Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Llandaff: formal complaint filed
Harry Farley at Christian Today reports: Church investigates official complaints into homophobia against gay cleric.
Insiders have lodged an official complaint after a gay cleric was barred from being appointed Bishop of Llandaff.
Five members of the Church in Wales’ secretive electoral college that debates and votes for candidates have spoken of ‘deeply inappropriate’ references to Dr Jeffrey John’s homosexuality when considering his nomination, Christian Today can reveal.
In a letter to the Church’s most senior executive Simon Lloyd, the electors said the remarks against Dr John ‘prejudiced’ the process making it ‘invalid’.
A formal investigation has now been launched into the process and a legal panel chaired by a judge will decide whether to scrap the decision not to take Dr John’s nomination forward…
The exact wording of the complaint, as reported on Facebook, is as follows:
“We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales’s own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.
We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.”
The Church in Wales has issued the following statement (though not issued as a press release):
“Five members of the Electoral College, which was assembled to elect the Bishop of Llandaff in February, have now submitted a complaint to the Secretary of the Electoral College. Their complaint is in relation to certain aspects of the conduct of the College. This matter has now been referred to the Legal Sub-Committee, which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.
“The responsibility of appointing the next Bishop of Llandaff has passed to the Bench of Bishops. It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.”
A second formal complaint has been filed, see Second complaint over ‘abusive and derogatory’ comments against gay cleric as pressure builds on Church in Wales.
bq,, …Now four senior members from the decision-making standing committee in Llandaff have filed an official complaint after allegations of homophobic remarks against Dr John during the election process were revealed by Christian Today.
The comments were ‘abusive and derogatory, demeaning their relationship and sexuality’ and went unchecked by the body’s chair, a source told Christian Today…
…Asked about the complaint a Church spokeswoman confirmed: ‘We have received a complaint from four members of the Standing Committee of the Llandaff Diocesan Conference. The complaint is not on behalf of the Standing Committee.
‘It has been referred to the Legal Sub Committee which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.
‘It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.’
There is also a discussion of all this by Philip Jones Electing the Bishop of Llandaff: Propriety and Privacy.
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Tuesday, 28 March 2017 at 1:06pm BST
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Church in Wales
It is difficult to understand how this will work. In his obfuscations on Sunday the +Swansea referred to the paucity of legal advice. Are these the people who are to be brought in to conduct the enquiry. Surely an independent team is required
So the appointment of the Bishop of Sheffield is now referred to an independent reviewer.
And the appointment of the Bishop of Llandaff is now the subject of a special internal inquiry.
Next up -- the Bishopric of London?
This is very significant - and most welcome. My question is, if this complaint is being investigated, does that mean the electors of previous Electoral Colleges can complain about comments, allegations and behaviour prejudicing the outcome of former elections? If so, Bangor 2008 is ripe for investigation.
The whole notion of an election is that voters are free to choose for themselves. During ANY debate there will inevitably be some good arguments made and some bad arguments; we have no choice but to trust the voters to heed the good arguments and ignore the bad ones.
If the voters elect the 'wrong' person we may privately suspect that they heeded the 'bad' arguments; but once we start an inquisition we're admitting that we never believed in a free election anyway — what we really wanted was a rubber stamp to our congé d'elire.
We have to have confidence in the persuasiveness of our ideas without attempting to censor those who disagree with us.
Looks like another case for Sir Philip Mawer, although I don't believe his remit extends into the Principality? However, following the Pinteresque Pause of the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon on the Sunday programme on the wireless, this formal complaint surely calls for yet another Pinteresque Pause on the part of the Welsh bishops before they rush ahead and make an announcement as to the identity of the next Bishop of Llandaff. Common justice alone requires the independent investigation to be carried out prior to any further development on the part of the remaining five Welsh bishops.
Unless you follow the right people on Twitter you might not have seen the following posted by an Tory ex-MP about the gay marriage vote.
“I think I was just not ready for this step, conflicted between many of my age group and those of the younger generation whose views I wanted to understand. Ultimately I think I knew I was going to be on the wrong side as those who wanted me to vote for were some of the nicest people I came across, something that couldn’t be said about those opposing. With hindsight I wish I had spoken to a very good friend and colleague before the vote. he might easily have been expected to oppose the move but he said to me that it was something that wouldn’t affect him at all but would give great happiness to many people”.
“Three years on I can honestly say I was wrong and I am sorry not to have been able to see it at the time.”
Any chance of a similar Pauline conversion by the bishops?
"So the appointment of the Bishop of Sheffield is now referred to an independent reviewer. And the appointment of the Bishop of Llandaff is now the subject of a special internal inquiry. Next up...."
The common thread here is that the liberal wing of the church seems to have forgotten that they are just the one wing of the church.
So, just for information: the reason other parts of the church may make decisions (or have reasons for taking decisions) that are not liberal enough is that they are *not liberals*!
RevDave Actually a number of people on these threads and elsewhere expressing concern about the traditionalist beliefs of the Bishop of Sheffield are, like me, evangelical. The attempt to divide this into a liberal/conservative divide does not stand up to scrutiny. There is a serious theological debate needed - and that needs all sides to join in.
