The Mission and new capital

AMS Staff

What does the ‘New Capital Project’ really mean? Archbishop Peter Jensen and Sydney Diocesan Secretariat CEO, Rodney Dredge, answer frequently asked questions and outline how it will contribute to the need to see Sydney evangelised.

SC: Why does the Mission need a project like this?

Archbishop (AB): The New Capital Project flows exactly from the Mission.It’s stimulated and motivated by the Mission. As we have begun mission thinking and mission planning right through the Diocese, it has become abundantly clear that humanly speaking large amounts of money will be required. We’re well short of the resources we need to face the consequences of the Mission we’ve undertaken.

We have been praying that the Lord will resource our work. I think that part of the answer to that prayer is that he has already supplied our needs, but we have to use what he has given us already with more wisdom.

Without the mission we could simply have chugged along, perhaps gradually growing, but without facing the real challenge of the society in which we live. The Synod decided that we are going to face up to the real challenges of the world in which we live. That meant we had to check our resources and ask ourselves, what have we got to bring to that challenge? When we’ve investigated, we’ve discovered it’s not enough.

Sydney is developing at a huge rate. There are many, many people coming to live here. We will need new property, new land, new buildings. We will need to refresh our old buildings. We’re going to need a greatly increased number of Christian workers. Our training facilities – Moore College and Youthworks College – are stretched. With the numbers of students we anticipate coming, we’re going to be unable to cope. Furthermore, we have obligations to assist Christian work outside our own boundaries.

In the old days it may be that the development occurred more slowly, and people were more generous in giving us land and buildings. Those days have passed.

A conservative estimate of our needs in the next decade is for a hundred million dollars to be spent on land and buildings. Just with those two items alone, and there are others I could mention, we are talking about the need for sums of money far in excess of anything that could be achieved by fundraising or by some of our more conventional means.

SC: Are you seeing a response to your call to mission?

AB: The Mission is now just over 18 months old. We can date the start of it from Synod 2002. In that period we have seen 60 to 70 new congregations, fellowships or churches get underway. This is an extraordinary achievement in itself, although it is only the beginning of what needs to be done.

At the same time I hear reports from many churches which are entering into Mission wholeheartedly and reaching out in their own neighbourhood, reforming their structures, engaging more purposefully in evangelism. Furthermore, there is a hint in the financial figures of the Diocese that more people are coming to church and giving generously.
As far as the diocesan structures are concerned, we have been and continue to be very active in improving them and enabling them to support the role of Mission. This project is one of the major ways the Mission is impacting on the Diocese.

SC: People might be worried this is an exercise in selling off their church.

AB: The first stage of this project is simply doing what we should have done – making a survey of our assets. How we can best use those assets to fund other Christian work is a second stage requiring consultation. We would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that it involves selling this church or selling that church. There may be ways in which we can use our assets smartly in order to fund Christian work all over the city and beyond.

I don’t think people should be frightened or anxious about this, but look forward to the results and think through the implications of what we have, so we can do better.

SC: How have organisations responded to it?

AB: The New Capital Project is bold and imaginative but complex. Rightly, the Standing Committee and the heads of organisations have asked many questions about it. When the needs for financial support and the impossibility of raising this support by conventional means are made clear it has become obvious to all that some such scheme as this is an absolute imperative.

Of course there are risks involved, and it is going to require a great deal of consultation, and inspiration. But the need so significant for our continued work that the project must be undertaken.

SC: Where does this project fit into your personal agenda?

AB: The Archbishop’s role involves the provision of resources and enabling for Christian ministry throughout the Diocese.

It has become perfectly clear to me that highly significant Christian work is being hindered or prevented by lack of financial resources. The New Capital Project is my attempt to resource people in parishes, and ministers as they seek to create new churches, fellowships and congregations, and win people to Christ in the Diocese and beyond.

SC: How might this change the culture of our church?

AB: Without a doubt, a project of this nature and size will challenge the culture of our Diocese at significant points.

Certainly it will require immense goodwill, trust and wisdom between elements in the Diocese, which are basically voluntary societies. It may require sacrifice so that others may receive the gospel. We are undertaking something very large for God.

We need to look to him for wisdom and strength so that we are guided by God’s vision. It’s a matter of growing the Diocese to help the local churches to flourish. I believe it’s a piece of work that God is calling us to and is an inevitable result of attempting the Mission in our Diocese and beyond.

SC: The New Capital Project talks about ‘asset realignment’. What does that mean?

