Thinking Anglicans

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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July General Synod to take place online

Next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod will now be held remotely via Zoom. This has necessitated some changes to the timetable; the amended version is online and is copied below the fold.

The following press release explains the change.

July Synod to take place online
17/06/2021

The annual July meeting of the Church of England General Synod, due to take place in London, will now be held online following the Government decision to delay the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions for a month.

Synod’s Business Committee examined alternatives including a hybrid meeting or reduced attendance to comply with restrictions but has reluctantly concluded that the only viable option is to hold the group of sessions from July 9 to 12 remotely.

As a result, the timetable for the event has been slimmed down slightly, with some items better suited to a face-to-face meeting postponed and some extra screen breaks introduced.

In a letter to Synod members, the Clerk to the Synod Dr Jacqui Philips, said: “The Committee gave careful consideration to all options, including an in-person meeting, a hybrid meeting and a remote meeting.

“The Committee took legal advice regarding the ongoing restrictions and considered the health and safety options for a physical, socially-distanced meeting in Church House Westminster.

“Having done so, the Committee very reluctantly concluded that the only safe and deliverable option for next month is for Synod to meet on a remote basis.”

  • Papers for Synod will be published on Thursday June 24 on the Synod section of the Church of England website.
  • The revised timetable is now available.

(more…)

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2020 Church Commissioners’ Annual Report

The Church Commissioners have released their annual report for 2020 today. The report (an 83-page pdf) can be downloaded here. There is an accompanying press release, which is copied below.

Church Commissioners report strong long-term investment performance
15/06/2021

Continued strong long-term investment performance enabled the Church Commissioners to extend financial support to the Church of England during the pandemic

Church Commissioners also give confidence about maintaining distributions through this triennium and the next

Determined action on climate change continues whilst the Church Commissioners deepen its focus as Responsible Investors on twin pillars: Respect for People, Respect for the Planet
(more…)

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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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General Synod elections 2021

The Church of England has published a series of documents about the conduct of the elections to General Synod that will take place this summer, starting very shortly after the close of the July group of sessions. Although much of this is aimed at those conducting the elections, the documents will be of wider interest.

Not included in these documents are the numbers of proctors (clergy) and laity to be elected by dioceses, but they can be found in GS 2203.

There is also some information aimed at those considering standing for election.

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CDM complaint against Dean of Christ Church dismissed

Updated yet again Saturday (scroll down)

The President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin has issued her decision, dated 28 May, concerning the CDM complaint made last November by Graham Ward in respect of the alleged conduct of Martyn Percy on 4 October. This follows an investigation by the Designated Officer, whose report she received on 25 May.

We first reported on this matter on 19 November, and then again on 9 January, 8 February, 19 February, 11 March, 17 March. This decision reported today relates only to the CDM action, not to the other complaints made elsewhere.

A redacted version of her decision (3 pages) can be found here. I recommend reading it in full. It concludes thus:

9. When determining whether there is a case to answer upon which a disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate, I must also bear in mind that the CDM is designed to deal with serious misconduct and that section 8(1)(d) of the CDM should be read in that light. Proportionality must also be borne in mind. Would it be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal for adjudication?

10. In my judgment, having considered all the evidence including the interviews conducted by the Designated Officer, the answer is “no”. Although I do not intend to trivialise Ms X’s allegations in any way, it seems to me that it would not be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal. The incident itself was extremely short, the alleged hair stroking was even shorter and the language and the conduct as a whole was not overtly sexual. If this is put together with: the fact that Ms X accepts that she was not upset in any way; stated originally that she was not perturbed (albeit she told the police that she was concerned what would happen next); the incident took place in a room which was or could be accessed by others; and Miss X stated that she would have accepted an apology if the Dean had admitted what she says took place, it seems to me that it is entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal. 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. Accordingly, whilst in no way condoning the alleged behaviour, if it is proved to have taken place, I consider that this matter is not suitable to be referred to a tribunal.

The Church Times reports, with some additional detail: Dean Percy allegation does not warrant a CDM tribunal, judge rules.

Among the extra information, the appointment of Rachel Crasnow QC as chair of the new tribunal convened by Christ Church, is reported.

The reference in the decision to a letter from WSLaw is amplified:

Dame Sarah says in her Decision that she has “taken no account” of an email by Alison Talbot of Winckworth Sherwood, the law firm that has been representing Christ Church in its actions against Dean Percy. In the email, Ms Talbot is concerned that the CDM process might give weight to a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean from the human-rights barristers Edward Fitzgerald QC and Paul Harris in March, that the alleged incident “even if true, could not justify the decision to appoint the second tribunal” at Christ Church.

