Seven years after a devastating earthquake toppled the cathedral in the center of the New Zealand city of ChristChurch, the diocese has voted to restore the building to its original form. The question of what to do about the cathedral has been mired in controversy and legal disputes, and this Synod was given three options for moving forward. Option A, the one chosen was to restore the cathedral, more or less as it was. Option B was to build a new cathedral at the same location, and option C was to give the cathedral to the government as a heritage site.
You can check out our earlier story on the options here
In a vote yesterday, the synod voted in favor of option A, with 55% choosing this option on the first round. Bishop Victoria Matthews was pleased that the debate was respectful, despite strong feelings;
“I think it was a superb synod,” she said. “Where there could have been rancor and name-calling, instead there was deep respect. Synod members with very different opinions spoke to one another with grace and dignity.”
Option A is for reinstatement of the Cathedral building and would see the diocese accept the offer made this year by the Government, which includes a previous $10 million grant and a new $15 million suspensory loan. This will be forgiven if the terms of the loan are met. Alongside the Government’s offer is a $10 million grant from the Christchurch City Council which is subject to public consultation and dependent on whether there is a need for this grant after further fundraising.
The Government’s offer package includes a $13.7 million pledge from Great Christchurch Buildings Trust. Other costs associated with this option include an endowment to fund the ongoing costs of insurance and maintenance. This reinstatement would be in three steps and each step would proceed only when there is sufficient money for that part of the project.
In the debate, it was clear that the decision would come down to either option A or option B. According to Matthews;
“Last night, it was pretty much a dead heat, with Option A [to reinstate] and B [a new build] neck and neck,” the bishop told synod this afternoon. It is telling that this body of faithful Christians, many of whom came believing in one option, after listening prayerfully to the debate, concluded they needed to change.”
Noted blogger Peter Carrell was pleased for the outcome
“We have chosen not only to restore the building, but more importantly, to restore relationships between the church and the city of Christchurch. We can rejoice that now we move from living around a derelict building, to a site that will again be transformed into a place of prayer and worship.”
According to Anglican Taonga, the Rev Spanky Moore, who spoke in favor of building a new cathedral, though disappointed with the outcome, was pleased that the overwhelming concern in the debate were the people over buildings.
“We all agreed that people are what is important, so our mission relationship with the people who wanted the original cathedral was a strong argument.”
He did express regret though that the debate didn’t spend enough time really thinking through what role the cathedral would play in the future for New Zealand Anglicanism;
“This cathedral won’t be a new statement. It will not say what we hoped a new cathedral would say: that the Church is independent. The Church is not a museum. The Church is alive and active. The Church is the future.”