The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.
Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.37 Comments
Updated again Wednesday morning
The full report is available here (146 pages).
Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.
Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.
The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:
“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.
For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”
The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:
A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”
The Bishop of Sheffield has published his Determination, following upon the Visitation of his cathedral that he announced on 1 November.
The press release is here: Bishop of Sheffield publishes ‘Determination’ following Sheffield Cathedral Visitation or another copy is here.
The Sheffield Star reported: Sheffield Cathedral’s ‘bullying and blaming’ culture led to ‘fear of speaking out’.21 Comments
Updated 23 March and again 24 March
Two separate news reports have been published today:
Much of this article reports an online AGM meeting last Saturday of the Christ Church Association which represents 9,000 past and present members of the college, and which spent 50 minutes scrutinising Christ Church’s treatment of its head, Dean Martyn Percy, which was strongly defended by Canon Sarah Foot, who referred to the recently published report by Sir Wyn Williams.
It also reports on a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean, Edward Fitzgerald QC, a specialist in human rights law and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, and his colleague Paul Harris. They conclude that it would be “unlawful and improper to convene a second tribunal”. They go on to say that if the complaints were proven, “… it seems very doubtful whether those facts could be regarded by any reasonable tribunal as sufficient to merit the severe sanction of dismissal…The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”
This news report describes the safeguarding risk assessment measures taken by the College and Chapter, that were approved by Richard Woodley,the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who said:
“…because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.
Also, it was an error for the name of the consultant who conducted an investigation into the alleged incident, to have appeared on the risk assessment document. Kate Wood said:
“I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral. My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .
“…I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”
A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”.
The Church Times also reports on the progress of the CDM action against the Dean: the Bishop of Birmingham, to whom the responsibility has been delegated by the Bishop of Oxford, has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage, despite the Dean being unable to respond to the complaint due to illness.
Updates (items published on 21 March)
Surviving Church Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late
Oxford Diocese has published this (24 March): The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy which links to a letter from the Sub Dean. The same material is on the Christ Church website: Response from Christ Church Cathedral to public speculation.67 Comments
Christ Church Publishes Independent Review
Link to independent report (pdf)
Christ Church has published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, reviewing the handling of a sexual harassment complaint made by a junior member of staff against a senior member. Last month, Governing Body commissioned the review to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it has followed, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes.
In his report, Sir Wyn states the complainant “described events which, objectively, could amount to sexual harassment,” that “there was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way that information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint,” and then that “a decision to the effect that the evidence was not sufficient would have been unreasonable.” He confirms “the processes followed were entirely consistent with the Statute and By-Laws” and concludes “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”
Sir Wyn Williams was asked in his terms of reference to examine whether Governing Body members saw sufficient information about the allegation of sexual harassment to make properly informed decisions. He ruled that “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision.” Sir Wyn also looked for evidence of conflicts of interest in the decision-making process, and found that trustees acted “reasonably and objectively.”
The full report has been provided to the Charity Commission. Sir Wyn concludes his report stating that “there is no basis upon which the Charity Commission should be concerned about either (a) the decision to appoint a tribunal to hear and determine the complaint made against the Dean or (b) the process by which that decision was reached.”
Christ Church has previously expressed its condemnation of attempts by some through the media, social media, and a number of blogs, to undermine its disciplinary processes and in particular to intimidate the complainant. It is now hoped that these individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment, for the sakes of both the complainant and the respondent.
The Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Southampton is organising a webinar:
The Future of Brexit Britain – debates in the Anglican tradition
This event is linked to the publication of a book: The Future of Brexit Britain – Anglican reflections on national identity and European solidarity (SPCK, eds: Andrew Bradstock and Jonathan Chaplin).