Ms Talbot writes: “In case any weight is being placed on that opinion by either the NST or those conducting the CDM process we would like to make it clear that we consider that opinion to have been based on only part of the facts and ChCh has had several opinions from highly qualified legal experts expressing the contrary view.”

Updates

Christ Church has issued the following statement today:

Christ Church statement in response to media interest

1 June 2021

When a current member of Christ Church staff made an allegation of sexual harassment against a senior member in October 2020, we followed our formal internal processes. It is important that every member of our community has the right to come forward and make such a complaint, and Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form.

Christ Church, as an employer, a charity, and an educational and religious institution, will always treat such an allegation with the utmost seriousness. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it is following, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.” The tribunal process is continuing and there will be no further updates at this time, nor will Christ Church comment on any separate, external processes.

Each of these blog articles contains a detailed analysis of how this CDM decision may affect the other, parallel, pending investigations. And there are now also two mainstream media reports:

Two more articles:

Another announcement from Christ Church: Christ Church confirms internal disciplinary tribunal

4 June 2021

Christ Church has confirmed that a disciplinary tribunal is proceeding, in order to consider an allegation of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff against a senior member in October 2020. In March 2021, Christ Church published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, to provide external scrutiny of the actions it has taken, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes. In his report, Sir Wyn Williams concluded, “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”

The same allegation of sexual harassment was considered by the Church of England under the Clergy Discipline Measure. The decision taken by Dame Sarah Asplin, President of Tribunals, was not to refer the case to a church tribunal in addition to Christ Church’s own inquiry. Dame Sarah stated, “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.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church said:

“Christ Church unequivocally condemns sexual harassment in any form. It has been clearly stated by both Sir Wyn Williams and Dame Sarah Asplin that a Christ Church disciplinary tribunal is the right place for this allegation to be considered thoroughly. We continue to be appalled at attempts in the media and online to discredit the complainant, question her motives, and to prejudge the proper process. For the sake of all concerned, including the complainant, the respondent, and everyone within our community, the tribunal should now be allowed to take place and reach a conclusion without further external pressure.”

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The next Bishops of Birkenhead and Stockport

Updated Saturday

The Prime Minister’s Office announced the names of the next Bishops of Birkenhead and Stockport yesterday; the press releases are copied below. These are the two suffragan sees in the Diocese of Chester and there are more details on the diocesan website.

Update – The Diocese of Rochester has published this article about Archdeacon Julie Conalty: Survivors and campaigners of Church-context abuse welcome newly appointed Bishop of Birkenhead as “powerful advocate for survivors of abuse.”

Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Stockport: 27 May 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Samuel Corley BA MA PGCE to the Suffragan See of Stockport.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 27 May 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Samuel Corley BA MA PGCE, Rector of the parish of Leeds City and Honorary Canon at Ripon Cathedral, in the diocese of Leeds, to the Suffragan See of Stockport, in the diocese of Chester, in succession to The Right Reverend Elizabeth Lane following her translation to the See of Derby.

Background

Samuel was educated at St Aidan’s College, Durham and Hughes Hall, Cambridge and trained for ministry at St John’s College, Nottingham. He served his title at St Thomas’, Lancaster in the diocese of Blackburn and was ordained Priest in 2005. In 2008, Samuel was appointed Priest-in-Charge at St John the Evangelist, Ellel and St James, Shireshead. He also served as Assistant Diocesan Missioner.

Samuel moved to the diocese of Leeds in 2011, when he was appointed Canon Precentor at Bradford Cathedral and Senior Chaplain at the University of Bradford. He took up his current role in Leeds in 2015.

Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Birkenhead: 27 May 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Venerable Julie Conalty to the Suffragan See of Birkenhead.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 27 May 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Venerable Julie Conalty, Archdeacon of Tonbridge, in the diocese of Rochester, to the Suffragan See of Birkenhead, in the diocese of Chester, in succession to The Right Reverend Gordon Keith Sinclair who retired on 8th March 2021.

Background

Julie was educated at the University of Sheffield and trained for ministry at the South East Institute of Theological Education. She served her title at St Michael the Archangel in East Wickham in the diocese of Southwark and was ordained Priest in 2000. Julie was appointed non-stipendiary minister at St Luke, St Richard and St Thomas, Charlton in 2004 and became Associate Priest at the Ascension and at St Mark with St Margaret, Plumstead in 2010.

