Church Rift

By Ben Brennan
Murray Valley Standard
March 30, 2009

THE Archbishop of Adelaide will launch a "preliminary investigation" into a long running rift between Murraylands Anglican church members and Murray Diocese Bishop Ross Davies.

In a carefully worded statement, Archbishop Doctor Jeffrey Driver said the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the Murray had asked him to consider ways to resolve the issues between Bishop Davies and his parishioners.

"A preliminary investigation will take place in the first instance to enable me, and those advising me, to understand the issues and determine how best to proceed," he said.

"It is important that this be a thorough, timely and appropriate process and at arms length to both me and the Diocese of the Murray."

A spokesperson for Dr Driver said he would not expand on the statement or list specific issues.

Bishop Davies has previously faced calls to resign following his unexpected sacking of priest Peter Wales.

There was more tension between the bishop and church members several months later when it was claimed he mishandled sexual abuse allegations against Archdeacon Peter Coote.

Parishioners also raised questions about the size of the Bishop's "See Fund" in February 2008.

Most recently they were angered when Archdeacon Michael Whiting resigned without explanation in December last year.

A group of about 200 Murraylands parishioners, known as the Voice of the Laity, have been calling for Bishop Davies' dismissal since 2007.

Spokesperson for the group Lee Lyons said she was pleased to see the archbishop was taking action but expected it would be a slow process.

"I am pleased that there is an indication there will be action, but I can't jump up and down because I believe it's over only when the fat lady sings," Mrs Lyons said.

"I don't feel I can say I am so pleased that something will happen yet but I am pleased it's got to a stage where it might be finished."

She said the group's objective remained to have Bishop Davies removed.

Dr Driver will now appoint an investigator to receive information from the members of the diocese and to report back to the Archbishop.

He will then consider if there is sufficient evidence of malpractice to justify a charge against the Bishop before the Special Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia.

A spokesperson for Bishop Davies said the bishop had not been informed of the specific issues mentioned in Dr Driver's statement and, as such, was unable to comment.


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