Friday, 31 March 2017

Complaints regarding Llandaff electoral college are rejected

Updated Saturday morning

The Church in Wales has issued a “further statement” today (scroll down):

Further statement – March 31

The Church’s Legal Subcommittee has advised that three complaints received about the election and appointment process of the Bishop of Llandaff are without merit and that the Bishops should proceed to fill the vacancy.

In a 16-page document, the members of the subcommittee, chaired by His Honour Judge Andrew Keyser QC, concluded:

“All three Complaints are without merit. The proper course is for the Bishops to proceed to fill the vacancy in accordance with Regulation 23 and the exercise of their own judgment.”

Responding to the advice, the Provincial Secretary of the Church in Wales, Simon Lloyd, said, “I am very grateful to the legal subcommittee for their thorough and prompt examination of the complaints received about the election and appointment process of the Bishop of Llandaff. I can now confirm that proper procedure has been followed and there are no grounds for the complaints submitted. This means the Bench of Bishops can continue its task of appointing the new bishop without further delay.”

The 16 page document includes full details of all three complaints which have been considered. Further information from the report is copied below the fold.

Update
The bench of bishops also wrote a very very cross letter to the editor of the Church Times, in response to last week’s leader comment, which you can (and really should) read in full here.

There’s also a second letter below the first, from retired archbishop Barry Morgan. He’s cross too.

Wording of the three complaints

The First Complaint was made on 24 March 2017, one month after the conclusion of the Meeting, by four of the twelve Episcopal Electors from the Diocese of Llandaff. (A
fifth has since asked to be considered a co-signatory.) It is in the following terms:

“We the undersigned Llandaff electors wish to make a formal complaint about the recent process to appoint a Bishop of Llandaff, regarding the following:

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.

We ask that this complaint be passed to the correct person who can undertake investigation and response. As the complaint is materially relevant to the outcome of the electoral college, we ask that the electoral college of February 2017 be declared invalid, and any further appointment be stayed until such time as this complaint has been investigated and satisfactorily resolved. Please would you be kind enough to
1. acknowledge this complaint
2. let us know what procedure will be used for investigation
3. let us know the timescale we can expect for investigation.”

The Second Complaint was made on 28 March 2017 by four further individuals from the Diocese of Llandaff. Although they describe themselves as and are members of the
Llandaff Diocesan Standing Committee, they have made it clear that they write in their personal capacity. The Second Complaint is in the following terms:

“We the undersigned, members of the Llandaff Diocesan Standing Committee, wish to lodge a formal complaint about the process to appoint a new bishop of Llandaff, arising from the press release which states that a short list of candidates has been drawn up (C in W website 16th March 2017) and quotes Bishop John as saying:

‘Our unanimous view was that to consider further all or any of the candidates nominated at the College, none of whom achieved the required majority of votes to be elected, would call into question the integrity of the Electoral College process, and that, were any one of the candidates offered to the College to be subsequently appointed, that would be unfair to the other candidates.’

It is the duty of the Bench of Bishops to appoint the most suitable candidate i.e. the person who best fits the diocesan profile and the person specification as determined by the Electoral College, and the Note on a Provincial Perspective given to electors. These documents were made available to the Standing Committee prior to the meeting with Bishop John on March 8th as part of the consultation process.

It is unreasonable and unfair of the Bishops to have excluded from the shortlist those candidates nominated for consideration by the Electoral College, who would be among those most likely to match the agreed criteria. The failure of any candidate to obtain the necessary two thirds majority of votes does not imply that there were objections to those candidates.

By their exclusion of qualified individuals the bishops are failing in their duty to appoint the best candidate, each of whom should be considered on her/his merits.

We request that no appointment be made until this complaint has been investigated and satisfactorily resolved, or the decision to exclude these candidates is revoked.
Please acknowledge receipt of this complaint, pass this complaint to the appropriate person(s) to investigate and respond, inform us of the procedure that will be used to investigate this complaint, and the likely timescale.”

The Third Complaint was made late on the evening of 30 March 2017, a full fortnight after the announcement by the Bishops on 16 March, by five Area Deans in the Diocese
of Llandaff. It is in the following terms:

“As a group of Area Deans serving in the Diocese of Llandaff we write to complain about an irregularity in the consultation process announced in a Church in Wales press release on March 2nd 2017. The consultation included the Area Deans of Llandaff.

The statement read: ‘Those consulted will be invited to suggest names of individuals who might be considered suitable for appointment as Bishop of Llandaff, and names must be suggested in time for the next meeting of Bishops which begins on March 14th.’

