecting God’s companionship in this struggle? Can we find grace in humility, healing in forgiveness, and restoration in community? Can we uphold one another when change is difficult?

Are we prepared for the life-giving elements of this journey? Some are about to engage in processes that may bring release and new insights for renewed expressions of ministry and mission. How will we resource those who are exploring new possibilities for bearing witness to Christ’s ongoing ministry and mission? Are we ready for the invitations to imagine, opportunities for difference, and blessings that a pilgrimage may bring?

‘Special circumstances’ may feel to some like an unwelcome wilderness, even a wilderness of our making: a wilderness taken on ourselves through the discernment of the Synod in council, and committed to as ‘whole-of church’. For some it might seem a distraction to their vocation. However, many biblical images and the Christian tradition remind us that the wilderness experience is often an intrinsic element in the growth of individuals and communities into the faith of Christ.

As we embark on the journey of ‘special circumstances’: Uniting our future, we recall that as a ‘pilgrim people’, we are called to be ‘a fellowship of reconciliation’; a community ‘through which Christ may bear witness to himself’; a community where each person belongs with God, in Christ through the Spirit. This belonging is enacted in our baptism, repeatedly celebrated in the Lord’s Supper, and expressed in the Church’s worship, witness, and service.

In the wilderness we can hear God’s persistent invitation to walk together humbly, in unity, and in peace. The writer of the Letter to the Ephesian Church exhorted the original readers and listeners – ‘to live a life worthy of the calling wherewith you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ This message to the early church also offers today’s Church an invitation to shape our journey together by focussing on the gift of the same Spirit ‘in order that we may not lose the way’.

What if, when we return to ‘ordinary circumstances’, the legacy of ‘special circumstances’ might be that we understand the journey of Uniting our future to have been a Kairos moment; allowing us to enhance our commitment to rediscover God’s ministry and mission through Christ in ways that will honour our pilgrimage as a renewing and reforming Church?
Is there any other way to ‘walk worthily’?

The Synod has created a dedicated website for the Uniting our future program, www.listeningpost.victas.uca.org.au

The site is primarily designed to provide regular updates of Church property divestment and asset sales until the process is completed.

It also serves as a platform for people to share their views, ask questions and post their own stories about the history and memories they have of Church properties.

All are invited to sign up to it and participate. For further enquiries write to listening@victas.uca.org.au.

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2 Responses to “Uniting our future”

  1. Mary Smith

    I have tried to access the website mention on the “uniting our future” article and it doesn’t come up with anything. The link for enquiries doesn’t lead anywhere either.

  2. Emmet O'Cuana

    Good afternoon Mary,

    Apologies for the delay – the links at the end of the article have been amended.

    Kind regards,