Representatives of Sydney’s Anglican churches sitting in the church’s parliament have endorsed a three-way approach to an urgent need for ministry in new areas of Sydney.
Following a challenge from Archbishop Kanishka Raffel in his Presidential Address to “see the crowds” of people moving to greenfields areas of southwestern and northwestern Sydney, Synod voted to continue contributing two per cent of parish receipts to a land fund for another 10 years.
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“Ten years ago we saw the crowds in the distance – it was the collective decision of the diocese,” said the Rev Dr Raj Gupta, in proposing the extension of the contribution that began in 2012. “Since that time, every three years we have renewed that decision because we kept seeing the crowds. Working together, it has been so powerful – God has used our collective effects and we have bought sites in Rossmore, Bringelly, Riverstone, Marsden Park, Leppington and Vincentia.”
There's an obvious mismatch between where our churches are located and where they will be needed in the future
Dr Gupta said the Synod members’ tour of Greenfields had been an eye-opener. “We saw that Sydney is changing. It is not by bracket creep but deliberate policy. Government planning talks about three cities – the Eastern Harbour City, the Central River City [Parramatta] and the Western Sydney Parkland City.”
In support, the Bishop of South Sydney, Michael Stead, said the Anglican Growth Corporation already had seven sites, including Menangle Park, Werrington and Box Hill, where land could be bought. He said the extension of the contribution from parishes could allow borrowing to accelerate the purchases.
There were calls for the levy to be higher, but it was argued that money was also needed for buildings as “all we'll do with this levy is get the raw land”. The bill passed easily the next day.
Bishop Stead also introduced a motion, which he described as a new policy for the Standing Committee, on surplus ministry assets that arise from a parish amalgamation. Currently, if parishes amalgamate, all the assets stay in that area. He quoted the statistics that by 2056, 50 per cent of the population will live west of Parramatta, whereas currently 70 per cent of the Dioceses’ church property assets are to its east.
...thinking as a family about mission, thinking about ‘We’ and not ‘Me’
“There's an obvious mismatch between where our churches are located and where they will be needed in the future,” Bishop Stead said. “If we keep going like this for the next 30 years, our church assets will remain concentrated in the exact geographic location.”
3 ways to boost ministry in the Greenfields
- 10 more years of contributing money from parishes to acquire land
- Discussing a long-term property strategy across the diocese
- Surplus ministry resources could be used to bring ministry to greenfields
He added that the new policy of keeping surplus assets in trust for ministry elsewhere in the Diocese would only be triggered when ministry has ceased at a particular site. “This is a modest proposal for situations only where ministry has ceased in a church,” he said. “If your church is still a ministry site, then it will have no effect on you.”
The third way to boost ministry resources in the new areas came in a motion moved by the Bishop of South Western Sydney, Peter Lin.
“This motion is about thinking as a family about mission, thinking about ‘We’ and not ‘Me’,” Bishop Lin said. He then called for Synod members and their churches to give feedback to the Standing Committee to develop a diocesan property strategy – specifically, feedback about population changes and how to identify surplus assets.
“If… if… if selling property might be an option,” Bishop Lin said carefully, “we do not want to sell what we might regret later.”