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  Home :: 2007 September :: Bishop facing threat of tribunal,25197,22429592-2702,00.html

Bishop facing threat of tribunal

THE head of the Anglican Church in Australia is considering setting up a special tribunal to examine complaints against an Anglican bishop and determine if he should be stripped of his holy orders.

Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall and Archbishop of Adelaide Jeffrey Driver have received a submission from parishioners urging them to establish the tribunal to determine the suitability of Ross Davies, Bishop of The Murray in South Australia, to continue in office.

If the tribunal finds against Bishop Davies, he could become only the second bishop of any denomination in Australia to be defrocked.

The submission by a group of Murray diocesan parishioners called the Voice of the Laity said the bishop had a "history of bullying, verbal and emotional abuse". The submission said there was concern at the support Bishop Davies had given the US-based ultra-conservative Traditional Anglican Communion, including his registration of TAC priests to practise in the diocese.

It said there had been a cover-up of alleged sexual abuse by former diocesan vicar-general Peter Coote. Bishop Davies was forced to stand  down Mr Coote in July following revelations by The Australian of allegations against him by three women.

The submission said clergy who have had the courage to stand up to Bishop Davies had been isolated or dismissed.

"The harm being done to the church and individual Christians can no longer be tolerated if the Anglican Church is to have any credibility as a caring and trustworthy organisation."

Dr Aspinall said he had consulted Archbishop Driver about the submission. "I will give due consideration to the matter and do all I can to ensure proper processes are followed and that the rights of all parties are respected," the primate said.

Anglican priest Andrew Notere said a tribunal on the conduct of Bishop Davies would be welcomed by priests and parishioners alike.

"There are many in the Murray diocese who have great concerns about how it is being run," said Father Notere, who was forced by the bishop to leave the Murray diocese and is now registered in the neighbouring Adelaide Diocese.

Bishop Davies declined to comment on the parishioners' submission, but diocesan lawyer John Harley said the bishop had handled the Coote matter appropriately. "The archdeacon was required by the bishop to attend counselling."

Mr Harley said the bishop did not believe there were grounds to establish a church tribunal into his conduct. "Charges under a tribunal can only relate to matters of faith, retreat, ceremony or discipline.There are no issues in any of these areas," he said.

In 2004, Anglican bishop Donald Shearman became the first Australian bishop to be defrocked. A tribunal initiated by Dr Aspinall established Mr Shearman behaved improperly by having sexual relations with a teenage girl in the 1950s.

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia