The May 2013 Synod was very poorly informed about the facts which led up to the abrupt demise of the college on 17 October 2012.
The Synod was not told that, on 18 February 2011, the moderator (Isabel Thomas Dobson) sent a letter to every parent saying: “The Standing Committee regrets that portables have to be used while problems are resolved with the developer. However, rest assured the Uniting Church stands absolutely committed to the long term future of this new and impressive school.”
The letter went on: “I can understand any anxiety you might feel as you observe the lack of progress in the construction of the school. Despite this, the Uniting Church, in consultation with Acacia, will ensure the school has all the necessary requirements in place to move to the next phase of offering VCE to its senior students.”
The parents and teachers took this letter, in good faith, to be an unqualified guarantee of support by the Uniting Church. The school grew rapidly so that there were 540 students in 2012 and 200 new students were enrolled to commence in 2013. This was despite the fact that portable classrooms were still being used extensively.
The way the Standing Committee terminated the vibrant school actually created the $36-million loss to the Uniting Church. The fact that the school site was subsequently sold for $8.8 million merely added insult to injury. The ill-informed Synod meeting in May should not have given the Standing Committee the authority to sell church properties without the approval of the congregations affected.
Robert W Parry
Yarrambat, VIC 3091
In the aftermath of the Acacia debacle, and in the continuing absence of answers to specific questions being asked by church members, it is hoped that the process in hand recognises two important factors:
1. That the possibility of a successful amalgamation can be greatly facilitated by having available locally the proceeds from the sale of any surplus property (which is after all a legacy from generations of past members). The continuing congregation deserves to be treated with respect and given priority over the need facing Synod for funds to lift from the hole dug by bad planning and bad decision making at higher levels. These failures are attested to by the critical conclusions of the PPB consultancy.
2. That property is not surplus to the mission of the local Church if it is producing income which supports the viability of that congregation into the future.
The overarching consideration appears to be that ‘desperate times need desperate measures so let’s spread the pain and anxiety to congregations far and wide’ instead of finding central solutions such as disposing of assets held by synod and its agencies.
In the absence of clear answers to questions that have been voiced in Crosslight and elsewhere from June until now we are given only defensive responses from synod officers. They might have been working hard over past months but that is little assurance and provides little comfort. Talk of decisions taken by committees, ‘time given in good faith’ and ‘collective responsibility’ are also of little relevance.
Graham H Beanland
Balwyn, VIC 3103
Reports in Crosslight about the Acacia debacle highlight a misunderstanding amongst those responsible of financial due diligence needed for a project such as Acacia.
On one hand, the review by consultants PPB Advisory, on why the Acacia project failed mentions: there was no evidence of assessment of other options available; poor financial modelling; the project lacked expertise required; inadequate level of due diligence; too many managers; lack of consideration of project economics; contract variations accepted without question; failures in risk management; significant finance commitments were made before an earnest review of business case considerations.
On the other hand, synod staff are reported saying: “We brought an enormous amount of intellectual firepower to bear on this problem and were still not able to fix it”.
The lesson should be that financial due diligence is beyond the capabilities of church officers and committees when dealing with projects like Acacia.
Brighton, VIC 3186
St Michael’s Church, Collins Street, is celebrating the 175th anniversary of the first Christian Worship gathering in Melbourne.
The major event will be on 27 October with a special church service, a community festival gathering after the service, and a wonderful free public concert in the afternoon.
Other churches have expressed interest in participating in some way, as have community, cultural, ethnic, and other appropriate organisations.
Other 175th birthday activities will follow in the remainder of 2013.
This special occasion is also a celebration of the contribution Christian churches and congregations have made to the development of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ and communities beyond the city.
We particularly want to invite people who have had previous involvement with St Michael’s to join with us on 27 October.
Previous members of the congregation, people who were married in the church, people who arranged baptisms in the church, ministers or staff from past times, and people who were engaged with the church in some way are all asked to contact us to express their desire to be informed about and be involved in this exciting celebration.
Please contact me, or the St Michael’s office, to let us know of your interest and ideas for the celebration, or to share your experiences at St Michael’s.
David Doherty OAM
Facilitator 175th Celebration
St Michael’s Church
P: 0402 000 729
Has your Church Council checked its archival collection lately?
