Cathedral Council Disbanded as Newcastle Anglican Crisis Deepens

As we reported last Friday,  the entire council of Newcastle Cathedral has been removed from their positions.

As we reported last Friday,  the entire council of Newcastle Cathedral has been removed from their positions.

The Newcastle Herald has it’s own version of the story:

NEWCASTLE Christchurch Cathedral’s parish council has been sacked, and senior Anglicans have been stood down, after the royal commission heard evidence of “coordinated opposition” to Bishop Greg Thompson following public statements that he was sexually abused by a bishop.

In a statement on Wednesday the diocese confirmed Dean of Newcastle Stephen Williams had “stood people down from leadership roles in the liturgy”, and Bishop Peter Stuart, on behalf of Bishop Thompson, had dissolved the cathedral parish council.

The action was taken in consultation with Newcastle Anglican diocesan council.

It came after explosive evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sitting in Newcastle, where commission chair Justice Peter McClellan accused solicitor and former diocesan lawyer Robert Caddies of leading “coordinated opposition” to Bishop Thompson.

This followed a complaint from a group of senior Anglicans to the royal commission in April, questioning Bishop Thompson’s “unsubstantiated” claim he was groomed and sexually abused by two senior clerics, including the late Bishop Ian Shevill.

I write “it’s own version of the story” since the Herald article makes no mention of the far wider range of complaints against Bishop Thompson (reported here on last week).

In the letter sent to those removed from office, Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart accuses them of being persons not fulfilling the duties outlined in the Responsible Persons Ordinance 2015 [pdf] of the diocese. The Ordinance was passed by the Diocesan Council (not the entire diocesan synod) and gives power to the bishop to remove anybody from a diocesan body at his own discretion, subject to an appeal to the Diocesan Council.

The letter to those removed draws attention to the obligations to

  • act honestly and fairly in the best interests of the diocese.
  • conduct themselves in keeping with the Being Together code of conduct of the diocese.

Assistant Bishop Stuart then goes on to state that simply by signing the letter sent to the Royal Commission they are not persons not fit to be Responsible Persons in the diocese. i.e. the charge is simply that they raised concerns about their bishop to a third party.

The bishop goes on to urge those he writes to to accept his decision and make a formal apology to Bishop Thompson.

Yesterday I spoke to a number of persons in the diocese, both clergy and laity of a broad variety of theological persuasions. They raised concerns of yet another autocratic action by diocesan leadership. One spoke to me of the deep frustration about a diocesan bishop who has for a long time refused to meet with anyone who has concerns and who enacts discipline without seeking a pastoral resolution. Others have spoken to me about similar uses of disciplinary processes whenever the bishop perceives any complaint about his leadership.

One member of clergy described the atmosphere now as “a little McCarthyist” and described how they and others shared the concerns but were concerned that any attempt to speak out would be met with an identical response.

There is a great danger now that Bishop Thompson’s good work in addressing matters of child abuse will be lost in these greater and even more wide-ranging complaints.

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