Bishopscourt – For Sale?

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.

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (4)

Please sign in or register to add a comment.

  • Stephen Gardner
    September 26, 12 - 2:57pm
    What if Bishopscourt were to become a source of income? i.e. open it up as a function centre
  • Alan Patrick
    October 1, 12 - 5:45pm
    Instead of debating the sales option it would be be better to seriously consider ways of using the building. I am sure there are many practical uses that would be beneficial for Christian service and witness
  • Robert Denham
    October 1, 12 - 8:09pm
    I am sometimes perplexed by the decisions we are asked to make.
    So Bishopscourt is a "lazy asset"... but maybe only for an economist with a limited definition, looking only for financial returns. If we applied that same criteria none of our ministers would be supplied a house to live in. None of our churches would be consecrated thereby stopping other money-raising uses of the buildings. Every Parish Council would be compelled to have their halls licensed out for as many hours as possible each week. The Cathedral would have been sold off years ago, not renovated and internally turned to face the original way.
    If it was too small, and bursting at the seams, there could be an argument for replacing it with a bigger one. But in the context of the Diocesan Mission, why isn't their more imagination going into using a wonderful asset to further the gospel in the Eastern suburbs? Hey, St Mark's is just around the corner, but imagine the garden receptions for all those weddings! One Bishop's residence, study, chapel, meeting rooms, accommodation for visiting clerics, diocesan function centre, maybe even GAFCON secretariat, PJs with PJ, & so much more all with beautiful views of the harbour!
    But then again, selling this unique asset could save us some maintenance costs (unless, God forbid, we sell it when the market is low, & buy when the market booms again... has been known to happen...)
    Still we need to consider if our assets are just lazy & hungry.
  • Neil McMullen
    October 7, 12 - 4:59pm
    They said that St Aidan's Annandale was a lazy asset ! Look at the alternative use that has been made of it and it is now one of the leading parishes in Sydney. We should be looking as the other writers have suggested for an alternative use as was found with St Aidan's Annandale.