You may register for this webinar here:
Webinar: 15th March 2021, 17:00-19:00 GMT
Very little of the voluminous post-Brexit analysis in academia and the commentariat has focussed on what happened with the major organisations and institutions of civil society. This webinar provides an unusual opportunity to understand how the issues were seen and played out within England’s established church. Like much of England, the Anglican church was divided by Brexit. The essays in The Future of Brexit Britain explore why these divisions may have arisen. They examine the extent to which divides reflected broader patterns of popular opinion, attitudes to nationhood, education and social class, or may have reflected issues particular to the Church of England. The essays reflect the different perspectives found within the church on Brexit and on English, British and European identities In the first part of this two hour webinar the editors will outline some of the key questions raised in the book and discussion will explore those issues. In the second part the debate will look more widely at the contemporary role of Anglicanism in shaping ideas of national and international identities in England, Britain and the British Isles. (It is hoped that will be the first in an occasional series of events on the relationships between the major faith groups in England and national identity.)3 Comments
Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding comments by the Primate of Nigeria
The Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Reverend Henry C Ndukuba, issued a statement on Friday 26 February 2021 which referred to “the deadly ‘virus’ of homosexuality”. The statement goes on to use phrases like, “[homosexuality] is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough”. It also states that “secular governments are adopting aggressive campaign for global homosexual culture.” (sic)
I completely disagree with and condemn this language. It is unacceptable. It dehumanises those human beings of whom the statement speaks.
I have written privately to His Grace The Archbishop to make clear that this language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion (expressed most clearly, albeit in unsuitable language for today, in paragraphs c and d of resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998). This resolution both restated a traditional view of Christian marriage and was clear in its condemnation of homophobic actions or words. It affirmed that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”
The Anglican Communion continues to seek to walk together amidst much difference and through many struggles. I urge all Christians to join me in continuing prayer for the people and churches of Nigeria as they face economic hardship, terrorist attacks, religious-based violence and insecurity.
The mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, that God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ calls us to holiness and hope.
+Justin Cantuar:67 Comments
Updated again Tuesday 2 March
On 19 January, the Anglican Church in North America published Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops.
On 22 February there was a response from some individuals within ACNA in the form of a public letter addressed to “Dear Gay Anglicans”. Although this has been withdrawn by the originator as discussed here , you can read a copy of it here. This prompted a response on 23 February: Archbishop Beach writes to the Diocese of the South about the “Dear Gay Anglicans” open letter.
On 26 February, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) published a letter signed by Archbishop Henry Ndukuba, the Primate, which heavily criticises ACNA for the original pastoral statement. The original PDF format of this letter can be seen here: Church-of-Nigerias-Position-on-the-Recent-Developments-in-ACNA-February-2021, and there is a copy of the letter at Anglican Ink, over here.
That in turn generated a response from ACNA on 27 February: Clarity in the Midst of Confusion: A Provincial Statement on the Events of the Week.
No British mainstream media reporting of this yet, but some other websites have pieces:
Living Church Sexuality Conflict Roils ACNA
Fulcrum Andrew Goddard Gay Christians, ACNA and GAFCON
Living Church Nigerian Primate Lashes Out at ACNA
The Standard (Kenya) Cracks within Anglican Communion widens over same-sex relationships
Daily Post (Nigeria) Homosexuality: Anglican Church in Nigeria wants American bishops sanctioned
Surviving Church Words sometimes break. Divisions and Disputes in the ACNA world96 Comments
The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, set up last autumn to recommend changes to ensure greater racial equality in the Church of England, has issued an update on its work. The full text is here. The Taskforce aims to publish its final report on 22nd April 2021 – Stephen Lawrence Day.
More information on the group and its work is available here.2 Comments
The Ecclesiastical Law Society working group that has been looking at a replacement for the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) produced its final report on Wednesday. This document can be found here.
The Church Times reports on this: New C of E disciplinary process ‘could save £250,000’ and boost legal aid
..The working group, chaired by Peter Collier QC, the Vicar-General of York, calculates that its proposed scheme will cost the Church an average of £652,000 p.a. This includes £294,000 to provide legal aid for all respondents accused of serious misconduct.
The group reckons that the average annual cost of the existing, discredited system under the CDM to be approaching £900,000, with only £104,325 allocated for legal aid (2019 figure).
The working group predicts a saving even if legal aid is offered in minor as well as serious complaints. This would put the annual legal aid bill at £438,000, making the total cost of dealing with complaints £796,000…
Bishop Tim Thornton, who chairs the official working group charged with making proposals to General Synod for CDM reform issued this Response to Ecclesiastical Law Society report on CDM
“As chair of the Clergy Discipline Review Group I welcome the report published by the working group of the ELS.
