Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 18 November 2017

Simon Butler ViaMedia.News My Confusion Regarding Claims of Sexual Harassment

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of teaching

Bosco Peters Liturgy Submission on Blessing Same-Sex Couples

Jonathan Draper Afterthoughts Purity Cults: death by a thousand cuts

Jeremy Morris via Media.News How Do Churches Die?

Ian Paul Psephizo Jesus was not born in a stable (honest!)

Martyn Percy Archbishop Cranmer How Bishop George Bell became a victim of Church of England ‘spin’ and a narrative of ‘decisive leadership’

Rachel Mann Celebrating Rainbow Lives: Can the C of E be more like the NHS?

Madeleine Davies “hears how choirs are drawing children, and their families, into the life of the Church of England” Church Times From the choir stalls to the altar

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Christopher
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Christopher

BRILLIANT, incicisive article by Martin Percy -PLEASE READ IT. The sort of careful thought-through leadership we are so short of.

Father David
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Father David

If Ian Paul is not careful he is risking becoming as unpopular as the vicar who each year tells the children in the School Assembly that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.
However, Mrs. C. F. Alexander got there before him in her carol “Once in Royal David’s city” as the last verse begins –
“Not in that poor lowly stable”

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Simon Butler’s piece does a disservice to women who have been abused and are reluctant to come forward. I’m sure false accusations happen, but to focus on that is to put the cart before the horse. Victims need to be taken seriously and treated respectfully. Butler is confused about the nature of sexual harassment. In a nutshell, it ranges from verbal harassment (hostile workplace sort of stuff), to inappropriate and/or nonconsensual touching (groping), to attempted rape or actual rape. The fundamental dynamic is a power imbalance, be it physical or rank at work or school. With power a main driver,… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

“Put bluntly, is the Church of England an inefficient, tangled and complex body that needs to be re-shaped organisationally? Or is it an institution in which its tangled and complex structures are, in fact, part of its very identity and value?”

One learns a lot when the précis being put forward looks like this.

I’d say, “Neither.”

It is a church facing enormous practical, financial and existential challenges.

It will not face into them with this kind of simplistic either-or, with an obvious thumb on the scale in favor of blessing “tangled and complex structures.”

That goes nowhere.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

My status as a Martyn Percy fanboi is on record. It’s still a great article.

The comments are a cesspit, as usual for Cranmer.

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Cynthia, I’m afraid “power imbalance” is not the only thing called harassment any longer and, unfortunately, it’s getting ridiculous in places. It’s not just the occasional guy and if women want real punishments (firing, losing licenses or career, prison, etc.) then you have to let them defend themselves. Destroying someone’s, anyone’s, job, marriage, career, automatically without listening to the other side is morally wrong. I don’t know what side of the pond you’re on, but perhaps you’ve heard of advice columnists “Dear Abby” or “Miss Manners”? Miss Manners had to deal with a self described “feminist” who wanted to report… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I wasn’t convinced by Percy’s attempt to hitch the Bell fiasco to evangelism efforts. The nebulous meander through business culture verged on TL;DR, and I didn’t see anything specific to tie it to the Bell process. We can of course infer various motives, but at present, it’s guesswork. Getting down to brass tacks, whatever the motives in play, I’d hope the Bell debacle has persuaded at least some of the importance of the presumption of innocence, open justice, and not treating accusations as proof, let alone anonymous hearsay. It’s disturbing that I’m now obliged at this point to say that… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Yes, Dean Percy might well have been advised to stick to one topic or the other rather than try to conflate both George Bell and the current emphasis on managerial style diocesan bishops. It is now 44 days since Lambeth Palace received Lord Carlile’s Report and its findings and conclusions still haven’t been made public. Why?

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I’ve read Simon Butler’s piece three times now and I still don’t understand what he is confused about. Why people tell their friends about abuse but don’t formally report it? Why it’s not always effectively dealt with when reported? Why some people are being falsely accused?
What is the question?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Erika, he’s confused about why uppity women are saying that they don’t have complete faith in a process run by powerful white men being completely fair and transparent in its investigations of the behaviour of powerful white men, and it’s all a bit impertinent of them. If only they stopped worrying their pretty little heads about stuff they don’t understand, they’d be so much happier, and anyway, they should have been flattered by the attention. He tries to be down with the kids by using the word “mansplaining”, but the whole piece goes beyond mansplaining into a world in which… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“It is now 44 days since Lambeth Palace received Lord Carlile’s Report and its findings and conclusions still haven’t been made public. Why?”

Perhaps because the George Bell matter might not be the only safeguarding case in which the CofE has falsely maligned people’s reputations?

To do so once is an unfortunate mistake. To do so twice begins to look like carelessness.

And there’s a legal term for that….