Other interested parties were also invited to send emails to their Diocesan Bishop or, in the case of Llandaff Diocese, Bishop John Davies, with suggestions of names for consideration.

The statement went on: ‘When they meet, the Bishops will consider all the names suggested to them as potential candidates for appointment in the hope that a suitable candidate can be identified.’

The clear implication in this statement and at the meeting held by Bishop John with the Area Deans on March 6th at the Prebendal House in Llandaff, was that all names would be considered. It has subsequently become apparent that certain persons, namely those identified as potential candidates at the Electoral College, irrespective of suitability, were not included on a short list compiled by the Bishops.

Clergy and laity in the Diocese of Llandaff sent the names of their preferred candidate in good faith that each would be taken seriously. It appears that the Bench decided only those who had not been considered at the Electoral College were to be deemed eligible for consideration by the Bishops. The result is that many of us feel our trust in this good faith has been misplaced and that confidence in the process has been eroded. This has caused considerable anguish amongst clergy and laity in the Diocese and has brought the Church into a level of disrepute.

We therefore request that the process of appointing a new Bishop of Llandaff be halted until such time that this defect of proper process has been fully investigated. This investigation should also take into account the lack of consideration given to those of us who wrote to support a candidate who may have been mentioned in the Electoral College, given that we had no certain knowledge of who these may have been. It is imperative that an appointment is made without any tarnish of discrimination.

We would be grateful for a speedy response to this letter of complaint. We trust you will refer it to the appropriate authority for investigation and let us know who this is. Finally we request that you appraise us of an estimated timescale for this investigation.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 7:07pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

Mandy Rice-Davies, where are you now?

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 7:57pm BST

As we say in Southern California, "Epic fail!"

Posted by: Karen MacQueen on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 8:53pm BST

The First Complaint is rejected, in part, because "the Meeting was conducted on the basis of a rule of confidentiality. This itself demonstrates that a challenge to the validity of the proceedings of the Electoral College cannot be based on anything said at the Meeting."

Apparently if someone at the Meeting had urged others there not to vote for a candidate because the candidate is black, that remark (in the Subcommittee's mind) would not invalidate the outcome of the meeting....

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 10:13pm BST

How very curious. One of the key sections in the independent report published on 31 March by the lawyers resolving the complaints bears some resemblance to the conclusion of the letter sent to the Church Times for publication earlier in the week by the bishops.

Bishops: "...homosexuality and civil partnerships are matters that some legitimately wish to consider; but neither of them is a bar to ordination or preferment in our Province. What is a bar to preferment to the office of bishop is a failure to secure a two-thirds majority of votes ..."

Lawyers: "...sexuality or civil partnership did not bar nomination, and what prevented election was insufficiency of votes..."


Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 10:22pm BST

I'm troubled by this as an exercise in legal reasoning. One complaint is rejected because the meeting was confidential & so nothing said in it can found a complaint.

So if the college decided to reject any candidate with freckles that wouldn't invalidate the process because it's confidential.

It's Kafka-esque. Is there a benevolent rich communicant member of the Church in Wales who feels like applying for judicial review?

Posted by: James Allport on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 7:46am BST

Um... I thought Jesus exhorted us to seek the spirit of the law, not simply the letter of the law.

Jeremy and James A home in on a key point. If 'confidentiality' means that no complaint about content can be upheld, then that means a person could have been blocked for skin colour, gender, political views, freckles, personal grudges, disability, sexual orientation, because they liked cats, envy at their skill at kick boxing, or whatever... and because confidentiality prevents those things from being used in a complaint, the process would still be 'legitimate'.

If this demonstrates one thing, it demonstrates the need for greater transparency. Otherwise these decisions lack accountability and are vulnerable to bias, prejudice or capture by influential participants.

How is it that the most popular candidate isn't even included in the new short-list? On what grounds was he excluded? Lack of theological training? Lack of experience? Lack of service over decades to church communities?

Everything is hidden from view, which protects the elephant in the room: that once again Jeffrey John is blocked from episcopal ministry because he champions a theology that does not discriminate against gay and lesbian people.

That championing and advocacy was the grounds on which he was pressed to withdraw from the Reading appointment. With zero transparency, providing cover for any prejudice, it is obvious that onlookers will suspect that once again he has fallen victim to prejudice based on his position on sexuality.

And the very opaqueness of process that covers and hides possible prejudice... is the grounds for legitimising the process, according to the lawyers, because whatever gets said in confidentiality cannot be used as grounds for challenging a decision that can be as arbitrary or prejudiced as you like.

Even if the bishops are as white as snow in this affair, the process itself is arcane and open to injustice... and effectively unaccountable. The lawyers just say that the process follows its own rules. That does not make the process right.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 10:01am BST

King: I do not remember such words.

