Thinking Anglicans

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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Fr Alan Griffin: Diocese of London responds to Coroner

Updated Tuesday evening

Church Times report: Diocese of London accepts coroner’s list of failings in Fr Griffin case

Submission to Coroner – Fr Alan Griffin

This PDF version may be easier to read: Submission to Coroner Fr Alan Griffin

Response by the Diocese of London and Lambeth Palace to the Regulation 28 Report (9 July 2021) to the Church of England in relation to the death by suicide of Fr Alan Griffin on 8 November 2020

  1. Introduction

The Diocese of London and Lambeth Palace wish to thank the Coroner for writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury and bringing to our attention the various matters of concern that were prompted by her investigation into the tragic death of Father Alan Griffin.

Those concerns have been shared with and considered carefully by the various Church Institutions. We have formed a Case Steering Group, with representatives including the Diocese of London, the National Safeguarding Team (NST), Lambeth Palace, and an independent professional member of the Diocese of London’s Safeguarding Steering Group to oversee both this response and our next steps.

This report is our collective response on behalf of the Church of England to your Report to Prevent Future Deaths dated 9 July 2021, in accordance with the provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

  1. Aims

The Diocese of London and Lambeth Palace express their deep regret and sorrow at the death of Fr Alan Griffin. We acknowledge that there were either poor processes or systems, or mistakes, that led to unreasonable pressures on Fr Alan and we take responsibility for what went wrong. This response is prepared to assure the Chief Coroner of the Diocese’s commitment to change, ongoing learning and improvement.

We will seek to respond to the key points that have been raised by the Coroner in criticism of the Diocese of London’s handling of the concerns relating to Fr Alan, to set out current and future actions to improve our handling of conduct and safeguarding concerns, and to set out measures to mitigate the risk of any future suicide by someone who is the subject of such concerns within the Church of England.

We are also committed to undertaking a Lessons Learned Review and implementing any necessary actions (see section 5).

  1. Other parties

We are committed to doing whatever we can in partnership with our colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church to improve our joint management of matters that affect people within both our Churches.

  1. Immediate first steps

We had already made a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission, and this has been updated since the publication of the R28 Report.

As a result of the concerns that the Coroner raised in her report, we have revised the terms of reference initially proposed for the Lessons Learned Review and have taken steps towards appointing an experienced, independent reviewer,[1] not previously known to or associated with the Diocese of London, who is able to give rigorous external scrutiny to the safeguarding systems and processes of the Diocese of London as applied in this case.

To ensure good process, we have consulted the independent professional members of the Diocese of London’s Safeguarding Steering Group (part of the governance of the Diocese of London) and are engaging with the close family and friends of Fr Griffin who were registered as Interested Parties for the purposes of the Inquest, about these Terms of Reference.

  1. Lessons Learned Review

We aim to agree the Terms of Reference by early September with the intention of the Lessons Learned Review (“the Review”) beginning in September 2021.   The purpose and objectives of the Review are currently as follows:

  • This Review will examine the Diocese of London’s handling of information relating to the late Fr Alan Griffin in the light of the ten specific concerns and three further issues set out in Section 5 of the Coroner’s Regulation 28 Report. The Review will set out a simple and accessible chronology of events.
  • It will identify lessons to be learned and how they should be acted on, which will enable the Diocese of London and the Church of England to take steps to enhance and improve their handling of matters relating to conduct and safeguarding.
  • The Review will consider the effectiveness of procedures, areas of service improvement and development needs and will establish what lessons can be learned regarding the way in which information is responded to, recorded, assessed, shared, and managed.
  • The overall purpose of the Review is to promote learning and improve practice, not to apportion blame.
  • It will make recommendations about what could be done better in the Church of England to help prevent such a death taking place again.
  • With the cooperation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster, it will seek to understand how information was shared and acted upon between the Diocese of London and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster and set out lessons that should be learned to improve this.

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).

The report continues at very great length to describe initial actions taken, actions being taken at national level by the National Safeguarding Team, and responses to the coroner’s specific criticisms. Read the whole document to understand the detailed level of these responses. It concludes with this explanation on one particular point:

  • Finally, the coroner responded to the legal submissions made on 28 June 2021 in these terms:

I then received submissions on behalf of the Church of England regarding any prevention of future deaths report. These submissions impressed upon me that referrals to child protection and safeguarding professionals must not be reduced and urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegation.  

The aim of making this submission to the Coroner was not to deflect criticism away from clergy or staff if they had acted inappropriately. It was made in the context of the IICSA recommendations and in the light of existing House of Bishop’s Guidance to the clergy that state that clergy must refer all safeguarding concerns or allegations to the Diocesan Safeguarding Team in the first instance and in any event within 24 hours (see 6, above). This is to ensure untrained clergy are not investigating or using their own judgement, and to establish consistency of process. We believe that our clergy and staff acted in accordance with this Guidance and we were concerned that any criticism of them for following it might deter others from the appropriate reporting of safeguarding concerns

Our submission, therefore, was intended to ask the Coroner to bear in mind when making her findings that all clergy and staff are obliged to follow this Guidance. The Guidance is clear that it is inappropriate for clergy and staff to filter or investigate any apparent or alleged safeguarding related concerns and instructs them to refer these directly to safeguarding professionals. The Church of England has worked hard to ensure that all clergy and staff are clear about their reporting obligations. We were and are keen that this good work is not undermined.

For completeness the relevant Diocese of London submission is included here:    

If, despite these submissions, the learned coroner remains minded to issue a regulation 28 report, she is urged not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations. The learned Coroner has heard that the events in question took place in the context of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The purpose of the Inquiry, as set out in its terms of reference, is to consider the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The Diocese of London is deeply committed to child protection and wishes to avoid anything that may have the unintended consequences of reducing referrals to child protection and safeguarding professionals.

At the bottom of the document the following list of names appears:

Case Steering Group:

Richard Gough, General Secretary of the Diocese of London
Joanne Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney
Zena Marshall, Interim National Director of Safeguarding
Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth (alternate Richard Sudworth)
Tim Bishop, independent member of the London Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group
Date: 24 August 2021

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Titus Trust publishes a timeline about John Smyth

On Friday, the Titus Trust published Documents relating to the Titus Trust’s response to John Smyth’s abuse with the following preamble:

We believe that it is vital for the truth to be made known in a case like this and that this is especially important for those who have suffered so much harm. So in the interests of seeking to be wholly transparent about the role and actions of the Trust during the period in question, and given the delay in the publication of Keith Makin’s review, we are now publishing a timeline showing when the Trust became aware of John Smyth’s actions, how much we knew and how we responded. We are also providing answers to questions and allegations that have been raised about these matters in this document. It is our prayer that this will be helpful to all who have been involved in this tragic case.

The actual documents are all contained in this pdf. There are three parts:

  • Statement from Titus Trust Trustees (full text copied below the fold)
  • Timeline of matters relating to the Titus Trust’s response to John Smyth’s abuse (this is very long and detailed)
  • FAQs

The Church Times carries a news report by Madeleine Davies: Titus Trust: ‘This is what we knew of John Smyth’s abuse, and when we knew it’. And also Titus Trust timeline: a digest.

The Guardian has also covered this: ‘Bleeding for Jesus’: book tells story of QC who pitilessly abused young men (scroll down for reference to Titus Trust statement)

A statement in response to Titus Trust has been issued by survivors, the full text of which is also copied below. (more…)

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Save the Parish campaign launched

The Church Times has this report by Madeleine Davies: ‘Save the Parish’ campaigners have Synod in their sights.

A CAMPAIGN to elect members to the General Synod under a “Save the Parish” banner was launched in London on Tuesday evening, with a warning that this was “the last chance to save the system that has defined Christianity in this country for 1000 years”. The move was welcomed by a Church of England spokesman.

In his remarks at the campaign launch, in St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, in London, the Rector, the Revd Marcus Walker, spoke of the need for a “co-ordinated campaign” that would unite Anglicans across traditions, transcending debates about women’s ordination and same-sex marriage…

There is a video recording of the launch event, which you can view here. The keynote speakers were Alison Milbank and Stephen Trott.

And there is an embryonic website.