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Interested Observer, if that’s the question, then I would suggest that one reason why victims struggle with the process in the CoE is that, if I understand it correctly, a victim who wishes to make a formal complaint after the permitted timeframe is up has to write the allegations down in detail, including names and addresses of people who know about it. This evidence will then be sent to the accused and they will be asked whether they permit an extension to the timeframe so that the complaint can be heard.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“It is likely more common that women suffer retaliation for rejecting superiors than men suffer false accusations (even though I’m sure it happens occasionally).” – Cynthia – Cynthia, while this is undoubtedly true, and greatly regrettable – in every circumstance, I must say a word in support of Simon Butler’s argument: There was a recent case I know of that came before a mediator where a woman accused a priest of serial harassment – of kissing her on the lips for 19 years! Apart from the fact that the priest in question had not even resided in the parish for… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Folks interested in the Rachel Mann article may also be interested in the formal apology that is scheduled in the House of Commons from PM Trudeau.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/apology-to-canadians-persecuted-for-being-gay-coming-nov-28-trudeau-1.3684758

This development, together with the referendum result down under, may cause the church(es) to reflect on the lyrics of an old Neil Young song “Ambulance Blues”.

Dr Edward Prebble
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Dr Edward Prebble

I have two reasons for being very interested in Martyn Percy’s discussion. (i) I was baptised by George Bell in 1949 in New Zealand, on one of the trips that took him out of the country during some of the periods when “Carol” was abused. I can therefore claim a personal interest in his reputation. (ii) I have a PhD from a Business School, probably a somewhat rare distinction among TA readers. I am therefore interested in both topics Martyn raises, but, like others, I struggle to see how they are connected. so i will separate my comments into different… Read more »

Dr Edward Prebble
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Dr Edward Prebble

In 2000, well before either of them became bishops, Ian Cundy and Justin Welby published an article called “Taking the Cat for a walk: can a bishop order a Diocese”. Their article was a chapter in a book called Managing the Church?, edited by G R Evans and (interestingly enough) Martyn Percy. In the book, Cundy and Welby describe,and deplore, a tendency whereby what is seen as appropriate in business seems to be imitated in churches, usually 20 years later, as it goes out of fashion in the business context. Anyone who studies Management at a higher academic level is… Read more »

Anon
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Anon

I found Simon Butler’s piece a very depressing read. (I’ve also read it a few times to make sure I’m reading it as it was intended to be understood.) The subtext is an attitude that most allegations are false and/or the ‘fault’ of the person who experienced sexual harassment. This is one of the reasons why, I’d imagine, people are reluctant to make a formal complaint – especially in the case of a power differential between parties. Another observation is that, while I’d know exactly what to do in my secular workplace if I had a complaint and would have… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Jeremy Morris speaks prophetic wisdom. His call to replace top down with bottom up strikes a whole symphony of chords with me, and I guess will resonate with anyone who feels they’re not listened to and/or are powerless. Is it too fanciful to see forces building up that are similar to those playing out now in Harare, or years ago in Bucharest, indeed everywhere since humans began to play with hierarchies? I’m struck by the way in which letters from diocesan finance directors to volunteer parish treasurers can read like a tetchy CEO barking at hired underlings. Similarly with the… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“This is offered only to show that there are cases of unjust accusations.” There are plenty of cases of people lying about thefts in order to fiddle the insurance. But we don’t by and large make “you’re a liar” the first port of call when someone reports a burglary. It’s only in the case of sexual abuse, and more to the point abuse of women, where the first stop is “they’re probably lying”. To take a point rather close to home, in the recent accounts of abuse against young male undergraduates in evangelical summer camps, no-one suggested the men were… Read more »

not flourishinghighchuchwoman
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not flourishinghighchuchwoman

Interested Observer; how true, and how beautifully observed. It is a tragedy for the church that this sexism and is still so widespread. The presumption that women should not be believed and that they are worth less than the men is still pretty endemic in the CofE.

James Byron
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James Byron

It’s undoubtedly true that prejudice has caused many complaints of harassment and sexual assault to be unjustly dismissed out-of-hand. There’s however a world of difference between accusing complainants of perjury, and saying that all accusations should be assessed with an open mind. Not only is the current demand that we should junk individualized assessment of a civil or criminal complaint, and regardless of its particular merits, “listen and believe” as a matter of policy a recipe for injustice, it’s guaranteed to backfire against the majority of sincere complainants. One injustice can’t remedy another. All complainants are entitled to be taken… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“There’s however a world of difference between accusing complainants of perjury, and saying that all accusations should be assessed with an open mind.”

Would you say that the history of investigation of sexual abuse cases in churches over the past twenty years shows evidence of “an open mind?” Which part of the Peter Ball case makes you believe the Church of England has operated a fair, transparent and honest system of dealing with such complaints? Do you think George Carey had “an open mind” in this case, or just wanted to silence complaints about one of his mates?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

On a more cheerful note, as well as Martyn Percy’s article being v. good, Jonathan Draper’s is as well. His formulation of purity cults (“expression[s] of religious faith which, in fact, worship their understanding of the faith rather than the God who inspires it”) is rather excellent.

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

Interesting that no-one is commenting on Madeleine Davies’s piece about choirs in the Church Times? This, coupled to recent statistics about cathedrals, should be held up as a significant challenge to the growth wallahs, management gurus, yoof wafflers, and all those of philistine inclination who have decided that music, liturgy and aesthetic beauty can never be foundational to Anglican mission. It was once suggested that if the C of E sacked all its youth leaders and, with the money it saved, paid organists and musical directors a proper living wage, not only would there be more people in church, but… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I was defending a principle, Interested Observer, not the Church of England.

