Comments: more on parish bullying

the thread about the bullying at trumpington attracted one comment. so far, this thread has attracted none. i find that strange. i was the victim of bullying by a senior cleric, so serious that i lost my health, my job and my home. i know of very many others who are also the victims of bullying by clerics (especially by bishops), and not a few who have been bullied by their congregations. but no posts on this thread. bullying is the single most serious problem in the institution of the c of e. more widespread than homophobia, yet it seems to be the sin that dare not speak its name. most victims of bullying are so hurt by it and so frightened that they dare not speak up, even when they have removed themselves from the situation. is that what is happening here?

Posted by poppy tupper at Saturday, 19 April 2008 at 12:45pm BST

Poppy Tupper's comment is one of the most disturbing I have read on TA. I have no personal experience from which to comment on this, beyond observing that part of the Church of England seems to operate along the same lines as some of US academia, but perhaps more so. A "human nature"/self-righteousness thing, I suppose. No one who checks this site can imagine that the Church is immune to bullying, but this is a new one. Other readers must have first-hand experiences to contribute.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Sunday, 20 April 2008 at 11:01am BST

Thank you Poppy and Lapinbizarre for your comments. I am in total agreement with you, Poppy. I am an academic social psychologist doing research on bullying in the church. I care passionately about the good news of Jesus Christ who came to give us freedom. Unfortunately our churches are frequently not vehicles of that freedom. I wrote an article about Bullying in the Church in the Church Times of June 22 2007 and received a very large number of responses to it from people like you, Poppy. The good news is that churches in the UK, and especially the C of E, are taking the issue seriously and trying to do something about it.

I'm not sure how it works with TA, but if Simon would like to pass on my email address to Poppy, I would be very, very interested to hear her story.

Posted by Anne Lee at Monday, 21 April 2008 at 7:37am BST

Anne Lee's article can be found here:

And there is a postscript to it here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 21 April 2008 at 8:52am BST

I was witness to problems in a north-central Ohio (once cardinal) Episcopal church in a county seat that had most of the disaffected parishioners using the town newspaper to smear and castigate the incumbent rector (our system is slightly different, in TEC the rector is priest-in-charge and rarely delegates this to a vicar). They held meetings off of the parish grounds and postured themselves to take over after the man had been driven out. Because of all the fracus, nobody would attend and growth was impossible.

The priest was one of many who had forced change during the turbulent times of the new prayer book. Although I call myself a traditionalist (and not necessary a conservative) the conduct of the (self) disaffected parishioners was absolutely shameful. The gentleman changed his career and now sells securities in a town the other end of the state. The church is now an aided mission, once clustered, but the feisty hateful faithful took care of that too. It was ugly and was probably the darkest hour of my faith journey.

I'm sorry this happened to you, poppy tupper.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 21 April 2008 at 9:49pm BST

Simon: You get a pope on a rope if you use the first link.

This is the correct one:

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 21 April 2008 at 10:01pm BST

Sorry, error now fixed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 21 April 2008 at 11:09pm BST

There are clerical and lay bullies in the Church. One of the problems is that bullying rarely gets dealt with at all - and when it does, usually only after people and communities have been destroyed.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 22 April 2008 at 4:40am BST

I can sympathize with anyone who has suffered church bullying. I was systematically bullied for two years by a 'tag-team' comprising of 2 other members of the PCC at my parish church.
When I complained it was not taken seriously and I was accused of being the one that had a " unchristian attitude".
I eventually left and went to another church as I could see it was not going to be acknowledged or dealt with effectively.

Posted by Churchmouse at Sunday, 18 April 2010 at 3:54pm BST

It is sad that at a time that the C of E needs all the support it can get, that there are still people (clergy & laity) that cannot see the broad picture and still want to play at parish pump politics. We are told that " a house divided against itself cannot stand" and the bullies will show that this is true by driving those that would support the Church away.
As Rome is now opening its arms to welcome unhappy Anglicans, those who bully may well find that they will soon have no more people to push about. Bullying could well be the last straw to those to whom crossing the Tiber is the only way out of a demeaning situation.

Posted by Jane at Friday, 6 August 2010 at 8:14am BST

I am investigating bullying within the Church of England and would like to know if anyone can share their personal experience with me. My concern is that the Church can do whatever it likes because it writes and polices its own rules. If someone tries to stand up to a bully they are accused of being unchristian and forced to leave.

Posted by Mary at Friday, 15 October 2010 at 3:36pm BST

Mary - RE. your research. I'd like to share my experiences with you. I'm a Reader and very aware of the vulnerability of my position. I've come to the conclusion that the CofE is institutionally bullying. Is there a way of exchanging email addresses?

Posted by Jay at Monday, 29 November 2010 at 6:20pm GMT

I wonder about bullying a lot. It is so subtle and directed most likely at someone who sticks out in some way and most likely cannot defend themselves. A church is an institution however powerful and fine its roots are:
Primo Levi writes about how we tend to pick on someone most eloquently
"It is an age-old observation that in every human group there is a predestined victim; one who inspires contempt, on whom, by some mysterious agreement, all unload their bad tempers and their desire to hurt. "
Essentially for me it is about our well being and perhaps anyone with real psychological insecurities is vulnerable in a church - I don't know.