Julie moved to the diocese of Rochester in 2012 when she was appointed Vicar at Christ Church Erith. She took up her current role as Archdeacon of Tonbridge in 2017.

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General Synod – July 2021

Updated 17 June 2021 – This Synod meeting will now be held online. Details and a revised timetable are in my post here.

The timetable for July’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod in London was published today, and is copied below.

Synod members have been sent a copy of the timetable with the following attached note.

Please see attached an outline Synod timetable for July 2021, which has been agreed by the Business Committee for a physical meeting of the General Synod in Church House, Westminster in the expectation that no legal restrictions would in place at the time (in line with the anticipated Government Covid-19 plans as per COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (Summary) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). The Committee has further decided that a hybrid session of Synod will not be practically possible in July though is open to the possibility in the future (should resources be in place to enable it).

GENERAL SYNOD: JULY 2021 OUTLINE TIMETABLE

Friday 9 July

12.30 pm – 7.15 pm
12.30 pm Opening worship
Introduction and welcomes
Presidential Address
Business Committee Report
Racial Justice Commission – presentation
Implementing the Recommendations of “Responsible Representation” (GS 2202)
Climate Change presentation
Appointment of Body to oversee next stage of Anglican-Methodist Covenant
*6.00 pm Question Time
7.15 pm Close of Business

Saturday 10 July

9.00 am – 12.45 pm
9.00 am Opening worship and Bible Study
Joint Presentation by the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners on their Annual Reports
2022 Archbishops’ Council Budget and Apportionment
Leeds DSM: Wealth Gap

2.00 pm – 5.20 pm
2.00 pm 57th Standing Orders Committee Report (synodical processes for legislative business etc.)
Bereavement and Funerals during the Pandemic – Presentation
4.00 pm (approx.) Adjournment
*5.00 pm Living in Love and Faith: Passing the baton presentation

Informal items not forming part of the Agenda
4.00 pm – 5.00 pm Discussion panel – Clergy Discipline and the Nature of Ordained Public Ministry
5.30 pm – 7.00 pm Living in Love and Faith Group work, including closing worship

Sunday 11 July

2.00 pm – 7.15 pm
2.00 pm Opening worship
Special Agenda I: Draft Legislative Reform (Church Commissioners) Order
Safeguarding report
Appointments:
• Chair of AC Finance Committee
• AC’s Auditors
Mutuality in Finance
Responding to the Housing Crisis: What is the role of the Church?
7.15 pm Close of Business

Monday 12 July

9.00 am – 1.00 pm
9.00 am Opening worship
Special Agenda I: Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Special Agenda I: Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2021
Vision and Strategy
Transforming Effectiveness

2.00 pm – 7.15 pm
2.00 pm Report from the Implementation and Dialogue Group
PMM: The Five Guiding Principles
The Nature of Ordained Public Ministry – presentation
Proposals for legislation to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003
Special Agenda I: Approval of form of electronic service register under Canon F 12
Special Agenda I: Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 2021 (consequential amendment to regulations under Canon B12) Regulations
7.15 pm Close of Business

Tuesday 13 July

9.00 am – 12.30 pm
9.00 am Opening Worship
Report of the Review of Clergy Remuneration
A review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011
Amendments to Standing Orders for elections to CNC

1.45 pm – 4.15 pm
1.45 pm Special Agenda I: Vacancy in See Committees (Amendment) Regulation 2021
Farewells
*3.15pm Service of Holy Communion
*4.15pm Prorogation and Dissolution

Deemed Business:
Church of England Funded Pension Scheme Rules 2021,
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2021,
Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2021,
and some amendments to the Standing Orders

* not later than

Deadline for receipt of questions: 1200 hrs Tuesday 29 June

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Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

Updated Wednesday 26 May

From the Sheldon Hub

News 25th May 2021:

Major research paper published
and Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

‘I was handed over to the dogs’: lived experience, clerical trauma and the handling of complaints against clergy in the Church of England

A devastating systematic analysis of data from the Sheldon/Aston research survey. This paper explores the deeply troubling territory around the edges of the CDM. The painful testimonies are a hard read but these are voices that need your ears. Anyone in ministry can get caught up in this, often through no fault of their own.

We hope it will impassion you to become part of an unstoppable movement for constructive change.