“It has been very good to work with them and especially good to have two of their group on our group.
“As I have made clear publicly I am committed to finding a replacement for the CDM and I am clear that many of the ideas and detailed work in the ELS report is enormously helpful to us and all who will consider what a replacement Measure will look like.
“I am especially grateful to Peter Collier for the immense amount of time and effort he has put in to chairing the group and bringing this Report to publication.”
His group published a progress report in December, which we reported on here.
The Sheldon Hub has undertaken considerable research on this topic, since 2017, as summarised here. On 21 February they wrote:
Sheldon remains very concerned that detailed proposals are being brought forward for the replacement of CDM without any published document on the Scope and Purpose of such a Measure. As no-one else appeared to have the appetite to produce one, Sheldon offers this document as a starting point : Purpose and scope of proposed replacement of CDM.
See previous report from 15 December.
CofE press release today:
The Archbishops’ Council has approved the next steps in independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team (NST), with the first phase to be implemented by the summer. The paper by Revd Dr Malcolm Brown on the proposed interim arrangements is to be presented to General Synod members on Saturday. The proposals for this new structure were presented to an informal meeting of the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council this week, with Council members then approving the paper. During the meeting members noted the importance of being able to review the structure after a set period and further detail needed on Phase 2 once the Board was in place. Dr Brown noted his thanks to MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) and members of the Survivors’ Reference Group who acted as consultants. Together, they formed a Focus Group and considered an early draft of the proposals and their report offered numerous comments and suggestions, with as many as possible incorporated into this paper.
The Archbishops’ Council originally voted on independent oversight in December.
The paper containing the proposals as issued to General Synod is a page longer than the version linked above.
Here is a link to the copy that includes the cover page (total page count 20).
A new coalition, named MOSAIC, which is an acronym for Movement Of Supporting Anglicans for An Inclusive Church, has been launched. The website is at https://mosaic-anglicans.org. The press release (copied in full below the fold) explains:
SENIOR CHURCH OF ENGLAND LEADERS UNITE TO CAMPAIGN FOR “A CHURCH FOR ALL ENGLAND”.
Leaders from across the full breadth of inclusive networks have united to create a “Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church” that will campaign together for a more inclusive church.
The movement aims to have a presence in each diocese of the Church of England, where it will work with local clergy and laity on projects that promote inclusion for all those who are currently marginalised by the Church of England – whether that be due to race, ability, sexuality, gender or gender identity.
Launching just ahead of the February Synod, the co-chair of the initiative Revd Canon Tim Goode, a newly elected clergy member of the Archbishops’ Council said:
“I am delighted that we have been able to bring together such a broad coalition of leaders who represent the full range of marginalised groups within the Church of England. We stand far stronger together – for you cannot be a little bit inclusive!
…The Movement is keen to connect with anyone who is interested to get involved. More details can be found on their website www.mosaic-anglicans.org…
The Church Times has reported this: New coalition seeks greater ‘inclusive’ clout in Church of England dioceses.
A NEW coalition describing itself as a “movement of supporting Anglicans for an inclusive Church” — and to be know by the acronym Mosaic — is to bring together campaigns on issues of race, ability, sexuality, gender, and gender identity.
One of its two co-chairs, Canon Tim Goode, a newly elected member of the Archbishops’ Council, said that Mosaic represented “the full range of marginalised groups within the Church of England. We stand far stronger together — for you cannot be a little bit inclusive.”
The coalition draws together leaders from the Campaign for Equal Marriage, Disability and Jesus, Inclusive Church, Modern Church, One Body One Faith, and the Ozanne Foundation. It hopes to grow to include other organisations.
Each of these bodies will continue to function independently, but the coalition is an attempt to co-ordinate their efforts to eradicate discrimination from church statements, policies, appointments, and actions…
The article also contains a Q and A section, with information that is not to be found at present on the MOSAIC website.51 Comments
Updated Saturday morning
Christ Church to Commission Independent Review
17 February 2021
Christ Church’s Governing Body has voted to carry out an independent review regarding the handling of a serious sexual harassment complaint, in order to confirm the disciplinary process it has put in place. The complaint was made last October by a junior member of staff against a senior member.
