Thinking Anglicans

Bleeding for Jesus

DLT has published a book, written by Andrew Graystone, about John Smyth: Bleeding for Jesus.

Religion Media Centre held a briefing this week, reported here by Rosie Dawson: Three moments of failure: sadistic barrister’s beatings could have been prevented, says author.

The churchwardens at St Andrew the Great, Cambridge have published A Letter to the Church Family from the Wardens, and Alasdair Paine has issued a 6 page Personal Statement. They complain that Andrew Graystone did not contact Alasdair Paine for permission to mention him.

The Church Times has published this news article: Welby should have done more to stop Smyth, says author. It includes the following:

A statement from the publishers of Bleeding for Jesus, Darton, Longman & Todd, appears unrepentant, saying of Mr Paine: “When eventually he reported the disclosure to his diocesan safeguarding adviser, he told her about only two instances of abuse — his own and Graham’s [the survivor (not his real name) who approached Mr Paine]. He did not tell her what he knew — that Smyth’s abuse had been far more widespread, and that he was still at large and potentially abusing.

“If Alasdair Paine had found the courage to speak earlier, John Smyth might well have faced justice. Victims in the UK might have had a chance to begin healing, and children and young people in Zimbabwe and South Africa might have been spared their abuse.”

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Christ Church Oxford: update on the Dean

In an electronic letter to former students and others, from the Development Office of the College, dated 27 August, the following information is included:

We also wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the status of the Dean. The current situation is a source of great pain and frustration to us all.  It will be even harder to comprehend for those of you looking on from afar, especially through the lens of public speculation and, at times, disinformation.

The Dean voluntarily withdrew from his duties last November, following an allegation made against him. An independent investigation into the allegation was commissioned; this allegation is now being addressed under the relevant House procedures. We are sure that you will understand that due confidentiality is essential in such a matter.

In addition, the Dean has made a number of employment tribunal claims against Christ Church, which the House is defending. Sadly, these will now not be heard in court until 2023. It had been anticipated that, through mediation, a much earlier resolution could be reached but unfortunately the current phase of mediation was halted by the independent mediator earlier in the summer, after several months of negotiation.

Christ Church remains committed to a full review of its governance structures in due course, but this cannot take place until the Employment Tribunal has concluded. We understand there may be frustration at the amount of time these various processes are taking, but they must be allowed to run their proper course. In the meantime, Governing Body is continually reviewing and updating our policies and procedures to support the smooth running of Christ Church.

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Fr Alan Griffin: Diocese of London responds to Coroner

Updated Tuesday evening

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

Submission to Coroner – Fr Alan Griffin

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

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

  1. Introduction

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

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

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

  1. Aims

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

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

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

  1. Other parties

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

  1. Immediate first steps

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

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

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

  1. Lessons Learned Review

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

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

The full Terms of Reference (subject to consultation) will be published on the Diocese of London website when consultations are complete (anticipated early September 2021).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Steering Group:

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

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Titus Trust publishes a timeline about John Smyth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Update on Smyth Review

Press release from the Church of England

Update on Smyth Review
29/07/2021

An update on timing for the Smyth Review from the National Safeguarding Team:

For the survivors and victims of the appalling abuse by Smyth it is vital this review is done thoroughly but we have also taken very seriously their concerns on timing. Due to the ongoing high volume of information coming into the reviewers, following the recent publication of an executive summary and statements relating to Smyth, it has been agreed that the deadline for submission of evidence will now be September 30. The reviewers will then compile data and timelines and set up any further meetings before writing up their report. This will be followed by a representation process once the report has been completed, publication is expected in 2022.

We apologise for the length of time this has taken, while some meetings were delayed by COVID the reviewers have also been dealing with an exceptionally high volume of information which has needed looking into; this has included harrowing testimonies from survivors and victims and we thank them for their courage and willingness to participate.

After the deadline of September 30 arrangements will be made by the reviewers to listen to any further survivors and victims, or those who have other information, who wish to come forward to share their experiences in a supported and confidential manner.

Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors.

Support continues to be offered; please contact Emily Denne at emily.denne@churchofengland.org

or call the independent Safe Spaces helpline, on 0300 303 1056, or email safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk

Anyone who would like to come forward and share information please do contact the independent reviewer Keith Makin keith.makin@independentreviews.live

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Paul Overend: CofE never had CDM jurisdiction

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

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

Update

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

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

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

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Coroner criticises Church of England for negligence in suicide case

Updated yet again 5 August and again on 12 August

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

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

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

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

Media reports:

BBC Church of England criticised over suicide of falsely accused priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Clerum from the Bishop of London: Fr Alan Griffin

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

——

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

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

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

(more…)

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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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Oxford diocese reports the CDM decision on the Dean

Updated Saturday

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

Decision by the President of Tribunals

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

Update

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

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

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Safeguarding process finally concluded for Lincoln Canon

Updated Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement from the Diocese of Lincoln

Statement from Lincoln Cathedral

Update

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

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

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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.”

235 Comments

Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

Updated Wednesday 26 May

From the Sheldon Hub

News 25th May 2021:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do read the whole text of the Sheldon announcement here.

Updates

The Church Times has two items:

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

Updated to incude survivors’ statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued the statement below this morning.