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GAFCON plans an Australian diocese

The Church Times carried this report by Muriel Porter on 23 July: Conservative Evangelicals plan new diocese in Australia

THE conservative Evangelical group GAFCON Australia has formulated plans for the creation of a diocese for “Anglicans who will be forced to leave the Anglican Church of Australia“, according to a media statement…

Here is the full press release from GAFCON Australia: GAFCON Australia backs plan to form non-geographic diocese for Australian Anglicans

Then on 30 July, there was a further report by Muriel Porter: GAFCON ark too early, Australian Primate observes

..Archbishop Smith criticised the board of GAFCON for not showing restraint until the Australian Church had had an opportunity to discuss the Appellate Tribunal’s decision. Instead, GAFCON’s decision was “ramping up the tensions among us”, he said. GAFCON’s move, he continued, was in contrast to the “very significant restraint . . . shown by people who might want to see movement toward the blessing of same-sex couples”.

Despite the forecasts, there had not been a “flood” of blessings of same-sex unions after the tribunal decision, he said, “Not a flood, not a trickle, not a drip”; so “faithful, orthodox Anglicans can continue with confidence as members of the Anglican Church of Australia. To suggest or insinuate otherwise is to not speak the truth.”

The  letter from the Australian Primate Archbishop Geoffrey Smith mentioned in that report can be read in full over here.

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Myriad responds to criticism

Two statements have been issued about Myriad:

See also the interview with John McGinley linked in the previous article.

All of this is discussed in great detail by Madeleine Davies in the Church Times:
Priests and bishops a ‘given’ in Myriad’s vision for lay-led churches.

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Paul Overend: CofE never had CDM jurisdiction

Readers will recall the case of Canon Paul Overend, Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral which we reported on 14 June, Safeguarding process finally concluded for Lincoln Canon. As we noted then, he had been acquitted of any criminal charge by a Cardiff jury in December last year. But it now transpires that there was no legal basis for any subsequent action under the Clergy Discipline Measure which took over five months to conclude.

The situation is fully explained in this CDM Overend Note from the Deputy President of Tribunals, dated 6 July.

Update

The Church Times has a full report here: Lincoln CDM was out of order, judge admits concluding as follows:

…Canon Overend was suspended for more than two years, and spoke in June about how he and his wife had contemplated suicide (News, 14 June). Bishop Lowson was suspended for 20 months, finally being allowed back to work in February after an apology (News, 1 February). Archbishop Welby said then: “We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season.” It is understood that a formal investigation of the whole Lincoln saga has been initiated.

Canon Overend said on Monday: “I am unable to comment at present, as an independent investigation has now begun into the handling of events at Lincoln, following the complaints submitted by my wife and others. This investigation is likely to take some months.”

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Coroner criticises Church of England for negligence in suicide case

Updated yet again 5 August and again on 12 August

Mary Hassall, the Senior Coroner for North London has written a lengthy criticism of the Church of England (and specifically of the Diocese of London) following the inquest held into the death of Alan Howard Foster Griffin. She sent this to the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with various others (including two persons “formerly of the diocese [of London]” and the document is published on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website.

You can read the text of her Prevention of Future Deaths report here. I do recommend that everyone should read it in full.

She sent another report in parallel to the Chair of the Catholic Standards Safeguarding Agency which you can read here.

In both cases she is requiring the named recipient to reply to her by 3 September describing what actions have been taken to prevent future deaths.

Media reports:

BBC Church of England criticised over suicide of falsely accused priest

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said in a statement: “Alan Griffin’s death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to his family for all they have endured. I am deeply sorry for their loss.

“Following the inquest, we have commissioned a ‘Lessons Learned’ review so that we can fully reflect upon the diocese’s actions, and the coroner’s comments, in the period leading up to Alan Griffin’s death.” (see longer quote below)

Premier Church of England criticised over priest’s suicide following false child abuse allegations

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson told the Premier: “This is a highly distressing case and our deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and friends of Fr Alan Griffin. The archbishop has received a copy of the coroner’s report and the matter will be taken extremely seriously. Appropriate discussion and investigation will now take place. Lambeth Palace will be in contact with the relevant other bodies, especially the Diocese of London.”

Evening Standard Priest killed himself after being wrongly accused of child abuse

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said in a statement: “Alan Griffin’s death was a tragedy and my heart goes out to his family for all they have endured. I am deeply sorry for their loss.

“Following the inquest, we have commissioned a ‘Lessons Learned’ review so that we can fully reflect upon the diocese’s actions, and the coroner’s comments, in the period leading up to Alan Griffin’s death.”

she added: “It remains an absolute priority that, where allegations are made, they are taken seriously, and referrals made where appropriate to statutory agencies and other relevant parties. Our review will examine the decisions that were made in this case, in order to shape any necessary changes to our reporting processes in the future.”

Daily Mail Churches blamed for priest’s suicide over false sex abuse claims

Church Times Church’s safeguarding blunders could cause more deaths, coroner warn

Martin Sewell is quoted:
“Worse, the coroner remarks that nobody took responsibility for steering the case from start to finish. We see this time and again. The Church has evolved a successful strategy of learned helplessness. . . Worse still, some unknown senior church person tried to dissuade the coroner from making this plain in her report. She puts that attempt into the public domain. There need to be resignations.”

He concluded: “Alan Griffin’s case was plainly never a safeguarding concern, but its mishandling foreseeably led to his death. Safeguarding needs to be preserved for the clear, serious cases.”

Archbishop Cranmer Church of England safeguarding drove Fr Alan Griffin to suicide

Ad Clerum from the Bishop of London: Fr Alan Griffin

A letter to all Diocese of London clergy from Bishop Sarah. Full text is copied below the fold.

——

There is a letter to the editor in the Church Times for 23 July (scroll down) by David Lamming that draws parallels between the cases of Paul Overend and Alan Griffin.

Private Eye in the 4 August edition names the archdeacon in this story as Luke Miller, and the now retired Director of Operations as Martin Sergeant.

There is a further Statement from the London College of Bishops dated 10 August.

(more…)

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Bishop of Winchester confirms his retirement

Diocese of Winchester website

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Dr Tim Dakin, has today announced his retirement, having formally notified HM The Queen of his intention to step down. He will retire as Bishop in February 2022.

Bishop Tim’s decision follows the conclusion of a series of facilitated conversations that have taken place over the summer to consider matters raised concerning leadership and governance. In a video message to the Diocese, available here, Bishop Tim said:

I have now received confirmation that Her Majesty the Queen has accepted my retirement as Bishop of Winchester. I wanted you all to hear my decision as directly as possible – and doing it this way rather speaks to our times. Some formalities and details need to be finalized but I’ll be leaving the Diocese in early February and handing over my responsibilities to others in the meantime. Please pray for all involved in this transition process.

Mahatma Gandhi said that “unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” I have always been clear that, as your Bishop, I should be there to build and foster togetherness across our Diocese, focused upon our life together in Christ, and upon our joint mission to serve Christ in our communities and to sustain Christian witness in daily life. Sadly, it seems it is no longer possible for me to fulfil this role.

The last eighteen months have brought enormous pressures to bear on us all, individually, as a country, within our families and communities, and as a Diocese. The painfully difficult financial decisions made over the last year have caused real anguish. In trying to secure a sustainable future for the growth of the Diocese, it is clear that I’ve not done enough to acknowledge what we have lost in this process. To those I’ve hurt or let down, I am sorry.

I realise that the steps taken to stabilize the finances continue to cause upset. Bishop’s Council has received full reports in recent weeks from the Diocesan auditors and legal advisers, explaining and corroborating the decisions made by the Diocesan Board of Finance. None of this makes those decisions any easier to take. Nevertheless, I hope there is some comfort in the clarity now provided, and that faith can be restored in the relevant Diocesan staff and functions as the pastoral reorganisations proceed. Please continue to pray for all those involved. Pray too for all serving in the parishes and various projects: that the church and its witness may grow in the Diocese.

I could not have come to my decision, or indeed found a way through this recent period, without the love and support of Sally, my children and close friends. While I have not seen much of what has been said about me, my family and friends have seen more, and I have seen the effect it has had on them. They are the people who know me best, of course – and I’ve drawn upon their love and their view of me during these difficult times.

It has been a privilege to serve a Diocese that has Companion links across the world. I’ve been reminded of previous ministry experience: of the need to live on other people’s terms to see the world they see and to know the Christ they follow. I hope these links will continue to grow in strength and in significance. It’s also been a great joy to be part of a Diocese where education is taken seriously at all levels, not least, Further & Higher Education. All of us are called to pray and witness in such a way that the coming generations will find fullness of life in Christ.

I will remain proud of what has been achieved across the Diocese over the past 10 years. For there to have been a record number of ordinands at the Cathedral recently is a wonderful achievement for those involved in the School of Mission and in the parishes. I believe each and every one of our new clergy – and the many lay people who’ve received the Bishop’s Commission for Mission – will have a valuable role to play in the next stage of the Diocese as it witnesses to Christ’s mission in this region, in the life of the nation and across the Anglican Communion. The new national strategy for the Church of England offers an inspirational trajectory for such future developments.

As for me and Sally, we are planning a move to Plymouth, and we’re looking forward to making new friends, as well as to visits from old friends and from our growing family. Thank you for all we have shared. We will miss you. God bless you.

The Bishop of Southampton, Debbie Sellin, will continue to fulfil Bishop Tim’s duties, following the recent announcement that he would step back until the end of August. The nomination and appointment of a Diocesan Bishop is made through the Crown Nominations Commission. Further information on the process for selecting the next Bishop of Winchester will be available following Bishop Tim’s departure.

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Christ Church Oxford: latest commentary

Archbishop Cranmer published an article yesterday written by Martin Sewell: Institutional bullying in the Church of England: it’s time to face the liturgical music.

There are some related items in the Questions asked at the General Synod session that starts tomorrow. See below the fold for details.

Surviving Church has published The Christ Church Percy Affair. Is it possible to be neutral?

(more…)

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British Methodists approve same-sex marriage in church

Here is the official Methodist press release: Conference confirms resolutions on marriage and relationships

Following prayerful consideration by the whole Church, the Methodist Conference has voted to confirm provisional resolutions on the principles or qualities of good relating, understanding of cohabitation and same sex marriages conducted on Methodist premises or by Methodist office-holders.

A report on marriage and relationships, ‘God in Love Unites Us’, was received by the Conference in 2019 and the local District Synods were asked to consider the provisional resolutions and report back to this year’s Conference which is being held this week in Birmingham.  The Conference received a report on the results of the local conferring which showed that 29 out of the 30 Synods confirmed support for the provisional resolutions.

The Revd Sonia Hicks, President of the Conference, prayed ahead of the main debate on Wednesday morning in Birmingham, asking that the Conference’s “words may be imbibed with your grace, with tenderness from on high.”

A range of views were expressed on the resolutions, in particular on cohabitation and same sex marriages. The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, spoke to the Conference acknowledging the “depth of feeling, pain and anxiety that there is” with a commitment to work across the Connexion with District Chairs to heal divisions.

Speakers called for unity going ahead irrespective of the decision. Other speakers spoke of the acceptance of diversity that younger Church members have for each other with younger speakers relating their own lived experience as Christians from the LGBTQI+ community. Another representative asked that the Church does not ostracise those who oppose the introduction of same-sex marriages in the Church, saying the great majority of these people are trying to be faithful to Scripture as they see it.

The Methodist Church included other denominations and Methodist Churches across the world in the process of listening and consultation, with written submissions from ecumenical partners to the ‘God In Love Unites Us‘ report and workshops with global Methodist partners.

Following the vote on the provisional resolutions the Revd Sonia Hicks said: “The debate today and our wider conversation has been conducted with grace and mutual respect. As we move forward together after this historic day for our Church, we must remember to continue to hold each other in prayer, and to support each other respecting our differences.”

Church Times news report: Methodists agree to same-sex weddings in church

…The Conference, meeting both online and in-person at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham this week, voted 254 to 46 in favour of a resolution by which “the Conference consents in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises throughout the Connexion and by Methodist ministers, probationers or members in so far as the law of the relevant jurisdiction permits or requires and subject to compliance with such further requirements, if any, as that law imposes.”

This involved redrafting the Methodist marriage canon to replace the premise that marriage is between one man and one woman. The relevant standing order now states: “The Methodist Church believes that marriage is given by God to be a particular channel of God’s grace, and that it is in accord with God’s purposes when a marriage is a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of two people who freely enter it.

“Within the Methodist Church this is understood in two ways: that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; that marriage can be between any two people. The Methodist Church affirms both understandings and makes provision in its Standing Orders for them.”

BBC Methodist Church allows same-sex marriage in ‘momentous’ vote

Guardian Methodist church to allow same-sex marriage after ‘historic’ vote

Daily Mail Methodist Church becomes biggest religious group in Britain to say yes to same-sex marriages

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has issued this Statement on the Methodist Conference Vote on Marriage Equality 30 June 2021

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England rejoices in and welcomes the news that the Methodist Conference has consented in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises and by Methodist ministers. The resolution was passed by a very large majority (254 to 46) after a long and impressive debate marked by a generous and kind spirit from both those in favour and those opposing the motion.

This means that the Methodist Church of Great Britain, which covers all of Scotland, Wales and England, will become the largest UK denomination that fully accepts marriage equality and will welcome LGBTQIA+ couples to marry in their churches.

The decision was taken, after many years of discussion and debate, on the basis of the Report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019, God in Love Unites Us, which was discussed extensively at the 2019 Methodist Conference and commended for study and prayerful discussion throughout the Church through 2020.

The Campaign congratulates Dignity and Worth – our sister organisation in the Methodist Church – for their tireless work for this outcome.

We call upon the bishops of the Next Steps Group to ensure that proposals for marriage equality in the Church of England form part of their report in due course.

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What next in the Diocese of Winchester?

Updated Sunday and again Tuesday and Wednesday (scroll down)

Our previous report dated 20 May, was headlined: Winchester rebels against its diocesan bishop.

As the six week period of “stepping back” draws to a close, these items have appeared:

Much more detail on the bishop’s earlier career is to be found in this:

Update Sunday

Update Tuesday 

Letter from Bishop Debbie Sellin. Do read the whole letter, but the critical portion is this…

It goes without saying that this remains a hugely challenging period for us as a diocese. I realise many of you feel you have not heard enough since I wrote to you almost six weeks ago, to inform you that Bishop Tim would be stepping back. Again, I am conscious that many questions remain unanswered, but I can confirm that the process to consider matters raised concerning leadership and governance is progressing.

Facilitated conversations are continuing and, in order for them to be given the time and space they need, Bishop Tim has agreed these will be his sole focus until the end of August. I recognise many will want to know more and have questions but we do need to ensure the process is held as confidential at this stage and I would urge all to keep those concerned in our prayers.  Once we can say more then of course we will. The Bishop of London and the Bishop at Lambeth are being kept fully aware of the ongoing process and are providing welcome support, although they are not part of the conversations.

Bishop David has agreed to continue standing back from ministry in Winchester Diocese to enable the conversations to run their course…

This letter has now (Wednesday) been posted to the diocesan website.

Church Times: Talks about Dakin’s future to continue

…The facilitated conversations mentioned by Bishop Sellin involved Dr Dakin, the chairs of the houses of clergy and laity in Winchester, and the chair of the finance committee — Dr Dakin is chair of the diocesan board of finance, an arrangement regarded as highly unusual — together with a facilitator suggested by Bishop Thornton. There have been two such meetings and another is expected shortly. They are understood to have been positive, though the issues being dealt with are difficult.

Commentators — of which there are many — have expressed doubt that Dr Dakin can have any confidence of returning to the diocese, given the nature of some of the stories that have emerged. One solution might be that he takes early retirement — he is 63; but he would not be immune to action under the Clergy Discipline Measure if those who are alleging mistreatment decide to complain formally.

There has also been discussion about the culture of the diocese, with the suggestion that wider repairs are needed than merely replacing the diocesan bishop. In the mean time, Bishop Sellin remains acting diocesan bishop.

Hampshire Chronicle: Delays over decision over future of Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev Tim Dakin

Update Wednesday

Surviving Church: Finding Solutions for the Winchester Crisis

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Oxford diocese reports the CDM decision on the Dean

Updated Saturday

We reported on 1 June that the CDM complaint against the Dean of Christ Church had been dismissed. Today, the Diocese of Oxford has reported as follows.

Decision by the President of Tribunals

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

A decision has been made regarding the complaint against the Very Reverend Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin DBE, has decided that it would not be proportionate to refer the matter to a CDM tribunal, noting that there is another means of redress that is a more proportionate means of addressing the allegation.

The role of the President of Tribunals is to determine whether there is a case to answer on which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate. She writes: “When arriving at this conclusion, I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry into the incident. It seems to me therefore that there is another means of redress which is a more proportionate means of addressing alleged incidents.”

Dame Sarah’s decision concludes this Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process. The matter should be confidential between those involved in it. The Dean remains suspended by Christ Church, pending the outcome of the college’s separate and independently-chaired tribunal.