Last month, Governing Body addressed the complaint through its internal disciplinary procedures, but these have been questioned repeatedly by some in the media, while the motives of the complainant have been publicly challenged. While it is fully confident of the decisions it has made on this matter, Governing Body agreed that it wanted to respond to the queries that have been raised in a transparent manner. It felt that an external review would be the best way of ensuring that the complaint can be properly and swiftly dealt with for the sake of all those involved.
Governing Body’s decision follows a letter written by Christ Church student representatives to the Charity Commission, which stresses the importance of urgently addressing any allegation of sexual harassment. Christ Church’s internal HR processes are dictated by its statutes, and in this case require a tribunal to be set up to consider any appropriate disciplinary action.
A spokesperson for Christ Church commented:
“We entirely share our students’ concerns that a complaint of sexual harassment by this young member of staff must be treated with the utmost seriousness. That is exactly why last month we put our formal internal HR processes into action, and we are entirely confident these are the correct and necessary steps. However, we believe that an external, independent review will provide further reassurance about the decisions that were taken, and a way forward for all involved.”
Christ Church has begun the immediate process of identifying and appointing a Chair for the independent review and agreeing its terms of reference. It is expected that the Chair will be a senior figure from the judiciary.
Separately, Christ Church has reiterated its condemnation of attempts, through the press, social media and on a number of blogs, to gaslight and intimidate the complainant, their supporters, and the independent investigator who carried out a preliminary investigation into the allegation. Given the repeated leaking of confidential, personal information, Christ Church has reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Update Saturday morning
Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph has this: Dean of Christ Church can’t pray in his own cathedral without permission.
In addition to reporting the additional independent review, this article describes a number of restrictions placed by the College on the Dean, some of which are denied in a further statement by the College to the Telegraph.12 Comments
Following on from our earlier article, Financial threats to Church of England plans, there has been a response from the two archbishops, which you can read either here in the Spectator itself, A defence of the Churchof England (includes a cartoon) or here: Archbishops: the Church in changing times (without the cartoon).
We linked earlier to one item by Emma Thompson in the Spectator which might be what has provoked the archbishops. There was another one from Marcus Walker The misguided priorities of church authorities.
Andrew Brown has commented on all this in several items:
And Angela Tilby has also written in this week’s Church Times: The Church is not a business.11 Comments
Following the Charity Commission intervention made public on 28 January, there have been further developments:
Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church made comments on that letter and the Christ Church response: The Charity Commissioners intervene in the Christ Church bullying of the Dean.
Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph disclosed on 29 January further details about the Christ Church response: Christ Church trustees express anger after watchdog questions efforts to oust embattled Dean. This contains numerous details from an email sent to the trustees commenting on the Charity Commission’s action and suggesting ways that individual trustees might respond to enquiries.
A week later on 5 February, the Church Times published a letter to the editor from the complainant, which can be read in full here (scroll down to Complaint against Dean of Christ Church, Oxford) and carried a lengthy news story about this letter and the background to it, see Complainant in Percy case says she acted alone.
This morning, 8 February, Archbishop Cranmer has published an article by Martin Sewell, titled Christ Church Oxford Trustees could be personally liable for £85K each. This article (which includes a link to a Daily Mail report of 22 November) contains a large number of criticisms of the Trustees.2 Comments
Updated yet again Tuesday
There have been numerous news reports and comment articles in both mainstream and social media concerning a tweet posted last Wednesday.
On Thursday the Church Times reported this story under the headline Cleric apologises for ‘White Nationalism’ remark.
A LONDON clergyman, the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown, has apologised for posting on social media that the clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died this week, was linked with “White British Nationalism”.
His post on Twitter — “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism. I will offer prayers for the repose of his kind and generous soul, but I will not be joining the ‘National Clap'” — was interpreted as a criticism of the man himself. It was quickly taken down, and Mr Robinson-Brown posted an apology in its place: “I offer an unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet regarding the clap for Captain Tom.”
