AFTER 20 years of debate, the Anglican Diocesan Council of Newcastle has resolved to sell historic Bishopscourt, a 4100 square-metre estate in the centre of the city which has traditionally housed the Anglican bishop.
Understood to be valued at around $4 million, the proceeds of any sale will remain in a trust fund to be used to provide a new home for the bishop and to help meet the modern-day challenges of the Diocese, Bishop Greg Thompson said on Friday.
The resolution was passed by an ‘‘overwhelming majority’’ of the Diocesan Council on Thursday after lengthy discussion.
‘‘In moving towards this decision the Trustees, Diocesan Council and Property Approval Board have exercised appropriate diligence,’’ council secretary John Cleary said in a written statement issued to all Synod members, clergy, and parishes in the diocese.
‘‘They obtained and considered a wide range of external expert advice. The Trustees will continue to exercise careful diligence in order to ensure the best outcome for the Diocese.’’
In expressing his personal view on the sale of Bishopscourt for the first time, Bishop Thompson said it had cost the church $500,000 over seven years to maintain.
‘‘I say to myself, how could I use that in a way that helps our wider community, why is $75,000 towards the bishop more important than some of the important issues of our time - that is the moral question for me,’’ he said.
‘‘There are morally greater questions than that house, in our time.’’
He said he understood the affection that many people in the Diocese had for the property, and had his own personal connection to it - his aunt used to be a servant there, and he had stayed there himself.
‘‘But I don’t have servants today, the 19th century model of English bishops, while very important for the heritage of our past, is not how we need to exercise leadership,’’ he said.
‘‘My job as the bishop is to try to keep the conversation going where we have resources to help our communities; not to abandon the past, but to use what we can to deliver the best for our communities.’’
The house itself at Bishopscourt, which is on Brown Street between Church and Tyrrell streets, is not heritage listed, but the driveway, grounds and garden have a local heritage listing.
The property was bequeathed to the See Fund by the widow of the then arch deacon when he died in 1929.
Any proceeds of a sale would not go towards the ambitious extension and refurbishment plans of Christ Church Cathedral.