Thinking Anglicans

Civil partnerships extended to opposite-sex couples

Updated

Both Houses of Parliament have now approved The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019. The regulations will come into force no later than 2 December.

There is an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.

There is also an extremely helpful House of Commons Library briefing paper, Civil partnership for opposite sex couples (full text available as a PDF here).

This change applies only to England and Wales. It is for the Scottish Parliament to decide on whether to do this in Scotland too, but the Scottish Government has introduced a bill to do so.

The regulations do not permit opposite-sex couples who enter a civil partnership to subsequently convert their relationship into a marriage (as is the case for same-sex couples). The Government has conducted a separate consultation on conversion rights generally, but has not yet announced the outcome of that, or decided what actions it will take. Further regulations relating to this may be made in 2020.

The position of the Church of England on this new form of civil partnership has not yet been announced.  I will update this post when it does. But it does seem unlikely that the policy statement of 2005 can be applied unchanged now.

There is further discussion of these regulations at Law and Religion UKCivil partnerships, marriage registration, stillbirths – update.

And Russell Sandberg has written Religion and Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships: An Update.

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2020 General Synod Elections: Inclusive Church launches campaign leaflet

Nic Tall is Election Campaign Coordinator for the IC and partners’ 2020 Synod Campaign. Inclusive Church has published this article by him: 2020 Synod Elections: Shaping the future of the Church of England.

Should same sex couples be able to marry in church?  How can the church respond to the climate emergency?  How do we equip the church for the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st Century?  Do you ever find yourself asking these questions?  And do you ever wonder who in the church has the job of answering them?

In the Church of England the big questions of the day are debated by the General Synod.  It can seem like a remote body, with little effect at parish level and no place for ordinary clergy and churchgoers, but that is a common misperception.  Many significant changes in how local churches operate come from decisions in General Synod, and the policies of the national church are shaped and decided in Synod.  Next year will see full elections for the next five year term of the General Synod, and whoever is elected will have a voice in how the church grapples with the big issues and shape its future.

Could you serve on General Synod?  Maybe you know someone you could encourage to stand for election.  The Church needs a diverse range of people on Synod, different ages, backgrounds and experience to represent the full breadth of the Church.  Inclusive Church is leading a campaign to organise for the 2020 elections, working in partnership with other inclusive organisations across the life of the church.  We have just launched our main campaign leaflet, saying what will be happening and how you can be involved.  Please download it here, and share it far and wide among people you know in the church who have inclusive values…

The campaign leaflet, Planning for the 2020 Elections to the General Synod, contains more detailed information:

Who is organising the Inclusive Synod Campaign?
This campaign is being organised by a coalition of key organisations from across the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England – evangelical, catholic, liberal. We represent the broad mainstream of the Church, those who want our national Church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic background or sexuality. Members include Inclusive Church, WATCH, One Body One Faith, Ozanne Foundation, Affirming Catholicism, Accepting Evangelicals, Modern Church, the Society of Catholic Priests, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, the Progressive Christianity Network and Thinking Anglicans. We are the only campaign for Synod organising across the whole of the Church…

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Two reports about the Christ Church Oxford dispute

Updated

Two news articles about the dispute concerning the Dean, Martyn Percy, have appeared on the same day. Each contains new information, but there is surprisingly little overlap. Do read both articles all the way through. (Warning: the FT piece is very long.)

Church Times Christ Church continues to struggle to find peace

A NEW row is brewing in Christ Church, Oxford, despite the exoneration of the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy (News, 30 August). The Cathedral Chapter has now sought its own legal advice about the actions of a group of senior dons who accused the Dean of “immoral, scandalous, and disgraceful behaviour” (News, 5 November 2018).

As a consequence, there are reports that members of the Chapter have, in turn, been harassed and threatened with legal action. On Wednesday, Dr Percy declined to comment.

The small group of dons used an estimated £1.6 million of college funds to pursue the Dean, who is also Head of House (i.e. Master of the college) after he raised questions about governance and pay scales, including his own. He was cleared of all charges in August, in an internal inquiry led by Sir Andrew Smith, who produced a judgment of more than 100 pages. It is this document that is at the centre of the new row…

Financial Times Scheming spires: trouble at Oxford’s Christ Church

Update: this second article, which was available freely earlier today, has now gone behind a paywall. I am sorry about the inconvenience. See comments below about possible ways around this.

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Archbishop responds to Church Times leader on Brexit

The Church Times has a news report today (which covers other episcopal Brexit responses too) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement. In it the Archbishop of Canterbury  makes a fairly lengthy response to last week’s leader column. Do read it all.

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Oxford bishops write about Brexit

The Oxford bishops write:

We may be about to exit the European Union and begin a new relationship with our European neighbours and with the world. +Steven, +Alan, +Colin and Bishop-elect Olivia have written a joint letter to every church, school and chaplaincy in the Diocese of Oxford reminding us all of the important roles that our churches and schools hold at this time. The bishops are encouraging parishioners across the diocese to read the letter too: “Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small”.

Read the whole letter here. A Christian response to Brexit.

