Monday, May 22, 2017

Cathedral decision to be made by Synod [UPDATED]

Last Wednesday evening at our clergy conference at Pudding Hill we had a full and frank discussion of the matter of the cathedral in Christchurch Square. One outcome of that discussion was a unanimous recommendation by those gathered that the matter of the cathedral be referred to our Diocesan synod, whose next scheduled meeting is in early September.

Bishop Victoria clearly took that recommendation on board because late Saturday afternoon just past a pastoral letter was sent to all parishes with request that it be read out the following Sunday morning. The substantive action proposed in the letter was that the decision about the future of the cathedral would be made at our September Synod.

Below I give (i) the Diocesan Media Release about this; (ii) some links to media reports; (iii) a citation of the express power in the Church Property Trustees (2003) Act for Bishop Victoria to make this referral.

Press Release:

"Media Release
Diocese of Christchurch
21 May 2017

Decision on ChristChurch Cathedral will be made in September 2017

Members of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.

Synod is the governing body of the Christchurch Diocese and is made up of more than 225 members representing the entire Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.  
Making the announcement today (Sunday May 21) Bishop Victoria Mathews said, “We are very aware that the city and beyond is very frustrated with the amount of time it has taken to reach a decision on the future of our beloved Cathedral. Church Property Trustees (CPT) and the entire Diocese share that frustration.
“After much thought and prayer I have decided to reserve the question on the future of the Cathedral in the Square to September 2017 for our diocesan Synod’s decision.  This means that the members of the Synod will decide on the future of the Cathedral, rather than the Church Property Trustees.
’As the ChristChurch Cathedral is a church building above all else, and a place of worship, the decision on its future should be made by the membership of the Synod comprising the gathered clergy and laity of the Diocese who will be using the Cathedral forever.
“One of the factors that influenced my decision was the strong recommendation of the diocesan clergy at our recent clergy conference to take the matter to our Synod.  I acknowledge and thank the clergy who were present for their prayer, support and advice.
“To date the view of the Church has been that we should proceed with a contemporary Cathedral. In 2013 our Synod voted for an inspirational Cathedral. Recently the Standing Committee expressed its view that a new Cathedral, costing no more than the insurance proceeds received for the Cathedral building in the Square, is its preferred option.”
Members of Synod will make a decision on whether to accept an offer to assist with reinstatement from the New Zealand Government or construct an inspirational contemporary cathedral to a design that is, as yet, undecided but the cost of which will be within the $42 million insurance fund.
“For the past six and a half years Church Property Trustees and its staff have done extraordinary due diligence on different options regarding the future of the Cathedral.  This includes engineering investigations, quantity surveying and research into fundraising options.  Along the way there has been active and passionate debate on what should be done.

“We recently undertook a scientific survey of public preferences among residents from Greater Christchurch on the future of the ChristChurch Cathedral. The results of the research were clear. People’s preferences change when they are fully informed, but there is still no overwhelming preference. People are still divided over whether to reinstate the Cathedral building in the Square or to commit to building a contemporary Cathedral that is inspirational and fit for purpose. We will soon release the survey results.  

“Church Property Trustees have carefully sought expert advice on all aspects of a possible reinstatement and considered the Government’s offer towards potential reinstatement,” says Bishop Victoria. “A majority of the Church Property Trustees are inclined to support the contemporary option however these preferences are still not decisive.  This is a vitally important question for our Diocese, the Canterbury community and impacts the regeneration of Christchurch which is why I have now made the decision to take the vote to Synod.”

·         The Anglican (Diocese of Christchurch) Church Property Trust Act 2003 allows the Chairperson of the Church Property Trustees to reserve matters before the Church Property Trustees to Synod for its decision

·         Membership of CPT comprises Chairperson Bishop Victoria Matthews and eight trustees, who are members of the Church elected by the Synod. CPT Trustees are elected by Synod. 

·         The Church Property Trustee’s decision to build a contemporary inspirational cathedral in the Square was challenged in the courts by the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) in 2012 and led to two years of CPT defending its decision.

·         In June 2014, the High Court lifted the stay it issued in November 2012 on deconstruction of the Cathedral. This meant CPT could continue with its plan to progress the idea of building a contemporary cathedral in the Square.

·         Although there would be significant consenting issues, a beautiful and highly functional inspirational and contemporary cathedral, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral, could be built within the $42 million of cathedral insurance funds then available.