Rodney Dredge (RD): This Diocese is richly blessed with assets, but there is a finite level to them. We have no means of quickly creating large volumes of new assets to do new things. We can’t issue shares for instance. We know the Mission needs several hundred million dollars of capital and the only place we can turn to for that money is our existing asset base. To move value from one group of assets to another is called realignment. The New Capital Project is a response to the infrastructure needs of the Mission and seeks to determine if we can “realign” the Diocesan asset base to more closely reflect the needs of the Mission.

SC: Why do we need to do this?

RD: The simplest example is Bringelly, a new city centre being created for a quarter of a million people in Sydney’s South West. We have a couple of small land holdings in the area, but our need is for several large churches and a couple of schools. The Diocese does not have the cash lying around to buy the land and build the buildings, so we need to find a lot of cash in a hurry. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars for the Bringelly region alone.

Another example may be a growing church. The purpose of the project here is to determine if, through asset realignment, we can provide funds for upgrades, extensions and rebuilding of existing churches so that they can take advantage of mission momentum quickly.

SC: Why not ask Synod for the money?

RD: Synod does not have a pot of gold sitting around waiting to be spent. It does have an endowment of about $160million that is managed by the Glebe Board, but it is the income from that endowment that funds Synod’s current activities. If Synod was to use its endowment for the types of purposes envisaged by this project we would be consigning the Diocese of Sydney to the same fate as other dioceses around the world that have no income base.

SC: Stage One will cost about $1million. Why spend such a lot of money?

RD: It is a lot of money and many of us are concerned at the thought of spending $1million on an investigatory project. Having said that – the project aims to produce between $100 and $500million. You don’t do that sort of work for nothing, you don’t employ inexperienced people or amateurs in this work, and you don’t do it without the right technology.

SC: Where is the money coming from?

RD: It was appropriated by Standing Committee out of the funds managed by the Glebe Board on behalf of the Synod. The reason we can afford to take such a sum is that, in God’s providence, the Glebe Board produced an excellent result last year and looks like repeating that this year. We believe it is wise to invest in the future and use some of those good results for a project like this.

SC: What do we get for our money?

RD: The objective of this first stage is to determine if there are acceptable strategies through which we can realign Diocesan assets to more closely reflect the needs of the Mission.  No matter what happens we will end up with a live asset management tool for use by the whole of the Diocese.

SC: Why don’t we already know what our assets are?

RD: The level of independence we allow all of our diocesan organisations does not, and never has required an aggregation of total assets. This is not a critical comment. The Diocese is wonderfully independent. And this exercise is not intended to change that at all. Asset registers exist within all Diocesan organisations but not in the context of the whole and not with the types of information that we need at the broader level. In many cases asset knowledge is confined to details of a land title and an historical insurance value.

SC: Can you give an example of an asset that might be realigned?

RD: As far as we can ascertain, this is the first time asset realignment methodology has been used in any church in the world. So I can’t take a set of examples out of any previous project. The whole purpose of this first stage is to fill those gaps in our knowledge.

SC: Why do we need a secular organisation to help the church achieve the Mission?

RD: We simply don’t have the specialist skills. I estimate that it would take five years and $2million to develop the technology by ourselves. We need the answers right now, so it makes sense to go to an organisation that has a proven background in this work and use our management skills to adapt that background to our needs.

SC: Can you guarantee churches will be properly consulted?

RD: Yes I can. PricewaterhouseCoopers is a useful partner particularly in the methodology they have developed to assist stakeholders. For instance, if we were talking to one of our major organisations, we would hold a workshop in which PwC was the facilitator, the asset owner was represented and, if appropriate, the asset owner’s clients would be invited. The workshop process envisages several rounds of discussion during which churches or other asset owners get to critically examine and contribute to the outcome of our analysis.

SC: What is the scope of the asset base you are looking at?

RD: This project deals only with those assets over which there is no doubt that Synod has control. That means organisations such as ARV, Youthworks, the Schools Corporation, Anglicare, Moore College and the Glebe Board are automatically embraced. The question then becomes which organisations outside that group will be involved in it. We’ll work on that progressively.

SC: What are the risks?

RD: The first risk is that major Diocesan organisations don’t cooperate. If that happens then we must conclude that a serious mission alignment problem exists and needs to be addressed.  Obviously under those circumstances, the project will be halted. The second risk is that we can’t find any way of realising substantial value from our assets. If that happens, we will have to work out how to move the Mission forward without any fresh funds.

SC: Is this a centralisation of independence we hold dear?

RD: This project does centralise the development of proposals for the administration of Diocesan assets. However, where we as a Diocese want to put our assets can only ever be a decision of the Synod, so the decision making is not centralised.  The project greatly respects the role of Synod as the ultimate authority. I believe we are working within sensible areas of management in an attempt to develop real intentionality in the stewardship of the great material wealth with which God has blessed us.