As there is an official complaints procedure, why have we had weeks of broken confidentiality, press briefings and social media speculation ?
Wouldn't it have been to have the complaints procedure rather than the media as the initial port of call ? Thus avoiding the need to break confidentiality and not dragging the Church in Wales through the mud before that facts can be established.
"Wouldn't it have been [better?] to have the complaints procedure rather than the media as the initial port of call?"
But the allegedly homophobic remarks had already accomplished their full purpose, so any legitimate confidentiality interest was greatly attenuated.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
And those who were present of course had no need for any "procedure" to "establish" what they themselves had seen and heard.
It's the rest of us who need a procedure before we know whether the election outcome was tainted by considerations that, according to the Church in Wales, are impermissible.
To me the fundamental question is, Did the Archbishop of Canterbury express "Communion considerations" to any Welsh bishop, with respect to this election? Or did the Welsh bishops know "what to do," without being told?
"The whole notion of an election is that voters are free to choose for themselves. During ANY debate there will inevitably be some good arguments made and some bad arguments; we have no choice but to trust the voters to heed the good arguments and ignore the bad ones."
One question before the review is likely to be whether it is lawful, in the circumstances, to exclude Dr John from further consideration. Surely any organisation is entitled to review its processes to ensure that actions it is considering are lawful?
I would counsel against any hope that this process will resolve things in a better light for the Church in Wales or Dr Jeffrey John. If this is purely an investigation into whether the process was - or was not - flawed, I can tell you now what the outcome will be.
The Legal sub-committee will establish that the Llandaff electors had 12 votes out of 47 in the Electoral College. It will further establish that the President of the College clarified matters about sexuality and relationship status of candidates (and remember, Bishop John Davies disclosed on Radio 4 at the weekend that there was another gay candidate beside Dr John). It will establish that Dr John failed to achieve a two-thirds majority. How it will be able to establish that comments made Fred Bloggs or Freda Cloggs effected the voting patterns, I am not sure. Psychiatric analysis, perhaps?
What I fear is that this process will be a smoke screen for the misconduct of at least one bishop, the opaque culture of the way the Church in Wales has chosen its bishops, and colluded with the some very unpleasant behaviour along the way. With the levels of lay representation now severely diminished under the previous Archbishop, there is far too much power, and too little accountability, vested in the bishops. I sincerely doubt that the outcome of this investigation will lead to a reform of the electoral system along the lines recommended by Lord Harries' report. The bishops have far too much to lose.
We are clearly embarked on a series of culture wars with people taking sides and adopting rigid positions,or rather assigning such positions to those with whom they disagree. It is now open season on 'liberals' which has become a convenient label for those with whom you disagree and on whom to heap opprobrium. It is such a broad term as to be almost meaningless. David Runcorn is right. On both this and the Sheffield matter, the liberal/conservative divide is meaningless. I would repudiate the label 'evangelical' for myself but, virtually every time I read one of David's posts both here and elsewhere, I find myself agreeing with him. Would RevDave and others please offer a precise definition of what they mean by the term 'liberal' which they use with such insouciance? What it does not mean is that anything goes. And will he please explain how the divisiveness he displays furthers the mission of the church. Martyn Percy has been attacked just as vigorously as Bp North but he advanced a series of important theological questions which I have not seen addressed by any member of the House of Bishops.
"How it will be able to establish that comments made Fred Bloggs or Freda Cloggs effected the voting patterns, I am not sure. Psychiatric analysis, perhaps?"
Don't forget that in cases of discrimination the burden of proof can reverse so that the question might be can it be proven that a) no votes were affected and b) that the decision not to consider Dr John further was in no way whatsoever influenced by his (presumed) sexual orientation.
It is very hard to see that there is a *legal* basis for this complaint.
Whatever happened in debate is precisely the point of there being a discussion - debate cannot prejudice debate. It would only be prejudicial if the Chair gave instructions or advice which were incorrect, speaking as Chair (i.e. from a position of official authority). There's no indication that happened here. If sexuality and/or civil partnership were raised in debate, then it's up to those present to make counter-arguments at the time, and form their own opinions. That must surely be the legal position.
in any case, it's hard to see how the oath of confidentialily can be waived to allow any investigation to be carried out in a legal manner, and not itself subject to legal challenge. An oath is an oath is an oath, at least in law. No one has the power to require anyone to break it, nor should the attempt be made, morally and legally - evidence given under duress is no evidence at all. And even if it is allowed that all may waive their oath, it only takes one person to say no and none can - people are entitled to hold each other to their oaths. Any one with a strong moral sense about oath-breaking, or who might feel subject to criticism for what has been said, would likely refuse to waive the oath. In which case no evidence can be taken, and the complaint cannot proceed.
