Trust disappointed by decision to sell church

St Michael’s Charitable Trust chairman David Ritchie outside St Michael’s and All Angels Anglican...
St Michael’s Charitable Trust chairman David Ritchie outside St Michael’s and All Angels Anglican Church in Clyde, which will be put up for sale despite attempts by the trust to keep it in community hands. PHOTO: JARED MORGAN
A Central Otago parish has decided to sell a historic church in Clyde on the open market despite attempts by a trust to buy it.

St Michael’s and All Angels Anglican Church could be bought by developers with its pending sale by public tender.

The decision has disappointed the Friends of St Michael’s group and its charitable trust, which wanted to retain the church for the community but were denied the chance to buy it.

However, the church’s stance is its mission is about people — not buildings.

St Michael’s Charitable Trust chairman David Ritchie said the Alexandra-based Dunstan parish decided to ignore advice from the Anglican Diocesan Council and go ahead with the sale of the 1877 category 2 heritage-listed church and land.

An Alexandra real estate office would list the property including the church, hall and about 2800sqm of land in December to be sold by public tender in January, he said.

"The church has decided to sell, which is disappointing from a community perspective because it [the church] is a key part of the community."

Anglican Bishop of Dunedin the Rt Rev Dr Steven Benford confirmed the sale and said it followed an "extensive process".

The diocesan council set up a property commission last year to look at St Michael’s and commissioners reported back recommending it be sold.

"We were very aware there has been significant community interest in this site, including a very active Friends of St Michael’s group who have indicated they would like to purchase the church for future community use.

"The parish indicated their preference was to put the church and related land up for tender and they requested this be done towards the end of this year."

The sale would support ongoing ministry within the wider Dunstan parish, Dr Benford said.

The diocesan council and Dunedin Diocesan Trust Board agreed to the sale at meetings in September.

"I do need to emphasise the church is not in the business of maintaining properties in isolation or apart from people as this is not what we are here to do."

Mr Ritchie said the trust met the commissioners twice and had asked in writing for a 12-month option to buy either the whole property or the part containing the church for a stipulated sum, with 12 months to raise funds.

The diocesan council told the parish vestry to continue discussions with the trust because it was the "best outcome for all parties".

Mr Ritchie said the parish vestry chose to disregard this and forge ahead with the sale.

The St Michael’s trust was informed of the sale by letter and appealed to Dr Benford and the diocesan council, which went back to the Dunstan parish vestry.

A month-long wait followed, until the trust was told late last month the parish had chosen to go ahead with the sale.

"The St Michael’s trustees became aware from the beginning of discussions it was obvious the parish and its representatives on the commission had little interest in preserving the church for the community.

"The parish wants the money from the sale to pay a stipend to attract and retain a full-time vicar as well as buy a property to serve as a vicarage."

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