And there are further resources here.

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Church Times leader criticises Bishops’ Brexit statement

Today’s Church Times carries three items relating to the Church of England bishops’ intervention in the Brexit debate.

There is a news story, Bishops defend statement in which they endorse Brexit

and there is the Press column Press: Bishops back Brexit — but no one reports it.

But more significantly there is a very long leader article, which is highly critical of the statement: The Bishops’ misplaced respect. Do read the whole of this critique, which starts out:

IT WAS a very Anglican betrayal. No Gove-like rush of blood to the head, stolid Johnsonian plotting, or Momentum bullying. Just a throwaway line at the start of the College of Bishops’ statement on the tenor of political discourse. It was a clearing of the throat, a testing of the microphone. “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.”

All three parts of this sentence deserve a closer look…

There are also some Letters to the Editor.

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A response to the bishops’ statement on Brexit

The Reverend Al Barrett is the incumbent of Hodge Hill Church – a partnership between St Philip & St James (Church of England – Birmingham Diocese) and Hodge Hill United Reformed Church. He blogs regularly at This estate we’re in and he has written this: “Not peace, but a sword”: a response to the bishops’ statement.

This is quite a long analysis and deserves to be read in full  He starts out this way:

There is, I realise, something slightly perverse about criticising a unanimous statement, from the Church of England’s bishops, attempting to speak with urgency into a time of profound national division. I also realise it’s not the first time I’ve responded publicly, and critically, to a statement made by my denomination’s senior leadership at a moment of political ‘crisis’. I’m sure there are words for people like me, and ‘irritant’ is probably the politest of them.

But these are indeed critical moments in our national life, and thankfully our bishops rarely presume to have ‘the last word’ in such moments. With whatever authority they seek to speak, their interventions are invitations (implicit or explicit) to further reflection and conversation – and it is to that implicit invitation that I cannot help but respond – with some ‘wonderings’ that can claim no more authority than the bishops’ statement, and certainly no more claim to be ‘the last word’ of a vital ongoing conversation.

I can only imagine the anguished discussions, in person, on the phone, by email, between the bishops in the process of agreeing this unanimous statement. The felt importance of presenting a ‘united front’, a single message – when they will no doubt have, among themselves, had passionate disagreements about the content, the tone, and even whether they should be saying anything public at all. I feel for them in those struggles. None of this is easy. To say anything, as much as to say nothing, is risky, costly, weighty in its responsibility…

And here is his concluding paragraph:

…Here, then, is the dilemma confronting the Church of England, in a nutshell: how do we ‘own up’ with penitent honesty to our own profoundly imbalanced and compromised social location and institutional reality (dominated by White, upper-/middle-class men), while seeking complex solidarities with diverse and marginalized ‘others’ who present challenges to both the church and wider society, and courageously challenging the powers-that-be where power is both concentrated and abused? The answer must, surely, include a willingness to give up – or be stripped of – most of the traces of institutional power that the Church of England, especially, continues to benefit from – even that of presuming to speak into political debate with some kind of ‘authoritative voice’. It must also, equally certainly, include an unshakeable commitment to listen acutely, attentively, enduringly, and with a radical receptivity, to the many within, and beyond the Church who are not White, or not middle-class, or not male, in ways that challenge and change us, to our very DNA. Only in the context of that ongoing commitment to listening, repentance and change can we humbly and courageously seek to ‘speak truth to power’.

But do, please, read the whole thing.

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Bishops comment on Parliamentary proceedings

Updated

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines  published this comment on the proceedings in the House of Commons yesterday: Language and leadership

The language used in the House of Commons last night is probably unprecedented. Drawing the name of a murdered MP into the fight was, at the very least, questionable. To describe the contribution of female MPs, pleading with the PM to moderate his language in the light of violence and death threats, as ‘humbug’ is appalling.

I am the bishop of a diocese in which Jo Cox is remembered with massive affection and in which there is great sensitivity to utilisation of her for political purposes. Her family are not just names to be traded.

Words are not neutral – they can become weapons. Words in the mouth of leaders can shape the language and behaviour of all sorts of people, and not always positively. The challenge of leadership is to lead, to behave like the adult in the room, to see the big picture, to hold the long-term perspective, and not to lose sight of the key issue…

The Church Times reported this as:  Baines challenges Johnson over ‘destructive language’

Premier Radio reported on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks in the House of Lords yesterday: Justin Welby says in House of Lords that parliament’s reputation has sunk “very, very low”.

The Church Times reported thus: Divisiveness is shaking the country apart, warns Welby

The Archbishop in fact made two interventions yesterday, here are the transcripts:

Does the Minister agree that Parliament has, justifiably or not, seen its reputation sink very low over the last few months and that one of the ways of dealing with that is transparency? Regardless of how many letters there may or may not be, will he therefore undertake that the Government will be completely transparent and honest in the spirit and not merely the letter of the law about the actions they take over the next few weeks in connection with an extension?