A statement by the diocese of London said that the matter was being reviewed by the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller. “As a Church, we expect clergy to ensure that all online activity is in line with the Church of England’s social media guidelines and built on truth, kindness and sensitivity to others.”.
The Diocese of London statement can be found here: A statement from the Diocese of London regarding Jarel Robinson-Brown and reads in full as follows:
Jarel Robinson-Brown’s comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged. The fact that he immediately removed his tweet and subsequently apologised does not undo the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family. Nor do Jarel’s actions justify the racist abuse he is now receiving.
A review is now underway, led by the Archdeacon of London. As a Church, we expect clergy to ensure that all online activity is in line with the Church of England’s social media guidelines and built on truth, kindness and sensitivity to others. It is incumbent upon all of us to make social media and the web more widely positive places for conversations to happen.
A subsequent report appeared on Saturday in the Church Times: Support grows for Jarel Robinson-Brown.
A GROWING number of churchpeople have voiced their support for the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown, the Black ordinand and former Methodist minister, whose Twitter post last week was widely interpreted as an attack on Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died on Tuesday…
..Mr Robinson-Brown’s post was quickly taken down, and an apology from him was posted in its place: “I offer an unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet regarding the clap for Captain Tom.”
A petition was none the less started for his removal from office (he has not yet been licensed, but has secured a title post at All Hallows by the Tower, London). By the weekend it had gained more than 20,000 signatures. Many of the signatories referred to Mr Robinson-Brown’s race, with comments such as “Racism is a one way street according to some. When a white person is accused of racist tendencies they are rightly called out and vilified. When a BAME person does the same it seems to be their right to do so based on the wrongdoings from generations ago.”
Racist trolling has been one trigger for expressions of support for Mr Robinson-Brown. Another has been the statement put out by the diocese of London, which read: “Jarel Robinson-Brown’s comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged. The fact that he immediately removed his tweet and subsequently apologised does not undo the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family.”
Many social-media posts have viewed this as undermining Mr Robinson-Brown’s apology — “throwing him under a bus” has been a common expression — as was the announcement that the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, was to conduct an investigation into the matter…
On Sunday afternoon, a second statement was issued from the Diocese of London: Statement from the Bishop of London regarding Jarel Robinson-Brown
“After Jarel Robinson-Brown posted his now-deleted tweet last Wednesday, my primary concern has been to ensure that he received immediate pastoral support in the face of the most appalling racist and homophobic abuse, aimed at him and at others. I am particularly thankful for the ongoing care that was quickly put in place, through so many different routes.
“I believe it is right that the original matter is reviewed properly and swiftly by the Archdeacon of London, to enable us all to reflect and learn, and that work is taking place. I also believe, and have made clear to Jarel, that there is no excuse for anyone to be sent the shocking messages he has been receiving. Jarel did of course quickly acknowledge that his tweet was ill-timed and pastorally-insensitive.
“I am deeply concerned to hear reports within the Church that United Kingdom Minority Ethnic clergy and ordinands have been affected by recent events, and by the Diocese’s response. I want to ensure that in London, and right across the Church of England, our clergy and those training for ministry feel safe. I look forward to the report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Task Force launched last year, and the work of the Archbishops’ Commission that will follow, which I know will help to achieve this shared end.
“Any form of online abuse, including racism, homophobia and threatening behaviour, cannot be tolerated. I sincerely hope that those perpetuating it will desist and consider the hurt they are causing. We must all work to ensure the digital world becomes a more loving and generous place.”
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally
Bishop of London
The Church Times has reported further: Racist attacks on Jarel Robinson-Brown ‘appalling’, says Bishop of London.
The Diocese of London issued this Response to the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce.
The Church Times has again reported this development: London diocese will look at its own actions in Jarel Robinson-Brown review.53 Comments
Updated again Thursday evening
The Sunday Times published a news story with the headline: Church to cut paid clergy as a fifth of flock wanders off which is based on a report circulating among diocesan secretaries etc.
The damage inflicted on the Church of England by the pandemic is revealed in a leaked internal document which warns up to 20 per cent of its regular worshippers may never return.