Douglas James
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Douglas James

I have never commented on this highly informative and (at times) entertaining site before, but Madeleine Davies’s piece (and Simon R’s response) has given me the confidence to do so, as a ‘jobbing organist’ in a typical suburban parish church. Two things grieve me. First, that I (and thousands like me) have been fundamentally undermined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he declined to become a president of the Royal College of Organists on his appointment to Canterbury. His reason? Because he wanted to concentrate on more mission-focused initiatives. I wonder what he thinks I and my fellow organists are… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Bravo Mr James, and well done. Simon R is spot on. Beauty and music drew me in and led me to ordination in 2006. In one of my churches the appointment of a competent and cooperative musician has paid dividends in a matter of months. In another, unfortunately, the attitude of the PCC is that we should not have to pay musicians, we should be able to produce our own. I see the murder of decent church music and choirs not as being a matter of churchmanship, but of how controlling and prescriptive clergy feel they must be in dictating… Read more »

Stephen Greenwood
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Stephen Greenwood

How refreshing to read Douglas James’s comments. His experience reflects my own as a church organist with 30 years experience. The C of E wants music on the cheap – and that’s why there are so few musicians willing to commit to doing this vital work week-by-week. I don’t do it for the money. But when I tot-up the number of hours I put in, not just services and choir rehearsals, but organ practice, preparing for rehearsals, meeting with couples planning their wedding, attending training events, and generally keeping myself up to speed, I reckon I am paid £3.20 per… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Hurrah for the comments of the two Stanleys! Worship ought to be first and foremost in the agenda of both clergy and parishioners. It ought to attract the very best each parish can afford to maintain. It needs to be mindful of the parish tradition – as well a being open to liturgical renewal and openness to its effect on newcomers. Our organists should, if possible, be offered a stipend – together with provision for purchasing music that is suitable for the accompaniment of worship. Also, organists and choir members should retain sufficient fees for Weddings and Funerals – sufficient… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“This is offered only to show that there are cases of unjust accusations.” I don’t deny that that happens. And I would never want to deny anyone due process. However, it is clear that the overwhelming problem is that of vast women suffering harassment and abuse who either don’t feel safe to come forward or suffer retribution when we do. In public school a very big boy grabbed me inappropriately, I hit him with my violin case (the violin was OK). I didn’t report it because another time I reported abuse nothing happened and I was belittled. At conservatory, I… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

I hope that the PCC and incumbent at St Sepulchre’s Holborn read the comments of Douglas and others above. I hope also that someone with a connection to St John’s College, Oxford, might write to the President asking that more attention to these considerations is paid in future appointments where they hold patronage. But then I’m biased. My son (a more regular attender than I, his ordained father) was a boy chorister for whom it all “took” and his wife is a church organist. And I often officiate at a church in Oxford where, on the days the choir is… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I sang in a choir for years and I love organ music and church anthems and the discipline and musicality involved in working together to create environments of worship and thanksgiving. Having said that, we should also be open to other expressions of praise and worship, and I wouldn’t say those alternatives are all necessarily “sub-standard tosh.” Far from it. With inspired worship leaders, possibly also incorporating an organist where appropriate, some less traditional expressions of worship can draw congregations into the presence of God and the praise and worship can be absolutely riveting, used by God to touch the… Read more »

Richard Carter
Guest
Richard Carter

Another organist here, who would like to hope I am making a small difference to lowering the average attendance age at the church where I play. I agree with all that has been said here about choirs and mission. Simon R’s comment draws a connection between music in churches and cathedral attendance statistics, and I would like to, too. I notice that there has been a top-down (back to Jeremy Morris’s piece) attempt to whip cathedrals into line with a conference next year: http://www.sacredspace2018.org What is really interesting is that the organisers (and I doubt it is really the Dean… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

Last week Martyn Percy put the blame for clergy stress at the door of the new CofE leadership culture encouraging church growth, this week its the Bishop Bell enquiry. As a parish priest, I had clergy stress before the CofE learned how to count, and worked out that constantly declining congregations would eventually mean zero. And anyone who imagines that the CofE was a model of clarity and good process before 2010 is living in a parallel universe. Never put down to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence. I look forward to next weeks piece arguing that Justin Welby… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Magnificent Mr Carter. Well done. How can your points be made known more widely?

IH
Guest
IH

Father David,,,,
“However, Mrs. C. F. Alexander got there before him in her carol “Once in Royal David’s city” as the last verse begins –
“Not in that poor lowly stable”….

No…. Her context is the future not Bethlehem. ‘We shall see him….in heaven”

Ian Paul will be punished alone 😉

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Oh IH I rather think Father David’s tongue was firmly in his cheek. However when I was in Primary School in the early sixties I was taught that Jesus was found when busy mothers did lay babies, in a corner of the work room. It is the staggering ordinariness of birth which is part of the miracle. So I had better join Ian Paul on the naughty step for this – at least. And Ken Bailey and … yes this is widely known. But the myth remains more powerful.