Comments: No requirement for CNC candidates to declare conflicts of interest

The gist of the appeal panel's findings seems to be "yes, we know she was hiding a conflict of interest but there's nothing in the rulebook to stop her doing that". Perhaps it might be time to update the rulebook?

Posted by Jo at Thursday, 12 April 2018 at 9:08pm BST

Would anyone be able to give a view as to what fraction of the electors in General Synod were in fact aware of her conflict of interest through her involvement in AMIE?

Posted by John Swanson at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 8:50am BST

You are so right, Jo. It is scandalously inappropriate that someone, charged with the high responsibility of selecting our most senior leaders, should simultaneously be acting as a trustee of a schismatic church. If the existing law does not make provision to deal with this, then it is high time that the law was changed, preferably retroactively.

This case has worrying similarities with the case, reported in an earlier thread on 25th February, of Dr Peter Sanlon in Tunbridge Wells, who is simultaneously acting as Vicar of a CofE parish, and as 'Rector' of a schismatic church within that parish, but where canon law does not apparently make any explicit provision to deal with it.

The law is an ass - let's change it, and soon!

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 10:25am BST

Jo, I am sure you are right. Malcolm, exactly. The law needs to change. In my experience the institutional church does not understand 'conflict of interest'. A recent discussion demonstrated that it was considered that a clergy spouse in a diocese where her husband ministers could be seen to be 'independent', with no conflict of interest. As far as General Synod goes, I think you may find that at least one other member is on the electoral roll of their geographical Anglican parish, but actually goes to, and is a part of, another schismatic parish. I wonder if the problem is that institutionally the CofE does not like conflict, so shies away from it, thus not addressing nettles (if one can address a nettle). The case Malcolm has highlighted of Peter Scanlon seems to be one such. If Peter Scanlon can be both the Vicar of an Anglican parish AND at one and the same time, be the Rector of another church, not in Communion with the Church of England, then it is not surprising that a member of GS and the CNC can be affiliated to the Church of England AND at the same time be a Trustee of a church not in communion with the C of E. Canon lawyers: now is the time to address these issues once and for all. The Bishop of Newcastle is also having to grapple with Jesmond Parish church where one of the Anglican clergy has also been ordained a Bishop by 'breakaway' Bishops. (Sorry, 'breakaway' doesn't really describe the situation. Please understand that it is shorthand.) Anthony Archer please may we have your words of wisdom?

Posted by Anne at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 2:36pm BST

Doesn't "diversity" justify Miss Paterson's inclusion? I would think, given how "diversity" is advanced as the justifying reason for so much else, it should count here, too.

Posted by Wm "Bill'Paul at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 4:42pm BST

Bill, I agree with you so don't think you are alone in your view.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 7:30pm BST

Diversity does not justify schism. Ask any Christian over the age of 1700.

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 9:42pm BST

Most comment sounds like sour grapes and nothing to do with fairness. It didn't go your way and you don't like it?

Posted by Ian H at Friday, 13 April 2018 at 10:16pm BST

I suppose the way to see if this is ‘fair’ is to see how it would play both ways...I mean, I wonder how conservatives would feel if they elected someone who, say, they didn't know was gay but who they thought was representing them?

Posted by Jayne Ozanne at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 9:24am BST

I don't think this is just sour grapes. We all may wish for greater representation by people who theologise like us but, isn't there a qualitative difference in electing someone who is deeply embedded in a group that ordains bishops; especially when the entire rationale seems to be that this groups interest in episcopal oversight cannot be met by the Church of England? So although the position may be legally defensible this doesn't mean that it is also ethically sound.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 10:21am BST

There is a difference (which this case is based on , as I read it ) between holding a variety of theological views and being part of the variety of views within the C of E when elected to a role such as CNC; and being part of the governance of a different, breakaway group which is based on being different from the C of E.

Posted by RosalindR at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 10:29am BST

Imagine if someone was elected to the board of Tesco, who had failed to declare that they were already on the board of Sainsburys. Or if someone campaigning to be elected a Labour MP had failed to declare their membership of the Conservative party.

This needs changing.

