Bishop Victoria Matthews: Three more months to wait for Cathedral decision not excessive
OPINION: On Sunday it was announced to the Diocese of Christchurch and beyond that I, the Bishop of Christchurch, had decided to send the decision about the future of the Christ Church Cathedral to the diocesan Synod, which next meets in September 2017.
"Synod" comes from the Greek words for "together" and "way", hence the sense of finding our way together. It is the highest governance body of the diocese. It is made up of clergy and elected lay people who are members of the various ministry units. The total number exceeds 200.
The question of the outcome of the Cathedral debate continues to garner a great deal of attention and discord.
Is it a question of heritage or sacred space, or both? Does the decision rest with the public who have been consulted and polled a number of times, or with the Church Property Trustees who have studied this matter for over six years? Do we need to preserve the past or find the way forward for the future?
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There are many questions. One of my favourite questions to ponder is "What do people mean when they say our Cathedral in the Square is an icon?" Another question I ask is whether the hurting city of Christchurch will be better helped by fixing this broken building or by attending to the pain of the people who are still suffering.
To give but one important example, I am aware that there are rising numbers of people of all ages suffering from mental illness across Canterbury. The largest number come from the younger demographic. What can be done and what are we doing to help bring healing to these people? What evidence is there that we care deeply for the young people who are at a loss as to where to turn for help?
There are those who say this decision, to defer the question about the ChristChurch Cathedral building in the Square to the Synod, is causing a huge delay. However our September Synod is just over three months away.
Recall, if you will, who and what caused each of the significant delays over the past six years. I refer first to the court cases that stretched out over two years.
After the court cases were behind us there was the kind offer of the Crown to assist the church. Unfortunately this offer of assistance morphed into a series of delays while the then Minister for the Regeneration of Greater Christchurch was unavoidably out of the country as the Government Minister of Defence. These delays were not caused by the church.
Imagine, if you will, the population of the city of Christchurch coming together once again in an effort to help one another, as we experienced immediately after the earthquakes.
Why can we not return to that heroic phase when caring for neighbour was not only what was being done across the city, it was actually what we wanted to do – that is, to help one another.
Christchurch does not have to be embattled. Nor does the various media need to fuel the flames of discord.
Christchurch, please think of the housing needs of the eastern suburbs and the domestic violence in many households. Ask yourself if there is even one teenager or young adult who you could encourage and assist to find their way back to health and wholeness.
The decision about the Cathedral in the Square is very important, but it is not the only decision facing this city.
The Right Reverend Victoria Matthews is the Bishop of Christchurch.