Bishop Stuart Robinson leaves Canberra/Goulburn diocese

REACHING OUT: Bishop Stuart Robinson with then Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Alex Ridley at one of his business breakfasts last September.

REACHING OUT: Bishop Stuart Robinson with then Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Alex Ridley at one of his business breakfasts last September.

He’s the bloke you might see walking down the street with an affable smile ready for a chat any day of the week.

The collar gave him away but he wasn’t fussed if nobody knew his role.

That’s the aspect Bishop Stuart Robinson says he’ll miss about his time in Goulburn. The Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn will hang up his staff next Easter, March 31, after 10 years in the position.

“I’ll miss it very much,” he told The Post.

“One of the hardest things is leaving our little house and the various congregations at West Goulburn and F5 where we’ve built some wonderful relationships.”

That “little” house is in Bourke Street, where Bishop Robinson and his wife, Jane, a special education consultant, have lived since he took up the role. It represented a departure from the norm, whereby Bishops traditionally lived in Canberra.

“We thought it appropriate to be domiciled in a regional community given the fact that the diocese, despite having Canberra in the middle, is really a regional one,” he said.

“Being a part of the community has been a great thing and it’s afforded me the opportunity to be close to the cathedral but it’s also a good place to live in terms of getting to other parts of the diocese.”

In the same vein, F5 was established as a Christian fellowship group at Christ Church, West Goulburn and was especially aimed at those who wanted to re-engage with the church.

Asked why he was resigning, Bishop Robinson said 10 years in any executive role was as long as was appropriate. He plans to return to ministry, most likely in Sydney, where his ageing mother also lives.

In his typically modest way, Bishop Robinson lists his greatest achievement as simply working alongside people, the diocese’s “greatest resource,” encouraging them in their faith and learning from them.

He said he’d also greatly enjoyed the Bishop’s business breakfasts which allowed him to meet local business people and commend them for their contribution to the city, and the end of year Carols in the Park, which he described as a “hoot.”

But there have been challenges along the way.

Over the past three years the diocese has paid out more than $3 million to victims of sexual abuse. The acts committed by people within church ranks occurred 40 to 60 years ago. Some of the cases emerged from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 

“We’ve been confronted by the reality of the church’s sin...and I’ve had to directly engage with victims and I continue to do so,” Bishop Robinson said.

“We’ve rightly paid out millions of dollars to seek to care for people whose lives have been destroyed by careless church leaders and by inappropriate and ineffective church policies. That really has been a one of the defining features of my episcopate.

“The church has been seen to be an abuser but secondly an institution which has recognised its very grave errors and is seeking to redress them.”

On same-sex marriage, he said the diocese had tried to be even-handed, to recognise the wide variety of people in its congregations and to educate them. He was not one of the seven Bishops who recently wrote to MPs calling for stronger religious protections and declaring support for Senator Dean Smith’s bill. However Bishop Robinson said he backed maintenance of freedoms and laws that didn’t “inadvertently create further discrimination.”  

He will undertake his last duties at Easter, starting with the Walk with the Cross from Christ Church to Belmore Park for an open-air service. This will be followed by a service at 11am on Easter Saturday in Saint Saviour’s Cathedral at which he will lay up his pastoral staff.

Assistant Bishop and Vicar General Trevor Edwards will lead the diocese until a new Bishop is elected. That will occur later next year following formation of a committee, a selection process and a synod.

Bishop Robinson said it had been a privilege serving with such a “gifted group of assistant bishops” and his time in the diocese had been life-giving. 

“Each ministry I’ve had over the past 40 years has had its joys and challenges and I expect the next one will be as well,” he said.