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 10:50am BST

A good sign that any organization's on a terminal slide is when it lacks the confidence to defend even its continued existence. If it's not a no-brainer that members of schismatic churches have no place making decisions about CoE policy or leadership, maybe the church's decline really is irrevocable.

In that sense, this is the perfect candidate.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 6:07pm BST

Jane..."I suppose the way to see if this is ‘fair’ is to see how it would play both ways...I mean, I wonder how conservatives would feel if they elected someone who was gay..."

But she's, as far as I'm aware, in total harmony with the CofEs current doctrine of marriage. Understandably, that doesn't suit others....

Posted by Ian H at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 6:27pm BST

Are we being too legalistic here? Usual practice on all the non-church committees I serve on is to go out of your way to declare anything that might even possibly be a conflict of interest. Since Synod is the governing body of an organisation which hopes to work by consent, it is very odd for anyone to conceal things which would give a conflict or any appearance of a conflict of interest. Good practice, very difficult to codify legally, is always to think of everything that anyone might think was a conflict of interest and to declare it.

The other odd thing about all this is that this particular conflict was "hiding in plain sight". Is it really the case that nobody else was aware of it when this candidate stood for election? If they were, why didn't they publicise it more widely at the time (or even ask the candidate politely if she would?).

I don't think more rules and laws are likely to solve this one. The fact that this argument is happening at all points in the direction indicated by James Byron.

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 9:29pm BST

The disclosure aspect needs changing. Elections are only helpful if the electorate have reasonable knowledge of candidates.

But equally it is then for the electors to decide whether she has a conflict of interest. (I don't think she has but would never vote for her.)

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 14 April 2018 at 9:41pm BST

Ian H, I think you have completely misunderstood Jayne's point. She's saying, in effect, 'what if the position were reversed and it were the conservative lobby who had been deceived into thinking a candidate shared all their values, when he/she did not?'

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 15 April 2018 at 9:08am BST

I agree with Ian H and the decision of the appeal panel. In my view, this challenge to Jane Patterson's election was unmeritorious and it should have been possible for it to have been dismissed summarily without a hearing, but the relevant Synod standing order (SO 135) doesn't at present provide for this and, as the panel noted in its decision (para 23), it "gives very little guidance as to how an appeal is to be conducted." It doesn't even require an appellant to state his or her grounds of appeal. Moreover, to expect Jane to have disclosed her connection to two Christ Church, Fulwood, church plants in a 100-word statement was unrealistic. Mrs Alexander and Miss Patterson served together on the CNC from 2012 to 2017: did Mrs Alexander ever challenge Ms Patterson at CNC meetings during those five years to disclose the alleged conflict of interest? Further, an election appeal which challenges the legitimacy of a candidate's election should be resolved speedily: it should not have taken over 8 months, as in this case (from 28 July 2017 when the result of the CNC election was announced to 6 April 2018 when the panel's decision was delivered.)

That said, the appeal (which I believe was the first challenge arising out of a CNC election) does raise a number of procedural issues that ought now to be addressed:
(i) the need to expand GS SO 135 to require anyone challenging an election to set out his/her grounds of challenge; also to set out the possible grounds of appeal and the powers of the appeal panel - at present entirely absent (cf CRR rule 45);
(ii) to specify who should be notified of such an appeal: the electorate, i.e. members of the House of Laity, were informed of the result of the appeal by an e-mail giving the link to the decision on the CofE website, but were not previously told about the appeal. Only candidates in the election were notified that the appeal had been made, and then only on 15 December 2017, after I had raised the issue at Church House, having heard about the appeal via a separate channel. (In my view the whole electorate should have been informed.);
(iii) to set a time-limit for such an appeal to be heard and determined;
(iii) whether the hearing of any such appeal should be heard in public: in this case the initial view of the panel was to hold the hearing in private and when that view was put to the parties they did not disagree: see Decision paras 29-30. (I think it should be public.);
(iv) whether the appeal panel should be able to make an order for costs, either inter partes or of the panel. In this case, there must have been significant costs incurred by the Church in relation to the appeal. [Cf CRR rule 45(f) which empowers the persons appointed to determine an enrolment appeal (under CRR rule 43) or an election appeal (under rule 44) to award costs];
(v) whether candidates for election to the CNC ought to be able to submit a longer election statement than 100 words (for the GS elections, two sides of A4 are allowed.)
[For the avoidance of doubt, I declare what some may consider to be an interest as a candidate in the election.]

