Most readers here know that our Diocese has been sorely troubled by questions and issues about our cathedral - Christ Church Cathedral, located in Cathedral Square, the beating heart of our city. Badly damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake and subsequent quakes, we (particularly our Bishop, successive Deans, Church Property Trustees, CPT staff, and, lately, Synod members) have contemplated deconstruction, been tied up in court sorting out insurance funds usage, staying deconstruction, been on a trip around the northern hemisphere looking at cathedral designs, participated in two working parties, spent countless hours in meetings, sending and responding to emails, and so forth.
These last two days, as also many readers are aware, we have been doing our final talking and debating the merits of three Options A, B, C in an attempt to make a final decision about the way forward. A = reinstatement, B = new build, C = give the cathedral to the people of NZ.
Today we voted in a 55% vote for Option A.
Media articles are here and here (the latter, on Taonga, will be followed up soon by an "after the decision" article).
We had an amazing debate. Solid speeches, careful questions, impassioned entreaties, all with no sense of rush. It is a long time, if ever, that I have been part of such a long diocesan synodical debate. What really surprised me is that after this morning - when speeches favouring A were running about 16 to 3 for B and 1 for C - we had a vote as close as it was. I thought A might have achieved over 2/3rds majority. It did not.
To be clear to readers, I spoke for A and voted for it. My key reasons are in the Taonga article.
A few hours later I do not regret my choice.
One of the oddities of our situation as a Diocese - not commented on in any speech that I recall - is that we have supported the restoration of heritage churches. Tomorrow I travel to Mt Peel for the reopening of Holy Innocents church. Recently I was in a service in the reinstated St Bartholomew's church in Kaiapoi.
A question I wouldn't mind discussing at some future point, in some kind of diocesan forum, is what our theology of restoration of churches is. In part our tension over the cathedral seems one of dimensions. In appearance the difference looks like: if a church is smallish, and its restoration bill is smallish, we're fine with restoration. But if it is a large building and the bill involves many noughts, then we are not so fine.
Or, is it more subtle than that: if a parish chooses to restore, that is their business, but a cathedral is a building with many owners and several visions for its future, and thus we have differed.
Further, it appears that when (say) a restoration is a $1m or $2, we think not of helping the poor of our city. But the cathedral at c. $100m has provoked many concerns about best and highest use of money relative to real, widespread needs in our city and country.
Either way, to what extent do we have a theology of restoration? And of what nature is that theology relative to our theology of money and of social assistance to those in need?