It calls into question “the sustainability of many local churches” and the continued financial subsidy given to 5,000 loss-making parishes out of a total of 12,000…
The next day, the Church Times published a news story which includes the full text of that document. You can read that here: Financial crisis threatens Church’s strategic plans.
(Note the Church Times paywall arrangement: if you are not a subscriber to the newspaper, but you register with the site you get two additional free articles each month, i.e. a total of four items.)
DECLINING income, accelerated by the pandemic, means that dioceses are facing “indiscriminate cuts” to clergy posts, undermining the Church of England’s attempts at strategic reform.
New assistant curates, recruited in the recent push for vocations, could struggle to find incumbencies, an internal document suggests.
Details of the scale of the challenge are contained in a discussion paper circulated to all bishops and diocesan secretaries in the middle of last month. It confirms that the C of E’s income fell 8.1 per cent in the year to November 2020. It projects a further fall of ten per cent for 2021, calculated before the latest lockdown was announced. Expected savings on expenditure for 2021 are currently three to four per cent. These overall figures disguise a large variation between dioceses.
The document, Perspectives on Money, People and Buildings, seen by the Church Times on Monday, has not been made public, despite confusion from parish priests and others about media reports on its contents, and a declaration at the start: “Honest sharing of information on how those resources of money, people and buildings are being stewarded for greatest impact is vital.”
The Archbishop of York has published an article on his own website which comments on the above, The Church of England still needs clergy. This article is also available in the Church Times with the strapline There are no central plans to cut the number of priests, says Stephen Cottrell. Do read the full text of what he says.
The Church Times also has this news report: Clergy won’t be pushed out in cost cuts, says Archbishop of York
CLERGY are still needed to serve the Church of England, and “are not being pushed out” of their posts to make up for the continued decline in income, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, says.
None the less, the Church will have to make “tough” and “challenging” changes to spread both its wealth and stipendiary clergy fairly across the 42 dioceses, he warns. This is likely to result in some cuts to stipendiary posts in all dioceses, many of which — especially in the north — are being left vacant after clerics retire…
The Spectator has published an article by Emma Thompson with the title Holy relic: what will be left of the Church of England after the pandemic? (registration may be needed).
William Nye has published a furious response on the Church of England website. Copied below.49 Comments
The Church of England has issued this: Statement on resolution of disciplinary process regarding Bishop of Lincoln
…The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, has accepted a penalty for misconduct in relation to the management of one safeguarding issue. At their meeting the Archbishop apologised to the Bishop for the long process that he has endured. The Archbishop expressed his full support for the Bishop as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I am very sorry that Bishop Christopher and his wife Susan have had to endure such an ordeal over the last 20 months. I have expressed my regret to Christopher and am very grateful to him for the gracious way he has responded. I want to make it clear that I am fully supportive of Christopher returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln. We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season, as we also continue to learn lessons from the scrutiny of IICSA which highlighted our poor response to survivors…
And the Diocese of Lincoln has issued this: Letter to the people of the Diocese of Lincoln
We write as episcopal colleagues to the people of the Diocese to share news of the Bishop of Lincoln’s return to ministry and our shared sense of encouragement for the future.
1. What has happened?
On 12th January 2021 the Bishop of Lincoln had a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They met together to pray and discuss next steps following the conclusion of the clergy disciplinary process instigated after the Bishop’s suspension in May 2019, and subsequent investigation. That process resulted in a judgment by the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, following which the Bishop agreed to accept a rebuke in relation to his handling of an allegation made against a priest in the diocese. Bishop Christopher has offered an unreserved apology for the way in which he handled this matter.
Archbishop Justin expressed his full support for Bishop Christopher as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as Bishop of Lincoln…
The Church Times carries this report: Bishop of Lincoln can return to duty after 20-month safeguarding investigation. That account reminds us how it began:
…The Church’s safeguarding procedures were triggered in May 2019, after police informed the church authorities about an allegation (News, 17 May 2019). Bishop Lowson was immediately suspended because, as Archbishop Justin Welby said at the time: “If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people.”
Bishop Lowson agreed to co-operate fully, while expressing his bewilderment at the charge, and hoped that the investigation would be completed “as quickly as possible”.
