*Pic: St Luke’s Church Bothwell. Is this church a part of the sell-off ... ? Pic: Reg Watson
The announcement by the Anglican Church in Tasmania that it intends to sell off 45% of its property portfolio should be cause for concern in the wider Tasmanian community.
Whilst the Church is to be commended for admitting to its involvement in widespread sexual abuse by its priests and other church officials over such a long period, its motivation for selling off churches, halls and cemeteries/graveyards needs closer inspection.
Firstly, it has admitted that the total monies raised far exceed its intended payouts to victims of church sexual abuse, who will only receive a maximum payout of $150,000. This seems a paltry sum to compensate an individual for life-changing events. If the Church is really serious about making atonement for its past, perhaps a larger sum of money might lead the community to accept the pain of church closures all over Tasmania.
However, the Church has made no secret over many years of its wish to divest itself of “underperforming” assets. It has fought a long battle with many rural communities for whom the local Anglican Church and its hall have always been part of the identity of the town and its community. As the Church has already stated, rural parishioners will be particularly badly “impacted” by this decision.
These “assets” are an integral part of Tasmania’s social and architectural history and belong to all Tasmanians, even if the Church is the legal custodian. If the Church is not to use all the funds obtained from the sale of its property portfolio for compensation, a smaller rationalisation of its not inconsiderable assets should be considered. The Church has benefited financially, over the centuries, from the financial advantage of not having to pay rates on its properties. It is about time that considerations, other than those paying heed to Mammon, enter into Church thinking.
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