A NSW Anglican Bishop says he will not back down from plans to sell more than a dozen churches in the Central West to pay more than $2 million in redress to victims of child sex abuse.
There has been uproar in the small parish community of St Aidan’s Anglican Church, at Black Springs in Oberon, after the Bishop of Bathurst, Ian Palmer, wrote to parishioners informing them the church would be shut and sold.
“I am committed to showing practical compassion to people who have been abused and I will work with people in the diocese in order to do it in a way which is helpful to us all,” Bishop Palmer said.
“We’ve got more than a dozen properties across the diocese that we are in the process of selling in order to meet the challenges of paying redress for those who have been abused.”
Two churches in Wyalong and Trangie had already been sold as part of the plan to raise money to pay compensation to victims of child sex abuse.
But local parishioners locked out of the church argue the revenue raised from the planned sale of St Aidan’s would be minuscule.
Parishioner Anne Wilson said while she understands the need to pay redress, selling the church is not the answer.
“The Bishop shutting down and stopping services at this little church and putting it up for sale appears to be disingenuous because there is more money available in the parish of a much greater value,” Ms Wilson said.
“I think it’s deeply regrettable and I know that the parishioners at St Aidan’s to the parish honouring whatever responsibility it has, if the Bishop was similarly committed he would not be choosing St Aidan’s, he’d be looking at other properties in our parish worth more,” she said.
Council sides with congregation
The Oberon Council also sided with the group of about 20 church-goers, writing to Bishop Palmer to reconsider his decision.
Oberon Mayor Kathy Sajowitz said some parishioners will have to make a 160km round trip to get to the nearest church if it stays closed.
“It’s really distressing for a community to lose a facility, especially a small community, such as their church,” Cr Sajowitz said.
“To take a church out of a village absolutely diminishes that village so this is where council will be coming from.”
Despite the outcry, Bishop Palmer said he remains undeterred.
“It is regrettable when it causes this sort of response from people,” he said.
“I find it understandable to a certain extent but I do not see the comments that have been public put around from what I feel to those who have been physically, sexually and emotionally abused.”