THE Uniting Church is tight-lipped on the localities of 56 Victorian properties to be sold as part of a $56 million revenue raising process to clear massive debts and restore reserve funds.
The Standard was unable to get clarification on whether the pending sales would affect any of the 105 congregations in the Western Victoria presbytery, which extends from Ballarat to Warracknabeal and south to the coast.
Ministers and congregations are being consulted on the decision which triggers sales to start later this month. Synod general secretary the Reverend Dr Mark Lawrence said the divestment process would have an impact on at least 14 church complexes and some Uniting Care network services would be relocated to nearby regional locations.
“While this divestment process is a very important decision for the future of the church we understand it will cause upheaval and upset for some across our community,” he said.
“Congregations and agencies impacted by the sales process will receive income replacement and/or relocation funding and ongoing pastoral support.”
He said the sales represented less than one per cent of the property portfolio of the Uniting Church synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
The decision to sell was made in May following last year’s closure of metropolitan Acacia College, leaving a $36m debt after the church put millions of dollars into bailing out the developer.
According to The Age newspaper, church members were furious when they learnt of the decision this week amid speculation congregations without ministers or with elderly ministers were targeted.