The Commonwealth Bank has frozen several of the Bathurst Anglican diocese’s accounts as it moves to recover as much of the $36 million debt owed as possible.
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The sale of the Orange Anglican Grammar School and the Macquarie Anglican Grammar School in Dubbo, finalised last Monday, “crystallised” the amount of debt hanging over the head of the troubled diocese, according to Bishop Ian Palmer, but has left it in a “very difficult place”.
“I am unable to see clearly what the diocese may look like in the future,” Bishop Palmer said in a letter read out to parishes across the diocese.
“[The debt] is large and we cannot repay the bank in full.”
Bishop Palmer said individual parishes would be unaffected by the frozen bank accounts and negotiations with the bank were continuing.
In his letter to parishioners he said “we will need to give financially and sacrificially for the work of the church in this diocese”.
“At the moment there are some accounts that are frozen, these are affecting myself ... and one or two of my colleagues,” he said.
“It’s affecting things like being able to use a credit card, but it’s not affecting [staff] wages.”
The diocese’s school in Bathurst, All Saints’ College, was also “not particularly” affected by the financial situation, as it was a “separate entity”.
Bishop Palmer said “intense discussion and activity” with the bank since the sale of the two schools last week would continue, but it was unclear how much would be wiped from the debt.
“It’s a little bit difficult to say, we’re still doing our sums ... It’s not quite as simple as getting a number and taking it away from the original figure,” he said.
“It’s a fairly urgent situation ... but the important thing is the parishes are continuing to operate as normal.
“That’s what most people are interested in on the ground.
“What’s happening in the centre is peripheral.”
Potential asset sales were up in the air, Bishop Palmer said, but nothing had happened to reverse the decision to retain the Bluestone Hall in Orange and other properties including rectory buildings in Molong and Millthorpe, previously earmarked for sale under former Bishop Richard Hurford to recover the debt.
Bishop Palmer said there would be more to report and consider following a meeting of the diocese synod in November.
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