News last night that my friend of more than thirty years, the Right Reverend Ross Davies, has resigned as Bishop of The Murray.
Over the last year, a Special Tribunal of the Anglican Church has been meeting to consider charges brought against Bishop Davies by the Archbishop of Adelaide and the Bishop of Willochra.
These charges included disgraceful conduct, wilful violation of church ordinances and wilful and habitual disregard of his consecration vows.
The Tribunal was to hand down its findings today.
It is not clear whether the Tribunal will still make its findings public. That the Bishop has accepted a payout of $150,000, whereas up till now he had been insisting he would not leave unless given close to $1 million, suggests that a deal may have been done – ‘Leave now, and leave with some diginity, or …’
There seems little doubt that the charges would have been upheld. This would have given The Murray’s Diocesan Council grounds to reaffirm its earlier vote of no confidence, and a firm basis for his dismissal.
I am still concerned for Ross’ well-being. He must be dreadfully confused and unhappy. He seems unable to see or believe that he could have changed the outcome by changing the way he behaved.
Even at the beginning of this year, if he had genuinely apologised for (and not the previous ‘I’m sorry if anyone is upset’ kind of apology) the bullying and manipulation, lies, vindictiveness and financial mismanagement, and promised to try to undo the harm he had done, and genuinely tried to do so, he could have stayed in office with the good will of both people and clergy.
There has always been a great deal of respect for the office of Bishop, and a great deal of caution and compassion in the way some very difficult issues have been handled. Credit to Archbishop Jeffrey and Bishop Garry for their attempts to juggle care for Bishop Davies, justice for the Diocese of The Murray, and proper and open processes.
I have been grateful too, as have others, for the enormous amount of work the Voice of the Laity has done, for the fair-mindedness it has shown all the way through, and for its steadfastness in the face of constant and often unpleasant opposition.
This outcome is not something to celebrate, yet many people, and faithful lay people in particular, have worked hard to find a way for Bishop Davies and the Diocese to move forward. That will now be possible.
No deal was made. The Bishop has demanded that the Tribunal drop the charges against him. His resignation seems to have been an attempt to forestall the tribunal’s making, or making public, any findings against him.
His argument seems to be that since he has resigned, and purports to have relinquished his holy orders (something he cannot do, as he knows), the Tribunal now has no jurisdiction over him, and cannot properly investigate any claims against him, nor make any findings on the basis of those claims.
He is wrong.
The claims relate to Ross Davies’ behaviour when he was Bishop of The Murray. The Tribunal has not only the right, but the responsibility, to investigate those charges, and if the evidence warrants doing so, to make appropriate findings and recommendations.
The Tribunal has found eight of the nine charges against Bishop Davies proven, and recommended he be removed from office.
Disgraceful conduct in this context means behaviour which, if known, would bring the Church into disrepute.
The tribunal found he bullied and threatened parishioners and regularly attended services for other denominations.
‘Regularly attended services for other denominations’ sounds trivial.
But it was more that he regularly attended other churches in Adelaide when churches in his own rural diocese had no priest, and it was part of his duty as Bishop to provide them with ministry.
A sad day, but a new beginning for the Diocese of the Murray.
A last update to this story. This is a link to the findings of the Special Tribunal. This document is in the public domain.
I am glad that there has been official recognition of the emotional abuse suffered by lay people and clergy over the last ten years. That recognition and validation is an important step in their healing, and a public demonstration of the church’s commitment to justice even in the most difficult circumstances.
However, I am sorry that every member of the Tribunal was from the liberal wing of the church.
The document linked above makes it clear that theological matters did not enter their considerations at all.
But perception matters, and the perception of fairness matters. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that the only two conservative anglo-catholic bishops in Australia have been forced out of office this year.
Given the view in some quarters that there is widespread persecution of traditionalist anglo-catholics in the Anglican Church of Australia, it was foolish not to take every possible step to ensure that the proceedings which led to those outcomes were above criticism.
Having said that, it is entirely possible that the Archbishop and the Primate did seek a credible, experienced conservative to sit on the Tribunal, and were unable to find one willing to do so.
I am sure Ross will now seek to be received into the Roman Catholic Church.
I hope they will find a ministry for him. He is a gifted teacher and administrator. It would a great pity if those abilties were lost.
What a nasty attitude you portray.
What a nasty way of writing you have. You have no sense of love or charity in your article.
Do you have any idea, Dorothy, of what people in the diocese have been through over the last sven years?
Given the shouting, swearing, and manipulation they have put up with, it is astonishing, and a real Christian witness, that they have been so considerate and careful with the well-being of a man who had no concern for theirs.
Peter’s article is more than fair to the bishop. It is the bishop, ex bishop now, thankfully, who has been nasty.
Talk about the glove on the wrong foot. Either Dorothy knows nothing about events in the Diocese, or Dorothy is the bishop!
Duh! Of course. Dorothy Crozier has to be a bishop in OZ, and no other bishop would write that way.
Always someone else’s fault, anyone who doesn’t think what he thinks or do what he wants is ‘nasty’.
What a pity he was never able to see who his real friends were.
If Bishop Davies is Dorothy, and if the news reports about his claims and attitudes are right, he is still insisting he hasn’t done anything wrong. No church group can give him a public ministry until he has fully and publicly repented, and made reparations to his victims. It is up to him whether his abilities are wasted. I feel sorry for him, but not as sorry as I do for the harm he has done.
Ross Davies demands for himself the compassion and fairness he never gave to anyone else. Give him a fair go, that what should be done as Christians, but I think the well being of his victims is more important at the moment. What are archbishop Driver and Aspinall doing to help them?
I am not the Bishop – it is obviously a sign of your state of mind Alex and Damian that you try and see duplicity in everything.
My comment stands and I stand by it. The above blog is nasty, vindictive and lacks charity – oh and if I have little knowledge of what is going on in your diocese then that shows even more how you and this article is seen by the WIDER Church. Please remember you are part of a universal Church and the vile shown above is a wound to us all.
‘the vile shown above’ ? !
Dorothy, or whoever you are, there is no ‘vile’ shown above.
The post and following comments all express concern for bishop Davies, which considering teh way he has behaved, is little short of amazing.
Our state of mind, for heaven’s sake? It is the constant lies and manipulation since that man was elected that makes people suspect duplicity.
Dorothy, I have looked through my post, and I honestly don’t think there is anything in it that could be construed as vindictive, or indicative of bile (I assume that’s what you meant).
If you think I have any of the facts wrong, please let me know, and I will correct them.
It is important, of course, to be just to Bishop Davies, and I have been concerned that the processes of the Tribunal be fair, and be seen to be fair.
It is also important, as a matter of justice, and as a precursor to healing, that the terrible harm done during his incumbency to the catholic movement in the Anglican church of Australia, to the Diocese of The Murray, and to many individual men and women, be acknowledged.
There have been hundreds of complaints to the Archbishop and the Primate in Ross Davies’ time as bishop, alleging bullying, dishonesty, and verbal and spiritual abuse.
I know it may be hurtful to Bishop Davies to acknowledge these things. But he chose to act in the ways he did. Those who were victimised did not have that choice. It is not fair to the many who have been so badly harmed to pretend the lies and insults and abuse did not happen, or were not important.
I am thankful, though with a sorrowing heart, that the Diocese can have a new start, and pray daily for healing for the Diocese, and for Bishop Davies and his family.
Looking back at this blog and realising that you are still a vile man. But didn’t you have an affair whilst married?
Thanks Dorothy. I am sorry you are still so unhappy.