Daniel Lamont's point about a culture war, and the juxtaposition of the Llandaff and Sheffield sagas, is significant and rings true to other ecclesial realities. James Walters' excellent piece in last Friday's Church Times is a helpful analysis of where we are, and would repay careful reading and reflection in the light of the fracas surrounding these two episcopal appointments. In particular, those of us who broadly describe our theological position as 'liberal' need to wake up to a reality that we have, perhaps, ignored for too long. As Walters puts it:
"For decades the liberal idealist spirit of Anglicanism has favoured progressive readings of history in which tolerant consensus would be built 'till the earth shall be filled with the glory of God...' Progressive moves such as the ordination of women have been adopted with the assumption that this was the inevitable direction of travel and that opposition would eventually die. But recent events have questioned our own belief in an ecclesial liberal consensus... The bad news for liberals in the Church of England is that, within a global context of destabalising social change and reactionary backlash, the Church can easily become a refuge for conservative entrenchment. But understanding that motivation, and acknowledging that the opponents of liberalism will not simply 'see sense' or go away, might enable us to cultivate a Christian politics of persuasion."
Walters also identifies the politics of protest, waged by the keyboard warriors of social media, as a factor in fuelling the belief that the only outcome can be the withering away of those who disagree with me:
"We need to abandon the belief that our problems will be solved through liberal consensus. Instead we should foster our unity in Christ through an empathetic exchange of perspectives which enables coexistence - and can even lead people to change their minds."
As I watch this saga from afar, I cannot but wonder why those who now wish to lodge a complaint about the process, did not do so when the so called offensive remarks were made.
A competent, independent assessor must speak to all electors, it having been declared that the declaration of confidentiality applies to all things "legal and honest" The assessment is designed to establish legality under the law of England and Wales and honesty as an ethical norm
The contrast between the nolo episcopari voice from Burnley and its exact opposite coming from St. Albans is deafening. Politicians clamouring for a PC appointment should perhaps recall that the Speaker of the Commons is traditionally dragged willy-nilly to his chair.
@RevDave, who said that the liberals have forgotten that they are just one wing of the church. What an astonishing attitude. It's like saying that those who think women should vote are just one wing of the electorate. When will people recognize that gay people aren't a special interest group? They are just other human beings with the same rights and same access to God's grace as anyone else. Too bad that they can't "forget" that they don't matter and don't exist in the eyes of some.
If not, Llandaff, then why not Londinium for Dean Jeffrey John. At least he is fully inclusive - as well as fitting the requirement set out by the Church of England for the episcopal role? He is also one of the few trained theologians among the candidates for the episcopate.
'The contrast between the nolo episcopate voice from Burnley and it's exact opposite coming from St Albans'
Clive Sweeting - what are you implying here? It seems that both Philip North and Jeffrey John have a valid complaint about the abuse they have received for putting their heads above their respective parapets (they might like to reflect on what it is like for a woman who speaks out for her beliefs: Stella Creasy, Emma Watson, Jess Philips, etc). The only difference I can see is a theological one: Jeffrey John would be able to fulfil his role in Llandaff and Philip North would not be so able in Sheffield.
Oh, and apologies for pedantry, but can you have 'a deafening contrast?'
Philip Jones writes:- "Indeed the constitutional rule of privacy suggests that a candidate has no right even to know that he is a candidate, unless and until the Electoral College elects him by the required majority."
This suggests that the candidates for the Welsh episcopacy are not called to be interviewed in person which throws a whole new light on this situation! I find this to be most surprising. I believe that with the new system currently in operation in England - the candidates are interviewed by the CNC. I believe this to be the case, if so, it would seem that the IN has something to learn from the OF and that most certainly this is a case of "Mother knows best!"
Dear Adam and +David
Are you rather evading the argument that liberals (evangelical or catholic) shouldn't expect non-liberals (gay or straight) to have the same attitudes as them when it comes to issues they see as important, or questions they see as legitimate, when selecting a Bishop?
'The contrast between the nolo episcopari voice from Burnley and its exact opposite coming from St. Albans is deafening. Politicians clamouring for a PC appointment should perhaps recall that the Speaker of the Commons is traditionally dragged willy-nilly to his chair.'
Clive Sweeting, for the first week or so of this issue I thought the same as you. I've come to see it differently.
Philip North has the very active patronage of an archbishop who has robustly defended him in public and, by implication, rebuked those who opposed his appointment to Sheffield (as he also did re. Whitby). North, though he has many valuable talents and qualities, is a leading member and spokesperson of a rather extreme group which actively discriminates against women and men in the Church. He has been outspoken in these views, especially in General Synod where he made a quite personal attack against a supporter of women bishops. The issue is not who he is but what he believes and promotes, and he is actively and vocally supported by fellow members of the close-knit group he belongs to.
Jeffrey John, by contrast, is being discriminated against principally not because of what he believes and promotes, but because of who he is. Far from having the backing of an archbishop, he has been actively undermined by archbishops who have prevented his preferment. (HIs crime is not that he is gay, but that he admits it - bishops are allowed to be gay as long as they stay in the closet.) John, being mostly fairly central, has no close-knit organisation to speak for him and make a fuss about his treatment. On the contrary, he is speaking out for others who are more vulnerable than he and whose position is less secure.
Please don't dismiss those who disagree with you as 'politicians' - give us credit for being as thoughtful and well-intentioned as you yourself would want to be considered.