That movement for change will no longer involve Sheldon’s leadership.
We are stepping back now. We have given it heart and soul for several years and much has been achieved. Now we are in danger of over-stretching ‘real world’ Sheldon. Sheldon has generously funded this project in direct cash (£35,000), but in many ways the time and emotional energy has been much more costly. We don’t put a monetary value on our time, but time spent on ProjectCDM is time not spent with people in need or on other necessary projects. We have attended many meetings, written papers, collaborated with researchers, contributed to consultations by others and built networks. There has probably been some vicarious trauma in the mix. Bringing to light such deep-rooted pain has generated significant additional correspondence and pastoral need from those directly harmed by the CDM.

The church can look away but can no longer say it didn’t know. A complaint against a caring professional in a public role should be treated as a pastoral emergency. Clergy urgently need a system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct against them that is swift, proportionate, easy to understand, presumes innocence unless or until found guilty, and is applied without fear or favour. It needs to be rooted in gathering of robust factual evidence and prioritise restoring relationships wherever possible. The administration of the process must itself be properly accountable. Reputations of institutions matter, but those of individuals are far more vulnerable in this context. A year after the bishops agreed that CDM should be replaced we have no evidence that the NCIs have a handle on any of this. This press release was published on 17th May but we have no idea whether the proposals considered relate to the heavily criticised Lambeth proposals of December 2020 or have already pivoted towards the ELS model. The lack of transparency is itself deeply problematic.

Sheldon, along with CECA, is therefore now recommending that the ELS proposals are urgently taken forward into legislation.

Do read the whole text of the Sheldon announcement here.

Updates

The Church Times has two items:

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Bishop of Beverley to retire

The Bishop of Beverley has announced his retirement.

The Rt Revd Glyn Webster will be retiring from his role as Bishop of Beverley at Epiphany, 6 January 2022.

The Bishop of Beverley is a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of York, and a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, assisting in the pastoral care of those parishes that have petitioned for Extended Episcopal Care under the Act of Synod – the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood…

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Winchester rebels against its diocesan bishop

Updated again 26 May and 28 May (scroll down for updates)

The Church Times reports: Bishop of Winchester steps back after diocesan rebellion.

THE Bishop of Winchester, Dr Tim Dakin, has “stepped back” from work for six weeks after he was threatened with a vote of no confidence at the next diocesan synod.

On Tuesday evening, the Suffragan Bishop of Southampton, in Winchester diocese, the Rt Revd Debbie Sellin, announced: “Bishop Tim has today informed me that he will be stepping back from his role as Bishop of Winchester for the next six weeks, so that he can focus on discussions about future leadership and governance reform in the diocese.”

The letter gives no further details, but it is understood that between 20 and 30 senior church members in the diocese, clergy and laity, threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in his leadership at the diocesan synod…

Read the full Church Times article for much more detail.

At the time of writing this, the diocesan website contains no reference to the matter.

The Hampshire Chronicle had a report this morning: Bishop of Winchester Rt Rev Tim Dakin to step down for six weeks.

Updates

The Times (£) has Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Tim Dakin, steps back after flock rebels

Surviving Church Bishop Dakin and Winchester. A Diocese in Crisis?

Gavin Ashenden Bishops who Bully – Reflections on a Safeguarding Scandal.

Church Times Leader comment: Winchester

Church Times Angela Tilby: Panic lies behind the Dakin crisis

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Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the abuse carried out by John Smyth

Updated to incude survivors’ statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued the statement below this morning.

A group of survivors has issued a statement in reponse and this is copied below the Archbishop’s statement.

There is a news report, with much useful background information, in the Church Times. The Guardian also has a news article.

Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury
20/05/2021

Following a recent meeting with survivors of the abuse carried out by John Smyth QC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made the following the statement today:

I am pleased to have met recently with a group of victims of the horrendous abuse perpetrated by John Smyth QC. I apologised to them that the meeting had taken so long to arrange and acknowledged that this has caused much frustration and anger.

In February 2017, I issued a general apology on behalf of the Church of England, as the story was breaking, and before we understood the full horror and scope of the abuse. Having met some victims now, I want to offer a full, personal apology. I am sorry that this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism. It is clear that the impact of this has been widespread. I want to offer this apology, in addition, to those Smyth victims that I have not met. I continue to hear new details of the abuse and my sorrow, shock and horror grows.

