Leadership and Structure

The Church of Maitland-Newcastle is centred on Christ, the Cornerstone, and seeks always to live as a community of people with Leadership and Structure 

In the pages that follow we explore the fifth ‘Foundation’ of our life and mission as the church of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Our Story takes us to the Acts of the Apostles and reminds us of the kind of leadership the early church experienced.

Foundational Statements highlight the foundational principles upon which Christian leadership is based.

Concerns summarise the leadership and structure issues raised by diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council Listening and Dialogue Session as well as those who submitted written responses at the first session of our Diocesan Synod in November 2019.

Recommendations suggest what could be done to address the issues raised in the preceding section

Diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council and our Synod Listening and Dialogue recognised the need at all levels for servant leaders who are open to conversion, renewal, and reform. In particular, respondents called for renewed leadership, reformed governance, accountability, and transparency.

They want leaders who demonstrate dialogue, discernment, accountability, humility, inclusivity, transparency, and effective communication.

Respondents want a Church whose members work collaboratively and co-responsibly to address the pastoral needs of Australian Catholics and the broader society.

They want a Church whose members actively support those who are on the periphery and provide stewardship of creation.

They also spoke of the need to address clericalism and institutionalism, the equal participation of women and just remuneration of lay ministers.

Many expressed gratitude and encouragement for our clergy. Indeed, some are recognised as role models of Christian life and leadership.

Respondents spoke of the need to address our personal and institutional failures and the resulting shame, loss of credibility and trust in our Church. They asked for recognition of what the Diocese continues to do to support victims and survivors

Peter is to the fore on the day of Pentecost. The other apostles were ‘with him’ as he proclaimed the Good News boldly and taught with authority in Jesus’ name, calling the crowd to repentance.

Peter had earlier taken the lead to ensure the integrity of ‘the Twelve’ in God’s new structure. He initiated the prayer and the process for electing Matthias to replace Judas as witness to Jesus.

 ‘The Twelve’ saw to the commissioning of ‘the Seven’ to meet a need identified by members of the community, the neglect of certain widows. They called a full meeting of ‘the disciples’ and put their proposal which ‘the whole assembly’ approved and enacted to benefit the growing organism.

Peter, the Rock, and the other apostles are affirmed in their leadership and authority in the first community. All disciples, the whole assembly of the infant church, is actively involved in church life and closely united with their leaders in prayer, discernment, decision making and practice.

Paul established structured communities in the localities he evangelised. Women leaders, Lydia and Priscilla, feature in this story. Legitimate teaching authority was a prime concern for the late-comer ‘Apostle’. He appointed leaders to pass on what he had passed to them, the teaching he had received.

Paul himself deferred to the authority of the founding church community. He travelled to Jerusalem to submit an account of his teaching and practice concerning admission of pagans to the church. He was welcomed by the Jerusalem community and gave an account of what God had done through him. Some strongly opposed him. The outcome Paul sought was supported by Peter, ruled on by James, concurred with by ‘the whole church’ and ‘decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves’.

Peter had earlier given the apostles and ‘the brothers’ an account of his boldness in baptising Roman pagans. His ‘point by point’ details of the Holy Spirit’s intervention convinced the community of the rightness of his course of action. They could only defer to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Leaders at the service of mission and community featured prominently in the early church.

Equally characteristic was prayerful communal discernment resulting in consensus decisions on major issues which determined the future direction of the church.

The people of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are successors and inheritors of the first Christians.

We have heard the Good News of the Father’s love for us and have taken it to heart. We have united with Jesus and all who are one with him through Baptism. We live out our faith in communal and personal prayer, and through communal and personal service to one another and our society.

We have a variety of ministries and roles, and a variety of talents and charisms, all contributing to the building up of our unity in faith and love as members of Christ’s Body.

As Christ’s community we are hierarchical in a hierarchy of service. As Christ’s community we are not dominated, but served by those appointed by Christ to ministry. We are not dictated to, but are led to discern together the way of Christ into the future.

Our Bishop has surrounded himself with consultative forums, such as the Council for Mission, which enable him and us to identify and address issues concerning the life and mission of our local church. All of us together, immersed in the life of God through baptism into our church community, are inspired and endowed to share in the mission to all humanity which Jesus received from his Father.

We seek to discover the signs of God’s presence and purpose in our world. This includes being open to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church through the hearts and minds of God’s people.

Our world needs to be healed not only of the present virus, but also of the social ills of inequality, injustice and exclusion that afflict so many of our brothers and sisters in the human family.  (Pope Francis 30 September 2020).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults…Together with those efforts, every one of the baptised should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does (Pope Francis, Letter to the People of God Aug 2018).

Clericalism flourishes in contexts where the lay faithful are excluded or marginalised and adopt a posture of subservience.  (The Light from the Southern Cross p 65).

We see leadership as a ministry of service, emulating the servant leadership of Christ. 

The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them  … It must not be so among you for whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve… (Mt 20:25-28).

