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The long-running financial crisis engulfing one of the state's biggest churches has deepened dramatically.

The Presbyterian Church of Queensland revealed on Thursday that it had secured court orders to tip its legal entity, PCQ, into receivership, a move certain to shock employees, congregants and other stakeholders.

Services for aged care facilities, schools, congregations and other community groups will continue to operate as usual while the receivers, PwC bean counters Michael Owen and Phil Carter, review PCQ's operations.

The startling development follows the church's failed efforts at a restructure over more than a year as it sought to extricate itself from a disastrous involvement in the aged care sector.

The church's aged-care business, PresCare, revealed in 2019 that it intended to sell its non-core operations and offload its homes for the elderly in Rockhampton, Maryborough, Townsville and Brisbane after racking up a loss of $12m.

More bad news emerged in December, when PresCare-owned meals provider Contented Chef collapsed owing nearly $10m to creditors. It was a subsidiary of PresCare's Credere Services Group, which reported net liabilities of $24m in 2019.

In a blog posting for the faithful, PCQ official Stuart Hoadley said that "there has been more than a year of hard work to exit the aged care industry, undertaken with the aim of protecting the wellbeing of aged care residents, staff and congregations".

He said negotiations with buyers were conducted under a necessary cloak of secrecy but "positive outcomes'' had now been achieved.

 

TASWEEKEND - CITY MINISTER
TASWEEKEND - CITY MINISTER

 

Specifically, he noted that 2500 of the aged were currently receiving in-home care through another provider, Sydney-based Myhomecare.

In addition, he said more than 200 residents in PresCare centres in Maryborough and Rockhampton would now be looked after by the Apollo Care Alliance.

"Unfortunately, the combination of previous contractual arrangements and a very difficult aged care environment have proved a barrier to fully completing the exit plan and made the regrettable step of receivership necessary,'' Hoadley said.

PCQ moderator, the Reverend Dr Philip Strong (illustrated), echoed this sentiment, describing the move to appoint receivers as "regrettable but necessary''.

"While our team has worked hard for more than a year to restructure the operations, historical contractual arrangements have made this extremely challenging. While making the decision to appoint a receiver is a difficult one, we believe it is the best next step," he said.

The Supreme Court appointed Owen and Carter to their roles late in the evening on Wednesday after the PCQ sought orders over its assets, which include the Queensland Theological College and Fairholme College in Toowoomba.

"Our immediate priority is to work closely and constructively with PCQ and its stakeholders while we undertake a review of the entity's affairs pursuant to the order of the Court,'' Owen said.

"We plan to continue to operate the services that PCQ provides across the community on a 'business as usual' basis while we conduct this review, and we will update stakeholders further once this initial assessment has been completed."

Hoadley beseeched parishioners to seek celestial guidance as the process unfolded.

"Please commit the process of receivership to our Heavenly Father in prayer,'' he wrote. "Ask him to watch over PresCare residents and employees, and all the members of our congregations.''

Originally published as Why crisis-hit church called in receivers



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