The victims I met have made clear that they are angry that John Smyth was not stopped in 2013, when disclosure to the Diocese of Ely was first made and I was duly informed. By this time Mr Smyth had been out of the UK for nearly thirty years. We, the Church, were unclear as to his activities abroad or indeed to the utterly horrendous scope and extent of his actions here and overseas. I recognise the anger of the survivors and victims but having checked that the Diocese of Cape Town was informed and that the police were properly informed and involved our jurisdiction did not extend further. I believe that by 2013 Mr Smyth was no longer attending an Anglican Church.

These victims are rightly concerned that no one appears to have faced any sanction yet, when it is clear a number of Christians, clergy and lay, were made aware of the abuse in the 1980s and many learned in subsequent years. I have not yet received a list of names. I am told by Survivors that some facilitated Smyth’s move to Africa. I have made it clear that the National Safeguarding Team will investigate every clergy person or others within their scope of whom they have been informed who knew and failed to disclose the abuse.

The victims asked me specifically to consider John Smyth’s victims in Zimbabwe and South Africa, known and unknown. Guide Nyachuru died at a Smyth camp in 1992 and I will be writing to his family. I apologise on behalf of the Church of England to all those in Africa who were abused after John Smyth had been uncovered in the UK in 1982, although the Church did not know, owing to the cover up, of the abuse until 2013.

I am aware of what a long wait it has been for John Smyth’s victims. The abuse was almost forty years ago, and it was first disclosed in 2012. I applaud the bravery of those who came forward and all those who have testified since. I know this has come at great personal cost and continues to cause suffering. I told the victims I met that I am absolutely determined that the Makin Review will be as comprehensive and strong as it can be. I have given an undertaking that it will be published in full. I pray that this can give some sense of closure for these victims.

The Church has a duty to look after those who have been harmed. We have not always done that well.

I know that words are inadequate and will have a different meaning and impact on individuals, but I hope that my words today can convey on behalf of the Church of England and myself our deepest sorrow.

A review of the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse carried out by the late John Smyth is being carried out by the Church and was announced in August 2019. The independent reviewer is Keith Makin, who will be assisted by Sarah Lawrence who is also independent. Further details are available on the Church of England website.

Survivors’ statement

In response, a group of victims of abuse by John Smyth QC wish to make the following statement:

As victims of John Smyth’s horrific abuses, we are pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury is taking responsibility and acting as a good example for the other culpable parties involved in our story. We welcome his comments and also his commitment to publishing the Church of England’s independent review of Smyth in its entirety. We call upon the other organisations – the Scripture Union, Titus Trust, and Winchester College – to follow this lead and to reveal everything they know about the abuses and their coverup. It is clear a large number of individuals, clergy and lay, have known about these abuses for over thirty years and we call on them to cooperate fully with the Makin Review and the National Safeguarding Team. For victims like us, full closure is impossible without full disclosure.

This statement is issued by Andrew Graystone on behalf of a group of Smyth survivors.
For further information, please contact andrew.graystone1@btinternet.com
07772 710090

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House of Bishops Meeting 17th-18th May 2021

Church of England press release

House of Bishops Meeting 17th-18th May 2021
18/05/2021

The House of Bishops met on the afternoon of Monday 17 May and the morning of Tuesday 18 May remotely via Zoom.

The Chief Operating Officer of the National Church Institutions gave a brief update regarding the new national Register of Clergy which went live last week. This was followed by a brief discussion covering issues raised during the roll out.

The House then discussed updated proposals relating to the Clergy Conduct Measure which were shared with the House in December. The proposals were discussed in an opening plenary session (introduced by the Bishop at Lambeth), followed by breakout groups and a final plenary discussion in advance of wider Synodical engagement in July. Amongst the issues discussed were the wider work needed to develop an appropriate ‘framework’ for ordained ministry in the Church of England, covering such areas as fitness to practise, ‘supervision’, ministerial development review, grievance procedures, and capability procedures. The House agreed to support in principle the outline of the proposed Clergy Conduct Measure as presented to the House.

The Bishop of London then addressed the House in her capacity as the Chair of the Next Steps Group. The House discussed engagement with the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) processes to date across dioceses. The House heard encouraging reports of good engagement and, in break out groups, considered how further engagement with LLF can be strengthened. The House discussed additional working groups related to the LLF process and agreed in principle to the formation of a working group on gender identity and transition under the auspices of the LLF Next Steps Group, details of which will be announced in due course.

