BULLYING claims have been levelled against the Perth Anglican Diocese over its treatment of Father Chris Bedding who was suspended over the weekend for “tones of blasphemy” in his social media and theatre performances.
In a show of solidarity this morning, supporters spoke in support of Father Bedding, known for his work as a stand-up comedian, an activist for same-sex marriage and asylum seeker rights and his irreverent sermons popular with his Darlington-Bellevue parish.
Uniting Church Minister Reverend Brenton Prigge said he was “shocked and outraged” by the treatment of Father Bedding.
“Every church leader I have spoken to is appalled at the treatment Chris Bedding has received,” he said.
“This is clearly an abuse of process.
“Ministry workers on the ground are too easily subject to this kind of mistreatment and bullying by those who have oversight of them.
“Current systems allow them to hide their lack of transparency and poor processes behind the guise of confidentiality.”
Comedian Paul ‘Werzel’ Montague said the church was “bullying” Father Bedding.
“At a time in Australian history when many Christian leaders have the credibility of pyramid scheme salesmen Chris Bedding stands amongst the precious few as the real deal,” he said.
“As an artist I find this kind of militant censorship contemptible.
“This bizarre and arcane attempt to silence a unique and valuable voice in our society is reminiscent of the Middle Ages.”
Unions WA president Steve McCartney said he would not stand by and watch Father Bedding be bullied by his boss.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a boss or a bishop; if you are a bully you shouldn’t be in the workplace,” he said.
“This particular bully should try and portray some of the compassion they put on to others and be compassionate to their workforce.”
Darlington parishioner Jill Mackenzie said the Anglican community supported Father Bedding and many churches had signed a petition to have him reinstated.
“The whole congregation are in absolute grief,” she said.
“The punishment the church are dishing out, even if he was guilty, is not fair, reasonable or rational in a court of law.
“His suspension is a loss for the wider community and people will walk away from the church.”
Father Bedding said he was grateful to everyone who had supported him.
“I urge everyone to stand up to bullies wherever they find them,” he said.
In a statement yesterday Perth Bishop Kate Wilmot stressed the matter was due to “clergy discipline” and Father Bedding had been suspended, pending the decision of the church’s professional standards board.
She said the process prescribed by the Professional Standards Statute (2015) was independent and confidential and further details could not be revealed.
“The Diocesan leadership will arrange for clerical and pastoral support for the parish until the matter is resolved,” she said.
“During suspension, (Father) Chris Bedding will continue to receive the stipend and benefits clergy are entitled to and he has been offered counselling and support.”
The Hills Gazette understands one complaint centres around Father Bedding’s involvement in a comedy routine called Pirate Church which he has performed at the Fringe Festival since 2011.