Fr Alan Griffin: Diocese of London publishes independent report and response
The independent review regarding Fr Alan Griffin has today been published by the Diocese of London. External safeguarding practitioner, Chris Robson, was commissioned following the coroner’s inquest in 2021 into Fr Alan’s death, to conduct a lessons learned review. This has been released in full, alongside the Diocese’s response.
Fr Alan Griffin became the Rector of St James Garlickhythe and St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the City of London in 2001, in the Two Cities Area of the Diocese of London. He retired from the Church of England in 2011 and was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 2012. On 8th November 2020, Fr Alan died by suicide.
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said:
“I am profoundly sorry for all that Fr Alan Griffin endured and apologise unreservedly to his family and friends. Homophobia and bias, conscious or unconscious, have no place our Church – the culture has to change. It is heart-breaking to read of the failings that occurred in the lead-up to November 2020, dating back to the lack of understanding and proper pastoral care at the time of his HIV+ diagnosis and non-fatal suicide attempt in 2010.
“Chris Robson’s report clearly identifies our past mistakes, alongside the improvements which have since been made, and the areas where work is still required. I am grateful for his approach and honesty, and for the efforts of the Review Steering Group in informing our response. We owe it to Fr Alan Griffin to ensure what happened to him can never happen to anybody else.”
The Independent Reviewer, Chris Robson, said:
“I would ask that those who read the Review see it as a document that will help the Diocese of London and wider church to improve safeguarding practice. Those people I have spoken to at a senior level have recognised the issues raised in the review and I am encouraged by their response.
“Whilst it is very clear that improvements to practice are necessary, I acknowledge that significant progress has already been made. In particular, the Diocese has a strong leader in Bishop Sarah and I can see she is driving that positive change. It now requires collective effort across the entire diocese with new and improved practice being ‘lived and owned’ by the whole church community.
“I would like to thank those who spoke to me for their candidness, often during difficult and emotional interviews. I have been privileged to speak with representatives of the family and friends of Father Alan during this process. The dignity, honesty and patience they have shown has been remarkable given the circumstances and I thank them sincerely for the part they played in the review.
“Finally, when reading this Review, I would ask that you remember Father Alan Griffin, a much-loved man. It is important that lessons are learned from his death and everything possible is done to ensure these or similar circumstances are never repeated.”
The Diocesan response to the independent report’s recommendations sets out progress made to date and identifies the ongoing priority areas. These include the following, which will be scrutinized by the independently-chaired Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group:
Team capacity across the Diocesan Safeguarding Team (DST) has increased from 4.4 full-time equivalent staff in 2019, and 6.6 in 2021, to 9.2 in 2022, including the new post of Head of Safeguarding, to which an experienced safeguarding professional, Martin Goodwin, was appointed in August 2021. Resourcing will continue to be carefully monitored.
Any allegation referred to the DST is now always triagedby a safeguarding expert, and is risk-assessed, considering the safety, needs, and wellbeing of all parties involved. Case management processes have been implemented in line with national guidance.
An LGBT+ Advisory Group is being established to focus on the pastoral care and sense of belonging of LGBT+ people and the impact of Diocesan policies, processes and practices on their community. This group will make recommendations for change to the Bishop of London and the Senior Staff.
Mandatory unconscious bias training for all staff will be updated, including material on the effect of language and the terms we use to describe other people.
Formal recruitment processes are now in place for all roles, including those appointed by bishops, following National Church guidelines.
New information-sharing agreements will be implemented nationally, following the publication of Church of England guidance and an ongoing consultation with dioceses.
Awareness training on the coronial process, in consultation with HM Coroner’s Services Manager, is being implemented for the Diocesan Safeguarding Team in July 2022.
On 25 May, as previously reported, the Church of England reported that its Independent Safeguarding Board would conduct a review on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council and the Diocese of Oxford, see Christ Church safeguarding review for further details.
Christ Church, Oxford has today appointed the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC to lead an independent review into governance of the Foundation, after its Governing Body voted overwhelmingly to endorse the former Attorney General for England and Wales as chair of the review…
…The Independent Governance Review, which is expected to report in 2023, will make recommendations that the Governing Body will carefully consider, to ensure that Christ Church’s statutes, by-laws and governance arrangements meet the needs of this unique institution in the 21st century…
…A Church House spokesperson said this week: “The Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, was set up in 2021, following a decision by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops to provide independent external scrutiny and oversight of the Church’s safeguarding activity. This includes overseeing the work of the National Safeguarding Team, NST, which along with Oxford diocese referred this issue to the ISB.