My Lords, this debate –for want of a better word–demonstrates, I am sure the noble Lord would agree, the total division across Parliament. It is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level, as they are immersed in every local community. The divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions, whether it is Parliament or the courts, which are portrayed as having launched a coup d’état–a slightly unlikely idea–and it is causing serious damage to our economy. We are hearing in our debates the incapacity of Parliament not only to make a decision but to find any way through the deadlock. The divisions are so deep that we cannot expect, I fear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested, that cross-party work could bring a decision on what we do, but can we not at least ask the Government to look for alternative means of setting a path to making a decision?

At the moment, all we hear regarding a decision is that one side says it is definitely this and the other side says that. I am used to this in an organisation that is split at every level; I am well aware of division, so I am speaking from deep familiarity. The way forward must be, as we have done on numerous occasions, to work out how to get to a decision, because the present means of handling it through Parliament is not working. We need to draw on wider experience, on mediation and other forms, so that Operation Yellowhammer and the Statement that we have heard at least form part of a clear plan to arrive at a firm decision. Does the Minister agree?

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said this yesterday in response to the reading in the Lords of the Prime Minister’s statement:

My Lords, speaking on behalf of these Benches, I struggle to have to say that I was shocked as I listened to the repeat of the Statement. I could not believe that I was hearing it, from someone who knows that the nation is deeply divided and needs to find ways of working together. We need humility, repentance when necessary and an approach that listens carefully to the views of others rather than simply “Attack, attack, attack”. The Leader was not in the House earlier when my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury was here, but I encourage her to read his comments about the need for reconciliation–to find a different way forward to work together that is good for the nation. In one sense I am simply adding to the mood of the House as a whole, but I come at it from a very different point of view; I am not part of a political party and I have no axe to grind. I simply want to reflect that this was terrible. It was shocking. It is not worthy. I am sorry.

And today, Thursday. the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, said this:

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and for making and underlining the commitment that the Government will obey the law. May I test that a little further? It seems to me that, in the current very fractious debate, what is needed is to respect the impartiality of those institutions upholding the constitution and the law. Will the Minister counsel his colleagues to use language that is appropriate and not excessive and that reflects respect for our institutions, the taking of personal responsibility and a degree of restraint? When Prayers are said by Bishops in this House, we pray every day for the well-being of all the estates in this realm. We all have a duty to make our own contribution towards that.

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Episcopal House of Bishops considers Lambeth 2020 exclusions

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church recently met, and one of the topics discussed was the exclusion of same-sex spouses from the invitations to attend the Lambeth Conference next year. That was reported on here in detail in earlier articles, starting here, and continuing here, then here, and also here, and finally here.

Following this week’s meeting this message was issued:

A Message of Love and Solidarity from the Bishops and Spouses to The Episcopal Church
For many bishops and bishops’ spouses of The Episcopal Church, next summer’s Lambeth Conference has become the occasion for a mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment. We cherish the bonds of affection that we enjoy with our Anglican siblings around the world. Gathering in prayer, study, and fellowship with our spiritual family is a gift for which we are profoundly grateful.

We, bishops and spouses choose to remain in community with each other as we navigate this passage in our common journey. We choose to remain one in the love of Jesus.

Our hearts are, however, troubled. The Lambeth Conference 2020 intentionally recognizes and underscores the important role bishops’ spouses play in the ministry of the episcopate. And yet, spouses of bishops in same-gender marriages have received no invitation to participate. Their exclusion wounds those who are excluded, their spouses, and their friends within and beyond the House of Bishops.

After faithful soul-searching, each bishop and spouse will arrive at a decision about how best to respond in the name of Christ. Some will attend and offer loving witness. Some will opt to stay at home as a different way to offer loving witness. Some will dedicate the resources not spent for Lambeth attendance to on-the-ground partnership projects as an alternative manifestation of our commitment to the Anglican Communion.  Others will find different avenues to express the unwavering love of Jesus Christ.

The community of bishops and spouses supports and stands together in solidarity with each of our brothers and sisters in this Episcopal Church as they make these decisions according to their conscience and through prayerful discernment and invite the siblings of The Episcopal Church to join us in that solidarity.

More information about how this statement came about is contained in several news stories about the meeting:
House of Bishops opens fall meeting with discussions of same-sex spouse exclusion from Lambeth 2020

…Curry alluded in his sermon to the variety of responses that Episcopal bishops are considering.

“We are going to Lambeth, but some of us can’t and some of us won’t. We’ll each have to make a decision of conscience, and that decision of conscience must be respected,” Curry said, adding that he will attend. “I’m going as a witness to the way of love that Jesus has taught me…”

Bishops step up preparations for Lambeth Conference amid anxiety over spousal invitations

…Should Episcopal bishops skip the conference in protest? Should they go and make their objections clear while in England? Should the spouses who were invited take their own principled stands, and what would that look like? Should the House of Bishops agree on a unified response to what some see as an injustice?

Such questions were to be raised during an afternoon session Sept. 19 in which the spouses accompanied the bishops. That session was closed to reporters, to allow for open and honest conversations, but earlier in the day, Episcopal News Service was able to sit in on the smaller group discussion and listen to about 15 of the bishops share their thoughts, sometimes conflicted, on the best paths forward.

