The following statement was released by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in response to the segment aired by A Current Affair on February 24th, 2021, and can be found on the Current Affair website.
Our policy around marriage breakdown does not involve blame or sacking. But in the close-knit community of a church congregation, the breakdown of the rector’s marriage causes wider relational difficulties and so usually leads to the minister changing roles, in the interests of the congregation. After the breakdown of Father Dave’s second marriage, several factors meant that in this case, a continuing role was not available in his parish. A minister is financially supported by the members of the congregation. When a minister loses the confidence of his congregation, they are no longer willing to support him. The parish generously provided Father Dave with a stipend and free housing for twelve months to help him find a new job. The diocese also agreed to continue his licence for ministry so he could take up a new role. Father Dave is now fund raising for the next phase of his ministry, and we wish him well in this.
I believe this is a disingenuous statement that contains multiple falsehoods. I will address the three key points individually:
- Our policy around marriage breakdown does not involve blame or sacking.
This is false. The policy is (and always has been) that clergy will normally lose their license if their marriage breaks down. This was reaffirmed to my by Bishop Stead when I first notified him of the impending separation and he is quoted as reaffirming it in the Guardian article of November 14, 2020:
“The bishop of the southern region, Michael Stead, did not dispute that Smith’s 30-year career as rector of Holy Trinity in Dulwich Hill was over because he and his wife had split…
Stead said Smith’s position had become untenable on biblical grounds, citing 1 Timothy 3:5: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?””
I was told by the same bishop that if I could even show that my wife and I were in counselling by the end of 2018, my license would be extended. To say that my termination was not due to the marriage breakdown is a simple falsehood.
- When a minister loses the confidence of his congregation, they are no longer willing to support him
I would contest that I had not lost the confidence of my congregation. Indeed, a petition was presented to Bishop Stead, signed by at least half the active members of the congregation, asking that I might retain my position. It was made clear to the petitioners then that my future was not theirs to decide.
I certainly had at least one opponent in the congregation, and had had for a number of years. That person’s influence grew considerably after my separation, and particularly after my position was terminated. Even so, I have no doubt that those who opposed me would have settled down had I had the support of the bishop to continue.
- The parish generously provided Father Dave with a stipend and free housing for twelve months to help him find a new job.
This is false.
After my forced resignation on April 19,2020, I was not told to look for a new job but was told that I would take up the position of Assistant Minister to the new incumbent. I soon discovered though that I was not being permitted to continue in ministry in the parish in any capacity, though I did try to continue to minister to the broader community.
I received the part-time stipend and accommodation that came with the position that I had, even if it was only on paper, and that stipend was later supplemented with long service leave payments due to me.
My employment ceased entirely on December 31st, 2020 (not a year, but eight months after my resignation) and no payments were made after that date. The extended housing was in lieu of a $10,000 severance payment that the Parish Council had agreed to in February 2020. In other words, the housing was not free and the stipend was never generous.
DBS February 26th, 2021