“Its remit is also to advise on how an independent presence on safeguarding should work in the long term. The ISB operates independently in that it decides its work programme, it sets its own terms of reference for its work, and it can scrutinise any aspect of the Church’s safeguarding activity that it chooses. General Synod received a full presentation and paper on the work of the ISB at its February Synod.”
…In a letter to Mr Sewell, sent on Wednesday of last week, Mr Nye clarifies the limited nature of the ISB review. Having been asked by the Archbishops’ Council and the diocese of Oxford to look into the church safeguarding aspects of the Christ Church dispute, “the ISB agreed that it would undertake a review of these safeguarding matters, as part of its oversight remit, in order to learn any lessons. This would include looking at whether these issues should have been dealt with as safeguarding matters at all. This is entirely consistent with the ISB’s remit…”
…In the letter, Mr Nye also accuses Dr Percy of launching “a series of personal attacks on the professional standing and competence of the chair of the ISB, extending to contacting other clients of her work, with a view to discouraging them from employing her”.
Approached for a response, Dr Percy called the accusation “baseless”, but declined to comment on an allegation made to a third party and not directly to him.
Mr Sewell said on Tuesday: “William’s letter really doesn’t answer many of our questions, and we are pressing him again. I am happy, however, to explain why nobody should be surprised that a measure of frustration and anger has crept in, at the end of lengthy correspondence between Dr Percy and the ISB.
“It has completely ignored his most significant complaints and failed to answer reasonable process enquiries. This comes on top of four years of intensive bullying by College and Church alike. The Church and its agents are alleged to have actively promoted a false narrative of serious risk which was abandoned on the day after settlement….”
Updates 1 July
The full text of the 22 June letter from William Nye to Martin Sewell, discussed above, can now be read here.
Martin Sewell has made a further reply, dated 30 June, and the full text of that is now also available.
Although the Archbishops’ Council reported that the ISB proposal was included in their agenda, first here (para 3), and then here (para 7) nothing else was announced until February 2022. We then reported: Recent Church of England Safeguarding reports. This links to GS 2244 which includes as an Annex (starts on page 11 of the PDF) the first report from the Chair of the newly constituted Independent Safeguarding Board. This is worth reading carefully.
The same article also links to Gavin Drake’s follow-on motion which you can read in full here.
The Church Times reported on what happened in debate:
A letter on this topic has been sent to all members of the Archbishops’ Council signed by Martin Sewell, a General Synod member from Rochester diocese, and also by a number of other General Synod members.
The letter itself is contained in a PDF file which can be read here. It is well worth reading this in full.
For more of the background to the formation of the ISB, look here.
There is an online public petition related to this, over here.
What follows is the text of the covering email from Martin Sewell, which summarises the content of the letter.
Dear Archbishops and members of Archbishops’ Council,
I enclose a letter signed by members of General Synod which expresses our concern that Archbishops’ Council has prematurely engaged the newly evolving Independent Safeguarding Board in detailed case work which it is not yet properly authorised or suitably equipped to handle with the independence, resource and competence the role requires. We specifically raise a number of specific questions which we believe need to be urgently addressed by Archbishops’ Council.
After a lengthy and discreditable history of response to complaints in Safeguarding and its associated Clergy Discipline issues, nobody objects to the idea of the Church placing itself under effective outside scrutiny. Some of us have campaigned vigorously for the creation of just such a Board in previous General Synods, and you will recall that the recent February Synod considered a following motion that sought to begin a process to debate and vest the ISB with the very independence responsibility and associated powers that will make the Board the kind of constitutional creature that IICSA had in mind to save us from a repetition of the failures and scandals of the past.
That debate was cut short by a procedural motion, approved by a newly elected Synod comprising 60% new members and the matter was not brought to a conclusion. What exactly the ISB is, and what it can and cannot do, constitutionally and practically, given its low resource and part time nature, remains very much “unfinished Synod business”. In our view General Synod has an important continuing role to ensure the success of the ISB project.
We note with respect and gratitude that both Archbishops opposed the truncation of the debate by the use of a procedural device: it did us no favours and is part of the reason we are in this currently unsatisfactory position today.
When the Chair of the ISB addressed us (and her address to Synod is worth a second hearing by Archbishops’ Council) she was plainly seeking to lower expectation and to emphasise the incremental character of their approach to the role. She told us that its members were assessing and growing their understanding of the role within our complex institution, in what was described as “Phase One” of the project. That limited scope of current activity disappointed some of us, but the opportunity to fully articulate those concerns was denied.
What nobody knew or anticipated from that debate, was that only a few weeks later, the members of the ISB would be offered, and would embrace, responsibility for the devising, timetabling, structuring, implementation and personal execution of the most complex and serious Case Review in the history of the Church, and moreover that they would attempt to do so at speed. The members of the ISB have many qualities and much experience; devising and conducting complex case reviews does not appear to feature within their past skill set. In no other national Institution would such a task be delegated to novices. At the Diocesan Synod at Oxford this weekend it was confirmed that the Dr Martyn Percy Case Review is the first such piece of work the Board and its members will have ever have attempted. This is not the case on which to “cut your teeth”.
Put simply, this is a disaster waiting to happen for the reasons contained in our detailed letter. It is especially troubling if, as we understand, the Percy case is not the only matter pressed upon the ISB at short notice.
The ISB needs to be established with the confidence of all parties, and that is unlikely to be the case given the way these reviews are being hurriedly constructed. There is no shame in having second thoughts which we urge you to undertake without delay, asking the ISB to pause its work in this field whilst our objections are evaluated by all concerned. It is essential that the ISB is established with confidence in its independence, constitution, integrity and competence. That confidence must be built on sure foundations if it is to fulfil the role intended for it. Our questions are designed to help Archbishops’ Council review the problem areas to give the ISB its best opportunity to become what we all want it to be.
We hope Archbishops’ Council will discuss the questions we raise with the same care with which we have formulated them, and that the answers will be made available in good time so that they may be scrutinised at the upcoming General Synod in July.
In the past three years, Christ Church has held back from offering commentary on a series of damaging reports regarding its relationship with the former Dean, Dr Martyn Percy. Those reports related to a number of disputes between the institution and its Head of House, the earliest of which dates back to 2017 while the most recent concerned an allegation of sexual harassment made against Dr Percy by Alannah Jeune. During this time, despite attacks on it and its members by supporters of the former Dean, Christ Church has consistently tried to avoid making pronouncements in the hope of avoiding a destructive cycle of claim and counter-claim. The trustees (Christ Church’s Governing Body) have been mindful that they all have both a duty of confidentiality and a general duty to place the charity’s interests above their own and have sought to calm rather than inflame damaging media attention…
Church of England press release
The Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, has today published its Terms of Reference (see below) to review the handling of safeguarding issues regarding the former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Martyn Percy.
The review follows a referral by the Archbishops’ Council and Oxford Diocese to the ISB. As previously stated, the review will not be considering the wider issues between the College and the former Dean.
Statement from Maggie Atkinson, Chair of the ISB:
“Given substantial previous work has been undertaken but solid conclusions now need to be reached, under the scrutiny remit of the ISB we will undertake a review considering all that has previously been done on this case.
“Our aim will be to advise both those directly affected, and the whole of the C of E, where what has previously been done was appropriate and of good quality, and where there have been errors or shortcomings.
“It is particularly important that those who have been caused pain by what has happened, including the former Dean, have their concerns heard and reviewed by an independent body. The ISB was formed to do such work, and to tell both those affected by complex cases such as this, and the wider church, where change is needed.”
“It is well worth a listen to understand misgivings about the way the ISB is approaching this case which in many ways is more complex than the Makin review. That has not been well managed and is already 2 years overdue. Do listen here from 33 minutes: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0007b3r PS if you only want to listen to Kate Blackwell QC on what an independent inquiry comprises it starts at 37:45.”
Martyn Percy has written three articles which Modern Church has published.
“In three short articles, Martyn Percy looks at three words currently being given the full 1984 treatment: independent, ethical and trustworthy. Is the Church of England using these words as defined by most dictionaries in 2022? Or, are we now enmeshed in an Orwellian church in which little that is said corresponds to our normal frames of reference?”
Readers may recall that the previous National Director, Melissa Caslake, resigned in January 2021. Since then Zena Marshall has been interim director. The substantive post has now been advertised, both on the CofE pathways website and in the Church Times:
The independent lessons learnt review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late Revd Graham Gregory across five dioceses, has been published today. Gregory was sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2014, on two counts of non-recent indecent assault on a girl under 13 years and was further convicted in 2018 of three non-recent indecent assaults against three separate victims, all children and was sentenced to four years four months in prison. He died in jail in 2019.
The review was commissioned by the National Safeguarding Team and carried out by Ray Galloway, who previously led the Jimmy Savile Inquiry at Leeds General Infirmary and was part of the Church of England’s Kendal House review team. The reviewer’s work was informed by the five diocesan reviews in; Chichester, Sodor & Man, Southwark, Southwell & Nottingham and York (to where he retired).
Its purpose is to allow the Church to take steps to enhance and improve its response to allegations of abuse and, thereby, to ensure a safer environment for all. It also considers both good practice and failings in safeguarding practices in respect of Graham Gregory, and the appropriateness of responses by Church bodies to allegations and concerns raised across each diocese in which he held any post…
The events recorded in this report demonstrate the scale of Graham Gregory’s betrayal of the trust placed in him, the impact of which has been profound and enduring. Accordingly I should like to pay tribute to his victims for their courage in sharing their experiences with the Review Team so allowing us to build our knowledge and understanding of Gregory’s history of abusive behaviour.
Robust and reliable evidence, gathered over more than 25 years, shows that Gregory was a determined and persistent abuser of children who actively sought out and created opportunities to harm his victims.
The children he abused included his own vicar’s daughter, the daughter of a family relative and daughters of his congregants. The latter included one child whose parents were visually impaired and had trusted Gregory with the safety of their daughter when in his company.
Arguably the gravest and most regrettable conclusion of the Review is that of missed opportunity and the harm done that may have been avoided. This was possible because, despite child victims and victims’ parents repeatedly seeking support and protection from members of the clergy, including senior members, they were not listened to nor was action taken. This lack of action continued for almost 50 years. Indeed on at least one occasion an allegation was actively suppressed by a senior member of the clergy and Gregory merely moved to another diocese. That allegation contributed to Gregory’s conviction when it was reasserted some 25 years later.
Whilst for much of Gregory’s ministry safeguarding matters did not benefit from the profile and awareness that they do today, there was still a fundamental moral and professional duty to protect children. It is clear that this duty to the vulnerable was not met where and when most needed. This resulted in Gregory continuing, unchallenged, and further abuse being perpetrated.
Clear and multiple opportunities were missed by the Church to listen to victims, scrutinise Gregory’s behaviour and to take action to protect those children and families involved. This would have stopped Gregory’s abuse, brought him to justice sooner and shown a demonstrable commitment to the welfare of the vulnerable. It is vital that the Church acknowledges and accepts the findings of this Report and makes meaningful and transparent arrangements to address these findings.
Christ Church confirms successful conclusion of mediation with the Dean
Statement by Christ Church:
A process of mediation has been taking place to try to resolve a number of outstanding issues between the Dean of Christ Church and the Governing Body.
This includes an allegation of sexual harassment made against the Dean.
Christ Church has always regarded the safety and well-being of its students and staff as its highest priority. Any such allegation will always be thoroughly investigated and addressed, whilst respecting the right to a fair hearing for the accused.
We made clear throughout the various dispute processes with the Dean that no resolution could be reached unless the concerns of the individual making the allegation of sexual harassment against him were fully addressed.
Christ Church can now confirm that the mediation process has been concluded and that a resolution has been reached that is acceptable to all parties.
The Dean has agreed to step down, voluntarily, from his role as Dean of Christ Church, and the individual who made the allegation of sexual harassment against the Dean has agreed to settle her claim on terms which on her request are confidential.
At the request of the individual concerned, Christ Church will within twelve months commission a comprehensive review of its policies and procedures in relation to sexual harassment to be led by an independent expert. This review will ensure that any future cases are dealt with fairly and expediently.
We are grateful to the individual involved that they have agreed to work with us to ensure that these procedures fully reflect the experience they endured. The review will seek to strengthen further those measures which Christ Church already has in place to protect the students and staff, and to ensure that a safe environment for teaching and learning is maintained.
Christ Church is deeply sorry for the hurt that this individual has suffered and we regret the time that it has taken to bring these matters concerning the Dean to a conclusion.
Statement by ‘X’
In October 2020 I brought a claim of sexual harassment against the Dean of Christ Church.
The Dean has always denied this claim. He has also denied that he victimised me including after I brought Employment Tribunal proceedings against him.
I have to accept, incredibly reluctantly, that it is my word against his that the incident took place. I am acutely aware that this is a situation faced by many women who bring complaints of a sexual nature. Sadly, the various processes that have followed have not altered this situation. However, I want to acknowledge that Christ Church, to their credit, has always supported my right to make this complaint.
I know what I experienced on that day and I want to ensure that no other student or member of staff has to go through the ordeal that I have.
I am pleased that the Dean has agreed to step down from his role at Christ Church and, in return, I have agreed to settle my outstanding claims against him.
I am reassured that Christ Church has begun the important work of ensuring that its practices and policies provide the best possible support and protection for all members of its community. I will be working with Christ Church to ensure that whatever changes they adopt take into account my experiences.
I sincerely hope that in some way this will help to ensure that other students and staff avoid the distress that I have experienced.
I would like to thank Christ Church for bringing about a resolution to my complaint against the Dean.
Of course, I wish that a resolution could have been achieved more quickly and without the pain and stress I have endured, so that the sense of injustice I have long felt could have been, if not entirely eradicated, made more bearable.