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

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

Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury
20/05/2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survivors’ statement

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

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

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

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Next Steps for LLF faces challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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Publication of detailed response to IICSA report

Press release from the Church of England

Publication of detailed response to IICSA report
29/03/2021

The Church of England has today published its detailed responses to the recommendations of the IICSA report from October. As the report stated, the Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. While the Church will continue to apologise, the main focus is now recognising the distress caused particularly to victims and survivors and acting to improve its safeguarding structures and to change its culture.

The recommendations made by the Inquiry have been accepted in full. Our response document focuses on response to victims and survivors including redress, structure and independence, information sharing, revision of the Clergy Discipline Measure and external audits.

To successfully deliver these recommendations an IICSA safeguarding programme has been set up, with a governance structure to ensure the work is closely monitored. The Archbishops’ Council, who led the response to IICSA on behalf of the institutional church, will be responsible for ensuring the work is completed (with updates to the House of Bishops and General Synod).

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Scripture Union review of John Smyth case

The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.

Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.

Scripture Union Statement

Executive Summary of  the Scripture Union John Smyth Independent Case Review

John Smyth Independent Case Review FAQs

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Review of Jonathan Fletcher case published

Updated again Wednesday morning

The independent review commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon from thirtyone:eight has been published.

The full report is available here (146 pages).

Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.

Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.

Updates

The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:

“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.

For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”

The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”

Media coverage:

Also:

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Latest developments in Christ Church Oxford saga

Updated 23 March and again 24 March

Two separate news reports have been published today:

Much of this article reports an online AGM meeting last Saturday of the Christ Church Association which represents 9,000 past and present members of the college, and which spent 50 minutes scrutinising Christ Church’s treatment of its head, Dean Martyn Percy, which was strongly defended by Canon Sarah Foot, who referred to the recently published report by Sir Wyn Williams.

It also reports on a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean, Edward Fitzgerald QC, a specialist in human rights law and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, and his colleague Paul Harris. They  conclude that it would be “unlawful and improper to convene a second tribunal”. They go on to say that if the complaints were proven,  “… it seems very doubtful whether those facts could be regarded by any reasonable tribunal as sufficient to merit the severe sanction of dismissal…The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”

This news report describes the safeguarding risk assessment measures taken by the College and Chapter, that were approved by Richard Woodley,the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who said:

“…because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.

Also, it was an error for the name of the consultant who conducted an investigation into the alleged incident, to have appeared on the risk assessment document.  Kate Wood said:

“I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral. My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .

“…I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”.

The Church Times also reports on the progress of the CDM action against the Dean: the Bishop of Birmingham, to whom the responsibility has been delegated by the Bishop of Oxford,  has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage, despite the Dean being unable to respond to the complaint due to illness.

Updates  (items published on 21 March)

Archbishop Cranmer If Martyn Percy kills himself, the Church of England will have blood on its hands

Surviving Church Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late

Oxford Diocese has published this (24 March): The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy which links to a letter from the Sub Dean. The same material is on the Christ Church website: Response from Christ Church Cathedral to public speculation.

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Christ Church Publishes Independent Review

press release from Christ Church Oxford website

Christ Church Publishes Independent Review
Link to independent report (pdf)

Christ Church has published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, reviewing the handling of a sexual harassment complaint made by a junior member of staff against a senior member. Last month, Governing Body commissioned the review to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it has followed, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes.

In his report, Sir Wyn states the complainant “described events which, objectively, could amount to sexual harassment,” that “there was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way that information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint,” and then that “a decision to the effect that the evidence was not sufficient would have been unreasonable.” He confirms “the processes followed were entirely consistent with the Statute and By-Laws” and concludes “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”

Sir Wyn Williams was asked in his terms of reference to examine whether Governing Body members saw sufficient information about the allegation of sexual harassment to make properly informed decisions. He ruled that “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision.” Sir Wyn also looked for evidence of conflicts of interest in the decision-making process, and found that trustees acted “reasonably and objectively.”

The full report has been provided to the Charity Commission. Sir Wyn concludes his report stating that “there is no basis upon which the Charity Commission should be concerned about either (a) the decision to appoint a tribunal to hear and determine the complaint made against the Dean or (b) the process by which that decision was reached.”

Christ Church has previously expressed its condemnation of attempts by some through the media, social media, and a number of blogs, to undermine its disciplinary processes and in particular to intimidate the complainant. It is now hoped that these individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment, for the sakes of both the complainant and the respondent.

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Proposals on NST independent oversight published

See previous report from 15 December.

CofE press release today:

The Archbishops’ Council has approved the next steps in independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team (NST), with the first phase to be implemented by the summer. The paper by Revd Dr Malcolm Brown on the proposed interim arrangements is to be presented to General Synod members on Saturday. The proposals for this new structure were presented to an informal meeting of the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council this week, with Council members then approving the paper. During the meeting members noted the importance of being able to review the structure after a set period and further detail needed on Phase 2 once the Board was in place. Dr Brown noted his thanks to MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) and members of the Survivors’ Reference Group who acted as consultants. Together, they formed a Focus Group and considered an early draft of the proposals and their report offered numerous comments and suggestions, with as many as possible incorporated into this paper.
The Archbishops’ Council originally voted on independent oversight in December.

The paper containing the proposals as issued to General Synod is a page longer than the version linked above.
Here is a link to the copy that includes the cover page (total page count 20).

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