Glasspool opened the discussion with a pragmatic approach.

“Let’s prepare ourselves as best we can, whether we’re making our witness at home or in England,” Glasspool said. She plans to travel to England with her wife, Becki Sander, even if Sander won’t be able to attend official Lambeth gatherings.

Glasspool also cautioned her fellow bishops not to let this one issue dominate discussions at Lambeth, especially if doing so might provoke a conservative reaction, such as a new statement opposing same-sex marriage.

“If you take away all the fear and all my anxiety and all everybody else’s anxiety and ratchet it down, it’s a two-week conference. … My hope for us is that we can prepare as best we can, that we don’t go in blind,” she said…

House of Bishops’ fall meeting grapples with range of issues, from reconciliation to innovation.

..Same-sex marriage also figured into the bishops’ discussions of the upcoming Lambeth Conference 2020, a gathering in England of all active bishops in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby chose to invite openly gay and lesbian bishops but not their spouses, so part of the Episcopal bishops’ planning has involved deciding how to respond to that exclusion.

Welby’s decision is expected to affect at least three Episcopal bishops with same-sex spouses: New York Bishop Assistant Mary Glasspool, Maine Bishop Thomas Brown and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, who will be consecrated bishop of Michigan in February. All three attended the House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis with their spouses.

Brown told Episcopal News Service on the first day of the meeting that he and his husband, the Rev. Thomas Mousin, were still deliberating over whether to go to England for the Lambeth Conference.

“We continue to be in prayer as a family, along with other bishops in the world … who have reached out arms of support and encouragement,” Brown said…

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Bishop of Albany to face disciplinary hearing

Updated

We last reported on the case of the Bishop of Albany in January.

Yesterday, The Episcopal Church issued a press release: Further Action on Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive.

September 18, 2019

The Title IV Reference Panel for the discipline of bishops – composed of Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops Cate Waynick, and Bishop for Pastoral Development Todd Ousley – announced it voted earlier today, pursuant to Episcopal Church Canon IV.11.3, to refer to a Hearing Panel the matter related to Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive. Bishop Love’s pastoral letter and pastoral directive referred to the 2018 Resolution B012 of the General Convention. Under the Canons, the Hearing Panel will conduct a proceeding and then “reach a determination of the matter by (a) dismissal of the matter or (b) issuance of an Order.” (Canon IV.13.12)…

The Episcopal News Service has published a report, updated on 19 September: Albany Bishop William Love to face hearing in disciplinary case for blocking same-sex marriage. It includes comments from Bishop Love:

…Love, who is one of an estimated 135 bishops and bishops-elect who are in Minneapolis this week for the fall House of Bishops meeting, was informed of the decision at about the same time as The Episcopal Church issued a late-afternoon press release on the update in his case. He told Episcopal News Service on Sept. 19 that he was “thankful” that the matter had made it to the hearing panel, as he denied that he had done anything wrong.

“What I tried to do as best I can, by the grace of God, is to be faithful and obedient to that which I believe the Lord has called me to, even though it sometimes can be very difficult, and sometimes it’s not politically correct,” he said…

…Love told ENS on Sept. 19 that he thought he was upholding his vows by taking the position he did, not violating them.

“I chose to take the action that I did, trying to be faithful and obedient to my understanding of what I believe God has revealed through Holy Scripture, what the church has taught for over 2,000 years and what the wider Body of Christ has been asking us to do,” he said.

He added that he had no intention to lead Episcopalians away from the church over the issue, though some in his diocese have told him they would not stay if same-sex marriage is allowed there.

Update

The Diocese of Albany has published this message from Bishop Love

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am currently at the fall House of Bishops’ Meeting in Minneapolis, where I was informed earlier this afternoon, that the Title IV Reference Panel for the discipline of bishops has met and voted (in accordance with the Canons of the Church) to refer to the Hearing Panel the matter related to my November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive regarding the 79th General Convention 2018 Resolution B012.

I greatly appreciate the Reference Panel’s decision to expedite the process by referring this matter directly to the Hearing Panel, where I will have the opportunity to address the concerns raised by the issuance of the November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Directive (which upholds the Church’s traditional understanding and teaching on marriage.

Now that the Reference Panel has acted, canonical timelines will be put in place, ensuring that the remainder of the Title IV Process should move much more quickly. It is my hope and prayer that God’s will, will ultimately be accomplished whatever the outcome of the Title IV proceedings.

I appreciate so much all of you who have been holding me and the Diocese of Albany up in prayer. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

+Bill

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Cherry Vann to be the next Bishop of Monmouth

From a Church in Wales press release:

The Archdeacon of Rochdale was today (Thurs) elected as the next Bishop of Monmouth.

The Venerable Cherry Vann secured the necessary two-thirds majority vote from members of the Electoral College on the last day of its meeting at Newport Cathedral.

The announcement was made by the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, President of the Electoral College.

He said, “I am looking forward enormously to working with Cherry.  She has a huge amount that she will be able to contribute to the life, not only to the Diocese of Monmouth, but also to the Church in Wales.