The Diocese of Oxford is fully committed to justice and fair process. We have offered significant support for those involved. This includes work to ensure proper procedures and offers of pastoral support and counselling for all parties. Where possible, Bishop Steven is also in regular personal contact with everyone involved.

Nevertheless, matters have been and remain extremely difficult and painful for all concerned. We are profoundly disappointed that these difficulties have been compounded by leaks, commentary and speculation by a small group of people online, apparently with little concern for the original complainant’s right to anonymity, or indeed a fair process for the Dean.

Breaches of confidentiality and regularly posting inaccurate information are to the detriment of everyone. The diocese has sought advice on these matters following the leak of Dame Sarah’s written decision. We draw to the attention of all the Clergy Discipline Commission guidance on Confidentiality and Privacy in Clergy Discipline Proceedings, dated February 2021, which is part of its Statutory Guidance:

  1. Allegations of misconduct under the CDM are private and confidential. This is to ensure that matters are dealt with fairly and that the process is not prejudiced. It extends to complainants, respondents and witnesses.
  2. Due to the nature of allegations, individuals concerned will have a reasonable expectation of privacy and confidence at common law. In addition, their personal data will be subject to data protection law. In certain cases, the provisions of section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) 1992 may also apply (anonymity of victims of certain offences).
  3. The default position is that all hearings will take place in private, unless one of the reasons provided for in rule 40 applies.
  4. Accordingly, all matters relating to an allegation should be kept strictly private and confidential. This includes written documents and material which, save for legal representatives, should not be shared with third parties.
  5. In particular, individuals (regardless of whether or not they are a party) should refrain from making statements, posts, comments or similar on social media, websites, print media or other public fora which in any way reference the details of the allegation, the individuals involved, or give an opinion as to the merits or otherwise of the proceedings.

Please join with us in praying for the complainant, for Martyn, for the cathedral chapter and congregation, and for the wider Christ Church community.

Notes

  • Christ Church is a complex institution and, uniquely in the Church of England, the Dean of the Cathedral is also Head of an Oxford College.
  • The terms of service of the Dean and the residentiary canons of the cathedral are set out in the Statutes of Christ Church. The post of Dean is indivisible; the different aspects of their duties cannot be separated.
  • The person who brought the complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) did so by virtue of their position at the cathedral and only following consultation and agreement with members of chapter.
  • The internal Christ Church process currently underway is separate and independent of the Church. The decision of the governing body to move to tribunal, and the subsequent process, takes place under the statutes of Christ Church, not under Church legislation. The Bishop of Oxford is advised, but not consulted.
  • Meanwhile, the cathedral’s core work of prayer and the worship of God continues.

Update

Archbishop Cranmer has this morning published Diocese of Oxford misrepresents the President of Tribunals, leaving Martyn Percy ‘under a cloud’.

This guest post by Martin Sewell and David Lamming is long and detailed. Reading it in full is strongly recommended.

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Safeguarding process finally concluded for Lincoln Canon

Updated Friday

789 days after he was first asked to “step aside” from his role as Canon Chancellor, Church of England processes have cleared him completely. He had been acquitted of any criminal charge by a Cardiff jury in December 2020.

The Church Times reports Safeguarding process drove us close to suicide, says Lincoln canon

THE Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, the Revd Dr Paul Overend, and his wife, Sue, contemplated suicide because of the safeguarding investigation that he faced, he said on Sunday.

On Saturday, it was announced that a church investigation had concluded that there was “no case to answer” after a protracted investigation by the police and the church authorities.

In a personal statement that was read out on Sunday, Canon Overend writes: “The diocese and the Church of England will now need to take stock of their safeguarding and CDM processes, which have harmed a great number of people and brought my wife and me close to suicide.”

He said on Monday that, at one point, his wife had been admitted to the Maytree Respite Centre in London for residential suicide-prevention care…

Statement from the Diocese of Lincoln

Statement from Lincoln Cathedral

Update

The Church Times carries a further detailed news report, Five-minute meeting that led to a traumatic two-year ordeal and there is a reference to this matter in Leader comment: Is this institutional corruption?

The cover picture on this issue of the Church Times is a painting created by Sue Overend, more details here (scroll down).

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