The resolution that has now been reached brings the matter to a formal close, and I hope that we can all move forward in a positive manner.
4 February 2022 The Governing Body of Christ Church has announced that mediation processes have concluded with the Dean and a resolution reached that is satisfactory to all parties.
The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, has issued the following statement:
Christ Church have announced this afternoon that the Dean has agreed to step down from his duties as Dean following a long and protracted series of disputes with the governing body and a process of mediation.
A complaint of sexual harassment brought against the Dean by a member of staff has also been settled in a parallel process of mediation. The allegation was unrelated to previous disputes.
A settlement has been agreed with the Dean and, separately, with the complainant.
The complainant has felt discredited and disbelieved. The Dean has felt hurt and isolated. The complaint and previous disputes have also been painful for Cathedral Chapter, the congregation of the Cathedral and many others. The settlement brings to an end a damaging period in the life of the Cathedral and the College.
There is a moment and opportunity now for grace and, over time, for a process of reconciliation and healing of relationships.
My own encouragement to all is to seek the peace to which Christ calls us. This will understandably take time and I commend all concerned to the continued prayers of the diocese. I have written to Martyn to repeat my offer of conversation and dialogue about his next steps.
The college will seek to appoint an independent chair for a governance review proposed by the Charity Commission. The Diocese of Oxford and the Church of England will contribute to that review in due course.
Both the Dean and the complainant have requested an independent lessons learned review of the processes followed by the Diocese and the Church of England nationally. The Bishop’s Council have agreed to this and we are seeking the support of the Archbishops’ Council for this to be jointly commissioned.
Martyn continues to be held in respect and affection by many across the Diocese of Oxford, the wider Church and internationally for his gifts as a priest and writer. Many will be grieved by the disputes that have led to his departure.
Together we hope and pray, by the grace of God, for a hopeful and fruitful future for all concerned.
Statement from Martyn PercyNB not referenced or linked in either of the above statements
STATEMENT Re DEAN of CHRIST CHURCH
The Governing Body of Christ Church Oxford has agreed to drop all charges and processes against the College’s Dean, the Very Rev Prof Martyn Percy. A settlement – including a substantial sum in compensation and the payment of the Dean’s outstanding legal fees – was endorsed by the GB at a meeting today (FRIDAY). The College has also agreed to an independently-led review of its governance.
As part of this settlement, Dr Percy will relinquish his position as Dean at the end of April.
Dr Percy said:
“Despite the trials and troubles over the last four years, we will miss Christ Church enormously.It is a special place, and our family have been blessed with great support and friendship from students, staff, congregation and colleagues over this time.Those friendships and our gratitude will endure and remain.Our own faith in the constancy of God has been sustaining, and evidenced by the goodness, kindness and care we have been shown by many, despite all else. We sincerely wish Christ Church well for the future, and will hope and pray that the governance reforms will be both effective and welcome when they are implemented.”
One colleague of Prof. Percy said: “We are relieved and pleased that Christ Church has finally agreed a reasonable settlement to a dispute which has riven the college, cost millions of pounds and caused untold distress, unhappiness and harm to those caught up in it. Christ Church appointed him as Dean in 2014 and it was soon clear that a proud and august institution needed crucial reforms to some of the ways in which it operated, including in respect of the welfare and safety of its students.
A small group of fellows – both past and present – disagreed and orchestrated a sustained and concerted campaign to oust him. That campaign took many forms and is reported to have cost many millions. Several expensive law firms and PR companies were deployed to denigrate, harrass and humiliate him. But every time an independent tribunal or individual examined the evidence they found against the College.
The easy thing for the Dean would have been to walk away. That would have been better for his mental health and for the wellbeing of his family. But others at the College implored him to stay until there was a guarantee of a thorough and independent review of the governance of the institution.
Today the College has finally agreed both a settlement to the dispute with him and to an independent review, the results of which will be reported to the Charity Commission, the ultimate regulator of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. This brings to an end all litigation and complaints, though various regulatory bodies will doubtless continue to look at what went wrong with the college governance, together with the actions of their advisers.
The Dean added:
“I can now step aside, and look forward to resuming a normal life with my wife Emma, who has been such a rock of strength during this painful struggle.
While the past four years have often been harrowing, I have drawn great comfort from the unwavering support of colleagues, alumni and friends. I would like also to thank my legal advisers, both official and unofficial and Unite the Union, in particular the Unite Faith Workers Branch. A free, unfettered press has also succeeded in surfacing important truths in the face of legal threats and obstructions.