Anna: I remember them.

King: I will do remembering!

A lovely little moment from the King and I, the tale of a Western woman gently liberalising the misogynistic King of Siam. This little exchange parodies all those officials with selective memories.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 3:53pm BST

When I was a school governor I served on the staff appointments panel. Of course the applications and our deliberations were confidential - but all paperwork, including the panel's casual notes, had to be handed in at the end of the process. This was in case of an appeal, so we could prove our decision had been fair and did not violate any equal opportunities policies. I understood that it was a legal requirement.

It seems clear now that the same should be done for church appointments, so if there is an appeal or doubt over the process, an adjudicator/s could decide if justice had been done.

Having learned from that experience, I have always asked for feedback when being turned down for a job in the Church that I've applied for. I've been wryly amused to see them wriggle as they try to come up with good reasons for appointing a less experienced and less qualified man. I once applied to be a part-time research fellow, but didn't get it because they 'doubted whether I could combine part-time work and part-time research'. I'd done my part-time MPhil while working full-time and also covering for an absent colleague. The man they appointed had done his MA full time and had no experience of combining research with a job.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 4:26pm BST

More interesting than what the Bench of Bishops say in their letter to Church Times is what they do not say.

They do not say that no remark about sexuality was made to the Electoral College for Llandaff.

Nor do that say that such remarks had no effect on the number-of-votes outcome.

We must all draw our own conclusions. But mine is that the selection of a bishop for Llandaff has been unduly influenced by "publicity" and "Communion" considerations that serve as disguises for bigotry or discrimination.

Whether that bigotry or discrimination was within the College or elsewhere doesn't matter that much; the point is that those present allowed it to infect the process and to influence the outcome.

It is very hard to fathom why the Church in Wales should have so much regard for the views of Communion provinces where homosexuality is criminalised.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 5:04pm BST

I was thinking along the same lines as Janet. I was both a Chair of School Governors and a University Dean and in both capacities chaired appointments panels, all of which in formal terms were confidential. We took scrupulous notes which were very carefully collected at the end and, as Chair, I wrote a note to indicate why the successful candidate met the person specification more fully than the other candidates. Many of the appointments were challenged by the disappointed candidates, but never successfully because we had followed a correct process. The one who got as far as an Employment Tribunal was told that there was no case to answer. I cannot think why the CofE/CiW thinks that it can drive a coach and horses through normal professional practice. I am driven to the conclusions drawn by Jeremy. We need more accountability and transparency. Confidentiality is to protect the candidates, not necessarily the interviewers. Here it is being used as cloak for bigotry and bad professional practice.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 11:30pm BST

A friend on the appointment panel for a senior Church post said they were told of one favoured candidate that his health was too poor for him to do the job. They later found this to be untrue, but by then the appointment had already been made. The dean of a Cambridge college told of several occasions when he was about to appoint a priest to one of the college's parishes, but was phoned by a bishop telling him the appointee was on the blacklist. The bishops concerned would not tell him the reason so (to his credit) he appointed the candidates anyway.

I had hoped things had improved in the last few years, but it seems not much. If it's true that senior appointments have to be approved by the provincial archbishop, as appears to be the case, that is wrong. No one person should have the final say.

It's clear that we urgently need a fair, transparent and accountable appointments system.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 12:36pm BST

The results of the inquiry are quite clear - that the correct procedures were followed. And that its rather telling that none of the complainants seems to have uttered a word of complaint during the Selection Meeting, about inappropriate discussions!?


Posted by: RevDave on Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 6:26pm BST

"The results of the inquiry are quite clear - that the correct procedures were followed. And that its rather telling that none of the complainants seems to have uttered a word of complaint during the Selection Meeting, about inappropriate discussions!? "

Did nobody spot the glaring inconsistency in the Legal Subcommittee paper? They advance an wholly impossible argument.

1. The Meeting was confidential
2. Any complaint should have been raised during the meeting
3. No complaint was raised during the meeting so they cannot be heard now.

Spot it? The Legal Subcommittee cannot know whether complaints were raised in the meeting because the meeting was confidential! They are simultaneously arguing that the meeting was confidential to deny hearing complaints while simultaneously arguing that they know whether complaints were raised in the meeting. They even apparently know that the complainants voted.

If a meeting is confidential it is not reasonable to raise complaints at the time because they can be ignored or improperly dealt with in the meeting and nobody would know. What if the complaint was about the chair? In governance terms, the Legal Subcommittee argument is a complete and epic fail.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 11:26pm BST

Commenters here still seem to be confused by the concept of an election. An election is not invalid simply because somebody happens to have made an inappropriate argument. Indeed, in the whole history of human voting, there has probably never been an election in which some idiot didn't make an inappropriate argument!

