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The bishop wants to sell multimillion dollar properties

The bishop wants to sell multimillion dollar properties

Arial view of Fredericton cathedral & adjacent church properties
1) Cathedral 2) Bishopscourt 3) Synod Office 4) green space 5) Deanery 6) Memorial Hall. – CLICK TO ENLARGE –

However, this bishop is in Canada. The bishop is the Rt Revd David Edwards, 10th bishop diocesan of Fredericton. Fredericton is the capital of the Canadian Province of New Brunswick. The Diocese of Fredericton is in the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada in the Anglican Church of Canada. In addition to the historic Christ Church Cathedral pictured above, the diocese owns several adjacent properties with all but one, also occupied by historic structures. Two are homes, one for the bishop and the other for the dean. One houses the synod/diocesan offices and the other is a large multi-use building, Memorial Hall. The final property is a green space or parkway across the street from the cathedral fronting the St John River.

The bishop no longer lives at Bishopscourt. The deanery is no longer occupied and the large multi-use building is seldom used. The cathedral is 170 years old. The house used for the diocesan offices is outdated for the function of a modern suite of offices. All of these buildings are in need of repair to the tune of millions of dollars. And all of them cost the diocese a few hundred thousand a year for basic upkeep, even though some are not used.

With a desire to be good stewards of the properties with which they have been blessed, as well as good neighbors in the center of the capital, the bishop has been in an ongoing discussion of how best to proceed with these properties. To that effect, the diocese has published a proposal which is a vision or a daydream of what might be done with the properties by the year 2022. This vision lays out the idea that both the former deanery and the Memorial Hall have been sold. The cathedral, which was renovated in the 1990s, but is in further need of repair, is now in much better condition, both inside and out. And the former bishop’s residence and the diocesan offices have both been renovated and are now linked by a new, multi-story, mixed-use structure. The new structure is shared by the diocese and cathedral parish offices, as well as providing rental properties on the upper floors and all managed by a professional management company. The project now provides the diocese and the Cathedral with income streams which can be used for future maintenance of the cathedral’s fabric.

PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THIS NEW VISION IS BASED

• The Anglican Church across New Brunswick has been in a slow and steady decline for many years. The Cathedral is no exception. It is obvious that we need to re-focus our efforts, and be better at, mirroring God’s love for us by reaching out into the community – in faith, in love and in service. This is what we, as Anglicans, are biblically called to do and this is what we must do if our church is to be healthy, vibrant and sustainable in the decades ahead.

• Even though sometimes hard to accept, Anglicans are slowly recognizing that changes are needed in many aspects of our shared life together – many things that we have come to expect as normal and on- going must change.

• As we pursue a renewed focus on the true purpose of the church and on improved financial sustainability over the long term, it is also important that we continue to be good stewards of our heritage properties. A new and different approach could make our heritage properties sustainable, remove the burdens of property management, and at the same time supplement annual income.

• The Cathedral itself is the ‘mother church’ of the whole diocese. It is an icon of the City of Fredericton and the Province of New Brunswick. The Anglican Church family has a shared obligation, on many levels, to ensure the Cathedral is restored and well-maintained for future generations. • The four buildings adjacent to the Cathedral are widely acknowledged as being ‘valuable’ because they are in a prime location in Fredericton’s downtown, near the beautiful St. John River – and in that part of the city the real estate market is, and will continue to be, very strong.

• It is essential that the future of all of our properties be considered simultaneously, and that decisions be based on their value in contributing to the church’s primary mission or purpose. • There are businesses that are better equipped than the church to manage properties, and if we were to partner with them it would free up church leaders and congregations for the more important work of the church – God’s work.

• A decision to sell any church property should contribute to the long-term goals of the church. Experience has shown that in most cases the cash from a sale ends up being a ‘quick fix’ to supplement a shortage of regular income, and is used to help pay the bills for ‘a few more years’. Experience has shown that, very quickly, money and property are both gone. There are many successful examples of the long-term benefits of retaining property for economic gain (e.g. in other dioceses such as Nova Scotia and Ottawa and at U.N.B.)

A NEW VISION FOR CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL AND NEARBY ANGLICAN CHURCH PROPERTIES

Facts for this story were gathered from the Anglican Journal and CBC News New Brunswick. The photo is from the Proposal.

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Philip B. Spivey

Don't sell. Lease.

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Rod Gillis

"There are many successful examples of the long-term benefits of retaining property for economic gain (e.g. in other dioceses such as Nova Scotia and Ottawa and at U.N.B.)"

Church real estate projects or "property development" are increasingly common in Canada, including in The Maritimes, for reasons stated in the article. I can think of at least a dozen such projects, involving one main stream denomination or another, just in my immediate area.

Having been a member of a Dean and Chapter during two property development phases, I would say that a major disappointment was the inability of the development to contain a meaningful social outreach or social ministry component. Churches, by their very nature, need to challenge themselves to get beyond ground leasing and waiting for the cheques to roll in.

I do not know any more about the proposed development in the city of Fredericton than what is described in the proposal linked embedded in the article; but I do not read there anything about social or community outreach. It would appear to be rather oriented to towards income and "gentrification". However, I am not familiar with the particular social challenges of the context there.

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Paul Woodrum

Jesus calls his disciples to be fishers of men, not real estate moguls but that does not rule out the need for shelter for the community and witness to the glory of God.

While many, no doubt, will castigate the cathedral and diocese for making any change, the plan sounds like a good one: preserve what is best and most useful and repurpose the rest to meet present and future needs. Don't sell. Lease.

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