Anglicans confront change

Anglican leaders from throughout Otago and Southland are in Dunedin today discussing a draft plan which will result in major changes for congregations.

The plan proposes reducing the number of parishes in the two regions from 32 to 15, congregations and parishes sharing paid vicars, more pooling of resources, more co-operation with other denominations, and cutting the number of paid vicars from 20 full-time equivalents to about 17, Anglican Diocese of Dunedin Bishop the Rt Rev Dr Kelvin Wright said yesterday.

Some church buildings would also close, although how many and where would not be known until the diocese completed earthquake strengthening inspections, he said.

A restructuring of the diocese's administration was also planned.

In May, Dr Wright told parishes and clergy the diocese was "two years from a crisis" and was so short of finances and resources many congregations were "near collapse". The plan was a response to those concerns, he said yesterday.

"The most important thing is shift in the emphasis that we put on things - a move away from maintaining the church [buildings] and looking after only existing members of the church towards a more missional approach and looking to interact with our communities and finding ways to serve our communities.

Most congregations would remain, although some would be in a different form, he said.

The synod, held annually, involves about 120 lay people and clergy from the Waitaki River to Stewart Island.

He said he was expecting a good discussion on the proposals.

"People have really engaged with this. I think for most of our church, they know we've got to change. For years we have been talking about change but we never do it. But we've got no choice now, and that's actually quite an invigorating and exciting place to be.

Any pockets of resistance had been "far fewer and far smaller than I expected", he said.

"The level of enthusiasm for change and the level of quite innovative thinking is amazing to me."

After the synod discussion of the draft plan, church members would be invited to give feedback by the end of November. The plan would be refined and a small steering group established to implement changes from next year.

Dr Wright said changes would happen when congregations and parishes were ready.

"It might take five years to get changes in some places, but I think most people will do it in two."



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