Thinking Anglicans

In memoriam Desmond Tutu

picture of Desmond TutuDesmond Tutu (picture from the Church Times)

The funeral of Desmond Tutu was today. Below are links to a number of articles about him.

Church Times: Obituary: The Most Revd Desmond Tutu and From our archives: Interview: Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town (2006)

Richard Burridge The Spectator The Father I knew: A tribute toDesmond Tutu

Adriaan van Klinken The Conversation February 2020 Desmond Tutu’s long history of fighting for lesbian and gay rights.
Follow this link to reach the full text of the chapter from which the above article is an excerpt.

Andrew McGowan The Conversation July 2021 Radicalism mixed with openness: how Desmond Tutu used his gifts to help end Apartheid

Chris McGreal Guardian When Desmond Tutu stood up for the rights of Palestinians, he could not be ignored.

Two archive news items (hat tip Rod Gillis) on the ordination of women:

1989 Washington Post: Ban on ordination of women causes anguish for Tutu
2014 Huffington Post: Archbishop Desmond Tutu Awesomely Calls Out Religious Leaders Who Won’t Ordain Women

Earth and Altar Richard Pryor Desmond Tutu: The Full Flowering of the Anglican Social Gospel

Here is the text of a sermon preached at Southwark Cathedral in 2004 and you can listen to a 2007 sermon preached at St Albans via this link: St Albans gives thanks for the life and witness of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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Oxford University Chancellor writes to Christ Church

Andrew Billen reports in The Times: Oxford fears Christ Church dean dispute is damaging reputation.

The chancellor of Oxford University says its reputation is being damaged by a long-running dispute between Christ Church and its dean.

Lord Patten of Barnes, a former cabinet minister, wrote to the college’s 65 fellows about the dispute with the Very Rev Martyn Percy and requested an urgent meeting to discuss its “protracted and ongoing dispute” and the “damage it is doing to the reputation of the collegiate university”…

…On Saturday the Rev Jonathan Aitken, an ally of Percy, wrote to The Times calling the attempt to classify Percy mentally ill “comic and contemptible”. The dean was, he said, “on sparkling form”.

Last night Christ Church said: “We have received the letter from the chancellor and vice-chancellor and welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation with them. We have no further comment to make at this time.”

You can read the full text of the letter here.

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Christ Church Oxford seeks to remove dean on medical grounds

Updated Thursday

Gabriella Swerling reports in today’s Telegraph: Oxford college dean accused of being ‘mad and unfit to govern’

The Dean of an Oxford college will face a medical assessment after he was accused of being “mad and unfit to govern” in the latest attempt by dons to oust him, his supporters claim.

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over Christ Church college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a four-year row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure…

…the college has alerted the dean to a “notice of motion” ahead of a crunch meeting on Friday to determine whether he is mentally fit to govern.

The Telegraph has seen a copy of the summons which states that the college’s governing body will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.

A statute in the Christ Church governance states that figures can be removed on grounds of mental incapacitation. However, the dean’s supporters claim that this loophole is being “exploited” in a bid to remove him.

The mental incapacitation clause was added in a redraft of the college’s statute in 2011, but a bylaw dating from August 2021 enabled other members of the governing body – not just the dean – to initiate action on medical grounds…

Archbishop Cranmer comments: Martyn Percy is ‘mad and unfit to govern’ Christ Church, Oxford, including this:

…According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.

As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.

Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process…

Private Eye, Issue 1562 has this: Clique Bait. Some extracts:

…The sums already spent in the war against Percy are huge: estimates range from £2m to £5m in fees for PR firms and lawyers. The Eye can reveal that one of the college’s solicitors, Herbert Smith Freehills, has just dropped out, explaining that “it is no longer proportionate in terms of legal fees for Christ Church to continue to instruct HSF on this matter”.

Too late. This wild spending has brought down the wrath of the Charity Commission. Helen Earner, its director of regulatory services, wants to know what charitable purpose is served by the campaign against the dean. She asks exactly how much has been spent, how budgets were revised as costs spiralled, and by whom. She also demands to see the legal advice received about prospects of success in the various tribunals. She finishes with a reminder that it is a criminal offence for anyone knowingly to provide false or misleading information to the commission: “This includes suppressing, concealing, or destroying documents.”

If the college’s answers are unsatisfactory, the commission could make individual trustees personally responsible for the sums the college has spent. Or it could make the trustees, which is to say all 65 fellows, collectively responsible. Though Christ Church itself is wealthy, with an endowment of more than £500m, many of the individual dons are not…

and this:

…Meanwhile, the savage pettiness within Christ Church grinds on. The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint brought by members of the congregation over rumours he allegedly repeated. The governing body, while refusing to contribute to the dean’s legal costs, has asked the Charity Commission for permission to fund an action for defamation by one of its own members against another, who is a supporter of the dean. It appears the case is to be brought by the man who himself called Percy “a manipulative little turd” and “the little Hitler” in emails which the governing body has tried to suppress.

Now that the governing body has had to change lawyers, the hair-touching tribunal against the dean may be delayed until 2023. He remains suspended. Mediation has broken down again. Unless both sides can reach an agreement, the whole system by which Oxford colleges are governed may change as a result of a dispute over whether a clergyman once touched a verger’s hair.

Update

Andrew Billen has a report in The Times: Oxford college turns to medical team in row over dean’s future. Some brief extracts:

…Deborah Loudon, a former head of human resources at the Home Office who is supporting Percy, said yesterday: “No one who knows Martyn would describe him as mentally ill. He has suffered from the stress of the campaign against him which has resulted in anxiety and depression but he has received excellent treatment and is much better and ready for a phased return to work.”

….Christ Church dons, who make up the governing body, have previously made unproven assertions about his mental health. A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made…

…Christ Church was unable to comment on a “sensitive HR matter”.

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Why Botswana is different

There is another African country, whose Court of Appeal has just confirmed the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.  See for example, this Reuters report: Botswana appeals court upholds ruling that decriminalised gay sex, or this in the Guardian: Botswana upholds ruling decriminalising same-sex relationships.

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network reports: Alice Mogwe Receives Prestigious Award

Botswana activist Alice Mogwe spoke about the African and Anglican roots of her commitment to human dignity as she was presented with the prestigious Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award for 2021. Mogwe, the President of the International Federation of Human Rights, is a leading figure in the world-wide human rights community and in 2018 she became the first person from civil society to address a High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

In her acceptance speech entitled ‘What I learnt on the Way’ she emphasised the significance of human dignity as the basis of all right relationships between people and peoples. The concept of Botho – made famous as Ubuntu by her friend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – is the foundation of all she has fought for from her awakening to the present day…

The full text of her acceptance speech can be found here.

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Christ Church Oxford: criticism of proposed tribunal

We last reported on this topic on 7 October: Christ Church Oxford: a further update. Since then there have been a number of developments, but two items were published this morning:

Martin Sewell argues that the public can have no confidence in the current arrangements for a further disciplinary tribunal hearing, and that the Charity Commission is also deeply concerned.

The Church Times report gives further detail on the latter:

On 4 November, Helen Earner, director of regulatory services, wrote to the Revd Professor Sarah Foot, Censor Theologiae and chair of the Governing Body, requesting a long list of background information about the dispute. This includes Governing Body minutes from June 2018 covering the salaries-board dispute that sparked the original complaint against the Dean; the money that the college has spent on its action hitherto, including payments for legal advice and public-relations support; and details of the mediation process and why it was halted.

Also requested are copies of the emails from senior figures in the college made available to Sir Andrew Smith, who conducted the internal inquiry that exonerated the Dean (News, 21 August 2019). Sir Andrew included them in an appendix to his report, but they were redacted from the version circulated to members of the Governing Body. One email about the Dean read: “I’m always ready to think the worst of him. . . Does anyone know any good poisoners?”

Ms Earner also responds in her letter to two questions by Professor Foot. On the question whether the college could contribute to Dean Percy’s legal costs in the tribunal process, she writes: “Based on what we understand to be the current situation, we would see that it is likely to fall within the range of reasonable decisions that trustees could make.”

Professor Foot’s other question is whether the college could pay for legal advice for individual members of the Governing Body who want to take action for alleged defamation “and/or misuse of private information”. The Governing Body has been disturbed by leaks throughout this process, and Ms Earner’s letter acknowledges that “some members of the Governing Body have identified themselves as whistleblowers.”

Before ruling whether this is a permissible use of funds, Ms Earner asks whether the Governing Body has set a budget or cap on money to be advanced to individual members.

Her letter ends by reminding the Governing Body that it is a criminal offence knowingly or recklessly to provide false or misleading information.

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Meeting of the House of Bishops, 24 November 2021

Church of England press release

The House of Bishops met on Wednesday 24 November remotely via Zoom.

The House was updated and approved the direction of travel of work currently relating to the review of ministerial formation. The House then received a series of updates on the Emerging Church workstreams. An update was given to the House on the Transforming Effectiveness workstream, followed by reflections on the reception given to the Governance Review Group and Vision and Strategy presentations at November Synod.

The meeting ended in prayer.

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Ghana: archbishop issues a second statement

Updated Saturday afternoon

On 22 October, we published Anglican bishops in Ghana support anti-gay legislation. This was updated on 26 October to add the first statement issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury: Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement on Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ Bill.

Yesterday, 12 November, the archbishop issued another statement: Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement following a meeting with the Archbishop, bishops and senior clergy of the Anglican Church of Ghana. This is copied in full immediately below.

The Church Times reported this way: Welby apologises for Ghana LGBTQ+ pronouncement.

Update: Today, the General Synod Questions and Answers file was published (ahead of the session next Tuesday afternoon). Two questions relate to Ghana. These are copied below the fold.

Statement 12/11/2021

Read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement following a meeting with the Archbishop, bishops and senior clergy of the Anglican Church of Ghana last week:

On 3rd November, I met online with the Anglican Archbishop of Ghana, the Most Revd Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, and several bishops and senior clergy from the Anglican Church of Ghana. We discussed their response to the draft Bill that is before the Ghanaian parliament, aimed at strengthening family life but including within it provision for the criminalisation of many LGBTQI+ people.

I welcomed this conversation, which should have happened before my previous statement. That is not mere diplomacy: Christ commands us to speak directly and prayerfully with our brothers and sisters. I apologised for failing to do so.

We affirmed that the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 represents the last and most widely accepted statement by the Anglican Communion on the question of human sexuality.

We agreed that all human beings are made in God’s image and are worthy of love, respect and dignity, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is called to demonstrate the love of God by protecting all vulnerable people and communities.

This was a conversation between equals: I have no authority over the Church of Ghana, nor would I want any. I say that partly because of Britain’s colonial history in Ghana, but also because of the very nature of the Anglican Communion. We are a global family of churches who are autonomous but interdependent: a holy, catholic, apostolic Church bound together by history, sacraments, liturgy, and the love of Jesus Christ for each and every person.

One of the key conclusions of the meeting is that human dignity is always paramount, and that cultural, social and historical contexts must also be considered and understood.

I encourage continued good conversation with the Anglican Church of Ghana, with the same courteous but clear and robust conversation as I experienced, ahead of any future public statements.

(more…)

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Anglican bishops in Ghana support anti-gay legislation

Updated 25 October and 26 October

The Telegraph reported last week: Ghana’s parliament to vote on what could be world’s toughest anti-gay laws

From the USA, both the Living Church and Episcopal Café have also reported this story:

The Anglican bishops of Ghana have issued this statement:

We, the House of Bishops representing the Anglican Church, Ghana (Internal Province of Ghana) have thrown our weight behind the anti-gay (LGBTQI+) Bill currently before the House of Parliament, Ghana. Our support is borne out of the belief that LGBTQI+ “is unbiblical and ungodly”.

We see LGBTQI+ as unrighteousness in the sight of God and therefore will do anything within our powers and mandate to ensure that the bill comes into fruition.

We further state that, aside Christianity, the Ghanaian tradition and culture do not permit such act. This is about morality today and that of the future generation yet unborn. We as leaders must leave a legacy everyone will be proud of. Christ- like legacy of hope. It will be recalled that earlier on in the year, (28th February 2021) during the enthronement of His Grace, the Most Reverend Dr. Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith as Archbishop of the Internal Province of Ghana, at the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and all Angels, AsanteMampong, His Excellency the President of Ghana in no uncertain terms, condemned this unholy act.

The Anglican Church, Ghana sees this homosexual practice as an act condemned by scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments. Leviticus 20:13 clearly declares that, a male lying with a fellow male is an abomination and punishable by death. Similarly, in the New Testament, Paul speaks of homosexuality as “contrary to sound doctrine” as recorded in 1 Timothy 1:10 ‘for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine’ It must be noted in our earlier declaration that, the church does not condemn persons of homosexuality tendencies but absolutely condemn the sinful acts and activities that they perform.

We therefore appeal to our members and the public not to embark on any form of harassment, intimidation, hostilities etc. on individuals or groups associated with LGBTQI+ but rather, see them as potential souls to be won for Christ.

We as a church assures that, we will gladly open our counselling and support centres for the needed transformation services required by these persons or groups. We further advocate for intense education on the Human Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 to avoid acts of emotionalism and sentimentality by our members and the general public.

We will consistently urge our members and the general public to join the church as it prays towards eliminating any impediments towards the realization of the bill. We are hopeful that the House of Parliament will listen to the cry of many Ghanaians who are anxious to see the bill passed. May God continue to bless our beautiful homeland Ghana and free us from all forms of unrighteousness.

Dr Charlie Bell wrote this letter to the editor of the Church Times:

Sir, — This week, the Anglican Church in Ghana urged the government to get on and pass the anti-LGBTQI Bill. The Bill calls for the imprisonment of LGBTQI activists and those who show public displays of affection, for the criminalisation of LGBTQI support groups, the implementation of forms of conversion therapy and forced surgery for intersex people.

We have heard much in the run-up to the delayed Lambeth Conference about walking together as a communion — a communion whose Primates have pledged to work against homophobia.

Not a word has been spoken by any bishop in the Church of England about this looming, Church-sponsored infringement of basic human rights. It is quite scandalous that our pledge of commitment to the Anglican Communion appears to focus on the men in power rather than the most vulnerable in the pews.

Updates

Via Media.News published this by Peter Leonard: Ghana: “Grandma, What Big Teeth You Have….!”

Portsmouth Diocese has published: Senior staff issue statement on our links with Ghana

A statement regarding our links with the Anglican Church in Ghana, and the support of its bishops for a bill being considered by the country’s Parliament:

Our bishop-designate, Bishop Jonathan Frost, our commissary bishop, Bishop Rob Wickham, and the senior staff of the Diocese of Portsmouth said, “As a diocese, we have long-standing, formal links with the Anglican Church in Ghana, which we value. However, we are dismayed to hear that the country’s Anglican bishops have thrown their weight behind the ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values’ Bill.

“We are seeking urgent conversations with our colleagues in Ghana to ask why – not least in the light of the communique signed by all Anglican Primates in 2016, in which they pledged to reject criminal sanctions against members of the LGBT+ community, and to challenge homophobia.

“We strongly oppose the bill currently being considered by the Ghanaian Parliament, which proposes imprisonment of members of the LGBT+ community for being who they are, and to criminalise those who wish to support them. We believe this to be a fundamental violation of people’s human rights, which we believe will lead to state-sponsored violence that will threaten the lives of those in the LGBT+ community and their friends. As Christians, we also believe this stigmatises people in a way that does not affirm the value of each person as a unique individual, created in God’s image.

“We are committed to our relationship with our Anglican brothers and sisters in Ghana, and there is much mutual respect. Our close relationship prompts us to challenge each other as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, sharpening each other’s thinking and speaking up against injustice in our respective countries.”

Statement made by:

  • The Rt Rev Jonathan Frost, Dean of York and Bishop-designate of Portsmouth
  • The Rt Rev Rob Wickham, commissary bishop for the Diocese of Portsmouth
  • The Very Rev Anthony Cane, Dean of Portsmouth
  • The Ven Peter Leonard, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight
  • The Ven Jenny Rowley, Archdeacon of Portsdown
  • Canon Will Hughes, acting Archdeacon of the Meon
  • The Rev Allie Kerr, associate Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight
  • Victoria James, Diocesan Secretary
  • The Rev Max Cross, chairman of Portsmouth’s Inter-Diocesan West Africa Link (IDWAL) committee

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued this: Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement on Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ Bill

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said today:

“I am gravely concerned by the draft anti-LGBTQ+ Bill due to be debated by the Ghanaian parliament. I will be speaking with the Archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response to the Bill.

“The majority of Anglicans within the global Anglican Communion are committed to upholding both the traditional teaching on marriage as laid out in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I:10, and the rights of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, before the law. In Resolution I:10, the Anglican Communion also made a commitment “to assure [LGBTQ+ people] that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.” Meanwhile on numerous occasions the Primates of the Anglican Communion have stated their opposition to the criminalisation of same-sex attracted people: most recently, and unanimously, in the communiqué of the 2016 Primates’ Meeting.

“I remind our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Ghana of these commitments.

“We are a global family of churches, but the mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ.”

Notes: 

1. The 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10: https://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1998/section-i-called-to-full-humanity/section-i10-human-sexuality 

2. The 2016 Primates’ Meeting Communiqué: https://www.anglicannews.org/features/2016/01/communique-from-the-primates-meeting-2016.aspx

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Safeguarding LGBT+ Christians Survey

Press release

SAFEGUARDING SURVEY LAUNCHED TO FIND OUT HOW SAFE LGBT+ CHRISTIANS FEEL IN UK CHURCHES

An online survey is launched today on “World Mental Health Day”, to understand just how safe UK LGBT+ Christians feel in their churches, and what can be done to make them feel safer.

Open to all LGBT+ Christians in the UK who are aged over 18, the survey has been commissioned by a consortium of nine Christian LGBT+ organisations to measure how safe LGBT+ Christians feel, what steps have been taken by their local churches and what more can be done to help them feel safe.

The research is being launched on World Mental Health Day, which also coincides with the Church of England’s first “Safeguarding Sunday”.

Jayne Ozanne, who instigated the project, explained the reason for the survey:

“Many LGBT+ Christians feel increasingly vulnerable in their local churches given the increasingly toxic rhetoric around sexuality and gender identity. We thought it essential to measure in a safe and anonymous way just how safe people feel able to be about who they are, and what steps should be taken to make them feel safer”.

The questionnaire is being overseen by an independent consultant, Dr Sarah Carr, an LGBT+ mental health expert, who said:

“It is critical that LGBT+ people’s well being is prioritised in spaces which we know have and still can cause significant harm and trauma. By asking them directly about how they feel we can build a picture of what is happening in the UK today, and identify steps that they tell us will help improve things.”

The online research survey will run for two weeks and is open to all LGBT+ adults in the UK who associate themselves with the Christian faith, whether they go to church or not.

Luke Dowding, Executive Director of OneBodyOneFaith, explained why his organisation had chosen to get involved with the project:

“We know that many LGBT+ people have a deep faith, but some feel unable to attend church because they fear that they will not be welcomed or understood in their local places of worship. We would therefore like to understand if there are LGBT+ Christians who do not currently go to church for fear of their safety, with a desire to learn what if anything local churches might do to help address these concerns”.

Take the survey today: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SafeguardingLGBT

The nine LGBT+ Christian organisations involved in the research are:
Affirm (Baptist LGBT+ Network)
Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England
Dignity & Worth (Methodist LGBT+ Network)
Global Network of Rainbow Catholics
Oasis Open House
OneBodyOneFaith
Open Table Network
Ozanne Foundation
Quest (Catholic LGBT+ Network)

  • The research results will be made public in mid-November.
  • The research uses the theme “Safe to be Me”, which is the announced theme of the UK government’s planned international LGBT+ conference in summer next year.
  • The research coincides with the roll out of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project, which encourages churches to discuss matters about sexuality and gender identity and has raised safeguarding concerns amongst LGBT+ Anglicans.
  • Local Methodist Churches around Great Britain are currently discussing whether to hold same-sex marriages in their buildings. and these conversations can raise similar issues.
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Christ Church Oxford: a further update

The October issue of The Critic has this article by Jonathan Aitken describing the events at Christ Church Oxford: Low panic at high table

Four years after a handful of disaffected dons began their abortive plotting to oust Dean Martyn Percy, the college’s charitable foundation has so far spent at least £3 million of its funds on legal, PR and other dispute-related costs. It has also thrown away another estimated £3 million of lost donations because a number of wealthy past and present philanthropists, including Christ Church’s greatest benefactor Michael Moritz, are withholding any future gifts until the toxic Tom Quad antics have ended.

No such end is in sight. The latest bulletin to alumni has coyly skated over the news that the Employment Tribunal, one of the half dozen courts, tribunals, or regulatory bodies currently engaged with investigating or judging aspects of the college’s legal quicksand, will not even begin hearing its Christ Church cause célèbre until 2023.

During these shenanigans the college’s academic results have nosedived. Christ Church, which used to be one of the regular leaders of the all-important Norrington Table, has this year come almost bottom in 34th place out of 37.

Far from any self-examination for the teaching and lecturing disappointments that must be partly responsible for this debacle, the self-congratulatory dons on the governing body have just proposed a handsome increase in their salaries and allowances. Only one member, a non-academic, dared to oppose this largesse and walked out of the meeting after strenuous opposition…

Do read the entire article.

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Fr Alan Griffin: unrest in London continues

Updated 3 October, and again 11 October

The Church Times had this report yesterday: Bishop Mullally seeks to tackle ‘deficit of trust’ in Two Cities Area. Here’s an extract:

Unrest in London still keen after death of Fr Alan Griffin

…Minutes of a meeting of the Two Cities Greater Chapter earlier this month, seen by the Church Times, record that the response of the diocesan leadership to the death of Fr Griffin is considered “wanting in several significant respects”, with a feeling that Bishop Mullally had “demonstrated insufficient pastoral care for her clergy”, especially among those named in the brain-dump report, some of whom felt “a sense of rage, indignation, bewilderment, frustration and sorrow”.

In a letter to clergy in the Two Cities sent earlier this month, Bishop Mullally wrote: “I am resolved to continue the process of cultural change in the Two Cities Area which was already a pressing priority . . . There is currently a deficit of trust. This must be addressed by a continual striving for transparency, approachability, collegiality, sensitivity, respect and kindness as characteristics of our relationships with everyone.”

On Wednesday, she spoke first of her concern for the friends and family of Fr Griffin. Asked about culture change, she said that this process had been ongoing since her arrival in the diocese in 2018. Among her findings on arrival was that clergy spoke of “a sense of isolation. There is a competitiveness; people were anxious about needing to prove themselves. . . There are potential tribes here. . . And also I have to say the fact of being the first woman bishop also brought some of its own complexities within that.

There was a need to create a “more collaborative” environment. Other work had included increased support for mental well-being, including support for those going through the Clergy Discipline Measure process.

“Culture change isn’t just me: it’s about us,” she said. “Some of the reason why people feel isolated and anxious is about us and how we treat each other . . . The unfortunate death of Fr Alan made people articulate that we are still on a journey.”

Asked about the clergy named in the brain-dump report, she said: “We have to recognise that the coroner put that in the public domain, and I am sorry for the hurt that that has caused. . . There is no doubt in my mind that there are things that we will learn through it, not least that we are already beginning to bring in a triage system around those things that come forward to safeguarding…”

I recommend reading the news report in full.

There is also a report in this week’s issue of Private Eye which includes:

“…Private Eye learns that a majority of clergy in the Two Cities area of London Diocese… held a closed meeting on 14 September at which feelings ran high. Many were friends and former colleagues of Fr Griffin. Some spoke of “rage, indignation, bewilderment, frustration and sorrow” at the failure of the senior diocesan staff to care for them in the face of allegations made against them. One, driven to despair, said they had not received a kind communication from diocesan leaders in three years.

Some are quietly planning legal action against their own diocese. Others, encouraged by the threatened vote of no confidence that led to the defenestration of the Bishop of Wiinchester… are now proposing a similar vote against the Bishop of London.”

From the earlier diocesan report as mentioned in our article of 24 August:

“The full Terms of Reference (subject to consultation) will be published on the Diocese of London website when consultations are complete (anticipated early September 2021).”

As of 2 October, these have not yet appeared.
CORRECTION: These were published on 13 September, and are dated 3 September. Link to the ToR document below:

Terms of reference published 13 September 2021.

Chris Robson has been appointed as the independent reviewer. Chris worked for the Metropolitan Police Service for 30 years in a wide range of roles. Since 2017 he has been the independent chair of a number of safeguarding boards and he has undertaken various safeguarding reviews.

With regard to the review, the LDF’s privacy notice can be found here

Update 11 October:

The latest issue of the Church Times contains two letters to the editor which are both well worth reading: they can be found here.

  • Bishop of London is failing justice for Fr Alan Griffin
    From the Revd Roderick Leece
    From the Revd Nick Pigott

There is also an update to their news reporting on the topic: Review of Fr Griffin case will not apportion blame.

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Scottish bishops set up Mediation Steering Group

The Scottish Episcopal Church has announced Mediation Steering Group established for Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney.

The Episcopal Synod, comprising all seven diocesan bishops, met online as planned this morning to consider the setting up of an independent mediation process to help the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney move forward from its current difficulties.

The Synod voted to meet in private and then unanimously agreed to set up such a process and appointed a Mediation Steering Group to oversee the process. The remit for the Steering Group is set out below.

The Group will be chaired by David Strang CBE, former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland and former Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and Lothian and Borders Police. The other members of the Group will be the Rev Liz Crumlish and Morag Hendry. Further information about each member is set out below.

The bishops are grateful that all three have accepted an invitation to serve and for their willingness to offer their skills and experience to the Church in this way.

The Group will now commence work, initially, on appointing an external mediation organisation to scope, and subsequently undertake, a confidential mediation process. In setting up such a process, it is expected that a range of individuals within the diocese will be consulted.

The Group is aware of the need to move forward swiftly, and further information will be issued on behalf of the Group as soon as it is in a position to provide more details.

The bishops acknowledge that this is a difficult period for the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, and recognises the level of hurt and upset experienced by a number of people. It has also been a challenge for the bishops themselves, and they have listened to a wide variety of differing opinions in recent weeks. They are in the process of considering what additional pastoral support can be made available.

Meanwhile, the bishops invite all members of the Scottish Episcopal Church to join with them in holding the Diocese, and the future mediation process, in their prayers and they encourage members of the Diocese to engage positively with that process, which they hope will help to bring healing.

The press release then lists out the Steering Group Remit and provides further details of the members of that group.

See here for our previous report on this.

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Appointments to Independent Safeguarding Board

See our previous report of 15 February:Proposals on NST independent oversight published.

Today’s press release:

Chair and survivor advocate appointed to Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed two key appointments to the new Independent Safeguarding Board that will provide oversight of the Church of England’s national safeguarding work

Dr Maggie Atkinson, a former Children’s Commissioner for England, has been appointed as Chair of the Board. She will lead the formation of the ISB and ensure there is an effective approach to the independent oversight of safeguarding in the longer term.

The Chair will provide expert recommendations to enable the Church of England to embed a proactive, preventative, safer culture, and ensure the Church is held publicly accountable for any failure to respond to the ISB’s recommendations.

Jasvinder Sanghera has been appointed as the Board’s Survivor Advocate. She will ensure that the experiences and views of victims and survivors are heard and embedded within the safeguarding policy and practice development frameworks.

Maggie Atkinson has completed more than 40 years’ dedicated work with children, their families and communities. Born and brought up in Yorkshire, after graduating from Cambridge she taught in comprehensive schools then worked in service and practice improvement in local authorities, including as Director of Children’s Services for Gateshead. She was Children’s Commissioner for England 2010-2015, and now leads independent challenge and scrutiny in several localities’ safeguarding partnerships.  She serves on a number of charity Boards, including at UNICEF UK.

Jasvinder is the founder of the charity Karma Nirvana, and has extensive experience of working with victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour abuse. She is Chair of the Leeds Children Safeguarding Partnership.

The two appointments were made by an independent panel which will now work with the Chair to appoint a third member to the ISB whose skills and roles will complement the members already appointed.

The purpose of introducing an independent structure for the Church’s safeguarding work is twofold: to ensure good safeguarding and to challenge the internal cultures of the Church of England which too often have resulted in preventing best practice.

Conscious of the need to improve the culture of safeguarding across the church, the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops had already agreed to support the development of an independent structure to deliver professional supervision and quality assurance across its safeguarding activities. The IICSA Report gave new momentum to this decision.

Chair, Dr Maggie Atkinson said: “I am honoured and pleased to have been appointed to establish and chair the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board. I look forward to starting our work, as a strong response to safeguarding concerns whether they are historical, or current.  We will be a small but insightful group, from a range of backgrounds and experience.  For all my adult life I have worked with and for children, young people, families and vulnerable adults.  Such work holds ordinary people and their concerns at its centre.

“The Board will focus on how the Church either protects people who work for or come into it, or falls down in its duty to do so. All who engage with the Church must be confident they will be kept safe.  It follows that safeguarding must be a primary concern in everything the Church does, every day.  This work is not only about really learning lessons when things have gone badly wrong and people have been hurt as a result.

“It is about the culture, practice and steadfastness of safeguarding as an automatic, Church-wide state of mind.  The Board’s role will be to question, reflect and report on how far this culture is manifested in what the Church does for the people it serves.”

The Survivor Advocate, Jasvinder Sanghera, said: “I feel immensely privileged to be appointed the Survivor Advocate for Church of England’s, Independent Safeguarding Board.  It is vital that the Board, in overseeing and assuring the soundness of the work done by the National Safeguarding Team, has the voice of survivors and victims ever present in all it does and says.

“This role is significant to the journey of the church and I am delighted that I will be contributing to this vision, helping to make a difference to the lives of those affected by abuse, so that lessons are not only learned but embedded in practice.”

In a joint statement, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: “These are vitally important appointments and we are pleased to welcome them.

“Numerous reports in recent years have made clear the Church of England’s safeguarding failures and provided clear and urgent recommendations for how these can be addressed – including greater transparency and accountability at every level.

“We are deeply grateful to Maggie and Jasvinder for offering their wisdom, skills and lived experience to move us forward and provide greater oversight of the Church’s safeguarding work.”

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CDM Code of Practice: further criticisms

We linked on 7 August to a critique of the April 2021 amendments to the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 Code of Practice written by Gavin Drake.
More recently, Rosie Dawson wrote about this for The Living Church: Church of England Code Silences Victims, Critics Say (some additional links added).

…”These were significant amendments ,” retired barrister and Synod member David Lamming told TLC. “It’s unfortunate that they were overlooked at Synod because they seem to me to go beyond what the measure authorises, which is that the guidance applies only to those who exercise functions within the CDM process.”

The timing of the amendments has led several commentators to conclude that they were drafted in direct response to concerns about the publicity surrounding a CDM complaint brought against the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Rev. Martyn Percy, in November last year. In May 2021 the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, effectively dismissed the case, ruling that it would be disproportionate to refer the matter to a tribunal.

The complaint against the dean came within the context of a long-running, very public and very acrimonious dispute between him and the college and cathedral chapter. Supporters on both sides have engaged in briefing a voracious media. A dedicated website keeps Dean Percy’s supporters abreast of every twist and turn in the saga.

“It is rarely a good idea to legislate from the circumstances of a single case as, appears to have been done here,” says Martin Sewell, a retired Child Protection lawyer and General Synod Candidate. While he believes the motivation behind the changes to the code of practice may have been well-intentioned, he says the effects run contrary to free speech and natural justice. “Much speculative gossip about the circumstances ensued about the nature of the case against Dean Percy. I don’t think it was wrong to have refuted such gossip in careful terms.”

The Church of England would not be drawn on the Percy affair in relation to the changes to the Code of Practice, but said that there had been number of recent cases in which details of complaints under the Clergy Discipline Measure had been made public, causing significant distress and upset for those concerned.

One priest who has fallen afoul of the new rules is the Rev. Robert Thompson, vicar of St. Mary and St James in West Hampstead, London, who announced on Twitter in April that he was subject to a CDM for online bullying. In the adjudication he later received, he was reprimanded for “weaponizing” social media and forbidden from disclosing any further details of the case, including the outcome.

“Robert got the result of his CDM and was told there was no case to answer,” says his friend and fellow priest, the Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, “but he was also told that he couldn’t share that news with anyone. And the instruction was couched in terms of a threat. It should really be up to Robert what he wants to share. He didn’t tweet anything that identified the complainant. The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken.”

In a statement the Church of England said the update to the code was “simply to underline the expectation of confidentiality in clergy discipline cases, while they are ongoing. It said the Clergy Discipline Commission would respond to Drake’s concerns in due course…

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Alan Griffin case mentioned in House of Lords debate

The speeches concerning the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure  from the Bishop of Blackburn, Lord Cormack, and Lord Lexden are all worth reading. However, I draw you attention to this exchange between Lord Lexden and the Bishop:

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack referred at the start of his powerful remarks to the passion and anger that he felt because of some recent events. I feel very deep passion and anger, as I shall explain.

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged–and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

Long ago I was briefly close, perhaps for no longer than a single summer, to a witty and clever Cambridge contemporary. He was a classicist who became a lecturer at Exeter University and later took holy orders. His name was Alan Griffin. In November last year, the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin committed suicide. After the end of the inquest into his death in early July this year, the coroner wrote a detailed report on the way that the Church had investigated his suspected sexual misconduct. She revealed that when he died, the Church’s investigation had been going on for over a year. The coroner stated that

“he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”–

I repeat, the detail and source for which he had never been told.

Worse, when the coroner probed the evidence against him, she found it was non-existent. There was, she said,

“no complainant, no witness and no accuser”.

The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo. Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?

And how did the Church carry out its investigation during the year in which Alan Griffin was kept in ignorance of the so-called accusations against him? The coroner states:

“nobody took responsibility for steering the direction of the process from start to finish and for making coherent, reasoned, evidence based decisions”.

And so the scene was set for a terrible tragedy.

The last element of the Church’s behaviour in this case which I want the House to note is very serious indeed. The coroner records that submissions

“on behalf of the Church of England … urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations.”

This is not from some shady organisation or business with suspect moral standards, but from our country’s established Church. These are the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of mine from long ago, and that is why my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Could the right reverend Prelate comment on the quotation from the coroner’s report that I read out at the end? The Church of England seeking to interfere with the content of a coroner’s report in order to diminish the extent of the criticism it would sustain: is that not utterly reprehensible?

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

It is reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated. I will report that back to the national safeguarding team and others. We are in the business not of covering up but of being transparent and open, so that these things can be brought to light and people can learn from them. It is reprehensible and completely unacceptable.

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Proposals made for reforming Church of England governance

Updated Thursday

The report of the Governance Review working group (49 pages)  has been published here. There is a press release about this, copied below the fold.

The Church Times has extensive coverage:

The Telegraph had this report by Gabriella Swerling on Tuesday evening (which has still not appeared in the CofE daily media digest): Church of England reveals huge overhaul of governance, as parishioners warn of ‘coup’

(more…)

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Scottish bishops publish Aberdeen review

Updated Sunday and again Friday 17 September

The Scottish Episcopal Church has today, 11 September, published the Review of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney by Professor Iain Torrance. The College of Bishops has also published a lengthy explanation of the complications which arose following its receipt on 31 July, which is copied in full below the fold.

Earlier, on 8 September, the College had published this: College instigates mediation process and commits to publish Aberdeen & Orkney review.

The Church Times has a very detailed news report: Review recommends Bishop step back in ‘dysfunctional’ diocese

Update

Another Church Times report: What about those who bullied me, asks Dyer, alleging one-sidedness and a letter to the editor: Heed Torrance on the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney.

(more…)

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Bleeding for Jesus

DLT has published a book, written by Andrew Graystone, about John Smyth: Bleeding for Jesus.

Religion Media Centre held a briefing this week, reported here by Rosie Dawson: Three moments of failure: sadistic barrister’s beatings could have been prevented, says author.

The churchwardens at St Andrew the Great, Cambridge have published A Letter to the Church Family from the Wardens, and Alasdair Paine has issued a 6 page Personal Statement. They complain that Andrew Graystone did not contact Alasdair Paine for permission to mention him.

The Church Times has published this news article: Welby should have done more to stop Smyth, says author. It includes the following:

A statement from the publishers of Bleeding for Jesus, Darton, Longman & Todd, appears unrepentant, saying of Mr Paine: “When eventually he reported the disclosure to his diocesan safeguarding adviser, he told her about only two instances of abuse — his own and Graham’s [the survivor (not his real name) who approached Mr Paine]. He did not tell her what he knew — that Smyth’s abuse had been far more widespread, and that he was still at large and potentially abusing.

“If Alasdair Paine had found the courage to speak earlier, John Smyth might well have faced justice. Victims in the UK might have had a chance to begin healing, and children and young people in Zimbabwe and South Africa might have been spared their abuse.”

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Christ Church Oxford: update on the Dean

In an electronic letter to former students and others, from the Development Office of the College, dated 27 August, the following information is included:

We also wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the status of the Dean. The current situation is a source of great pain and frustration to us all.  It will be even harder to comprehend for those of you looking on from afar, especially through the lens of public speculation and, at times, disinformation.

The Dean voluntarily withdrew from his duties last November, following an allegation made against him. An independent investigation into the allegation was commissioned; this allegation is now being addressed under the relevant House procedures. We are sure that you will understand that due confidentiality is essential in such a matter.

In addition, the Dean has made a number of employment tribunal claims against Christ Church, which the House is defending. Sadly, these will now not be heard in court until 2023. It had been anticipated that, through mediation, a much earlier resolution could be reached but unfortunately the current phase of mediation was halted by the independent mediator earlier in the summer, after several months of negotiation.

Christ Church remains committed to a full review of its governance structures in due course, but this cannot take place until the Employment Tribunal has concluded. We understand there may be frustration at the amount of time these various processes are taking, but they must be allowed to run their proper course. In the meantime, Governing Body is continually reviewing and updating our policies and procedures to support the smooth running of Christ Church.

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Church in Wales to consider same-sex blessings

Press Release from Church in Wales

Governing Body meeting – September 6 and 8

Same-sex couples will be able to have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in Church in Wales churches for the first time if new legislation is passed next month (September).

A Bill to authorise a service of blessing will be considered by members of the Church’s Governing Body at its meeting on September 6.

It proposes that the service be used experimentally for five years and that it will be up to individual clergy to decide whether or not they wish to lead it.

The service is for a blessing only as same-sex couples are unable to marry in church.

The Bill is being introduced by the Bishops, following an indication from Governing Body members that it was now “pastorally unsustainable” for the Church to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships.

In the Explanatory Memorandum they say, “Approval of this rite would be stating that the Church in Wales accepts that the loving and faithful commitment of two persons of the same sex, aspiring to life-long fidelity and mutual comfort, and who have made a commitment in civil partnership or marriage, is worthy of acceptance by the Church by asking God’s blessing upon their commitment.”

While recognising that the Bill is controversial, they describe it as a “step on the way towards repentance of a history in the Church which has demonised and persecuted gay and lesbian people, forcing them into fear, dishonesty and sometimes even hypocrisy, and which has precluded them from living publicly and honestly lives of committed partnership.”

The bishops are urging Governing Body members to debate the Bill in a respectful and dignified way, acknowledging that it will raise difficult issues of faith and belief. They have issued a set of ‘Pastoral Principles’ intended to guide people towards thoughtful and considerate discussions.

Introducing them they say, “There can be no room for seeking to undermine sincerely held views. Neither should we seek to walk away from each other. Our union in Christ is at the heart of our life and the bonds and character of our baptism hold us together; sharing a commitment to each other as together we seek the Kingdom of God. We hope these materials will stimulate this quality of engagement.”

The Bill will be discussed on the first day of the Governing Body meeting which takes place on September 6 at the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport and will be live-streamed via a link on the Church in Wales website and Youtube channel. The second day of the meeting will take place online only, via Zoom, on Wednesday, September 8 and will also be live-streamed.

The full agenda and all reports are online at: https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/about-us/governing-body/meetings/

The meeting will be live-streamed via a link on the Church in Wales website at www.churchinwales.org.uk and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/churchinwales

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