Posted by David Lamming at Sunday, 15 April 2018 at 2:57pm BST

I don't agree that this should be left to electors to decide: even if future elections didn't raise all kindsa issues around minorities having disproportionate influence (CoE elections are by STV, so it's not had for a determined group to get someone elected), democracy isn't the be all and end all. Unless constrained by law, it's nothing but crude majoritarianism.

As a matter of policy, no chuch should allow members of a rival organization the chance to get elected, anymore than political parties tolerate their members moonlighting with the opposition.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 15 April 2018 at 3:47pm BST

I think James Byron has the right of it. I wouldn't consider the election of a candidate in this situation to be legitimate even if the membership of schismatic groups had formed part of the statement. An appropriate model to reflect on might be SWP members attempting to join Labour.

Posted by Jo at Sunday, 15 April 2018 at 6:11pm BST

It is not too legalistic to expect that people in positions of high authority in the CofE—here, a bishop-choosing position, no less—should not at the same time be active in schismatic groups.
This is basic, fiduciary duty-of-loyalty stuff.
If church law currently raises no bar, then the law ought to be changed.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 2:50am BST

But they do not see themselves the schismatics. They see themselves as standing firm and guarding the truth of the gospel in the CofE. In their thinking it is the rest of us who are doing the splitting off here.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 8:12am BST

"But they do not see themselves the schismatics"

And all good Anglo-Catholics don't think they're schismatics from Rome, but you don't find us getting invited to elect the next Pope.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 2:29pm BST

David Runcorn, that's a theological point, not a legal one.

Legally, perhaps it might help if we used the phrase "separate, independent, and competing."

The people who are charged with selecting new bishops for the Church of England should not, at the same time, be leading an organization that is separate, independent, and competing. This is black-letter corporate law. It should go without saying.

So to whatever extent this principle does not apply to the CNC, that should change right quick.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 3:07pm BST

No doubt the rules should be changed to prevent someone from a rival organisation appointing the leadership of the first organisation. In the meantime, I wonder what would happen if all the other members of CNC declared themselves unable to serve under these circumstances?

I'd still like to know (as would Bernard upthread) how widespread knowledge of this was at the time of the CNC election. I note that her Synod Election Address from 2015 appears to make no mention of it, so the same question could apply to that election.

Posted by John Swanson at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 3:59pm BST

Ms Patterson's trusteeship of Christ Church Central has been public knowledge since 2013, if not earlier. See, e.g., https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/22-february/news/uk/sheffield-diocese-s-total-surprise-at-kenyan-ordination

Posted by Richard at Monday, 16 April 2018 at 6:35pm BST

Richard: not to belabour the point, but there's a difference between something being in the public domain, and something being widely known. It's not a central point, but I'm still interested in how many members of Synod were aware of her AMiE involvement but voted for her anyway, and how many voted for her not being aware.

Anyway, the point bears making once again that healthy organisations with healthy cultures don't need rules about decarations of interest, because participants in those organsiations recognise the right thing to do and do it anyway.

Posted by John Swanson at Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at 9:11am BST

I echo John Swanson.
And his point about doing the right thing applies to voters as well as to candidates.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at 10:47am BST

David Lamming, I think that you are using your extensive synodical knowledge and experience to forensically analyse the 'mote' which is the substance of the appeal, whilst ignoring the 'plank' which is the underlying issue of whether it is appropriate for someone who is a trustee of a schismatic church to be a member of the body which selects the most senior leaders of our church. This is the distinction which Jo made in the first post on this thread.

It may well be correct, as you suggest, that the appeal had to be rejected, given the law as it stands, but that does not mean that the situation is right or ethical.

And to those who suggest that we should not have to resort to legalism, but that people should know what is the right thing to do, I agree - they should indeed. But the evidence is overwhelming, in this case and in the parallel ones in Tunbridge Wells and Jesmond, that the people concerned don't have the same view of what is right, or aren't prepared to do it, so we have no option but to resort to the law to enforce the general view.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at 12:32pm BST
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