Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oh, dear, what are we going to do?

Yesterday a commenter here noted perceptively a little aspect of the Chisholm judgement about the Christchurch cathedral case (in which a specially formed Trust seeks to reverse the direction the diocesan authorities are going in). That aspect is that he has ruled that the insurance proceeds for the cathedral's repair/replacement must be used for the cathedral (i.e. the existing one or another to be built on that site).

However we have made a decision to utilise some $4m of $40m of proceeds to build the 'transitional' or 'cardboard' cathedral which already has its concrete pad poured on another inner city site. The Press reports thus (and I cite in full):

"Funding for the cardboard cathedral could be in jeopardy after a judge ruled that Christ Church Cathedral insurance money might not be used for the project.

Anglican leaders had planned to use $4 million of insurance money from Christ Church Cathedral to fund the $5.3m transitional project near Latimer Square.
But Justice Chisholm said on Thursday that the insurance money should be used for a project on the original Cathedral Square site.
"Given the site-specific purpose of the cathedral trust, it is difficult to see how any insurance proceeds arising from the insurance over the cathedral could be used off-site," he ruled.
The ruling was made as part of a case bought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, claiming the Anglican Church's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings and that the church trustees were obliged to repair the cathedral.
A decision released on Thursday put a hold on demolition of the cathedral but said the church was not required to replicate the building as it stood before the Canterbury earthquakes.
The High Court decision also granted a judicial review of the cathedral decision.
The temporary cathedral, which will seat 700 people, is expected to open in February.
Trust co-chairman Philip Burdon said the church would have to abide by the judge's ruling on the insurance funds.
"The judge has ruled that all insurance money be applied to the rebuild of the cathedral and that is clearly a reality that the church will have to respect," he said.
Anglican diocese legal representative Jared Ormsby said the funding would have to be reconsidered.
"We have to look at that again in light of what the judge is saying," he said.
"He is not saying the transitional cathedral itself is a bad decision, but you need to quite quickly have a look at the funding question and sort that out as quickly as we can. We may need to get further clarity from the court."
Ormsby said the ruling was "tentative" and they would ask for clarification from the judge. "The way he has expressed it, that is a tentative view, so we may need to go back to the judge for clarification," he said.
"The trustees want to do things right and follow the law and stick to the trust, so they have to decide how they go about that."
A spokeswoman for the Anglican diocese said the ruling did not question the legality of the transitional cathedral.
"The judge has not said the decision made on how to fund the transitional cathedral is illegal or unlawful," she said."

In my view there could be creative ways to resolve this matter (at least at a theoretical level - I appreciate the reality could be tough). For example, we could treat the $4m as a loan from the proceeds and find a way later to pay it back from future funds raised.

It could also be that further clarity from the judge could yield the conclusion that our decision stands as it was made before the judgement was arrived at. Either way, however, it is one more headache we do not need!

I am neither a lawyer nor the son of a lawyer ...


liturgy said...

May this clarification now mean, Peter, that the diocesan decision to use insurance payout from one parish for the payment of insurance premiums of another is also illegal, and must be revisited? And is all this yet another example of our church producing rules that we have written in such a way that we ourselves do not understand what we have agreed to?



Peter Carrell said...

Bearing in mind, Bosco, that I am neither a lawyer nor the son of a lawyer, I suggest that the judgement POTENTIALLY has such an implication and (presumably) would be closely read by any parish wishing to press the point of receiving its insurance proceeds in toto (reasonable costs having been deducted etc). BUT ...

I can foresee legal eagles pointing out that specific trust foundations with precise obligations re the maintenance of "a church" on such and such site do not underly most parish churches. The stronger legal point, in my view, re parish churches is consideration of obligations, e.g. to pay the entity which has paid the premiums.

Nevertheless I am of the view that some reasonableness must prevail and, in the end, we are not going to see every damaged-then-demolished church rebuilt.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Cathedral: as they say "its never over till the fat lady sings". I'm not sure why people say that, who the fat lady is, or what difference her singing makes, but I think it points to the fact that it's never over till its over.

That aside, when I ponder the way that the Cathedral matter is unfolding I fear that the Anglican church has seriously shot itself in the foot.

We are rightly focusing on mission as a Diocese and it strikes me that mission is needful of several things. Things like God, working and Gospel integrity to name the two major ones. But its also very helpful when there is credibility and goodwill somewhere in the mix.

I fear Cantabrians are going to remember, not the great work that the Anglican church has done, and will continue to do in and around earthquake realities, but the Cathedral battle.

The message that seems to have been received is this: "it's our Cathedral. Keep your nose out of it".

This perception, where such is held, may be totally unfair, (we all know about media mischief making) .

But surly we should be street wise enough about such things to leave as little room as possible for the media in the way we frame and present our options.

Might I suggest the following approach.

"We are so humbled and encouraged that the Cathedral means so much to this city. Our whole aim is to reach out and serve this city with the Gospel of Christ.

Given that, we cant put into words what it means that there is such a sense of ownership by the people of this city in regards the Cathedral.

We as a church would want to do everything that we can to engage with, and work with the people of this city as we seek to promote Christ. The Cathedral, in all that it represents, is crucial to that process.

However we must face the fact that passions, loyalties and vested interests aside there are several realities thought that we must all grapple with as we look for the best way forward

Safety. Cera stipulations and involvements. Finances. Future changes in our City. (to name a few)

Again we are humbled by your interest and sense of ownership. Ultimately we hope and pray that however things eventually turn out we would have served the people of this city and we would have promoted Christ".

Had we taken that approach I think we would be fighting "with", as compared "against" some in this city.

In the final analysis the difference between "with" and :"against" could well make a big difference in the mission effectiveness of the Anglican church over the next several decades.

One last thought. the trouble with "fighting against" as compared "fighting with"is surprise blows.

As Peter's post hints, one can can only but ponder the ramifications of the judgment in regards insurance spending acros the whole diocese, and what this might mean in regards our mission strategy.

Remember we fight not against flesh and blood.

The real fight we fight and the aim of the battle from a cosmic perspective is nothing less than the destruction, or at the very least, the distraction of the whole church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thank you for your comment which engages with a host of current issues. The policy here is for commenters to be named. I am happy to let this one through but, in future, please supply at least a first name.

Anonymous said...

"Bearing in mind, Bosco, that I am neither a lawyer nor the son of a lawyer"

Praise God! ;)

Father Ron Smith said...

"The ruling was made as part of a case bought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust" - Peter Carrell -

Ah! That explains it, Peter. I see you note that the opponent's case was 'bought', rather than 'brought'. That helps explain the mess we're in