Christ Church has been around for nearly 500 years and I sincerely hope it flourishes for many centuries to come. I hope the independent review overseen by the Charity Commission will succeed. I sincerely hope that he same standards in public life we have come to expect of our most cherished national institutions – including integrity, transparency and accountability – will flourish and bear fruit here.”
General Synod will be considering this subject on the morning of Wednesday 9 February. No doubt there will also be numerous Questions on the topic at the sessions on either Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday afternoon. The Questions and Answers can now be found here. Items 53, 59, 67-74, 83 are relevant (I may have missed a few). Subject lines are listed at the end of this article.
The main document under consideration on Wednesday morning will beGS 2244, which will be the subject of a presentation, at which the Standing Committee has decided will include an opportunity for questions.
A follow-on motion has been filed, which challenges the practice of not allowing debate on this report, and you can read the motion here. Asked to explain it, Gavin Drake said:
“The ongoing failure to ensure effective safeguarding by parts of the Church is one of the most significant issues facing the Church of England today. Much concern has been expressed about the work, focus and effectiveness of the National Safeguarding Team and other national safeguarding functions of the Church and these have not been addressed. It is wrong that the NST should be given an opportunity to present an unchallenged “defence” of their work which ignores the very many real concerns that exist. The follow-on motion will allow proper challenge to the report and enable Synod members to express their view on the actions of the NST.”
There are a number of other recently pubished items that relate to Safeguarding:
As stated at General Synod (November 2021), the independent lessons learnt review into the case of Trevor Devamanikkam, commissioned by the National Safeguarding Team, was referred to the Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, for advice on how to proceed, due to delays in the process.
The Chair, Maggie Atkinson, has now responded and recommended that the review progress to publication as a very necessary part of the Church’s learning on safeguarding. She noted that this will take some time to complete given the reviewer will need to refresh her work so far and pick up what now needs to be done.
There is an ongoing invitation to the survivor to contribute and this will remain open throughout the closing phases of the reviewer’s work.
The ISB intends to contribute an initial chapter to the review outlining why it has taken as long, the stages and personnel changes it has gone through, and why the report is now being published, noting that the reviewer Jane Humphreys, is an independent expert with no C of E connections.
Since our last reports here, and then here, in December, there has been extensive media coverage of the ongoing Christ Church saga. Unfortunately much of it has been behind paywalls. Nevertheless here is a set of links, in date order, to all the items I have collected.
Winchester College is today publishing an independent review of the abuse committed by the late John Smyth QC against a number of former pupils who were at the College from the mid-1970s until 1982. They are some of the many victims of Smyth who were subject to his abuse over more than thirty years. The Warden and Fellows wish to thank all the victims and witnesses who came forward to assist with this review. We acknowledge the courage and determination of the victims in pursuing the truth about John Smyth: their testimony lies at the heart of this review. The College apologises unreservedly for its part in their terrible experiences…
The chancellor of Oxford University says its reputation is being damaged by a long-running dispute between Christ Church and its dean.
Lord Patten of Barnes, a former cabinet minister, wrote to the college’s 65 fellows about the dispute with the Very Rev Martyn Percy and requested an urgent meeting to discuss its “protracted and ongoing dispute” and the “damage it is doing to the reputation of the collegiate university”…
…On Saturday the Rev Jonathan Aitken, an ally of Percy, wrote to The Times calling the attempt to classify Percy mentally ill “comic and contemptible”. The dean was, he said, “on sparkling form”.
Last night Christ Church said: “We have received the letter from the chancellor and vice-chancellor and welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation with them. We have no further comment to make at this time.”
The Dean of an Oxford college will face a medical assessment after he was accused of being “mad and unfit to govern” in the latest attempt by dons to oust him, his supporters claim.
The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over Christ Church college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a four-year row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure…
…the college has alerted the dean to a “notice of motion” ahead of a crunch meeting on Friday to determine whether he is mentally fit to govern.
The Telegraph has seen a copy of the summons which states that the college’s governing body will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.
A statute in the Christ Church governance states that figures can be removed on grounds of mental incapacitation. However, the dean’s supporters claim that this loophole is being “exploited” in a bid to remove him.
The mental incapacitation clause was added in a redraft of the college’s statute in 2011, but a bylaw dating from August 2021 enabled other members of the governing body – not just the dean – to initiate action on medical grounds…
…According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.
As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.
Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process…
Private Eye, Issue 1562 has this: Clique Bait. Some extracts:
…The sums already spent in the war against Percy are huge: estimates range from £2m to £5m in fees for PR firms and lawyers. The Eye can reveal that one of the college’s solicitors, Herbert Smith Freehills, has just dropped out, explaining that “it is no longer proportionate in terms of legal fees for Christ Church to continue to instruct HSF on this matter”.
