It ain't over till the fat lady sings, so they say. Now there is a discussion that the whole shamozzle is not legal at all. Does the Uniting Church 'own' properties or is a 'trust' for properties? Now is it possible at this stage for some church communities to go to their lawyers even though the 21 properties are scheduled be auctioned on Wednesday? I think it is too late and also who has money for legal matters such as this! I've put in bold the important points in this article and one sentence in red as an emphasis. For our Geelong story, our tennis club is looking for another venue and expecting Head Office to chip in substantially for the cost of building another clubhouse on the new venue. Lot of work ahead. In today's Geelong Advertiser
property magazine our tennis club site is listed for auction but it's interesting to notice that the settlement date has now been extended to June. It was originally listed as a 3 months vacant possession settlement. Perhaps the kids can play out the summer season now.
From the Age:
Church auctions continue despite ex-judge's
Affairs Reporter for The Age
Uniting Church is forging ahead with the sale of $100 million worth of property
to pay off its debts despite a former County Court judge and one of Australia's
most experienced barristers warning it that this would be illegal.
church resolved in May to sell churches, vacant land and church homes to
recover debts of about $36 million it lost after the collapse of its school,
Acacia College, last year. Twenty-one churches are to be auctioned next
church said money from the sale would also recover $7.32 million in risk
management reserves and ''provide liquidity for ministries across the synod to
an amount of $10 million''.
church's governing body, the Synod Standing Committee, held a meeting on
Thursday night to hear retired County Court judge Ross Howie's legal advice on
Mr Howie previously led a successful fight against the sale of St Stephen's
Uniting Church in Williamstown North, of which he is a member, and later sought
pro bono advice from well-respected barrister, Allan Myers, QC, and law firm
Arnold Bloch Leibler about plans to sell other churches.
the committee that the sale would be unlawful without church congregations'
approval and said: ''I think that what you are doing is wrong; ethically wrong
and destructive of the church.''
Uniting Church's general secretary, Reverend Dr Mark Lawrence, wrote to all the
church's ministers and secretaries on Friday, saying it would sell the
properties to pay down debt and develop reserves: ''The standing committee gave
careful thought to the presentation and, after hearing advice from synod legal
advisers, resolved to continue with the current process.''
church was formed under the Uniting Church in Australia Act, which states that
church property is held in a trust for the benefit of congregations. The law
says that the committee must seek their consent before selling their property,
unless ''special circumstances'' exist.
said in his memorandum of advice: ''These conditions could be met if a
congregation ceased to exist or became unviable or financially dysfunctional.
But they were not met in the present case.''
reason the church did not seek worshippers' approval ''in the ordinary way''
was because it was worried they would refuse.
committee report, he said the church had secured its debt with a charge over
three of its cash reserves, but preferred not to use them.
said at Thursday's meeting that if the committee had asked worshippers to help
the church pay its debt, while accepting responsibility for its mistakes, they
would have agreed: ''But you are not asking. You are saying, 'We are taking
your property, whether you agree or not, and while we are about it, we will
take an extra $17.32 million, just because we can'.''
Lawrence said that extra money from the sale would ''go directly into care and
transition for congregation members. None of that money will be kept by the
mission reserves are used across the life of the church and that was a
significant factor (in the decision to sell properties) rather than using them
to address the debt, because funding for ministers and some congregation
ministry and synod ministry would be curtailed,'' he said.
Lawrence said that about 400 people - equally lay and ordained - had decided to
sell church properties: ''The vast majority of people at the meeting are not
employed by the synod. [They are] in the life of congregations.''
they had considered whether the church had enough money to fund legal
representation in potential legal challenges as part of their decision.