BEECHWORTH Anglican vicar Bethley Sullivan – much respected by her congregation and the wider community – expects to retire at Easter.
“There’s word out that I’ve resigned and I want to clarify what’s happening,” Mother Bethley told the Advertiser on Monday.
“I’ve put forward my intended retirement at Easter but, in the meantime, to be fair to the community at large and to the members of the church (in Beechworth and Eldorado), I am still the priest in charge and it’s Christ Church as usual.”
The vicar – with her distinctive and often-changing hair colour – has led the Beechworth and Eldorado Anglican faith communities for eight years.
She was ordained as priest within a month of her appointment in 2009 and, with her congregations and parish council, has rebuilt the Anglican denomination’s spiritual and temporal standing.
As the fifth deacon or priest in almost as many years at her appointment, Mother Bethley found the Beechworth parish “very traumatised”.
It had been unwittingly swept into the sexual abuse scandal that continues to engulf a number of Christian denominations.
Christ Church 2006-2008 locum priest Graham Sawyer has since won justice in Britain with the conviction of a disgraced English bishop on sexual assault charges – one against Reverend Sawyer when he was a young man.
Another priest, Graeme Lawrence, who served briefly in 2009 as acting rector at Christ Church and acting archdeacon of the Hume in Wangaratta diocese, has since been defrocked in Newcastle diocese as a result of the sexual abuse storm.
“I think ‘traumatised’ is probably a good word,” Mother Bethley said.
“The parish we have now is a parish of the community, a parish unified and a parish spiritual.”