The afternoon session of the House of Bishop’s then closed in prayer before reconvening the following morning.

At the Tuesday morning session, the Bishop of Sheffield addressed the House in his capacity as Chair of the Mutuality in Finances Group. The Bishop requested the House’s endorsement for the Group’s proposal for a July 2021 General Synod motion. The motion will enable a more equitable sharing of historic assets and give dioceses more freedom to be generous with these assets to other dioceses. The House endorsed the proposal for the July 2021 General Synod, which will be moved by the Bishop of Sheffield on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council.

The Archbishop of York then addressed the House with an update on progress of the Vision and Strategy workstream, including the proposed approach for developing the Vision and Strategy work through to the end of December 2021. An overall framework was presented and following breakout in groups, the House considered a range of strategic priorities, outcomes and actions to be taken. The House agreed to take note of the progress to date and identify key actions to assist the Vision and Strategy workstream.

The Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich then addressed the House in his capacity as episcopal lead for the Transforming Effectiveness workstream for the National Church Institutions. He gave an update on current plans to streamline and simplify the NCIs with the House agreeing to take note of progress and planning to date.

The Bishop of London, in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group, updated the House with the latest developments regarding places of worship and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

The House congratulated Archbishop Hosam on becoming the Archbishop of Jerusalem. The House also supported the statement made by Bishop Christopher the Bishop of Southwark, who was present at the installation.

The House prayed for peace and justice across the Middle East and noted with sadness the hostilities taking place at present.

Archbishop Hosam has asked for support for the Al Ahli Hospital, an Anglican project, which serves all who are sick and are brought to their doors and is in desperate need of funds.

The House noted with real concern incidents of anti-Semitism in this country and condemns all such incidents and prays for building communities in the nation.

The meeting concluded with a blessing given by the Archbishop of York.

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CofE Ethical Investment Advisory Group issues new guidance on Human Rights

Church of England press release

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group issues new guidance on Human Rights
17/05/2021

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has today published advice for the National Investing Bodies (NIBs) to ensure that international human rights norms are respected by the companies in which they invest. The National Investing Bodies have simultaneously published a new stand-alone Human Rights policy in line with this guidance.

The full report is available to read and download, here.

The EIAG provides timely, practical, and theologically grounded advice to the three NIBs to enable them to invest in a way that is distinctly Christian and Anglican. Its expert and independent membership includes leading Christian theologians, business-people, investors and other practitioners.

The NIBs’ policy was developed and agreed upon by all three National Investing Bodies. The NIBs have a long track record of engagement on human rights topics. Other policies have previously referenced Human Rights, but this new policy sets out a comprehensive and more detailed approach to stewardship on Human Rights.

Recent and ongoing engagement work carried out by the NIBs on this issue include:

  • Following the devastating disregard for indigenous community rights at Juukan Gorge in Australia, the Church of England Pensions Board, the Church Commissioners, and 62 other investors stepped up pressure, engaging and examining the approach taken by 50 mining companies, and reviewing how standards of best practice are applied and monitored across the sector.
  • The Church Commissioners and Church of England Pensions Board also jointly worked with the Swedish Council on Ethics on the publication of clear investor expectations on Human Rights and Big Tech companies. Key to the success of this intervention was recognising the integral part tech companies play in today’s society, especially considering the internet, social media and mobile phones are interwoven in the fabric of our daily lives. Engagement is ongoing.
  • CCLA, investment manager for the CBF Church of England Funds, launched the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It initiative which unites the investment sector with NGOs and academics to call on companies to proactively identify modern slavery in their supply chains, to take action to improve the lives of those affected, and work to prevent reoccurrence.

Anna McDonald, Secretary to the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said:

“This new guidance for the national investing bodies acknowledges that investors, like all business actors, have a responsibility to address the risks to people present in their investments and provides a reasoned and theological reflection detailing why a respect for international human rights norms is grounded in Christian tradition and teaching.

“Whilst the EIAG believes that a truly Christian conception of a just society needs more than a minimal legal framework established by rights, it believes that a minimum framework is helpful particularly with regard to the Church’s investments in businesses. The EIAG believes all human beings have an irremovable dignity as persons which must be respected and protected. It affirms the responsibility of all businesses to respect and protect this dignity and endorses the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as the authoritative global framework for helping businesses assess their impacts on human rights.

