Church of Australia Constitution Act 1961
(SA) (ACAC), which provides that the constitution, canons and rules of the Church in South Australia are binding on the bishops, clergy and laity of the Church in South Australia in matters relating to property. He held that matters of property included the right to appoint a member of clergy to a position with a benefice or salary (at ), and the licence held by a member of the clergy to conduct spiritual ceremonies on the property of the Church (at ). Therefore, these matters were within section 3 of ACAC. In addition, the National Constitution was appended to section 3 as a schedule, and was given legal effect by it (at ): It follows that s 3 of ACAC (SA) gives legal effect to the Anglican National Constitution, the constitution of Murray Diocese and the ordinances, canons and rules made under it in so far
as they govern those aspects of Mr Coote’s licences as a parish priest. Those instruments
legally bind Mr Coote...and the incumbents of the responsible offices of the Anglican
Church...in all matters affecting Mr Coote’s licence and autho
rity as rector of the parish.... His Honour also held that there was a contractual issue bound up in the fact that the licence held by the plaintiff carried with it a stipend, the loss of which would affect his financial well-being. Therefore, the issues were ones of property and the matter was thus justiciable on that basis.
Was there inconsistency between the Professional Standards Ordinance 2007 and the National Constitution?
The main issue here was whether the tribunal structure established under the National Constitution (at Chapter IX) was exclusive. His Honour held that there was no indication in the National Constitution that it was intended to deny diocesan synods of the Church the authority to establish such extra tribunals as might be thought necessary to exercise control over clergy. Although Chapter IX of the National Constitution maintained the tribunal structure of the
Church as a ‘bishops’ court’
, there was no indication that a narrow interpretation of this notion was required. Bishops had many and complex duties in the modern diocese, and such extra structures and procedures as were needed should be allowed to develop. His Honour said that the Professional Standards Ordinance
2007 was a good example of a ‘desirable additional procedure’.
Did the Professional Standards Ordinance 2007 authorise the enquiry which had taken place in this case?
The first defendant had argued that examination of the matters for which he had been suspended was time barred. After considering the history of the ordinances and canons preceding the Professional Standards Ordinance 2007 (the 2007 Ordinance) which had ultimately abolished time bars, His
Honour found that it clearly conferred an unlimited authority to examine conduct ‘whenever occurring’
affecting the fitness of members of the clergy to hold office. Therefore, there was no time bar.
The judgement of Gray J
Gray J agreed that section 23(1) of the Act applied to the Diocesan Synod. The first defendant, as a member of the Synod, was bound by its rules, including the Professional Standards Ordinance 2007. The rules were deemed a contract under the Act, and as such enlivened the jurisdiction of the court. His Honour held that this was sufficient in itself, without any necessity to consider the nature of the consensual compact underlying the Church. However, if he had been asked to do so he held that the effect under a consensual compact would have been the same (at ): ...it may be concluded that the Anglican Church of Australia is a voluntary association bound together by a consensual compact, that the rights of its members
depend on the terms and conditions of the compact, and that the terms and conditions constitute a contract