Thinking Anglicans

Coroner criticises Church of England for negligence in suicide case

Updated yet again 5 August and again on 12 August

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

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

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

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

Media reports:

BBC Church of England criticised over suicide of falsely accused priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Clerum from the Bishop of London: Fr Alan Griffin

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

——

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

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

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

(more…)

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Bishop of Winchester confirms his retirement

Diocese of Winchester website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General Synod – 9 to 12 July 2021

This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.

The Church of England’s General Synod is meeting from today (9 July) to next Monday.

The timetable is here, the papers are here, and there is a live stream of the proceedings here from 1230 today (Friday).

Order papers

I – Friday
II – Saturday morning
III – Saturday afternoon
IV – Sunday
V – Monday morning
VI – Monday afternoon

Official press releases

A shortage of clergy would really limit us – we need more vocations, that’s my prayer’ – Archbishop of York’s address to Synod
National Investing Bodies report climate change progress to General Synod
Lord Boateng named as new Chair of Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission
Racial Justice Officers: Statement by Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, Bishop David Walker and Canon John Spence
Archbishop of York’s address to Synod on Vision and Strategy
Synod Officers condemn “disgraceful” racism following Euro 2020 final

Official record of business done

Business Done Friday 9 July
Business Done Saturday 10 July (AM)
Business Done Saturday 10 July (PM)
Business Done Sunday 11 July (PM)
Business Done Monday 12 July (AM)
Business Done Monday 12 July (PM)

Members’ blogs

Stephen Lynas
preview of the business: This could be the last time…
Friday’s business: I just stay home the whole day long, and think of you…
Saturday’s business: Money don’t get everything, it’s true
Sunday’s business: Oh, won’t you stay just a little bit longer?
Monday’s business: Still crazy after all these years

Andrew Nunn
Crumbs
Lumi
Time’s up!

Tim Hind reports for the Open Synod Group.

Other blogs

Helen King Handing on the baton?

Church Times

Sheffield trauma will not be revisited, Synod hears
Clarification: not 10,000 but 20,000; not a strategy but a vision
‘Shock’ on C of E taskforce at refusal of funding for diocesan racial-justice officers
Clergy are a limiting factor, says York … the lack of them
Church is entering a season of action on safeguarding, says Gibbs
Investors are doing their bit to fight climate change, says Minghella
‘Will we need a sick note?’ Synod struggles over voter-not-present proposals
Parliament to fix communion clause just in time for Synod elections
Synod hears about the pain of pastoral reorganisation
Parish clergy are at the heart of any new strategy, Archbishop of York insists
Church must address abuse of women priests on social media, says Bishop of London

Other press reports

The Guardian C of E rejects call to appoint racial justice officers in every diocese
Church of England accused of stifling debate on race and gender

Other things

Synod will be debating replacing the Clergy Discipline Measure on Sunday afternoon. The Sheldon Hub has published this: General Synod July 2021 – out of the frying pan into the fire?
[Users of the General Synod app should note that this debate and some other items have been omitted from the timetable.]

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Ministry Statistics 2020

The Church of England has released its Ministry Statistics 2020. Detailed Diocesan tables can be found in a separate excel file. Statistics for earlier years can be found here.

There is an accompanying press release, copied below.

Recommendations for stipendiary ordained ministry training highest for a generation
08/07/2021

Nearly 600 people were recommended for training for ordained ministry in the Church of England last year, including the highest number for a generation of candidates expected to take up paid clergy posts.
(more…)

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Christ Church Oxford: latest commentary

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

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

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

(more…)

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Dean of Sheffield

It was announced last week that the next Dean of Sheffield will be the Revd Canon Abigail Thompson.

It has today been announced that the new Dean of Sheffield in the Anglican Diocese of Sheffield will be the Revd Canon Abigail Thompson.

The Dean is the chief resident cleric of Sheffield Cathedral, also undertaking diocesan and civic duties in the city and across the wider area.

Abigail, or Abi as she is known, has been in the Diocese of St Albans since February 2018 where she is currently the Acting Dean and Sub-Dean of St Albans Cathedral…

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General Synod Questions

Updated Friday

The Questions and Answers for this coming weekend’s meeting of General Synod are now available. Question Time is on Friday evening. As usual the questions and answers will be taken as read and the allocated time in the agenda devoted to supplementaries.

Questions Notice Paper
Q3 additional information
Q54 additional information

Update

There is a list of members who have indicated that they wish to ask supplementary questions here.

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Dean of Hereford

Press release

Dean of Hereford: 7 July 2021
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Sarah Brown for election as Dean of Hereford.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 7 July 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Sarah Brown, Canon Missioner at Peterborough Cathedral and Bishop’s Advisor for Women’s Ministry, for election as Dean of Hereford, in succession to The Very Reverend Michael Tavinor following his retirement on 28th February 2021.

Background

Sarah was educated at the University of Nottingham and trained for ministry on the Eastern Region Ministry Course. She served her title in the Benefice of Welford, Sibbertoft and Marston Trussell in the diocese of Peterborough and was ordained Priest in 2009.

In 2011, Sarah was appointed Team Vicar with Daventry Team Ministry in the diocese of Peterborough and in 2013 became Rural Dean of Daventry. Sarah was made an Honorary Canon of Peterborough Cathedral in 2015.

In 2018, Sarah took up her current roles as Canon Missioner at Peterborough Cathedral and Bishop’s Advisor for Women’s Ministry.

There is more on the Hereford Cathedral website.

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Bishop of Liverpool announces his retirement

The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, has announced that he is to retire in March 2022.