“One area I know is very close to her heart is the church’s ministry in post-industrial areas where community life, and church life in particular perhaps, has suffered enormously. The diocese, a little while ago, appointed a new archdeacon with responsibility for those areas, but having a bishop with great experience of them will be a huge morale boost for them.”

Bishop Elect Vann said the challenges facing churches in south-east Wales were the same as those in the north-west of England. She said, “The towns around Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Ashton are significantly challenged, both economically and in terms of church life. We’ve done some statistics, and a very, very small percentage of the population are going to our churches. This is something that we have been working hard to address in the Manchester area and I look forward to bringing some of the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained from there to Newport and the Diocese of Monmouth.

“It struck me when I read the diocesan profile how similar Monmouth Diocese is to Manchester, on a smaller scale, but the challenges are the same, the demographics are the same and it’s really good to be here to lead the people of Newport in the next challenges that lie ahead.”

Originally from Leicestershire, Bishop Elect Vann has served as Archdeacon of Rochdale, in the Diocese of Manchester, for the past 11 years. She trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge, and was ordained as a deacon in 1989.  Among the first women to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1994, she has spent her entire ministry so far in the Diocese of Manchester, in Flixton, Bolton and Farnworth. She is also an honorary canon of Manchester Cathedral and a former chaplain to deaf people.

Ms Vann holds senior posts in the governance of the Church of England. She has been Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York since 2013 and is an ex-officio member of the Archbishops’ Council.

A talented pianist, Ms Vann is both an Associate of the Royal College of Music (ARCM) and a Graduate of the Royal Schools of Music. She conducts the Bolton Chamber Orchestra.

Ms Vann will be the Bishop Elect until the appointment is formally confirmed by the Archbishop at a Sacred Synod service. She will be then be consecrated as bishop at Brecon Cathedral – the seat of the current Archbishop – and enthroned as the 11th Bishop of Monmouth at Newport Cathedral.

Watch a short film of the Archbishop and the Bishop Elect Cherry Vann:

http://bit.ly/2lXNJRm

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Dean of Christ Church: some updates

We last reported on the tribunal hearing relating to the Dean of Christ Church on 21 August. Since then there have been some developments in the story.

30 August Church Times Dr Percy and his college face large legal bills

8 September Mail on Sunday ‘Bullying’ Oxford University dons are accused of using more than £1 million of charity cash to remove their names from damning report against dean

Oxford University dons have been accused of trying to avoid ‘damning criticism’ of their ill-fated effort to force out a college dean by having their names removed from a report.

Trustees at Christ Church college have spent more than £1 million on legal fees during a year-long feud with the dean, the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy.

The senior dons levelled charges of ‘immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct’ against the dean – but the case was thrown out at a tribunal chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Andrew Smith earlier this year.

Now Jonathan Aitken, the former Tory Minister and a Christ Church alumnus, has alleged that further funds are being spent to ensure that the names of some of the accusers are redacted from the 110-page tribunal report, which the dean’s supporters want published in full.

In a letter to Baroness Stowell, chairman of the Charity Commission, he wrote: ‘It is now known that some parts of the tribunal’s report… contain devastating criticisms of individual members of the governing body, particularly those officers of the college who led the attack on the dean.

‘It is those same officers who are now fighting the battle to have the tribunal report redacted.

‘They are, without the authority of the full governing body, instructing more expensive lawyers (paid for by charitable funds) to provide them with opinions to justify the attempted censorship.’

Calling on the Charity Commission to intervene, Mr Aitken claims the college has already spent £1.6 million on bringing the tribunal and the bill could soar to more than £2 million.

‘The scandal of wrongful charitable governance at Christ Church has grown, is continuing to grow and will soon become notorious as a result of media coverage, action by angry members of the wider Christ Church community, withdrawal of support by charitable donors and possible questions in Parliament,’ he added…

9 September Third Sector Former Cabinet minister urges regulator to intervene in Oxford college case

13 September Cherwell Christ Church blasted by former minister which includes:

…Alongside his letter to the charity commission, Aitken gave Cherwell the following comment, “Like many members of the Christ Church Alumni Association, I regard it as a scandal of governance that the full Governing Body of the College has been refused sight of a full, unredacted copy of the Tribunal’s findings and reasons for clearing the Dean of all charges.”

“The notion that a small cabal of anti-Dean Dons can censor the Tribunal’s report is an attempt at self-serving protection for themselves because they are severely criticised in the Appendices of the report.”

“The wounds at Christ Church need to be healed, in the longer term, by a sustained effort by all parties towards truth and reconciliation. This remains impossible as long as the truth contained in the Tribunal’s findings is not allowed to be seen by the Governing Body. In my mind the big question is: ‘Can the Governing Body govern itself?”

And this:

…In a recent letter to undergraduates, Dean Martyn Percy said: “I am writing to thank you for your support of Christ Church over these past months. This has not been an easy year for the House, but I want to reassure you that we are committed to Christ Church and its flourishing. Like a family, even in the midst of difficult times, we retain our core purposes and identity.