Too late. This wild spending has brought down the wrath of the Charity Commission. Helen Earner, its director of regulatory services, wants to know what charitable purpose is served by the campaign against the dean. She asks exactly how much has been spent, how budgets were revised as costs spiralled, and by whom. She also demands to see the legal advice received about prospects of success in the various tribunals. She finishes with a reminder that it is a criminal offence for anyone knowingly to provide false or misleading information to the commission: “This includes suppressing, concealing, or destroying documents.”
If the college’s answers are unsatisfactory, the commission could make individual trustees personally responsible for the sums the college has spent. Or it could make the trustees, which is to say all 65 fellows, collectively responsible. Though Christ Church itself is wealthy, with an endowment of more than £500m, many of the individual dons are not…
…Meanwhile, the savage pettiness within Christ Church grinds on. The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint brought by members of the congregation over rumours he allegedly repeated. The governing body, while refusing to contribute to the dean’s legal costs, has asked the Charity Commission for permission to fund an action for defamation by one of its own members against another, who is a supporter of the dean. It appears the case is to be brought by the man who himself called Percy “a manipulative little turd” and “the little Hitler” in emails which the governing body has tried to suppress.
Now that the governing body has had to change lawyers, the hair-touching tribunal against the dean may be delayed until 2023. He remains suspended. Mediation has broken down again. Unless both sides can reach an agreement, the whole system by which Oxford colleges are governed may change as a result of a dispute over whether a clergyman once touched a verger’s hair.
…Deborah Loudon, a former head of human resources at the Home Office who is supporting Percy, said yesterday: “No one who knows Martyn would describe him as mentally ill. He has suffered from the stress of the campaign against him which has resulted in anxiety and depression but he has received excellent treatment and is much better and ready for a phased return to work.”
….Christ Church dons, who make up the governing body, have previously made unproven assertions about his mental health. A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made…
…Christ Church was unable to comment on a “sensitive HR matter”.
On 4 November, Helen Earner, director of regulatory services, wrote to the Revd Professor Sarah Foot, Censor Theologiae and chair of the Governing Body, requesting a long list of background information about the dispute. This includes Governing Body minutes from June 2018 covering the salaries-board dispute that sparked the original complaint against the Dean; the money that the college has spent on its action hitherto, including payments for legal advice and public-relations support; and details of the mediation process and why it was halted.
Also requested are copies of the emails from senior figures in the college made available to Sir Andrew Smith, who conducted the internal inquiry that exonerated the Dean (News, 21 August 2019). Sir Andrew included them in an appendix to his report, but they were redacted from the version circulated to members of the Governing Body. One email about the Dean read: “I’m always ready to think the worst of him. . . Does anyone know any good poisoners?”
Ms Earner also responds in her letter to two questions by Professor Foot. On the question whether the college could contribute to Dean Percy’s legal costs in the tribunal process, she writes: “Based on what we understand to be the current situation, we would see that it is likely to fall within the range of reasonable decisions that trustees could make.”
Professor Foot’s other question is whether the college could pay for legal advice for individual members of the Governing Body who want to take action for alleged defamation “and/or misuse of private information”. The Governing Body has been disturbed by leaks throughout this process, and Ms Earner’s letter acknowledges that “some members of the Governing Body have identified themselves as whistleblowers.”
Before ruling whether this is a permissible use of funds, Ms Earner asks whether the Governing Body has set a budget or cap on money to be advanced to individual members.
Her letter ends by reminding the Governing Body that it is a criminal offence knowingly or recklessly to provide false or misleading information.
Personal statement from Archbishop Justin Welby on Bishop George Bell
The last 30 years have shown the importance of taking allegations of abuse seriously, whether in the Church or any other institution. As a society we have awoken, albeit shamefully late, to the insidious nature of abusers and the profound damage caused by abuse of all types. We have learned of the way that such acts of profound evil and cruelty are committed in places of trust and vulnerability. Each time we have looked away, made excuses, or failed to act, we have sinned beyond measure – and the Church is on a journey of thoroughgoing repentance, not just through words, but in all the practical measures we have taken and are putting in place to protect the most vulnerable among us and bring abusers to justice.
This is why the posthumous allegations made against Bishop George Bell were taken seriously and investigated fully. I do not apologise for that, but as I have said before, we did not manage our response to the original allegation with the consistency, clarity or accountability that meets the high standards rightly demanded of us. I recognised the hurt that has been done as a consequence, and I have apologised unreservedly for the mistakes made in this process.
What I say today that is new and should have been said sooner is this: I do not consider there to be a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name.
