Sued by the Church? The Anglican Church of Sydney v Father Dave?


Many became aware, through an article published in the Daily Telegraph in December 2000, that my family was involed in certain legal struggles with the Sydney Anglican Church Diocese. The Telegraph article stated that we were being sued by the diocese for $750,000 and that I was consequently facing bankruptcy and the possible loss of my priesthood (to see the full Telegraph article, click here).

In the February edition of the Diocesan newspaper, Southern Cross, a brief article was printed indicating that an official apology had been sought from the Telegraph for their publishing of the above-mentioned article. While Southern Cross did not go into any detail as to why the apology had been sought, it did indicate that the Telegraph article had been inaccurate and misleading (to read the actual letter written to the Telegraph seeking an apology, click here to go to the correct page on the Diocesan website).

The effect of this article was to suggest to many that their concerns for our welfare had been unfounded, and that we were not facing potential bankruptcy. This was unfortunately not true. The matter was certainly still before the court at that stage. The Church Property Trust did indeed have a cross-claim against us, and we were facing possible bankruptcy.

I responded to the Southern Cross article by writing at length to the editor, objecting to the article about the apology and making clear our situation. Southern Cross did not publish my letter. A number of other informed and sympathetic persons, including a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee, also wrote letters to the editor on this matter. Southern Cross did not publish any of these letters (to see my letter, click here, to read some of the other letters, click here).

The matter was finally resolved, at a legal level at least, in late August 2001. We were ‘let out’ of the case altogether, and the Diocesan solicitors were obliged to pay our costs. Indeed, after two years of legal wrangling with us, the Diocesan solicitors admitted that they had made a mistake in bringing us into the case in the first place. This yielded some small degree of satisfaction for me, though not so much as to compensate for the years of stress the case had caused my familiy, let alone the affect it must have had on my father, whose premature death must certainly have been hastened through the process.

A greater degree of satisfaction for me would come from an apology from Southern Cross or from the Diocesan hierarchy itself. This, I presume, will never be forthcoming, as the diocese would no doubt fear the legal implications of a formal apology.

The only lasting satisfaction though that I could gain from this experience would be from seeing that the case inspired some process of reform within the Sydney Anglican church, such as would prevent this sort of thing ever happening again.

I don’t pretend to understand church politics, and I recognise that if change is going to take place, that it will only be through the initiatives of others more capable than myself in this area. What is contained in these pages may prove a useful resource to someone who is willing and able to become involved in the reform process. I commend them to you.

If you’d like to read my brief ‘fact sheet’ on the history of the case, click here.

To read my own wish-list for reforms click here.

Rev. David B. Smith

Parish priest, community worker,
martial arts master, pro boxer,
author, father of four.


About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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