The Anglican Diocese of Dunedin is "two years out from a
crisis" and must restructure to become sustainable, its Bishop,
the Rt Rev Dr Kelvin Wright, says.
He informed ministry units and clergy about the situation by
letter late last month, before posting it on his blog on
"For many years, the diocese has been in decline on any
parameter that could be named ... attendances, numbers of
families served and the real level of giving have all been
steadily dropping over the years to the point where several
of our parishes are on the very edge of ceasing to exist
altogether," he said in the letter.
The economic crisis had resulted in a drop in investment
income which may have sustained the diocese, and despite
paring the diocesan budget back "as hard as we dared ... we
have not been able to balance the annual budget".
The Anglican diocese had become "so starved of resources" it
could not do what parishes required of it and was, in its
present form, "at the point of collapse".
The diocese, which covered Otago and Southland and included
30 parishes, had been in decline "since the 1960s", like
other mainstream churches, but Bishop Wright told the
Otago Daily Times it was the Christchurch earthquakes
which prompted recent action.
Between them, the 30 parishes owned about 60 churches, along
with several halls, all of which had to be inspected for
earthquake strengthening, at a cost of between $1500 and
Insurance for its buildings had also increased about 60%.
An inspection of St Paul's Cathedral had yet to be conducted,
but some buildings had already been inspected and work for
one was estimated to cost $200,000, which the parish would
have to pay.
"Where is that going to come from?
"We've got to ask the hard questions. These people go to
church for spiritual and social reasons. They did not sign up
to be the custodians of historical buildings," he said.
A scheme to inspect the remaining buildings would start from
next year, but Bishop Wright said the "realities" of the
buildings would have a "major impact on the way we reshape
ourselves as a diocese".
"In some ways, the building thing might be a blessing in
disguise because once they are relieved of looking after an
expensive piece of real estate, they may be stronger for it.
"We are about two years out from a crisis, but we've got to
make the changes now while we've still got a bit of wiggle
The diocesan council was reviewing its operations. All roles
and positions were "open to re-evaluation", Bishop Wright
said. It was too early to specify what the changes would be,
but there was no threat to positions at the parish level.
"It's not panic, but we are going to have to move fairly
quickly. We are not very well endowed, but we do have some
historic investments we could use . . . but it would be
irresponsible just to soldier on as usual without asking the
A restructure had already started whereby clusters of smaller
churches would co-operate more by supporting a smaller clergy
"I think people are committed to change, and realise that
change has to happen. I think everybody has known this is
He described the opportunity to restructure as a "once in a
lifetime chance" to rebuild the diocese to better serve the
"I'm not stressed by it; it's actually quite energising. We
will be able to reshape an Anglican Church that I think is
going to be more authentic."