·         This earlier key decision made a commitment to building a contemporary cathedral in the Square. The decision had been based on numerous engineering, costing, risk and other professional evaluations for which CPT sought advice for different options. All key reports were made public.

·         In May 2015 CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was paused following a request from the GCBT to further discuss engineering and costs of a rebuild. At that meeting, GCBT's experts agreed with CPT's advice that the approximate cost of a rebuild would be approximately $100m (not $67m as GCBT had been publicly claiming), that base isolation is preferable, and the rebuild project would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT approached the government and suggested it might like to become involved. The Crown decided to appoint Miriam Dean QC to assess the situation.

·          In a previous conversation with Minister Brownlee, the Bishop and the Trustees present explained very clearly that they believed CPT might do well to move towards a compromise – a build of old and new materials despite the Diocese and CPT stating it had a preference for a contemporary build. 

·         The Trustees were open to reinstatement as long as when completed the project did not leave the Diocese or CPT in debt. In particular, it was highlighted that CPT could only commit $30m as it needed significant endowments to pay for the maintenance of such an expensive building and also to cover the cost of full replacement insurance, which is estimated at up to $360k a year.

·         In January 2016, CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was again paused, following an approach from the Government to review the feasibility of reinstatement. CPT committed to good faith engagement and rescinded its standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral. 

·         The Government's Cathedral Working Group's report confirmed CPT's advice that the cost of reinstatement (rebuild) was approximately $104m (plus $4m fundraising costs), base isolation is preferable, and reinstatement would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT then agreed to a Government request to negotiate a funding and delivery model to reinstate the Cathedral. In late December 2016, CPT believed that an agreement was in place and were ready to sign.  However in November we had the Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake and the following month the Prime Minister resigned. 

·         By December 21, 2016, the offer on the table which CPT was prepared to sign  was changed to an entirely different document – a Statement of Principles. 

·         In March 2017 the Government clarified the terms of its new offer - $10 million grant and a $15 million loan and legislative assistance for reinstatement.

·         On 21 May 2017 Bishop Victoria Mathews announced that the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.

Note: Individual Church Property Trustees are not available for any further comment.

Media inquiries
Communications Advisor
Jayson Rhodes
021 661319"

Media Responses:

NZ Herald


The Press (which does not quite square up with the final sentence of the Media Release above!)

Radio NZ


Two Press articles: here and here.

Press Editorial here. (a bit odd, in my view, calling for a decision to be made yet not acknowledging that when a decision was made, it was challenged!)

Authority to Make Referral (from here):

6. Chairperson may reserve matters for consideration of Synod
  • (1)The chairperson of the Church Property Trustees may reserve for the decision of the Synod any matter raised for consideration by the Church Property Trustees.
    (2)The Synod must not decide under subclause (1) to rescind or cancel any contract or agreement or any sale, mortgage, lease, or other disposition of any part of the property.


Father Ron said...

Peter, I have just emailed my fourth Letter to The Press on this issue (the last 3 have been refused publication when I suggested the possibility of press bias) - stating that (IMNSHO) the diocese can no longer be blamed for the delay on a remedy for the situation of the Cathedral in The Square.

The latest skirmish of paid ads in The Press, by advocates of the GCBT campaign to thwart the original intention of the diocese to re-build in a contemporary way, is indicative of GCBT's continuous attempts (including ongoing litigation) to thwart the intention of the diocese to build a modern cathedral worthy of the city within the financial means of the diocese.

Non-publication of my latest effort to place the blame where it truly belongs will, in my opinion, show 'Press' bias (which they have denied in their private letter to me).

Jean said...

I enjoyed one of the comments calling the Anglican Church one of the "largest multinantional's with an imaginary CEO." I guess that means the ABC is P.A.?

Father Ron said...

Not really, Jean. I think the author was implying that "an imaginary CEO" was the God we worship as Christians

Jean said...

Ha, ha Ron yes I did get that. It was just the take on how someone from outside the church perceives it that amused me!

Anonymous said...

Father Ron and sister Jean, could you indulge my meddlesome American curiosity on an aspect of this decision process that mildly surprises me? I have not read that there are plans for a charrette.*

Problem: The Anglicans who brought us the New Zealand Prayer Book should have a wondrous cathedral church. Probably not one like this minor basilica in Barcelona--

--but who really knows? This is a creative time for Anglican cathedrals around the world, not a moment of kitsch or nostalgia. One almost expects the faithful of Christchurch to surprise us yet again.

