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Clergy discipline not subject to civil review, Australian court rules: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The South Australia Supreme Court has ruled that clergy discipline is an internal affair, not subject to civil court review. In Harrington and Ors v Coote and Anor [2013] SASCFC 154 the court held disciplinary canons were a “consensual contract” between clergy and the church, and that the Australian Church’s Professional Standards Board had the authority to investigate and discipline clergy.

The 23 December 2013 ruling ended an 8-year legal battle waged by the former Archdeacon of the Murray, the Ven. Peter Coote, who was dismissed from office in 2007 for sexual misconduct.

In his ruling Chief Justice Chris Kourakis held the constitution, canons and rules of the church were binding under civil law on the bishops, clergy and laity in matters relating to property.

The right to appoint a member of clergy to a benefice and the licence held by a member of the clergy to conduct spiritual ceremonies on church property were “matters relating to property” under the Act, he held. Having voluntarily agreed to submit to the constitution and canons of the church, Archdeacon Coote could not seek to circumvent the process through the secular courts.

Dating game lawsuit filed in NSW: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 September 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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A Facebook photo of John Gumbley

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The New South Wales Supreme Court has been asked to review church rules governing whether a clergyman may date a member of his congregation, and if so, what moral standards should guide his conduct.

The question comes as part of lawsuit brought by a clergyman against the Bishop and Diocese of Newcastle (Australia) who had been defrocked for sexual misconduct.

The Rev John Gumbley last week charged Bishop Brian Farran and the Diocesan Professional Standards Board with using unlawful and immoral means to remove him from the ministry. The suit by Mr Gumbley, former vicar of St Mark’s Church in Terrigal, NSW is the latest legal challenge to the Diocese’s disciplinary policies, which critics charge denies clergy “natural justice.”

In May, 2010 Bishop Farran removed Mr Gumbley from the ministry after the professional standard board found he had engaged in misconduct by engaging in a sexual relationship with a member of his congregation. The 40-year-old unmarried clergyman had protested his innocence, but his veracity was questioned after the board reviewed his private journals that chronicled his private life.

Mr Gumbley charged the diaries had been stolen and should not have been used in evidence against him. The Bishop conceded the diaries had been unlawfully downloaded from Mr Gumbley’s computer by a spurned lover who had handed them over to the Diocese. But the Bishop defended the propriety of using them in an ecclesiastical trial.

“The legal advice was [that] it was an absolute obligation to hand [the diaries] to the inquiry,” Bishop Farran told the Newcastle Herald last year. “It’s a collision between two ethical principles: the rights of the individual and the common good.”

The code of conduct for Anglican clergy, ‘Faithfulness in Service’, directs ministers to maintain “chastity in singleness”’ and forbids clergy from taking “advantage of their role to engage in sexual activity with a person with whom they have a pastoral relationship.”

The Gumbley lawsuit is the third proceeding now underway. On 15 December, the Professional Standards Board held that the former Dean of Newcastle, the Very Rev Graeme Lawrence and his partner — church organist Gregory Goyette — had engaged in sexual relations with a 17-year-old boy at a church camp in 1984. A second priest, the Rev Graeme Sturt was found to have observed the incident, but did not report the abuse.

The board recommended Dean Lawrence and Mr Sturt be defrocked and Mr Goyette prevented from working in the church. The two clergymen responded by filing suit against the board, saying its proceedings were arbitrary and capricious, and have protested their innocence.

Bishop Farran is also the subject of an internal church investigation for misconduct. On 12 May nine complaints were lodged with the office of the General Synod in Sydney against the Bishop. Under canon law, the charges and the commission’s proceedings are not to be made public however sources tell The Church of England Newspaper the charges centre around the Bishop’s handling of the divisions within the cathedral and his oversight of the diocesan professional standards commission.

Mr Gumbley declined to speak to CEN about the pending lawsuit, which argued the clergy disciplinary review process was oppressive, unfair and capricious.

Swift Movement Against Dissenters in New Hampshire: TLC 11.15.03 November 15, 2003

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, New Hampshire.
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First printed in The Living Church magazine.

Supporters of two dissenting congregations in the Diocese of New Hampshire point to two recent incidents as evidence that differing theological views may not be tolerated in practice locally.

Two-thirds of the congregation of the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester walked out of a Sunday service Nov. 9 in protest over the firing of their 72-year-old priest-in-charge, the Rev. Don Wilson, earlier that week. Right before the sermon, Jacqueline Ellwood and Ginger Carbaugh stood up, read a statement of protest to the bishop’s representative, the Rev. Canon Marthe Dyner, and walked out of the building, but not before a brief tussle with Canon Dyner, who snatched the letter from one of the protestors. They were followed in their departure by about 40 members of the congregation.


Fr. Wilson told The Living Church he had been summoned to the diocesan office Oct. 25 to discuss parish business. The agenda quickly changed, he said, and the Rt. Rev. Douglas Theuner, Bishop of New Hampshire, began to berate him for his previous opposition to the consecration of the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson as bishop coadjutor. Fr. Wilson stated he was not leaving the Episcopal Church nor would he oppose visitations by Bishop Robinson, but he would not affirm the consecration to suit the bishop. The priest said Bishop Theuner chastised Fr. Wilson, reminding him that he was not a rector but a priest-in-charge. The bishop instructed Fr. Wilson to have the wardens lead a special parish meeting Oct. 26, called to discuss the Robinson consecration.

After Fr. Wilson said he would rather stay home and not attend the parish meeting, if he could not conduct it as priest-in-charge, Bishop Theuner instructed him to attend and be silent, adding that representatives from the diocese would monitor the proceedings. At the meeting members of the congregation voted 18-5 in protest to the Robinson consecration. Observers from the diocese, led by Canon Dyner, voided 18 absentee ballots. All 18 absentee ballots were cast in opposition to Bishop Robinson. The following week Bishop Theuner’s secretary telephoned Fr. Wilson to schedule a second meeting.

“I said I didn’t want to go to Concord and asked to meet in Rochester instead,” Fr. Wilson said. For refusing to agree to a second meeting in Concord, Fr. Wilson said he was summarily charged with “insubordination” and removed from his cure.

The confrontation between Canon Dyner and the parishioners at Redeemer follows a similar contretemps between Canon Dyner and members of St Mark’s, Ashland, over the American Anglican Council. Meredith Harwood, of Orford, N.H., said she attended a gathering of 30 New Hampshire Episcopalians and five clergy on Oct. 16 in a private home to discuss forming an AAC chapter. Canon Dyner insisted on joining the gathering and began to take notes of the conversation.

“We asked her to leave for a half hour, telling her it was a private meeting,” Mrs. Harwood said. “She refused, saying she wouldn’t leave unless the owner of the property asked her to leave. Canon Dyner told us, ‘It was not appropriate for a private organization to ask me to leave’.”

Canon Dyner said she attended the meeting in “a private capacity” and was there “to listen and learn.”

Accounts differ as to what words were exchanged. Canon Dyner said she could not remember any specific comments, but denied Mrs. Harwood’s charge that she told the gathering “You have no place to go” as she left the meeting.

“Bishop Theuner’s actions represent an act of war against a small church of 100,” commented AAC president the Rev. Canon David Anderson, who called upon Bishop Theuner to restore Fr. Wilson’s license. Bishop Robinson did not respond to a request for comments.