The whole presumption of an election is that we have faith in our fellow voters to use their wisdom, listen to the good arguments, and ignore the bad ones. Without such faith we have no business holding elections at all.

The legal sub-committee, as one would hope, has written a response which ignores the personalities and partisan issues and analyzes things in a detached and purely logical way. It's too bad that commenters here reject such an approach and prefer emotional reactions — after all, this website is supposed to be called *Thinking* Anglicans!

Posted by: RD on Monday, 3 April 2017 at 6:13am BST

"The legal sub-committee, as one would hope, has written a response which ignores the personalities and partisan issues and analyzes things in a detached and purely logical way."

As I pointed out, the analysis was entirely illogical. Was it detached? No. Detached would conclude that it is unknown (and possibly unknowable) whether the alleged remarks affected the outcome rather than conclude that the outcome was unaffected.

Since the issue is effectively alleged discrimination, the Subcommittee should, I suggest, also have considered whether the allegations were sufficient to have reversed the burden of proof. If the burden of proof was reversed then, of course, most of their arguments instead point to discrimination having occurred.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 3 April 2017 at 10:09am BST

I am no lawyer but, in response to RD's comments, is there not a distinction between an open election such as a General Election where there is open campaigning with the results of voting declared and the meeting of an Electoral College. The latter functions more like an appointments panel, being wholly confidential, judging against some form of statement of need and where voting is confidential. This being the case an Electoral College should surely conduct its business according to best professional appointment practice. I don't think that accusations of misconduct can be evaded by saying that this was an election.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Monday, 3 April 2017 at 1:10pm BST

Kate argues that the legal sub-committee's report is marred by "glaring inconsistency", writing: "Spot it? The Legal Subcommittee cannot know whether complaints were raised in the meeting because the meeting was confidential! They are simultaneously arguing that the meeting was confidential to deny hearing complaints while simultaneously arguing that they know whether complaints were raised in the meeting. They even apparently know that the complainants voted."

But in fact the paper explicitly addresses both of her concerns, stating "In the present case, the President of the Electoral College has publicly stated that neither from the members of the College nor from any others present, including the Archbishop’s Registrar and the Church’s legal adviser, did he receive any complaint of improper remarks in respect of sexuality. No member withdrew from the Meeting" and "The complainants in the First Complaint did not withdraw from the Meeting: no member did; therefore, unless they exercised the option not to vote, they voted and must therefore have considered that they were participating in valid proceedings." The legal sub-committee's response might have been much shorter had they simply stated that "due to the secrecy of the electoral college we have no basis to comment"; but that would have been extremely frustrating for the rest of us, so surely it was helpful of them to go on to address the complaints more directly as best they could on an admittedly hypothetical basis.

Kate also writes that "Detached would conclude that it is unknown (and possibly unknowable) whether the alleged remarks affected the outcome rather than conclude that the outcome was unaffected", which again misreads the report, which never claimed to know that the outcome was unaffected. What it did claim was that "the vote was by secret ballot, and each member’s conscience is his or her own". The argument I made in my comment was not that voters are never swayed by bad arguments; it was that if we believe in elections, we need to operate on the assumption (however naive it may sometimes be) that we trust voters.

In response to Daniel Lamont, I think the size, heterogeneity, and independence of the electoral college's members, along with their use of a secret ballot, makes it much more like a true election than an interview panel. (Certainly the language of the constitution treats it as such, with lots of detail about how to form the college and almost no detail at all on how they are to conduct themselves.) But even to the extent that there's any ambiguity, surely, given that we are choosing a leader and not an employee, we will want to err on the side of an election. And surely we want discussions to be frank and honest, not hedged around with people second-guessing themselves about what a lawyer might say.

Finally, given all the hypothetical discussion around here, I think it's important to remind ourselves regularly that *we still don't really know that anything truly outrageous was said*. The allegations have been very vague and sketchy, and have been explicitly denied by others. I am having a hard time imagining any comment which could possibly carry the burden which the critics of the college are putting on it. An empty slur would merely be grotesquely absurd, and would surely not affect any votes — anybody not repulsed by such a slur would never have been open to voting for the candidate anyhow. A reasoned argument advanced by a person of conservative theological bent, on the other hand, is surely not out-of-bounds: we have to acknowledge the fact that there are divisions on this subject in the church, and to disallow those who disagree with us from making their case would be totalitarianism.