Part of the delay was down to the police, who did not conclude their investigation until January 2020, deciding that, on the evidence before them, there was no case to answer. The Church’s investigation, carried out for the National Safeguarding Team, began at that point, and it was later confirmed that Bishop Lowson was being investigated under the Clergy Discipline Measure…
The Charity Commission has written to each of the 65 members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford, concerning the proposed second tribunal relating to the Dean, Martyn Percy.
The full text of the two page letter is available here: Christ Church – Charity Commission letter to trustees 27.1.2021 and the salient portions are copied below.
The College has issued this press statement:
Statement in response to media interest
Christ Church’s Governing Body and Cathedral Chapter earlier this month decided to take forward internal disciplinary proceedings, following a complaint of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff. Christ Church is clear that, as an employer, a charity, and an educational institution, it will always treat such an allegation fairly. We should not and cannot ignore such serious allegations.
Christ Church has followed the formal requirements in our statutes to deal with such an allegation, as well as the Charity Commission’s guidance on “Safeguarding and protecting people for charities and trustees,” in the handling of this complaint. On 12 January 2021, we provided a further update to the Commission accordingly. We welcome the opportunity to share the process in a transparent way with the Charity Commission and we know they will take as seriously as we do all accusations of sexual harassment. We continue to keep the Commission fully informed and respond to any questions they may have.
Extract from Charity Commission letter:
…We are writing to all members of the Governing Body in their capacity as trustees of the above foundation which was registered as a charity in August 2011…
…Further to the earlier stages of our regulatory engagement with the charity, we have concerns about the prudent application of charitable funds and the proper process of decision making within the charity as the dispute involving the Dean continues. We understand from your legal adviser that members of the Governing Body have now agreed to establish a second Tribunal to examine the conduct of the Dean.
We have determined that it is appropriate in these circumstances to:
To begin with, we will be seeking further information and assurances from the members of the Governing Body about why establishing a Tribunal is:
We will also examine how, when reaching this decision, the members of the Governing Body:
This is not an exhaustive list. Full details of the information and assurances we require will be set out in a separate letter to the charity’s registered main contact.
We acknowledge that the Governing Body may have sought professional advice about these matters. That does not relieve them, as trustees, of their responsibilities – collectively and individually – for the management and administration of the charity, although that will be considered accordingly. For that reason, we may want to discuss these matters with individual trustees directly…
Coronavirus: Archbishops invite nation to pause, pray and remember 100,000 people ‘known to God and cherished by God’
“100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure – each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us.”
“Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are issuing a call to the nation to pause and reflect to remember the more than 100,000 people across the UK who have died after contracting Covid-19 and all those who know and love them.
In an open letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell invite everyone across England – whether they have faith or not – to pause, reflect on the “enormity of this pandemic” and to pray.
Death, they insist, does not have “the last word”, and the Christian faith promises that one day “every tear will be wiped away”.
God, they write, knows grief and suffering and “shares in the weight of our sadness”.
Acknowledging the wider impact of the pandemic on the whole of society through loneliness, anxiety and economic hardship, they invite people to “cast their fears on God”.
The letter also speaks of the particular impact of the pandemic on poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities.
It acknowledges many who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic and it speaks about those unable to be with loved ones as they died or even at their graveside because of the restrictions.
The archbishops give thanks for NHS and social care staff, who they describe as “a blessing and lifeline for our nation”; for clergy, other frontline workers and “so many good neighbours”. They give thanks for the development of vaccines and reiterate a call to everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered.
They also urge people to support each other both by following the guidelines to limit the spread of the virus and in practical ways, reaching out in care and kindness.
The letter includes an invitation to everyone – whether they have faith or not – to join the archbishops in pausing and praying each day at 6pm from February 1.
The archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.
“We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.”
They conclude: “Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter.
“We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.
“Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”
The tragic milestone comes amid lockdown conditions in which large gatherings such as a national memorial service are not possible in person.
It is expected that the Church of England will hold services of remembrance for those who have died and thanksgiving for all those who have cared for them when it is possible to do so.
A prayer for those who mourn is also being shared on social media and will be available to churches across the country. The Text is below.
A prayer for those who mourn
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.