NEWCASTLE Anglican Bishop Brian Farran has been called to give evidence in the NSW Supreme Court after controversial church disciplinary hearings in December against four clergy, including retired Newcastle Dean Graeme Lawrence.
Solicitors for Father Lawrence and Cardiff priest Graeme Sturt have advised the bishop to be available for cross-examination at a Supreme Court hearing set to start on Thursday, after the court granted the priests an injunction in December following professional standards board determinations against them.
Solicitors for the diocese are expected to seek an adjournment in the court today and Bishop Farran, who is overseas, is not expected to return to Newcastle until later this month.
The Anglican Church's defence includes that the NSW Supreme Court does not have "supervisory jurisdiction" to determine the priests' claims or, if the court finds that it does, the church has asked it not to exercise that power.
The Supreme Court will consider the priests' claims that the diocese had a case to answer over its handling of disciplinary hearings after the diocese investigated allegations against them in 2009 of inappropriate behaviour with a child in the early 1980s.
Both priests denied the allegations.
Their case names Bishop Farran as first defendant. Other defendants are retired NSW magistrate and professional standards board president Colin Elliott, University of Newcastle Chancellor and board member Trevor Waring, and board member Barbara Howard.
In a statement of claim Father Lawrence and Father Sturt alleged the board was "affected by actual bias against" Father Lawrence and had prejudged the allegations against him.
They alleged the board denied both priests procedural fairness and made an error in law in drawing an inference that Father Sturt "must have known" about alleged misconduct of other priests.
The priests alleged retired NSW policeman Phil Lloyd breached his duties as a prosecutor by using language to "inflame" the board against them.
They have sought an order to permanently restrain the bishop and the diocese from any future action over the original allegations made against them.
In defence documents Bishop Farran and the three board members denied the priests were entitled to any relief or damages from matters raised in their statement of claim.