Anglican Church could sell buildings

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2012

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The Anglican Church could sell buildings to help pay soaring insurance bills that have nearly tripled in the past two years, a church leader has proposed.

Anglican insurance board chairman Don Baskerville plans to raise the possibility of selling church buildings at the General Synod in Fiji today.

He said the Anglican church's annual insurance bill had risen from about $2 million two years ago to about $5m now.

"We could possibly rationalise our asset portfolio. I am just raising the issue," he said.

"If the population has moved and if the building will cost so much to earthquake-strengthen that we will bankrupt the parish, why would we do that?

"Voices like mine are not welcome. This is something I have to raise because I know what the insurance bill looks like. It was between $1.5m and $2m a couple of years ago, but it has risen to between $4m and $5m a year.

"When we put the money into insurance we take it out of food banks. That is where the money comes from."

Baskerville, speaking from Auckland Airport on his way to the synod in Fiji, said the church's property portfolio made sense in the 19th century.

"We have an asset portfolio that comes from the 19th century and the 1950s and 60s. The churches from the 19th century were all either a horse ride or walking distance apart.

"Do we have to own every building that we own?" he said.

Baskerville is proposing two changes to church law to give the insurance board more staff and allow church trustees to make their own decisions on insurance.

"I am proposing a couple of changes to synod law to make things easier to run.

"We need more people on the insurance board to get more hands to the pump. Matters are more complicated than two years ago," Baskerville said.

"At present, our canon law doesn't explicitly allow church trustees to handle issues such as the affordability of insurance. This would enable church trustees to say: `We will only insure it for fire or not insure it at all'.

"They are expected to be `prudent' at the moment and this would save them from getting a legal opinion on whether they are being prudent."

Baskerville said it was up to the trustees of each diocese to decide if it wanted to make changes.

"It is not a simple project. The amount of change management is immense."

Anglican Church General Synod media liaison Rev Jayson Rhodes said any changes would have to be agreed by the synod, then by each individual diocese, before returning to the synod.

"It is way too premature to even suggest the selling of buildings," he said.

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