CHRISTMAS CUTS: Four jobs gone due to $25 million debt of Bathurst diocese

Anglican Bishop of Bathurst Ian Palmer at Holy Trinity church at Dubbo, where he will move next year while remaining bishop as part of "huge changes" made to the diocese. File photo
Anglican Bishop of Bathurst Ian Palmer at Holy Trinity church at Dubbo, where he will move next year while remaining bishop as part of "huge changes" made to the diocese. File photo

The leader of the financially-stretched Anglican Diocese of Bathurst has announced he will no longer remain a full-time bishop and will move to Dubbo to also be its parish priest.

Four jobs have also been shed from the bishop's registry in Bathurst as part of "huge changes" announced by Bishop Ian Palmer to his people at the weekend.

The financial situation of the diocese - previously reported as having a $25 million debt - was one of two reasons for the decisions, Bishop Palmer told the Daily Liberal yesterday.

The changes were the cost of the balanced budget for 2015 passed on Wednesday by the leadership body of the diocese, which stretches from Bathurst to Bourke.

In a candid interview Bishop Palmer said there was "not enough money to pay the staff or the bishop".

"It's awful to have to terminate people's employment at Christmas time," he said.

The decision comes less than two years after the diocese sold Macquarie Anglican Grammar School at Dubbo and its Orange counterpart.

This year the Commonwealth Bank of Australia moved to attempt to force the diocese to sell assets to repay its debt - a matter that is before the courts.

Bishop Palmer, who was at Warren and Nyngan services yesterday when his letter announcing the changes was read to the congregation, said the diocese was moving responsibly into the future.

"We can't go on as business as usual, we've known that radical change is necessary," he said.

"I've known that since the day I came here - the day I was consecrated I agreed to the sale of Macquarie Anglican Grammar School and Orange Anglican Grammar School."

But he said the bottom line was not the only reason for the change.

"The financial situation has pushed us to do things differently, but the change in society has also pushed us," he said.

"The change has been that today, many people are alienated from the church rather than being attracted to it, so the church has to ask the question how can we best serve the community in the 21st century, and that's where I'm coming from.

"One of the crucial things is I'm coming here to Dubbo to build a team of clergy and lay people who will serve the community in a Christian, generous, kind, open way."

The leader known as "Bishop Ian" in the region said he and his wife would move out of Bishopscourt at Bathurst and into the rectory at Dubbo.

He said he would be commissioned as parish priest at Dubbo, anticipated to take place in early February, but that he would also remain the diocese's bishop.

One staff member, the bishop's registrar, would remain at the registry at Bathurst, he said.

"One of the important things is this is in part a response to a thoughtful and generous offer from the Anglican parish of Dubbo to the financial difficulties that the bishop faces," he said.

Reaction so far had encouraged Bishop Palmer.

"People are saying things like 'we're impressed you're facing the problems and taking painful but necessary steps'," he said.

"The diocese has been through a lot of darkness but we believe that Jesus' birth at Christmas is light coming into a dark world and I hope people will see this move as lighting a way forward in the difficult circumstances of the diocese."