Posted by Victoria at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 4:36pm BST

I know the pain of being bullied. I seem to be one of life's punchbags, and although I have done my very best to change this situation in the past few years, by being as friendly as I can to others around me, I found that the bullying was still happening.
I guess that some people just see me as quiet and very vulnerable.
In the end there is not a lot I can do to change my personality, and since groups always seem to have a scapegoat amongst them, I now tend to keep away from crowds or groups of people.
It is the best solution in the long term, although it can get lonely sometimes.

Posted by Viv at Sunday, 24 July 2011 at 1:31am BST

I think you have summed it all up very eloquently.
Bullying IS insidious and by the time the victim has realised what is happening the damage has been done.
I always thought that a Church, and I use the word "Church" to represent a group of people who are supposed to be united in Christ, should be able to support each other.
Unfortunately I have found that this is not the case.
In my experience in the C of E cliques are abundant while Christian values are sadly lacking.

Posted by Linda Kowolksi at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 4:18pm BST

"My concern is that the Church can do whatever it likes because it writes and polices its own rules. If someone tries to stand up to a bully they are accused of being unchristian and forced to leave."

Mary's comment of a year ago has resonances with me. For years my husband and I put up with the rude, intrusive remarks from 2 PCC Members until I could stand it no more. I finally challenged them and their response was that they were, basically, allowed to say these things because they were "family friends" ( ! ) This was a claim they were hard-pressed to substantiate as my parents died before either of these individuals started attending the church.
My husband & I have now left the church and joined another. "God works in a mysterious way" they say, as it is true. We are now part of a church where we are made to feel welcome and safe and our spiritual lives have been enriched.
IMO There is no such thing as "bad" churches, only churches with dysfunctional members.

Posted by Jane at Thursday, 6 October 2011 at 7:33am BST

I complained to the diocesan bishop about bullying and he dealt with it by the Clergy Discipline Measure. The priest was considered not to have done anything contrary to "laws ecclesiastical" and the case was dismissed, the Registrar's report not mentioning bullying at all. I went to appeal which again kept the matter in a legalistic setting. No one from the diocese has attempted to see me or institute any conciliation. Now it is my wife's turn to be bullied by manipulation of the PCC to dismiss her from the editorship of the parish magazine. I think one problem is that those bullied are isolated instances and do not achieve a critical mass for greater attention. I would be interested to contact anyone else and establish a data base of instances, their nature and how they have been dealt with. It seems that bullied priests get more attention.

Posted by Paul at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 10:42am GMT

I was interested to find the article by Anne Lee but got this instead:

404 - File or directory not found.
The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

In my search for the article I found this:

RE Report urges Church to face up to its bullies
Posted: 29 May 2008 @ 00:00
by Ed Beavan

“NEW guidelines released this week by the Church of England urge dioceses to introduce harassment advisers, in an attempt to reduce the problem of bullying in the Church.”

That was in 2008 and I wonder what has changed?

I have witnessed bullying where “clergy who tried to implement change were often targeted by individuals in congregations who opposed them” and agree that “The Church hasn’t always been supportive enough of individuals who have been bullied” and the hope was that the report would change that.

Yes, indeed, I have seen targeting by individuals in congregations who opposed clergy and wondered at that time whether how the organisation is set up can militate against a good outcome. What solution could possibly work to the advantage of both parties?

Parishioners who are bullied find themselves in a lonely quandary. Do they risk all and speak up? Or do they quietly work their ways around the problem?

“The report includes a model policy, which it calls on dioceses to adopt in order to prevent bullying. It encourages dioceses to discuss and develop the policy, so that “everyone . . . understand[s] that bullying or harassment of people is intolerable”, and that clergy and lay people know where to turn if they have been bullied.”

I suspect that in both cases, of clergy being bullied and of clergy doing the bullying, the mere presence of an anti-bullying policy can help. Senior Clergy must be seen to support it. My question is, how visible is that policy within Parishes? How high profile is this policy so that all members of the church can acknowledge it and understand the issues?

Posted by Christine Standing at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 11:19pm BST

It is not only in the C of E that bullying occurs. I was recently the victim of church bullying in the URC church, but have also seen bullying in the C of E. God also sees it and will not leave it unaddressed, ultimately. However your efforts are appreciated.

I know a URC minister who is bullied into his existence, bullied into his choices - and in turn I was the victim of the same bullying. It is wicked and unspeakable what happened to me as a widow.

Prior to that, in the C of E, a bully warden from the local congregation dared to try and intrude on my husband's death bed against my will. The house sister in hospital stopped her. Disgraceful that she is still a warden at the church!

Posted by withheld at Wednesday, 12 October 2016 at 6:30am BST
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