Posted by: RD on Monday, 3 April 2017 at 5:11pm BST

Just a thought re extreme comments in meetings, in case it's any help.

There's always a likelihood that a way-over-the-top attack on a person or position in a debate will not draw people towards the speaker's position, but will actually have the opposite effect. A now deceased Anglo-Catholic priest told me that 25 years ago, when our local Deanery Synod were debating the ordination of women to the priesthood, one member made an "anti" speech of such monumental unpleasantness that although he had intended to abstain (and had said so), he changed his mind and voted in favour.

Posted by: Steve on Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 3:35pm BST

What RD said - answered most people's complaints.

Posted by: RevDave on Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 8:04pm BST

'But in fact the paper explicitly addresses both of her concerns, stating "In the present case, the President of the Electoral College has publicly stated that neither from the members of the College nor from any others present, including the Archbishop’s Registrar and the Church’s legal adviser, did he receive any complaint of improper remarks in respect of sexuality. No member withdrew from the Meeting" and "The complainants in the First Complaint did not withdraw from the Meeting: no member did; therefore, unless they exercised the option not to vote, they voted and must therefore have considered that they were participating in valid proceedings."'

So they are apparently allowing into evidence reports of what happened which can be used to rebut the complaints while refusing to allow into evidence material which might support the complaints, citing secrecy as the reason.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 3:20am BST

RD, civic and national elections are staffed by neutral people - polling station personnel, vote counters, election officers - and keenly observed by the press. Elections within organisations and charities are often administered by an independent body such as the Electoral Reform Society which sees fair play. There is no 'trust' without these measures.

The problem with senior appointments within the Church is that there is neither the rigour of, say educational appointments, nor the independent administration of elections. I have mentioned in another thread that a friend was representing her diocese on a bishop's appointment panel when a possible candidate was discussed. They were told authoritatively that his health would not allow him to take up the post - and later found this to be untrue. It was then too late for him to be appointed.

We need a much better process for appointments at all levels: the Church has far too often abused trust. I long ago learned to be suspicious of people who resist good procedures and ask simply to be trusted - they usually have strong reasons to want to avoid scrutiny.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 9:11am BST

Kate: it's an interesting question whether the president was within his rights to state publicly that no objections were raised in the meeting, or whether even that was too much given the oath of secrecy. Either way, though, that's not the committee's fault; and committee didn't go any further in 'allowing' his statement into the report an than in allowing in the complaints, all three of which were quoted verbatim, nor in allowing in points raised in the correspondence which has been made public between the president and Jeffrey John. As far as I can see, they have touched in a general way on ALL the evidence in the public domain, while shying away from details as much as possible; you're wrong to imply they only listened to one side.

Even without the president's claim, in any case, it's reasonable to conclude from the wording of the complaints themselves that no objection was raised in the meeting. If in fact such an objection was raised and the president is lying, that would indeed be sufficient grounds, in my opinion, for college members to break their oaths to rebut him; but none of the reasons advanced so far for oath-breaking has been anywhere close to sufficient.

Janet, the break-down in trust which you mention is very sad; and as I have said before I suppose it means that the Church in Wales needs to go to an open election. That will have some very distressing consequences, such as public campaigning, open displays of ambition and partisanship, and unpleasant publicity for the disappointed candidates; but if that's what people want, I guess it's the only way. All that said, however, let me remind everybody that in this particular instance nobody has alleged that the president and legal advisors conducted the electoral college in an authoritarian or dishonest manner; the only claim has been the rather weak one that some college members said some inappropriate things in the course of three days of debate. Whether or not this controversy provides an argument for conducting future colleges differently, it certainly does not justify all the opprobrium for the members of this college, who were only trying to do their job within the existing system.

Posted by: RD on Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 5:36pm BST

There were five bishops from Wales
Whose croziers did mightily wail (1)
For they could not agree
On a name for the see -
Oh the horrors of Landav: in Wales.

(1) See Oxford English Dictionary for 'wail'.

Posted by: Phugas Menevia on Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 11:33pm BST

To further muddy the water, there are suggestions in the Church Times that some complaints WERE raised at the time

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/7-april/news/uk/welsh-committee-dismissed-complaints-against-bishops-and-electoral-college-over-llandaff-appointment

'But a priest in the diocese of Llandaff, the Revd Martin Reynolds, spoke on Monday of his disappointment.

'“Legal opinion tells us that there is no way to put this right, and no way to stop people saying awful and disgusting things,” he said. It was his understanding that people had raised concerns about “abusive language” used during the meeting, at the time. “As no investigations can be made to say what happened, how can they say that nobody complained at the time?”'

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 7:28pm BST
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