Priest resigns from Gippsland Cathedral

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We got word a while ago that the Rev. Stuart Lawson had resigned his position as Honorary Assistant Priest at the diocesan cathedral in Gippsland (and is still listed on their staff page as of the time of writing), ostensibly over the appointment of Rev. David Head. I wanted to clarify the situation and Rev. Lawson was good enough to answer some of my questions. The interview is fascinating for its insights into wider issues in Gippsland Diocese.

My questions in italics,Rev. Lawson’s responses in blockquotes.

Is it true that you have resigned from your position at the Cathedral?

Yes. And from the Anglican Church of Australia.

What prompted that resignation?

As I wrote in my letter to the bishop, the appointment of a homosexual in an open relationship was only the tipping point in my considerations.  Moves within the Anglican church, not only in Australia but also overseas, on other issues related to this, and creeping syncretism, has continued to cause me some unease over the last year.

What are your ongoing plans for ministry?

I firmly believe that I have a continuing ministry role, particularly amongst those folk who share similar feeling to those that I have.  Already I have had many calls from within the parish and across the diocese, and even some from outside.  As far as the future goes, I have now been licenced by the Anglican Episcopal Church International and have already a sizeable congregation meeting here in Sale, made up of some who have left the Anglican Church of Australia, and surprisingly, about a third who have come from others, including some who had walked away from their own churches many years ago over similar issues.  We seem to have struck a chord in people’s lives and intend pushing on with letting others know about our direction.

The Anglican Episcopal Church is a member of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

What’s clear from Rev. Lawson’s comments and backed up by regular reports I get from others is that the issues in Gippsland extend far beyond where the bishop stands on human sexuality. What Lawson describes as “creeping syncretism” should sound awfully familiar to many TEC survivors.

The Australian House of Bishops also finished a 3 day meeting today (Thursday). We’ll obviously let you know any news we get out of there.

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  1. Andrew Reid

    Wow…that is interesting. I have to say I’m a bit concerned with this AEC International church. I can understand Rev. Lawson leaving the diocese, but the ACA is still worth fighting for. What is even more concerning is that they have joined the FCA. I don’t know if that means they have simply signed the Jerusalem declaration or that there is more official recognition. Archbishop Jensen is secretary to the FCA Primates’ Council, and I doubt he would promote a breakaway church. My understanding was that FCA was to act as a movement within the Anglican Communion, unless there were compelling reasons otherwise, eg ACNA is response to doctrinal heresy. It looks pretty small in the scheme of things, but in times of crisis like this things can get taken out of perspective.

  2. David Ould

    I think that’s more than fair comment, Andrew.
    But what’s the alternative? Oversight from another bishop? That might also get “taken out of perspective”. Don’t get me wrong, I personally think it’s a reasonable solution but it does up the ante somewhat.

  3. Lucy McWhirter Browne

    It is clear to those who know Rev Stuart Lawson that he has a strong faith and his decision to leave the Anglican Church in Australia would not have been taken lightly. As someone who made the choice to stop attending an Anglican parish within the diocese of Gippsland I can completely understand Stuart’s recent actions. As much as I appreciate and agree with peoples’ desire to maintain the traditions within the Anglican church and speak out against the licensing of gay priests, my own concern was that I came to a realisation that I was compromising my faith. When I began attending services at the Anglican church I was aware that there were people within the parish who held liberal views. A few years earlier I had listened to a group of women at a house Bible study group discussing their belief that Muslims and Mormons were just like ‘us’ and all praying to the same God. I mistakingly believed that worshipping at a church with people holding such views would have no impact on me or my family. I was wrong. Last year my husband attended a study group with other men and when the issue of homosexuality came up it was clear that others did not hold the same biblical views as his. Again I convinced myself that this would have no impact on my own faith. Last month when we were made aware of Rev Head’s appointment (we saw it on a gay online magazine) we had to give serious thought about what was actually happening in our lives and our walk with God. Leaving a church in these circumstances is never an easy option. I was drawn to 2 verses of scripture. John 14:1, ‘Do not let your heart be troubled, trust in God trust also in me’ and Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’ Recently I looked in detail at the Gippsland Diocese website and noticed that there is an Anam Cara community group. Now because I do not know exactly what goes on here or a great deal about Anam Cara, other than it appears to be some kind of ancient soul bonding I cannot really give my view. I do find it odd however that one of the leaders, a ‘spiritual director’ has an interest in Buddhism and also has a link titled ‘The Spiritual Solution’ that goes to a page that promotes the use of Tarot Card reading as a way of achieving ‘Anam Cara’. I believe that while God is calling some people out of such dioceses he is continuing to work within the lives of those who remain in them and we have to respect this.

  4. Joshua Bovis


    Could this issue be the flashpoint for the ACA just as Gene Robinson was in the USA? Although some may think what TEC did was far more significant. I think what happened in Gippsland is significant because of prior events. What I am trying to say is, in light of the all that has happened (and is happening) within the Anglican communion, the appointment of Rev. David Head could have rather large consequences and outcomes for the ACA.

    1. David Ould

      Joshua, I think you could be right. It does appear to be becoming the touch paper for an explosion that has been simmering for a while. The next thing to watch is what the bishops say, if anything at all.

  5. Rob Lawson

    Rev Stuart James Lawson there is nothing good to say about the man.
    I’m his son and I know….

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