Brisbane's Anglican Archbishop, Dr Phillip Aspinall, has been accused of bullying in a discrimination complaint brought by a former church director, a tribunal has heard. Peta Smith, former executive director of the Anglican Schools Commission, lodged Anti-Discrimination Commission complaints in 2009, shortly before her five-year contract expired. The tribunal was told she held the Corporation of the Synod of Brisbane's Anglican Diocese vicariously liable for those who allegedly spread a rumour she was in a lesbian relationship with a colleague. Ms Smith also held the synod responsible for alleged victimisation, saying her contract was not renewed after her sex discrimination complaint was made. A summary of allegations filed in QCAT said Ms Smith claimed that after she told Archbishop Aspinall in February, 2008, about the alleged sexual discrimination his behaviour towards her changed. Ms Smith alleged the Archbishop isolated her, failed to respond to her emails, declined to discuss important issues and was "bullying, condescending and interrogating", the tribunal heard. She also alleged that after she complained to Bishop Geoff Smith he sent her blunt and harassing emails, berated her and failed to make meeting times, the tribunal was told.
I do hope these allegations against these two bishops prove to be completely false. Otherwise, both Aspinall and Smith will be guilty of the same hypocrisy and failure to live up to the standards of their office as Bishop McManus detailed in my post, BISHOP GETS SWEET DEAL, and that would show the Church in a very poor light. However, because of my own experience of an Anglican bishop using threats and legal technicalities to avoid my claim of disability discrimination against him (a case that would have been a slam dunk win for me if I had been employed by a secular institution), I have a strong suspicion, that whatever the outcome of the tribunal, there will have been some cause for complaint concerning the way the two bishops related to this woman for whom they had a duty of pastoral care.
I know we are all human and that diocesan officials and "senior staff" are no different to the rest of us in that respect. But the rest of us do not have as much potential of bringing the Church into disrepute as the important people possess. Whenever, I come across a case of a church authority ducking and weaving to avoid an accusation of misconduct my heart sinks. All the work that is put into telling people the good news about Jesus Christ is undermined every time such a church authority acts in a legalistic, conniving, less than honest way. It would be much better if the church authorities concerned took the teaching of scripture to heart and sought reconciliation and restitution with their accusers instead of forcing a court case in which their superior wealth, legal resources and influence give them the upper hand.
The problem is that senior staff within the church are far too often senior because they possess the same competitive, "I am never wrong" attitude as the heads of secular institutions and industry. I have personally come across more cold heartedness and plain nastiness in the corridors of power than I have ever encountered in the rank and file of the Church of England. The local vicar, standing in the pulpit, may be six feet above contradiction or whatever but the diocesan bishop is, at least, five miles high in his or her own accounting.
I came across the following letter, yesterday, that had been posted on the South African, BUSINESS DAY website. Again, I have no idea if the Reverend Jo Mdhlela's accusations against his former employer have any substance. However, the devious, sarcastic passive aggressiveness of the diocesan spin doctor's invective is something I have come across many times in the past, directed both towards others and myself. In particular pay attention to Fana Peete's final paragraph.
I recently read an article written by the Rev Jo Mdhlela. It was well written. However, it left me in disbelief and very shocked.
He appeared angry and bitter.
Rev Mdhlela is an ordained Anglican priest. He is a shepherd without a flock since his resignation from the church in 2010.
He has had a fallout with the Bishop of the Diocese of the Highveld and has now taken his battle with the church to the media. Were it not for this fallout, would he have said that about bishops? He should look for a mediator and reconcile with the bishops.
Rev Mdhlela has gone for the Bishop of Pretoria, Jo Seoka, calling him a dictator. Why? By his own admission, Rev Mdhlela has reached a conclusion "that the doors within the Anglican province seemed to have been slammed shut on me."
Did Rev Mdhlela really want to serve under a dictator? I can only come to one conclusion: Rev Mdhlela is a bitter man and he needs our prayers. Let us pray, reverend.
Pretoria Anglican Diocesan Media Officer
The line, "He appeared angry and bitter" really rings bells with me. I was discriminated against for having suffered from depression for ten years and eventually rendered unemployed by a man who didn't believe people who had suffered from any form of mental illness should have responsibility for a congregation. I got angry about this. I moved to a new diocese to start again only to be told repeatedly that I couldn't be given permission to officiate because I was angry. The irony of this situation appears to be completely lost on those causing it, as is the fact that I am the injured party. It should be the church authorities who seek reconciliation with me and offer restitution. However, that would entail them admitting that one of their number might have been in the wrong.
And in the Bible God admitted to getting it wrong more often than an Anglican bishop accepts he or she has got something wrong. Of course, the real wrong is that they are constantly telling others to admit their faults and to seek reconciliation with their fellow human beings, most especially their sisters and brothers in the faith.