Alas, bad design results from premature fixation on issues too narrow and superficial to intelligently guide the immensely complex process of making a large, significant place for a diverse populace and its visitors. In your fair diocese and city, the conflict between those who would restore and those who would rebuild seems to be consuming all the energy and imagination that even an adequate design requires, and maybe boxing the powers that are into a mindset that is not equal to the challenge of such an important site. One can argue for or against the value of a visual link from the old cathedral to the new one, but if this one question is driving one's whole thought process, then one's imagination is not yet equal to the problem at hand.**

Bishop Victoria's decision to consult her synod was prudent and reasonable, of course. But without something to shape and inform its process, could the happy warriors could just spread their conflict to that new forum? It is, after all, just a parliament. As on That unspeakable Topic, the parliamentary tendency to quickly focus on the concerns of organised partisans could have the effect of crowding out other and better ideas. And, ironically, this responsiveness to partisanship is in the long run very undemocratic, since it leaves the responsible few unguided on so many matters that happy warriors do not enjoy campaigning about but that ordinary people do care about eventually.

That the political will is faster than the profound imagination is a human problem. Others have faced their local variants of it. Lately, they have used charrettes to slow the willful and bring everyone else up to speed.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Solution: When important and complex public places I know have needed to be (re)designed (eg a river valley, a library, a bridge, an urban cultural district, a university campus, several monuments), the powers that were have sponsored what architects would call a "charrette." * That is-- a tentative and minimal brief for the site was written and posted; architects both near and far away were invited to present concepts to the public; exhibitions were hosted for conversations with the architects and discussion of their ideas. Usually, charrettes have been used, not to award a design contract, but to escape tunnel vision before the actual brief was settled by exploring the possibilities of a more minimal brief with both global and local pools of talent. In a charrette, success is not the emergence of a favourite design; success is uncovering important parts of the problem that had not even been considered. Much of the brilliant architectural work in recent Berlin has been guided by that city's long tradition of using charrettes to simulate then stimulate good design.

Advantages: (1) An open and public competition, especially an international one, is a much better news story than "Populist Fuddy Duddies Oppose Elitist Anglican Space Explorers, Yet Again." (2) It tugs the public conversation toward the brief for the building, which is actually where unofficial and informal responses have the most to contribute. (3) It educates everybody about aspects of placemaking that escape informal attention. (4) Informed public responses to the experience of concrete designs are more useful to decisionmakers and designers than Likert Scale responses to the words of surveys. (5) Similarly, sketches of viable options support and even energise the processes of a deliberative body such as a synod. (6) An influx of creative ideas from outside minimises the danger of a harsh mix, a mule that is half ruin, half spaceship, all politics. (7) A charrette is a cultural event in its own right; the conversation has value beyond the decision that is eventually taken. (8) It is less corrupt than a process that is dominated from behind the scenes by the local big firms. (9) Most important, it steps toward a cathedral that is a valuable placemaker in Christchurch today and maybe tomorrow, not just a reminder that it used to be an important building, used to be boxy, used to be ornamented just so, etc.

Disadvantages: (1) It costs money to prepare the brief, secure the participation of excellent architects, exhibit their work, and host converations. (2) It takes volunteer energy to support an office, see to visitors from elsewhere, organise public gatherings, etc. (3) It takes solid curatorial competence to introduce images to diverse publics and elicit worthwhile conversation. (4) There is some danger that a charrette can be more open to the organisers' tastes-- popular or elitist-- than to fresh, unfamiliar ideas.

Fixes: A charrette easily attracts co-sponsors who can help with the costs of (1), (2), and (3). There is no fix for (4) but integrity with courage.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


A final thought. Insofar as a cathedral is a sign for its city, the excellence of its design matters more than its structural history anyway. Millions around the world falsely believe that Sagrada Familia is Barcelona's cathedral, just because Gaudi's bold reworking of Gothic style has become that city's architectural icon.

