One Brian Turner of Avonside, writing a letter in this morning's Christchurch Press (page A18), makes a sharp but reasonable case that if the rebuilding of our Anglican cathedral involves ratepayers' contributions then the Diocese should have 'primary guardianship of the cathedral on behalf of the city' while 'being open to a board of managers that represents the increasing multi-faith and multipurpose nature of Christchurch.' The conclusion of his argument is logical: 'If the Anglican Church is to retain exclusive control and use of the Christ Church Cathedral, as Dean Peter Beck appears to suggest (May 23), then perhaps the church should forgo ratepayers' money for rebuilding the cathedral.'
One or two things are missing from this letter, such as, should their contributions assist the rebuilding, how would we know ratepayers would require a multi-faith board of managers to run the cathedral? Would (say) Muslims wish to meet in a building called 'Christ Church Cathedral'? But letting these things go for the moment, the point is fair. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
My own (somewhat limited) soundings suggest that Brian Turner represents a view in this city: let's have a centre to the new spirituality of the 21st century, not specifically tied to the old time religion of Christianity, let alone such an exclusive and narrow version of it called Anglicanism. But there is another view out there: the cathedral must be rebuilt, exactly as it was. On this view it is the building which matters more than what activities might take place within it, let alone who would manage it.
As for the Diocese, our Bishop and Dean are quite clear and agreed that the ultimate decisions for the future of the cathedral are ours to make once all views have been made known. If there is a financial cost to that resolve, in the sense that we have less funds than we might otherwise have, then we will have to make do with what we have. (There will be a goodly insurance payout, and I am sure there will be benefactors comfortable with the future cathedral being thoroughly Anglican).
An intriguing question in the future could revolve around the commitment of the city and province to the second view represented above: what if we all agree on an exact rebuild (albeit reinforced to building codes etc) and there are insufficient funds to proceed?
It is not as though there will not be alternatives ... I notice advertisements and news articles informing us of forthcoming dramatic and musical shows being put on in tents and converted warehouses ... what is liturgy but a dramatic and musical performance to the glory of God!
Any which way, I cannot see our cathedral becoming a multi-faith centre run by a board of managers. It's not just the 'multi-faith' bit of the vision which goes against the Anglican grain, it's the thought of a 'board of managers' which is difficult for the Anglican throat to swallow :)