Bishopscourt – For Sale?

Raj Gupta

The Diocese of Sydney annual Synod commences early in October. Other than being the current Archbishop Peter Jensen’s final one, this synod will also be remembered as one that continues to work out how the finances of the Diocese are structured in a post GFC world. Much has been learnt. Much has been changed. Much has been improved.

One matter that will come before synod is the future of Bishopscourt. In 2010, our synod voted (with the narrowest of margins) not to sell Bishopscourt at that time. The implication, as agreed by synod, was a one year levy to prop up the Endowment of the See (EOS). The passing of time has allowed more work, research, prayer and thinking and the result is an in principle proposal to authorise the sale Bishopscourt when market circumstances permit.

The main arguments (in my view) revolve around finances. First, the maintenance costs of such a heritage property are significant – we are talking several hundred thousand dollars each year. Second, the opportunity cost of having such a large amount of capital invested in a single property that earns no income is enormous (the Synod will have the opportunity to look at the detailed numbers). 

It is more than just a ‘lazy’ asset, for the result of continuing not to sell it will be that the capital reserves continue to be run down (unless we decide to have a further and recurrent levy).  In other words, it is doing nothing that amounts to ‘selling the farm’ – slowly but surely. It cannot be a responsible course of action.

Furthermore, with the change in governance structures, and in particular the change meaning that the EOS capital fund is now managed by the Property Trust, the previous ‘internal’ governance concerns have now been sufficiently addressed.

In the aftermath of the 2010 decision, I commented on this column that I hoped the underlying issues of trust and governance can be resolved, and that the sale proposal is back before us. In the last 2 years, groups such as the Archbishop’s Strategic Commission, its Review committee, and Standing Committee have worked to address the issues and are now all in agreement with this proposal. It is my hope that the funds tied up in the maintenance and opportunity costs can now be released and better utilised to further the proclamation of the Lord Jesus in Sydney, and beyond.