In a letter to clergy, churchwardens and other ministers, the bishop writes:

I’m deeply grateful to God for the years spent ministering alongside my outstanding colleagues and friends here in Liverpool Diocese. I look forward to the next few months as we work to sustain our parishes, schools, fresh expressions and chaplaincies as communities of worship and mission through the pandemic and into God’s new future.

Across the whole Church of England we are on the way together into that same future. I shall continue as best I can to contribute to a faithful, open, joyous, light, inclusive and just Church — a community that is true to the poor carpenter who made it; one that honours those on the edge of things; one that conveys the amazing reality of our loving and living God to England as it actually is.

But for me the time has come to prepare for a new chapter in life and ministry, and to contribute in a different way. Accordingly I have informed the Queen and the Archbishop of York that I intend to resign the See of Liverpooand to retire at the beginning of March next year. God willing, my farewell service in the Cathedral will be on Saturday February 12, 2022.

From next March I hope to spend more time in prayer and reflection and stillness, in resting and writing and reading and thinking. Please pray for Kate and me as we prepare for this change, and for the Diocese as it sustains its ‘long obedience in the same direction’, a community of people living in Christ and seeking the good of the world.

 

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Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings, says Bishop of Liverpool

Updated 8 July 2021

The Observer reports this evening that the Bishop of Liverpool has said that the Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings.

Church of England should recognise same-sex weddings, says bishop

Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, pushes for ‘gender-neutral marriage canon’ and church ceremonies

A senior bishop has said the Church of England should recognise marriage between people of the same sex and allow such ceremonies in church, a move that would break with centuries of Christian teaching.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, called for a “gender-neutral marriage canon” in a controversial and hard-hitting speech on Saturday, making him the most senior figure in the C of E to explicitly back a change in church law and teaching…

The bishop was speaking to the MOSAIC (“Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church”) National Conference this morning. The text of his address is here and this is an extract.

What do I want to see? I want to see a Church that is no longer institutionally racist. I want to see a Church where people with physical or mental or emotional disability are honoured and accommodated and learned from and loved, and whose love is received as a gift.

In the area of sexuality and relationships I want to see the road which runs through Living in Love and Faith come to a good destination. The LLF process has clarified my own thinking.

I want to see a gender-neutral marriage canon, such as they have in the Episcopal Church or in the Scottish Episcopal Church. And as a necessary but not sufficient first step I want to see conscientious freedom for the Church’s ministers and local leaders to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages.

I want to see an abolition of the foolishness that sees the call to ordained ministry as a call to a state morally higher than that of the baptised, as though baptism called us to a lesser holiness. I want to see an end to LGBTQ+ people hiding who they are for fear of being exposed to conversion therapy or to being forbidden to minister in churches. I want to see an end to the inquisition of ordinands about their private lives.

Update

On 6 July Bishop Bayes published the following on Twitter.

Some days ago I gave a speech to the MoSAIC Conference. I stand by the substantive points in that speech, but I also made some passing remarks which I greatly regret. I’ve asked for the published text to be amended to remove them. Here’s a statement of apology. Many thanks!

Follow the Twitter link to read the statement.

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What next in the Diocese of Winchester?

Updated Sunday and again Tuesday and Wednesday (scroll down)

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

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

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

Update Sunday

Update Tuesday 

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

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

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

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

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

Church Times: Talks about Dakin’s future to continue

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

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

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

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

Update Wednesday

Surviving Church: Finding Solutions for the Winchester Crisis

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House of Bishops Meeting – 24 June 2021

The Church of England House of Bishops met yesterday; here is the press release.

House of Bishops Meeting – 24th June 2021
24/06/2021

The House of Bishops met on the afternoon of Thursday 24th June remotely via Zoom.

The meeting began with the House wishing goodbye to the Bishop of Rochester, giving thanks for his ministry while welcoming Bishop Emma Ineson as the new Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The House also noted this was the last House of Bishops meeting for Jonathan Neil Smith, who has worked for the NCIS for 40 years including many years serving the House of Bishops.

The Secretary General of the Church of England addressed the House in relation to proposals for the election of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) observers to the House and its subcommittee. The House agreed the proposals and it is anticipated that the House will be asked to approve changes to its Standing Orders at its next meeting in July.

The House was then addressed by the Director of Libraries and Archives regarding the handling of Clergy Personal Files and approved an updated version of the House of Bishops 2018 policy. The updated June 2021 edition supports the earlier recommendation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommendations on data sharing between the Church of England and the Church in Wales and clarifies the lawful basis on which clergy personal data is processed.

A short update was then given by the Social and Public Affairs Adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the Anti- Racism Task Force Report.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich then introduced a series of proposals for delivering new ways of working and cost savings for the National Church institutions (NCIs). The House broke into regional groups and provided comment on the proposals.

The House was then addressed by the Deputy Director of Finance for the NCIs who gave an analysis of dioceses’ financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. The House was asked to take note of the analysis provided, with the Bishops considering what action individual dioceses could take to help improve the financial situation of parishes and further action to be taken to improve diocesan financial strength and sustainability.

The Bishop of Hereford then gave a short briefing on the Review of Clergy Remuneration which has been circulated with Synod papers and which will be discussed at a separate meting by the House of Clergy in July.

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

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General Synod papers

Papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod are now available online. There is a list (with links and a note of the day sheduled for their debate) in numerical order below the fold.

All GS Papers .zip folder
All GS Misc Papers .zip folder

Timetable
Agenda

Press release

(more…)

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Oxford diocese reports the CDM decision on the Dean

Updated Saturday

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

Decision by the President of Tribunals

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Update

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

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

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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

Updated 10 July 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.

Update

An error was discovered in the calculations of the numbers of proctors and laity included in GS 2203. These numbers were updated and approved by General Synod on 10 July and can be found in GS 2214.

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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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