The biggest property decision made in the history of the synod of Victorian and Tasmanian has now been enacted, with more than 50 properties soon to be put up for sale.
The May 2013 Synod meeting declared special circumstances to repay $36 million in debt accrued by the failure of the Acacia College development. It also called for the replenishment of $7.3 million in risk management reserves, liquidity restoration for ministries of $10 million, and commitments made to Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congresses in Victoria and Tasmania totalling $2 million.
The final pool of properties identified for divestment was decided last month. Properties will be sold through a selection of auction, tender and market sales strategies from late-November. The pool is estimated at being worth $100 million and as much as $78 million will be sold to cover additional costs, including income replacement, relocation and transitions costs.
While there has been considerable upset at the decision to sell church properties, the evaluation and consultation process has ensured that no agency services or programs will be cut. In all cases of property divestment, affected congregations will be assisted in moving to neighbouring Uniting churches and institutions to locations where they are well placed to carry out regional service strategies.
All who have lost income will be compensated by the synod for up to five years. Pastoral support is ongoing.
Nearly three quarters of the properties come from the Yarra Yarra and Port Phillip East Presbyteries, with the remainder from Port Phillip West and regional Victoria.
In order to minimise loan repayments on the outstanding debt, it is hoped that the sales will be realised quickly. However the synod understands there will be a range of issues to overcome and people to support once the sales have settled and people are asked to farewell places of service or worship.
The synod’s www.listeningpost.victas.uca.org.au website (where you can go for more information) continues to receive a range of stories, letters, comments and viewpoints from many across the Church wanting to show their concern and get updated information on the sales process.
This month, Crosslight shares the personal stories of some of those affected.