“The EIAG has been pleased to see the NIBs adopt a robust and updated human rights policy based on our guidance, and will look forward to their continued work protecting human rights through their investments. We expect the publication of these documents to strengthen their hand in engagement, public policy dialogue, and in calling for change.

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CofE National Register of Clergy

Church of England press release
National Register of Clergy launched
12/05/2021

The National Register of the Church’s clergy with a licence or Permission to Officiate (PTO) is now publicly available on the Church of England website.

The Register is an important development in strengthening safeguarding in the Church and was a recommendation in the 2017 Gibb Report which looked into the Church’s handling of allegations against the late Bishop Peter Ball.

Having a single, reliable, up to date register will enable clergy, churchwardens, and members of the public to check the bona fides of all clergy with licence or permission to officiate.

The National Register shows an individual’s title and name, how they are engaged with the Church of England (current post/licence) and the diocese, area or benefice to which they are licensed. The Register does not include contact, biographical or historical information.

At the time of launch, the National Register includes those who are ordained, expanding to include lay ministry in due course.

(more…)

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Next Steps for LLF faces challenges

Three items have appeared today which suggest the road ahead for LLF is not straightforward.

First, the Bishop of London has responded to the item in the Queen’s Speech about banning conversion therapy. Here’s the full press release which includes the following:

Following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will ban conversion therapy, the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith Next Steps Group, said”The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are.

“The General Synod has voted overwhelmingly to reject coercive Conversion Therapies so we welcome the Government’s commitment to explore these matters further with a view to enshrining that position in law.

“We recognise the difficulties in defining Conversion Therapies and look forward to working closely with the Government to develop a viable definition and subsequent legislation.

“We want to prevent abuses of power, and ensure that issues of consent are made absolutely central to any future legislation.”

The motion agreed by General Synod in July 2017 was:
That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.

Note that the word “coercive” does not appear in the motion passed by General Synod.

Second, the Next Steps Group has been explicitly criticised for its handling of a complaint relating to the inclusion of video featuring a particular person in LLF resource materials. This is explained carefully in an article on the Unadulterated Love site by Tina Beardsley titled LLF Next Steps Group refuses to act on trans people’s concerns. This article is not amenable to precis, and needs to be read in full to understand the complexities of the matter.

Third, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has  issued a press release, and written to the Bishop of London about the case involving The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, and the person featured in Rachel’s Story – I Don’t Want to Be Part of An Institution that Allows Abuse to which we linked in an earlier TA article. The press release in full:

WHISTLEBLOWING PRIEST IN THE DIOCESE OF LONDON BEING FALSELY INVESTIGATED OVER TRUMPED UP ONLINE BULLYING CLAIMS

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has written to the Bishop of London condemning the Clergy Discipline Measure case brought against a whistleblowing priest.

The Campaign has learned that The Rev’d Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead, is currently being investigated by Church authorities for whistleblowing on the basis that he engaged in online bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse of another cleric accused of traumatising a lesbian Christian.

In 2020, Fr. Robert was approached by a young woman who had been, in her words, ‘repeatedly traumatised’ by the actions of the vicar of a Holy Trinity Brompton plant in London because of her sexuality. You can read her story in her own words here. Fr Robert has been acting as her support, advocate and guide as she has sought for recognition of the harm done to her. In this process there has been an official investigation by the Diocese of London into the abuse of this young woman, which has made recommendations that have yet to be fully implemented by the parish concerned. 

Nigel Pietroni, Chairman, Campaign for Equal Marriage etc, said:

“We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.  

“Fr Robert’s focus has been on supporting the young woman in her struggle for redress and support, and the need for substantial changes in the approach by the Diocese of London, illustrated by the young woman’s experience, into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ people in its churches. The case demonstrates the deep harm that can be done by a lack of transparency and honesty about the position of LGBTQIA+ people in Church of England parishes. There are genuine questions raised by this case about spiritual abuse and the misuse of power.”

ENDS

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Church of England guidance on memorials with contested heritage

Church of England press release

The Church of England has published guidance for parishes and cathedrals addressing concerns over memorials with links to slavery and other contested heritage

The new guidance enables churches and cathedrals to consider the history of their buildings and congregations, and to engage with everyone in their community to understand how physical artefacts may impact their mission and worship. It offers a framework to approach such questions locally and, where necessary, to engage with the relevant bodies who oversee changes to cathedral and church buildings.

In June 2020, the Church of England announced a consultation on approaches to contested heritage following a series of cases around the country. The work forms part of ‘Open and Sustainable Churches’, a long-running programme seeking to identify issues affecting the ability of churches and cathedrals to provide worship and welcome, offering support and resources to tackle these.

