Thinking Anglicans

Former Worcestershire rector loses employment tribunal claim

The Reverend Mark Sharpe has lost his case against the Bishop and Diocese of Worcester.

Gavin Drake reports: Former Rector loses employment tribunal claim against bishop.

…The Revd Mark Sharpe, former Rector of the Teme Valley South benefice near Tenbury Wells, alleged that the bishop and diocese had failed to protect him from parishioners in his “toxic parish”. He claimed a catalogue of abuse and bullying, saying his dog had been poisoned, excrement had been smeared on his car, and his tyres had been slashed.

The diocese rejected his claims and, at a five-day preliminary hearing at the Birmingham employment tribunal last November, argued that Mr Sharpe had no right to bring a claim to an employment tribunal because, as a Church of England parish priest with freehold incumbent status, he was an office holder, and not an employee or a worker.

In a reserved judgement, published today, Employment Judge Alan McCarry agreed. He said: “I do not see that within the complex statutory structure of the Church of England it is possible to imply that any relationship between a freehold rector in the Church such as Mr Sharpe and any identifiable person or body which could be said to be consensual and contractual. Certainly, Mr Sharpe has failed to demonstrate to my satisfaction that such a relationship existed with either of the respondents.”

The judge said the Church of England, as the established church, “has occupied a central position in English Society for several hundred years.” He added: “Despite that, it has no legal personality. It cannot sue or be sued…

Diocesan press release: Result of the pre-hearing review for the Mark Sharpe Employment Tribunal

For earlier reports, see here, and also here.

Update Worcester Standard ‘Bullied’ vicar loses tribunal claims

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Colin BackhouseFreddy CrabbeCatherine UffenRobert ian WilliamsRosemary Hannah Recent comment authors
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Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

Yes, until he wants to officiate at a same ex marriage,or to take a same ex partner, or …

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

Read the full facts and your sympathy will be with the Diocese.

Catherine Uffen
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Catherine Uffen

The decision is bollocks. If it looks like employment, and walks like employment and talks like employment, it’s employment. This type of decision will lead to the unionization of clergy who will have no alternative but to use their rights of free association to protect themselves from their – okay if the CofE isn’t an employer, let’s use the word, MASTER…protect themselves from their Masters. The Church of England must protect its front line workers and be seen to do so, to a reasonable degree.

Freddy Crabbe
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Freddy Crabbe

I am somewhat late in seeing this which I find most disappointing. It confirms my view that the Church of England is a business using Christianity as its cover story and trade mark. I do hope Rev. Mark Sharpe has or will appeal. There has been an employment appeal tribunal decision that for reasons I do not understand seems not to have floated to the top. It is my view that Employment Tribunals are heavily weighted against claimants. I hope Rev Clarke can take it further. I am sure he has not received justice so far.

Colin Backhouse
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Colin Backhouse

I have now retired but held a freehold post in the C of E just like Mark Sharpe. There are freedoms and privelages that go with such an office. Freedom to preach the Gospel is one whatever opposition results. As a responsible and professional person he should have known what he was offering himself for. In his situation what most office holders would do is MOVE. Instead he seems to have resigned then lodged this complaint. The Church cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of Parishioners nor for that of Church members. Very very rarely would it dismiss a… Read more »