The Noble Street Uniting Church and St Philips Uniting Church, linked Congregations, formally amalgamated in 1999, and since that time, worship and all activities for both congregations have been centred on Noble Street Church in Newtown.
Prior to Union in 1977, St Philips Uniting Church was known as Pakington Street Methodist Church in Geelong West. Archival collections from St Philips (presently stored at Noble Street), have revealed some interesting items, not the least of these being old framed prints.
Recent research into one of these items has produced the following historical information:
On 4 April 1914, Rev S C Flockart presented to the Pakington Street Sunday School, the print of the “Origin of Sunday Schools – Hare Lane, Gloucester, 1780 ”. The print had been framed by a Mr O Everett.
The original painting, presumed to be in 1880, was by the artist Robert Dowling (1827-1886). The painting depicts the founder of the Sunday school movement, Robert Raikes (1735 – 1811), when he started his first school for the children of chimney sweeps, in Sooty Alley Gloucester in the year 1780.
The engraver was Leopold Lowenstam (1842 – 1898), who produced a steel engraving on paper, printed in black ink (on a printing press) of the original painting by Robert Dowling.
The sub-title to the print stated “Dedicated by Special Permission to The Right Honourable the Earl of Shaftesbury KG ”.
The Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley- Cooper, 1801 – 1885) gave strong support to a Bill introduced in Parliament in 1840, prohibiting the employment of boys as chimney sweeps. He also introduced the Mines and Collieries Act in Parliament in 1842, to outlaw the employment of women and children underground in coal mines.
He was President of the British and Foreign Bible Society from 1851 until his death in 1885.
The print was coloured in pastel, probably in the 1930s, by Lewis T Bandt, who was also famous for his design and production of the world’s first ‘coupe utility’ motor vehicle.
Noble Street UC has in its possession, such a print.
The framed print (with its history attached) now hangs in a prominent place in our church building at Noble Street.
E.W. (Bill) Smith,
Noble Street Property Committee
Ed’s note: Crosslight has received a number of letters throughout the past months regarding Acacia College. While we endeavour to publish a range of opinions regarding all matters pertaining to the Church and wider society, we are unable to answer specific questions on the letters page. Please go to: listeningpost.victas.uca.org.au/projects/uniting-our-future-uca-victas to engage in further conversations regarding Acacia College and the Synod declaration of special circumstances.
Divesting our fossil fuel shares and investing in clean renewable energy, goes to the heart of our life as Christians –
to care for God’s creation and to love one another.
That’s because, according to the International Energy Agency, for a relatively safe climate, two-thirds of the known oil, coal and gas reserves must remain underground.
Climate change brings severe and frequent natural disasters. According to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the world’s poorest people will bear over 90 per cent of the burden. Yet they are the least responsible.
The Uniting Church agrees with 97 per cent of climate scientists (NASA) that humans are causing climate change.
The New South Wales and ACT synod recently decided to divest their shares in fossil fuel. The decision has yet to be reviewed by the synod standing committee to determine whether or not divestment is practical.
Divesting shares can be effective. The international community divestment movement significantly contributed to the fall of the South African apartheid government, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As individuals we can do the same. The international Go Fossil Free campaign recommends using The Vital Few and Market Forces websites to help us lobby our superannuation funds and the four big banks.
Christians know that when we obey God’s commandments God gives life abundantly.
Using clean renewable energy instead of fossil fuels will create more jobs – 75,000 – than the 20,000 in Australia’s fossil fuel industry (The University of Melbourne Energy Institute). Action to avoid dangerous climate change will cost less than inaction (IEA).
The UCA cautions against using nuclear power, as it produces radioactive waste and risks nuclear weapon proliferation. Clean coal technology is not commercially available and may never be.
What can we do? We can divest our fossil fuel shares and buy green power. We can urge our MPs (www.aph.gov.au) to support the rapid development of renewable energy and to stop subsidising fossil fuels.
(UCA member trained to give presentations Solutions to Climate Change by Al Gore (managed in Australia by the Australian Conservation Foundation), and also for Beyond Zero Emissions with the University of Melbourne Energy Institute. Book either free presentation via email@example.com)