* The French for "cart." In the C19, students at the Academie des Beaux-Arts were assigned an examination subject for a painting, sculpture, building, etc. When the time was up, the officers of the Academie would seize their works, finished or not, and take them to the waiting faculty in horse-drawn carts. But artists are artists, and students are students-- the students just climbed up onto the carts and continued brushing, polishing, etc as they were pulled through the streets of Paris. Thus the populace along the route-- leaning in doorways, slurping up cafe au lait in sidewalk cafes, peering down past lace curtains-- watched art emerge from the process of its creation in the streets. The points of analogy are obvious.

** An analogy. On 9/11, the White House was targeted by the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. If instead hit, the executive mansion would have been replaced with another one. A debate over some iconic features-- the Oval, the Rose Garden, the round portico on the South Lawn, the whiteness of it, the location in the L'Enfant Plan, etc-- would be natural, of course. But that would not even begin to address the myriad issues that would arise in reconceiving and rebuilding the entire complex in the C21. If a determined lobby locked up reconstruction of the White House for years with a debate about the South Lawn, we would know that they were nuts. So what does it mean that down in Christchurch some are still proposing a replica of the old structure?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
It may be worth noting the following:
(i) There is no particular partisanship in our synod as far as I can tell on the matter of the future of the cathedral; (I distinguish "partisanship" or the fervent taking of sides from the question whether there is a probable if not certain majority for one way or the other.)
(ii) We are aware that we now have a few months to sort out the background material we need to present in respect of the options of a reinstated cathedral or a new cathedral.
In my view a critical matter for the Synod to get its collective head around is the question of our relationship with the city and its surrounds as we move forward.

Jean said...

Greetings Bowman

I have to thank you again for extended my vocabulary... There has been many a charrette regarding the Cathedral to be, including one looking at possible future designs and engineering implications.

My take on it at the moment is the church represented by CPT thus far have proceeded down the replace the Cathedral option for a few years, been stonewalled by court action and request for restoration. Then for a few years entered into negotiation with a civic group who want restoration with government help there was a decision arrived at after a few years, however, the terms were changed when the government due to the Kaikoura earthquake were understandably feeling a bit more cash-strapped.

Now due to media and public pressure to make a decision and to be honest a lot of that hostility directed at the church, Bishop Victoria with the support of the clergy of the region, taking up the call for a decision to be made, has referred the decision to Synod. It will not be an ongoing issue such as the not mentioned one but a single vote I assume, of course there will no doubt be lengthy debate beforehand.

The advantage I see in this next step is a) the synod is made up half of clergy half of laity so representative of the diocese in general, and representative therefore of the varying views out there - had CPT just made the decision no doubt they would have been accused of bias either because they are such a small grouping or because for unfounded reasons (most likely because she is the church's spokesperson) many think any decision made has been made because of Bishop Victoria's influence. Which does a disservice not only to her Christian principles but also to the lack of intelligence and capabilities of the other individuals. b) the Christchurch community want a decision and so this will be a decision; negotiation has been tried.

No doubt after a decision is made there will be more charrette's : ) ... to continue discussion on a new design or else about restoration and how it is to be done - if the latter is chosen there will be many years to do this as as far as I am aware the churches current policy on rebuilding churches after the earthquake is work is not begun until funding is secured and there will be a few million to find in the interim.

I hope this is helpful...


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, my own thoughts on the matter you refer to (our) consideration are that (a), whatever the Church Property Trustees would like to do about the Cathedral at the moment; they are being prevented by threats of legal action against them by the heritage organisation GCBT. (b) Our Bishop Victoria has initiated what the recent Diocesan Clergy Conference has suggested; that the whole matter be, again, referred to the next Diocesan Synod, which has the legal right to disposition of the future Cathedral according to the property laws of the land.

I reiterate the fact that any delay in moving ahead with the disposition of our Cathedral is down to GCBT, who are pushing litigation to insist on the reinstatement of the Cathedral - at a cost greater than the Church can afford from the payout provided by the EQC - or ANy arrangement it offers.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Jean, and Father Ron, my thanks to you all for your convergent accounts of the backstory. They all give reason for hope that something wonderful may yet come of the ruin when the diocese is more free to think about it.

More thanks to Peter for the blog itself and to Jean and Father Ron for their myriad contributions to it. Peter's comment was so evenhandedly petrine, Jean's so lucid and jeanly, and Father Ron's so robustly ronnish that I was reminded all over again of the reasons why I enjoy reading what you write.

Bowman Walton