Previously I refused to retract that statement and I was wrong to do so. I took that view because of the importance we rightly place on listening to those who come forward with allegations of abuse, and the duty of care we owe to them. But we also owe a duty of care to those who are accused. I apologise for the hurt that my refusal to retract that statement has caused to Bishop Bell’s surviving relatives, colleagues and longstanding supporters. They have all raised this issue, often powerfully, and I have recognised my error as a result of their advocacy.
Bishop Bell was and remains one of the most courageous, distinguished Anglican bishops of the past century, committed to the peace and hope of Jesus Christ in a time of conflict and war. The debt owed to him extends far beyond the Church that he served and is one that we share as a society. I am delighted that the statue to him that was planned will be erected on the west front of Canterbury Cathedral, where he served as Dean, as soon as the extensive repair and maintenance works are complete.
This does not detract from my commitment to and support for victims and survivors of abuse and especially the person abused in this case. All allegations must be taken seriously. We must remain a Church which strives for openness, transparency, care, and honesty in our dealings with sexual abuse. This includes, with paramount importance, instances where we have failed.
SAFEGUARDING SURVEY LAUNCHED TO FIND OUT HOW SAFE LGBT+ CHRISTIANS FEEL IN UK CHURCHES
An online survey is launched today on “World Mental Health Day”, to understand just how safe UK LGBT+ Christians feel in their churches, and what can be done to make them feel safer.
Open to all LGBT+ Christians in the UK who are aged over 18, the survey has been commissioned by a consortium of nine Christian LGBT+ organisations to measure how safe LGBT+ Christians feel, what steps have been taken by their local churches and what more can be done to help them feel safe.
The research is being launched on World Mental Health Day, which also coincides with the Church of England’s first “Safeguarding Sunday”.
Jayne Ozanne, who instigated the project, explained the reason for the survey:
“Many LGBT+ Christians feel increasingly vulnerable in their local churches given the increasingly toxic rhetoric around sexuality and gender identity. We thought it essential to measure in a safe and anonymous way just how safe people feel able to be about who they are, and what steps should be taken to make them feel safer”.
The questionnaire is being overseen by an independent consultant, Dr Sarah Carr, an LGBT+ mental health expert, who said:
“It is critical that LGBT+ people’s well being is prioritised in spaces which we know have and still can cause significant harm and trauma. By asking them directly about how they feel we can build a picture of what is happening in the UK today, and identify steps that they tell us will help improve things.”
The online research survey will run for two weeks and is open to all LGBT+ adults in the UK who associate themselves with the Christian faith, whether they go to church or not.
Luke Dowding, Executive Director of OneBodyOneFaith, explained why his organisation had chosen to get involved with the project:
“We know that many LGBT+ people have a deep faith, but some feel unable to attend church because they fear that they will not be welcomed or understood in their local places of worship. We would therefore like to understand if there are LGBT+ Christians who do not currently go to church for fear of their safety, with a desire to learn what if anything local churches might do to help address these concerns”.
The research results will be made public in mid-November.
The research uses the theme “Safe to be Me”, which is the announced theme of the UK government’s planned international LGBT+ conference in summer next year.
The research coincides with the roll out of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project, which encourages churches to discuss matters about sexuality and gender identity and has raised safeguarding concerns amongst LGBT+ Anglicans.
Local Methodist Churches around Great Britain are currently discussing whether to hold same-sex marriages in their buildings. and these conversations can raise similar issues.
The October issue of The Critic has this article by Jonathan Aitken describing the events at Christ Church Oxford: Low panic at high table
Four years after a handful of disaffected dons began their abortive plotting to oust Dean Martyn Percy, the college’s charitable foundation has so far spent at least £3 million of its funds on legal, PR and other dispute-related costs. It has also thrown away another estimated £3 million of lost donations because a number of wealthy past and present philanthropists, including Christ Church’s greatest benefactor Michael Moritz, are withholding any future gifts until the toxic Tom Quad antics have ended.
No such end is in sight. The latest bulletin to alumni has coyly skated over the news that the Employment Tribunal, one of the half dozen courts, tribunals, or regulatory bodies currently engaged with investigating or judging aspects of the college’s legal quicksand, will not even begin hearing its Christ Church cause célèbre until 2023.
During these shenanigans the college’s academic results have nosedived. Christ Church, which used to be one of the regular leaders of the all-important Norrington Table, has this year come almost bottom in 34th place out of 37.
Far from any self-examination for the teaching and lecturing disappointments that must be partly responsible for this debacle, the self-congratulatory dons on the governing body have just proposed a handsome increase in their salaries and allowances. Only one member, a non-academic, dared to oppose this largesse and walked out of the meeting after strenuous opposition…