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Debt cripples two large areas of Australian church

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Crippling debt is causing pain in large parts of two Australian Churches this month.

Members of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania have been waiting to find out which of their church properties will be sold. A last minute delay has meant that anxious wait will be extended a little longer.

Meanwhile, Anglicans in Western New South Wales have been told by the local Bishop that the Bathurst Diocese has crippling debts they cannot repay.

In both cases, the cause of the pain is the same: ambitious school projects that built up unsustainable debts. The schools—Acacia College in Northern Melbourne, and Orange Anglican Grammar School and the Macquarie Anglican Grammar School in Dubbo—have been sold.

Acacia College has been closed and the campus sold to be used as a campus of Gilson College, a Seventh Day Adventist school. The Anglican schools were sold as going concerns to the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation. But the sales have not covered the whole of the debts created by the schools.

“I am unable to see clearly what the diocese may look like in the future”.

In Victoria and Tasmania the Uniting Church needs to raise $56 million by 31 December 2014. A property evaluation process has been in train, with local congregations and presbyteries asked to nominate properties. The local UCA paper Crosslight has described the “the pain, anguish, anger and possibilities that such a program has produced”.

In Bathurst, the Commonwealth Bank has frozen several of the Bathurst Anglican Diocese’s accounts as it moves to recover as much of the $36 million owed by the diocese as possible, the Western Advocate reports.

The sales of the schools were finalised last week and “crystallised” the amount of debt hanging over the head of the troubled diocese, according to Bishop Ian Palmer.

In a letter read in the Anglican churches in the Bathurst diocese he said “I am unable to see clearly what the diocese may look like in the future”.

“[The debt] is large and we cannot repay the bank in full.”

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