The guidance published today has been informed by a wide-ranging consultation which has included every Church of England diocese and cathedral, as well as heritage bodies, specialists in church monuments, and those with an interest and specialism in UKME representation in the Church of England.

It notes that while churches and cathedrals are, above all, places dedicated to the worship of God, for a range of reasons, members of communities may not always feel welcome in these buildings. One such reason could be the presence of objects commemorating people responsible for the oppression and marginalisation of others.

The guidance specifically addresses the issue of heritage associated with racism and the slave trade – including plaques, statues, inscriptions and other monuments, but hopes that by doing so it will establish a methodology which can be used for other forms of contested heritage.

The guidance does not prescribe solutions, but presents a range of options and considerations, together with suggested models for local consultation and discussion. It encourages balanced, inclusive decision-making.

It also states that while ‘no change’ may be the outcome of such a consultation, this is not the same as ‘no action’ and encourages research, consultation and reflection where concerns are raised, to assess how much objects may impact on missional, pastoral and liturgical activities.

On publication of the guidance, The Church of England’s Director of Churches and Cathedrals, Becky Clark, said:

“With this guidance, the Church of England is seeking to provide a framework for parishes and cathedrals to lead discussions about how the heritage in our buildings can best serve our commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive Church today.

“Church buildings and their interiors have been adapted over centuries in response to practical needs, architectural styles, as well as to society itself.

“The issues of contested heritage require us honestly and openly to discuss ways in which our buildings can demonstrate our commitment to social and racial justice as a reflection of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

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General Synod: July meeting to take place in London

Church of England press release

General Synod: July meeting to take place in London
10/05/2021

The University of York, which hosts the annual July group of sessions of the General Synod, has taken the decision to cancel all events on its campus this summer as a result of the impact of the coronavirus.

Arrangements are therefore being made for the Synod scheduled for July 9 – 13 to take place at Church House, London, during the same dates.

It will be the first full in-person Synod for 18 months. Although it is expected that the final stages of the Government’s ‘reopening’ roadmap will have been passed by that time, Synod staff will ensure that all necessary health and safety arrangements are in place for everyone attending.

A timetable for the group of sessions will be finalised by the Business Committee later this month and the full agenda and papers will be published on the Synod App and the Synod web page on Friday June 25.

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Bishop of Lincoln announces his retirement

Press release from Diocese of Lincoln

To the people of the Diocese of Lincoln:

I am writing during the season of Easter, as we look forward to the celebration of Ascension Day and to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Whitsunday, the first Christian Pentecost, to announce my retirement as Bishop of Lincoln on the 31st December 2021 – more than ten years after I took up the post on the 19th September 2011 and as I approach my 69th birthday.

This will be preceded by a period of study leave during October to December in which I will reflect on the last ten years of ministry. I will do this by attending a retreat and undertaking guided study.

Of course, there will be time later for me to give thanks and for others to reflect on all that has happened in the Diocese during these ten years – to mark what has gone well and what has not gone so well; more of that later.

I hope my farewell service will be in Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday 21st November at Evensong at 3.45pm – COVID19 permitting.

I have not made this decision lightly, but after careful thought and prayer and after consultation with people of wisdom inside and outside the Diocese…

The press release goes on to explain the reasoning behind this timing.

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Suffragan Bishop of Lynn

Press release from Number 10

Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Lynn: 28 April 2021

The Queen has approved the appointment of the Venerable Dr Jane Elizabeth Steen as the next Suffragan Bishop of Lynn.

From:Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published:28 April 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Dr Jane Elizabeth Steen, MA LLM PhD, Archdeacon of Southwark, in the diocese of Southwark to the Suffragan See of Lynn, in the diocese of Norwich, in succession to the Right Reverend Cyril Jonathan Meyrick who resigned on 25th January 2021.

Background

Jane was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge and trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. She served her title at St John the Baptist, Chipping Barnet, in the Diocese of St Albans and was ordained Priest in 1997.

In 1999, Jane was appointed Chaplain to the Bishop of Southwark in the Diocese of Southwark. In 2005, she became Canon Chancellor at Southwark Cathedral, also serving as Diocesan Director of Ministerial Education and Canon Theologian.

In 2013, Jane took up her current role as Archdeacon of Southwark.

There are more details on the Norwich diocesan website.

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