“It will take time to reflect on the events of the past year, and we would ask you to allow us the space to do this. The House will need to carefully consider the tribunal process and, more generally, its governance arrangements. The latter will be reviewed through an independent review as has been recommended by the Charity Commission. I ask you to please bear with us whilst we undertake this important work. As you can appreciate, we will not be commenting further until the review has been concluded.”

13 September Church Times Andrew Brown Press: Christ Church, Oxford, saga won’t go away

Update

17 September Telegraph Oxford alumni attack college over ‘bitter campaign’ against dean

 

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Brexit: CofE Bishops issue letter

Updated

A group of Church of England bishops has issued an open letter on the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and the need for national reconciliation, notwithstanding the potential prorogation of Parliament.The full text and list of signatories can be found here: Bishops issue open letter on Brexit.

This follows after the announcement yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been asked to chair a proposed “Citizens’ Forum” on Brexit. His public response to this is online: Archbishop Justin Welby’s response to invitation to chair Citizens’ Forum on Brexit.

“It is an unexpected privilege to be asked to chair this proposed Citizens’ Forum on Brexit. In the past this kind of gathering has, in many places and in difficult situations, opened the way for careful deliberation if at the right time and genuinely representative.

“I am honoured to be approached and would be willing to accept in principle, subject to some conditions which have not yet been met. The main three are first, and indispensably, that the forum should not be a Trojan horse intended to delay or prevent Brexit in any particular form. That power can only be exercised by the government and MPs in parliament. A forum must be open to all possibilities. Second, that it has cross party support (although its members will not be politicians). Third, the process must have time to be properly organised.

“Jesus Christ is the source of reconciliation and healing for individuals and society. It is obviously right that among many others the churches should contribute to the emergence of a dynamic and united country post-Brexit, however it may be achieved. Every one of us must play the part they can in this task.

“The need for national healing and eventually for a move towards reconciliation is essential, and will take much time, a deep commitment to the common good, and contributions from every source. This Forum is only one of many different efforts being made inside the political world and across the country before and after Brexit. Every effort counts.

“Let us pray for all those in government, parliament and political leadership. Let us pray for the people of this country whose lives will be affected in many ways by the momentous decisions that are made.”

The Church Times has reported on this invitation: Welby approached to chair a citizens’ forum on Brexit.

Initial reports appeared in The Times, (£) here and here and here.

BBC Brexit: Archbishop of Canterbury asked to chair forum

Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury says he may chair Brexit citizens’ forum

Update The Church Times has now reported on the bishops’ letter: Twenty-five bishops warn Government not to show ‘cavalier disregard’ for Parliament

Update 2 The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has also issued a statement on the prorogation of Parliament.

Update 3 The full text of the invitation to the archbishop is available at Archbishop Cranmer, here.

The full text of the letter from the bishops, and their names, follows below the fold.

(more…)

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Dean of Christ Church to resume his duties

Christ Church, Oxford has tonight issued the following statement:

Tribunal outcome: Christ Church Statement

As required by Christ Church’s Statutes, an internal tribunal was convened to consider a complaint raised against the Dean in September 2018. Following a thorough investigation, the tribunal has decided that the charges are not upheld and that there is no cause to remove the Dean as Head of House. However, the tribunal made some criticism of the Dean’s conduct and found that there was one breach of his fiduciary duty.

We can therefore announce that Martyn Percy will resume his duties as Dean of Christ Church, on his return from holiday on 27th August. The complaint process has now concluded.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this:

Following the announcement by Christ Church this evening, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has issued this statement:

“I am delighted to learn that this matter is now resolved. I look forward to seeing Martyn return to the Cathedral and his duties as Dean of Christ Church. This news will be widely welcomed across the Diocese of Oxford. These have been testing times for all involved, and my prayers are with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College in the coming months.”

+Steven Oxford

The Church Times has reported this, and offers some background information: Dean of Christ Church can return to work after tribunal dismisses complaint.

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Safeguarding update

Two items relating to Church of England safeguarding in today’s Church Times.

First a letter from Martin Sewell, which can be accessed here (scroll down to fourth item). Do read the whole letter, what follows is only an extract:

Safeguarding case is not as complex as claimed

Sir Roger Singleton (Letters, 9 August) describes the case of the Revd Matt Ineson as “very complex”. I disagree; it is undoubtedly a serious matter, not least to the parties concerned, but anyone with experience of child-protection trials will know that this dispute presents few difficulties out of the ordinary compared with other cases that principally turn on disputed testimony…

…Mr Ineson undoubtedly disclosed his abuse to the police, his lawyers, and various bishops. All that needs to be resolved is to whom, when, in what terms, what was done with the information, and whether the bishops’ actions met the requisite standards of their office. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and proof must be on the balance of probabilities. It really is not that hard.

The prompt resolution of disputes depends on well-developed good practice. Essential requirements are: an agreed comprehensive chronology; an agreed summary of facts not in dispute; an agreed summary of facts in dispute; an agreed summary of issues to be determined; case summaries from either side, identifying any relevant law and guidelines; and a decent index. The skill is all in the preparation of these documents. Once they are in place, most of the judgment writes itself.

