Church leaders back bishop

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2012
Victoria Matthews Support
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ

LEADER SUPPORT: Bishop Victoria Matthews, Steve Graham, Murray Robertson and Alan Aitken.

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The decision to deconstruct Christ Church Cathedral is supported by Canterbury church leaders.

An open letter of support from 70 churches and Christian organisations was presented to the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, at St Peter's Church in Upper Riccarton yesterday.

The letter affirmed that the Anglican Church had the right to decide the fate of its cathedral.

"God's real Church is the people, and people matter more to God than any building," the letter reads.

"We pray for the bishop and other leaders as they face the challenges this brings."

Group spokesman Steve Graham said the letter was in response to criticism of Matthews after the decision to deconstruct the cathedral was announced.

"Statements that she has failed because she's not rebuilding the cathedral are unfair," he said.

"We know that she's thinking about a far bigger range of issues and not just about one treasured building. A church leader's primary responsibility is the care of people, not the preservation of monuments."

The aim of the letter, signed by a range of denominations that included Ethiopian evangelicals and Cambodian Baptists, was to present a unified perspective of those "who actually lead churches and oversee church buildings", he said.

Matthews said the letter was "highly encouraging", especially in the wake of "very loud voices of criticism".

She has coped through the recent public backlash with "prayer and the prayers of other people".

"I love the cathedral very, very much and it is with enormous sadness that the building must come down. There has been loud criticism, but as I move around the city, people are saying to me, quietly and consistently, that they believe we have made the right decision."

The cathedral is one of 26 churches in Canterbury that cannot be entered because of severe earthquake damage.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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