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South Australian bishop suspended after recent secret marriage to priest

12 January 2024

Diocese of The Murray

The Bishop of The Murray, the Rt Revd Keith Dalby

The Bishop of The Murray, the Rt Revd Keith Dalby

THE Bishop of The Murray, in South Australia, the Rt Revd Keith Dalby, has been stood aside pending an investigation into his recent secret marriage to a woman priest. He says that he has been asked to resign.

Bishop Dalby, who is 62, and the Revd Alison Dutton, who is 43 — and whom he ordained last year — were married by a civil celebrant in Port Douglas, Queensland, in August, ten days after her ordination. The diocese was not made aware of the marriage until December.

Formerly the rector of a Sydney parish, Bishop Dalby was installed as Bishop of The Murray in 2019. His first marriage broke down in 2021.

Ms Dutton, who was ordained deacon in 2022, was one of three women ordained priest — the first women priests in the diocese — on 12 August last year.

Last June, the diocesan synod voted by 57 to four, without debate, to adopt the 1992 General Synod canon providing for women priests, overturning the diocese’s long-held opposition (News, 16 June 2023). The Murray, a small regional conservative Anglo-Catholic diocese, had had close links to the diocese of Sydney because of its previous opposition to women priests.

Bishop Dalby has said that the issue for the diocese in relation to his marriage was that “they believed I had withheld information from them, I deceived them, that I’d lied to them, and so they lost their confidence in me as the Bishop.”

In a statement, a diocesan spokesman said that the diocese was working through the matters in line with the procedures and protocols of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The Church’s Primate, the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Revd Geoffrey Smith, said that a situation such as this “raises questions around transparency, conflicts of interest, professional boundaries, and trust”. The Church had a code of conduct that guided appropriate clergy behaviour, and Episcopal Standards processes to respond when standards were breached.

“It is unfortunate that the current situation in the diocese of The Murray is likely to be destabilising for the diocese, cause distress and confusion among people of the diocese, and will not assist the mission of the Church. I continue to pray for a resolution which provides a just outcome, and the capacity for the diocese to move forward in its ministry,” Archbishop Smith said.

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