I have long argued that the Church needs to employ one or two specialist lawyers to sort these things out. We seem to pay a lot of money to expensive lawyers who advise that these matters are complex. We should invest a little in those who do the majority of this kind of work and for whom it is utterly routine.

Securing a clean and competent review is relatively easy, but the survivors I talk to doubt the Church’s commitment to running a simple and fair fact-finding process. Talk of a learned-lessons review sounds reasonable, but actually represents a deliberately narrow defining of the process, one that excludes the more embarrassing aspects of the case.

If past reviews are anything to go by, any such process will not even result in a free debate of any report at the General Synod and will be quietly consigned into the same oubliette into which past reviews have disappeared without trace or noticeable change.

Speaking to the BBC Sunday programme, Kate Blackwell QC, an expert in such inquiries, described the review as “compromised before it’s even started”. Sir Roger and his team need to go back to the drawing board urgently. The Church still doesn’t get it.

MARTIN SEWELL
General Synod member for Rochester diocese

Second, there is a book review by Robin GillThree books on abuse and safeguarding in the Church.

The three books are:

To Heal and Not to Hurt: A fresh approach to safeguarding in Church
Rosie Harper and Alan Wilson
DLT £12.99
(978-0-232-53392-1)
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

Letters to a Broken Church
Janet Fife and Gilo, editors
Ekklesia £12.99
(978-0-99329-426-6)
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating healthy Christian cultures
Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys
SPCK £10.99
(978-0-281-08131-8)
Church Times Bookshop £9.90 

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Church of England announces review of Smyth case

Updated Wednesday afternoon

Details of the independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC have been published today.

See here: Independent review into Smyth case.

Keith Makin, a former director of social services with more than 30 years experience in the social care field,  will lead the independent lessons learnt review which will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to the allegations against John Smyth. Keith has led on a number of serious case reviews and has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships…

There is more detail about Keith Makin, and  at the bottom of the release there are links to earlier statements from the church about this case.

The Terms of Reference are over here. There are 9 pages of detail, but it starts this way:

These instructions set out the basis on which the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England commissions Keith Makin (“the Reviewer”) to undertake a review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations relating to the conduct of the late John Smyth QC.

The Review will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to those allegations, and the response of other organisations, namely Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate. The approach of those organisation to the Review at the time of its commencement is as follows:

  • Winchester College. Winchester College has stated that it anticipates that it will cooperate with the Review, providing all relevant information on a voluntary basis, i.e. with the status of an Interested Party rather than a Subject Organisation. In such a capacity, subject to the matter of any live litigation, Winchester College will share its own findings and answer any questions so far as it reasonably can.
  • The Titus Trust. The Titus Trust has stated that it is restricted in its participation in the review by ongoing legal action and it is not able to engage in the Review until this has been resolved.
  • The Scripture Union. The Scripture Union has confirmed that it will not participate in the Review.

These instructions are given by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) of the Churchof England, acting on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council. This document should be read alongside, and forms part of, the agreement between the Reviewer and theArchbishops’ Council in relation to this review (“the Agreement”), in particular, provisions relating to confidentiality and data protection…

Update

There has been extensive media coverage of this announcement:

Church Times Smyth review will take evidence from Welby and Titus Trust

Telegraph Justin Welby ‘to give evidence’ as investigation begins into Church camps where boys were beaten

Guardian Welby in spotlight over sadistic abuse claims at Christian camps

BBC Church’s handling of John Smyth abuse allegations to be probed

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby may testify at inquiry into claims of sadistic abuse at Christian holiday camps

Premier Independent review to look at Church of England’s response to John Smyth abuse allegations

Christian Today Independent inquiry to probe Church of England’s handling of John Smyth allegations

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Safeguarding director writes to newspaper

Continuing the Matt Ineson story

The Church of England’s Interim Director of Safeguarding, Sir Roger Singleton has written a letter to the Church Times which is published today.

Review of the Devamanikkam case

Sir, — Further to your report “Survivor condemns review’ (News, 2 August), I would like to point out the seriousness with which the Church has taken the issues raised in this very complex case concerning allegations against Trevor Devamanikkam, particularly the harrowing account of abuse given by the Revd Matthew Ineson.

The Church is committed to an independent lessons-learnt review of its handling of this case, and the terms of reference and reviewer are soon to be announced. An initial draft of the terms of reference was sent to Mr Ineson in March, and twice since then.

Last week, I wrote to him again seeking his comments, and hope to meet and discuss this further with him. He also met the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2017, a meeting that was followed up with a personal signed letter of apology.

Lessons-learnt reviews are not statutory inquiries, and, as with any organisation carrying out such a review, the Church is committed to working with all parties linked with the case. I am sorry that Mr Ineson feels that the review will be a sham. I can assure him that it will be carried out in a professional and objective manner, so that lessons can be learnt.

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QC criticises Church of England safeguarding reviews

Updated again Tuesday morning

Continuing the story from here.