Since the primary responsibility of all governing bodies in the Church is to nourish and serve the mission of the whole community, those who exercise authority in the Church must always be open to a deeper conversion to the grace of the Holy Spirit.  (Light from the Southern Cross p 31).

The shepherd has the ability to go in front of the flock to show the way, stay in the middle of the flock to see what happens within, and also be at the rear of the flock to make sure that no one is left behind.  (Pope Francis September 2019).

Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path? If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.   (Pope Francis We Need You in Washington, D.C. 26 September 2013).

We welcome Pope Francis’ insistent call for a synodal church that involves the whole People of God in its life and mission.

In the light of Christ’s teaching, we have seen the importance of solidarity, subsidiarity and respect for human dignity for the shaping of a society in accord with the values of God’s Kingdom, a society that gives priority to its poorest and most vulnerable members, and to the responsible stewardship of the goods of creation.  (Pope Francis 30 September 2020).

…we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.  (Pope Francis The Joy of the Gospel 103).

We embrace the principle of subsidiarity: involvement and decision making belong as close as possible to those the decision affects.

The Synod process begins by listening to the people of God…according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: What touches all should be considered and approved by all.  (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium Light to the Nations 12).

To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least….this principle allows everyone to assume his or her own role for the healing and destiny of society….  (Pope Francis General Audience 23 September 2020).

We seek to arrive at decisions which all can accept gracefully and support wholeheartedly (even if some wish the decision had been different)  because they know the group honestly searched together for the Spirit of God in and for the life of the community.

Discernment of the Spirit…listens to others so as to learn, is sensitive to all approaches, encourages collaboration rather than competition and aims not at majority vote but consensus.    It recognises that each participant has a part of the truth and a share of the wisdom by reason of each one’s unique experience of God in life, union with Christ and gifts of the Spirit.   (Archbishop F Carroll, Canberra-Goulburn Synod, 1989).

How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit…? The only way is through discernment, which calls for something more than intelligence or common sense. When we seek to develop it through prayer, reflection, reading and good counsel, then surely, we will grow in this spiritual endowment. (Pope Francis Rejoice and Be Glad 166).

We accept individual and communal responsibility for our decisions and actions, our personal gifts and the gifts of creation.

Stewardship is integral to the mission of the Church; it is a fundamental tenet of the Church’s spirituality. Stewardship does not suggest ‘ownership’ but a responsibility for service that aims to nurture a gift from another, from the God who initiates the relationship of friendship with humanity.   (The Light from the Southern Cross  p 2).

Contemporary standards of good governance require that the Church’s structures and practices of governance are more accountable, more transparent, more meaningfully consultative and more participatory, including at the diocesan and parish level.   (The Light from the Southern Cross p 50).

LS 1.1 That the Diocese develop leadership and governance principles and guidelines that reflect our listening and dialogue processes, scripture, tradition, and teachings of the Church.
LS 1.2 That these principles and guidelines acknowledge and affirm women’s participation in leadership, decision making and ministry.
LS 1.3 That the principles and guidelines reflect the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those on the periphery.
LS 1.4 That the principles and guidelines recognise the interconnection of all living things and foster stewardship of the creation.
LS 1.5 That the principles and guidelines direct cultural change, spiritual reform, and formation and training for leadership.

LS 2.1 That a commitment to reform of leadership and governance adopts the principles of synodality, dialogue, discernment, accountability, humility, inclusivity, transparency, and effective communication.

LS 3.1 That the Diocese acknowledges and affirms the innate dignity and equality of women by virtue of their baptism and their right to participate in leadership, decision making and ministry.

LS 4.1 That formation programs be implemented for lay and clerical leaders, consistent with the principles and guidelines for renewed leadership, reformed governance, accountability, and transparency.

LS 5.1 That leadership and governance be externally audited and reported annually.
LS 5.2 That all management structures be reviewed and reformed in accordance with diocesan governance principles and guidelines.
LS 5.3 That guidelines for parish governance and management be developed in line with diocesan principles and guidelines.
LS 5.4 That a robust feedback and appeals process be established.

LS 6.1 That relationships between parishes and all aspects of diocesan life be reviewed and reformed.

LS 7.1 That we accept and honour the findings and recommendations of the royal commission.
LS 7.2 That diocesan structures are founded on service to the people of God.
LS 7.3 That the diocesan community acknowledges the great damage done by sexual abuse and cover-up, seeks reconciliation and healing, and commits to keeping people safe.

LS 8.1 That the Diocese, its agencies, and ministries engage in open dialogue regarding the positive points and challenges of our modern secular age.
LS 8.2 That the Diocese deals with contemporary issues from a Christ-centred empathic perspective, openness to a plurality of views and new ways to educate and explain Church teaching.
LS 8.3 That the Diocese be open to better community engagement practices.

LS 9.1 That the Synod process inform our responses to the Plenary Council.


An error has been noted Error Noted to LS 4.1 which was a repeat of LS 2.1

LS 4.1 should read:


LS 4.1 – That formation programs be implemented for lay and clerical leaders, consistent with the principles and guidelines for renewed leadership, reformed governance, accountability, and transparency. – Accepted

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