A DEFROCKED priest has launched legal action against Newcastle Anglican diocese after his allegedly stolen diaries were used in a professional standards board case against him last year.
Former Terrigal parish priest John Gumbley issued summonses last week to two diocese representatives and a third person after he was stripped of holy orders in a board hearing in May last year that was closed to the public.
The hearing went ahead despite a letter from Mr Gumbley to Bishop Brian Farran in April last year alleging the diaries had been stolen, that the matter would be reported to police, and that it ‘‘may well open the diocese to legal action’’.
In a letter in response Bishop Farran said he was ‘‘not in a position to comment on the specific assertions that you make with respect to your journal, as much as they cause me concern’’.
Bishop Farran wrote that he raised the matter with diocese director of professional standards Michael Elliott, who said he had legal advice that ‘‘this material cannot be withheld from the professional standards board’’.
A decision about admitting the diaries as evidence before the board was ‘‘a matter for the board’’, Bishop Farran said.
Mr Gumbley was defrocked after the board considered a complaint from a woman who had been in a relationship with the priest, and had worked for the diocese.
Mr Gumbley denied allegations he had acted improperly.
In a complaint about Bishop Farran sent to the Anglican Church’s Episcopal Standards Commission, Mr Gumbley alleges he was denied natural justice during the investigation stage of the complaint against him, and at the board hearing.
The decision to defrock him was extreme and unjust, he said.
Defrocking a priest, or removing holy orders, is rare in the Anglican Church in Australia. Priests are more likely to have their licences revoked.
Mr Gumbley issued summonses this week before a preliminary discovery hearing in September to obtain a copy of the transcript of last year’s hearing, and the return of his diaries.