The BBC Radio 4 weekly religious news programme, Sunday, today carried an interview with Matt Ineson. This was followed by an interview with Kate Blackwell QC. You can hear both of these here (go forward 33 minutes). The latter contains very serious criticisms of the Church of England’s handling of safeguarding reviews in general and of this case in particular.

Kate Blackwell’s professional CV is available here, and her Wikipedia page contains more interesting information on her.

The Church of England declined to put up anyone to respond to either interview.

Updates

This morning’s Church of England daily media digest report did not include this item (even though it did include an earlier item from the same radio programme).

Further update: it was included on Tuesday in the following terms:

BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme
Item on prospective safeguarding review (from around 33 minutes 07 seconds)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0007b3r

See more detail in the comments below.

A full transcript of both interviews has now been published here.

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Church of England announces Past Cases Review 2

Updated Friday

From here, released today

Protocols and practice guidance for the Church of England’s Past Cases Review 2, (PCR2) have been published today. Individuals who wish to make representations to the PCR2 process or who need to come forward with information or make any disclosures regarding church related abuse are encouraged to make direct contact with their diocesan safeguarding adviser. However, recognising that this may not feel safe for those with a lived experience of abuse from within the church, a dedicated telephone helpline – 0800 80 20 20 – operated independently from the church, by the NSPCC, has been set up.

Anyone can use the helpline to provide information or to raise concerns regarding abuse within the Church of England context; whether they are reporting issues relating to children, adults or seeking to whistle blow about poor safeguarding practice. Survivors were not invited to contribute to the 2007-2009 PCR and the Church has wanted to ensure a different, trauma informed approach is taken by PCR2.  Listening to survivor voices has helped to shape how this review will be conducted.

The issuing of this guidance is just part of the ongoing scrutiny work around past cases across the Church, and follows a report in 2018 into the original PCR (2007-2009) which revealed shortcomings both in the process and final result.

Seven dioceses were asked to repeat a full Past Cases Review with work already underway based on draft guidance. The final guidance directs all dioceses on steps that must be taken to independently review all outstanding files. PCR2 must be completed by the end of 2020.

The telephone helpline number and details of how to make contact directly with the diocesan safeguarding team will be promoted locally by each diocese

Bishop Mark Sowerby, chair of the PCR2 Management Board said: “It is the aspiration of the Archbishops’ Council that by the end of the PCR2 process, independent review work will have been carried out in every diocese and church institution within both the letter and the spirit of the protocol and practice guidance.

PCR2 is a central part of the church’s proactive approach to identifying where abuse allegations have not been managed appropriately or safely

We are committed to responding well to all survivors of abuse and I pray that the PCR2 is another step to making the Church a safer place for all.”

There are links to several documents:

PCR2 Protocol and Practice Guidance

PCR2 Background and Overview

PCR2 Full Appendices for Practice Guidance

Update

Church Times Review and survivors’ helpline seek to close era of shortcomings in Church’s safeguarding

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Matt Ineson challenges the National Safeguarding Team

Updated twice Friday

Today Surviving Church has today published Matt Ineson’s statement.

The Church of England has announced a “Lessons Learned” review into my abuse. I will not be cooperating with the review…

Do read the whole of his statement.

Stephen Parsons writes:

We would hope that his refusal to co-operate with the review into his case will result in some change in the ways these reviews are done. We can hope so and we and many others will be watching. The way out of this failure to protect and care for survivors will surely involve radical changes in leadership, both in the safeguarding industry and the episcopal oversight that is supposed to be in force. Whether this will will happen is unclear but the status quo is now so flawed that we all should be clamouring for change so that transparency and justice can be found.

The transcript of Matt’s oral evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse on 10 July can be found here. The video recording of that session is available over here.

Press coverage of that day’s hearing was included here.

Updates

Media reports of this statement:

Premier Witness in Church of England abuse inquiry refuses to take part in internal review

…In response, a spokesperson for the Church’s National Safeguarding Team said: “The Church is committed to an independent lessons learnt review into its handling of the Trevor Devamanikkam case and the Terms of Reference and reviewer are soon to be announced. All aspects of the case will be looked at including the detailed evidence given at IICSA by Matthew Ineson. The report and the Church’s response will be published in full once it is completed.”

The Church added that it respects Mr Ineson’s decision but that the review is vital and have met with him to discuss the terms of reference further.

It added that only some inquiries are carried out independently.

Church Times Survivor condemns Church’s review of Devamanikkam case

…A spokesperson for the NST said on Wednesday: “The Church is committed to an independent lessons-learnt review into its handling of the Trevor Devamanikkam case, and the terms of reference and reviewer are soon to be announced. All aspects of the case will be looked at, including the detailed evidence given at IICSA by Matthew Ineson. The report and the Church’s response will be published in full once it is completed.”

Under the House of Bishops’ policy, lessons-learnt reviews are carried out in all serious safeguarding situations, but not all are carried out independently.

Archbishop Cranmer Martin Sewell “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

…In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

Surviving Church Stephen Parsons asks Who has power in the Church of England ?

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