An Anglican priest has been stripped of his holy orders and suspended by the church amid ‘disturbing’ allegations of assault, bullying and bullying for two decades.
- The Anglican Church’s Professional Standards Board has suspended the Reverend Chris Bird
- It is alleged that Father Bird assaulted, bullied and intimidated members of the church and the public
- Bishop Peter Stuart says inquiry report ‘makes disturbing reading’
A church-led investigation looked into the conduct of Father Chris Bird, a former priest at St Stephens Church in the Newcastle suburb of Adamstown, in relation to several alleged incidents.
Father Bird did not participate in the Professional Standards Board’s investigation, with his doctor saying he was not medically fit to do so.
The ABC could not contact him.
Council found Father Bird failed in 2018 to provide pastoral care or report information to police and church after a man in his 20s came to him alleging he had been sexually assaulted in a car by the former Dean of Newcastle, Bishop Graeme Lawrence.
Lawrence was jailed in 2019 for the sexual assault of a teenager in the 1990s.
Threats of aggression and intimidation
In another alleged case, the council found Father Bird “harassed and assaulted” Steven Smith during an Anglican synod in 2016.
Mr Smith had been abused by another Anglican priest in the 1970s.
In a statement to the church’s standards committee, Mr Smith said Father Bird stared at him for a long time, then stood beside him and “deliberately, forcefully pressed his left elbow in the side of my belly”.
“He used enough force to push me forward and quickly pull my arm across my body to shield me from him,” the statement read.
“Then he just stood there. We didn’t talk. I was pissed off, upset.”
Council found that Father Bird also assaulted another witness in 1986 while teaching a theology course at Newcastle Grammar School.
It is alleged that he grabbed a 13-year-old girl’s bra strap “on more than one occasion”.
“He pinched my bra strap and the skin on my shoulder with his fingers and held it for a while,” she told the board.
The council also found the priest engaged in “intimidating and threatening” behavior when he approached a woman in August 2013, while she was working in the administration of the Anglican diocese.
The woman explained how she was working on documents for the Office of Professional Standards when she was approached from behind by Father Bird who said, “What are you doing getting involved in all this? I know where your kids go to school and where you live.”
Father Bird has been stripped of Holy Orders and suspended from any church service until he can prove to the Anglican Church that he has been rehabilitated.
Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart said the adverse findings against Father Bird gave him an opportunity to show remorse for his conduct.
“The report makes for disturbing reading,” Bishop Stuart said in a statement.
“I commend those who experienced these actions for coming forward.”