Thinking Anglicans

CDM Code of Practice: further criticisms

We linked on 7 August to a critique of the April 2021 amendments to the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 Code of Practice written by Gavin Drake.
More recently, Rosie Dawson wrote about this for The Living Church: Church of England Code Silences Victims, Critics Say (some additional links added).

…”These were significant amendments ,” retired barrister and Synod member David Lamming told TLC. “It’s unfortunate that they were overlooked at Synod because they seem to me to go beyond what the measure authorises, which is that the guidance applies only to those who exercise functions within the CDM process.”

The timing of the amendments has led several commentators to conclude that they were drafted in direct response to concerns about the publicity surrounding a CDM complaint brought against the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Rev. Martyn Percy, in November last year. In May 2021 the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, effectively dismissed the case, ruling that it would be disproportionate to refer the matter to a tribunal.

The complaint against the dean came within the context of a long-running, very public and very acrimonious dispute between him and the college and cathedral chapter. Supporters on both sides have engaged in briefing a voracious media. A dedicated website keeps Dean Percy’s supporters abreast of every twist and turn in the saga.

“It is rarely a good idea to legislate from the circumstances of a single case as, appears to have been done here,” says Martin Sewell, a retired Child Protection lawyer and General Synod Candidate. While he believes the motivation behind the changes to the code of practice may have been well-intentioned, he says the effects run contrary to free speech and natural justice. “Much speculative gossip about the circumstances ensued about the nature of the case against Dean Percy. I don’t think it was wrong to have refuted such gossip in careful terms.”

The Church of England would not be drawn on the Percy affair in relation to the changes to the Code of Practice, but said that there had been number of recent cases in which details of complaints under the Clergy Discipline Measure had been made public, causing significant distress and upset for those concerned.

One priest who has fallen afoul of the new rules is the Rev. Robert Thompson, vicar of St. Mary and St James in West Hampstead, London, who announced on Twitter in April that he was subject to a CDM for online bullying. In the adjudication he later received, he was reprimanded for “weaponizing” social media and forbidden from disclosing any further details of the case, including the outcome.

“Robert got the result of his CDM and was told there was no case to answer,” says his friend and fellow priest, the Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, “but he was also told that he couldn’t share that news with anyone. And the instruction was couched in terms of a threat. It should really be up to Robert what he wants to share. He didn’t tweet anything that identified the complainant. The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken.”

In a statement the Church of England said the update to the code was “simply to underline the expectation of confidentiality in clergy discipline cases, while they are ongoing. It said the Clergy Discipline Commission would respond to Drake’s concerns in due course…

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

“The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken”

Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

The “system” may well be broken, but it has been operating within the Church for many centuries. An amended Code of Practice will change nothing until the centuries-old operating system is amended. That requires identifying those who run the system. Good luck with that.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

The Clergy Discipline Measure, which I assume is the system Andrew is alluding to, dates only to 2003.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

One of the prompts for setting up the present disciplinary system for clergy was the failure of the previous structure to provide a way of dealing with notorious cases such as the strife between the Dean and Chapter at Lincoln Cathedral in the early 1990s. This culminated with Dean Brandon Jackson’s trial by consistory court for ‘conduct unbecoming’ in 1995, after a verger claimed to have had an affair with him. The trial resulted in an acquittal and was followed by an Archbishop’s Inquiry into the Cathedral, arranged by George Carey. As a result of the Inquiry Archbishop Carey asked… Read more »

Colin Coward
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

I’m a friend of both Andrew Foreshew-Cain and Robert Thompson. They are both key allies in Changing Attitude England’s attempt to build on the Campaign for Equal Marriage’s determination to transform the Church of England, granting equality in marriage and relationships – and, for CAE, ministry, to LGBTIQ+ people. The Church of England puts all its energy into suppressing, or ignoring (well, perhaps that doesn’t need much energy), the strong desire of many to achieve justice and equality in the Church. After nearly 30 years of active, public campaigning, I am of the opinion that something has to be broken.… Read more »

Gilo
Gilo
Reply to  Colin Coward
28 days ago

Colin is right. There is a dearth of ‘feral theology’ in the Church at present. I don’t think the House of Bishops has a traditional theologian or doctor of the Church at all, nevermind an expression of exploratory or frontier theology. It’s too much a culture of management and maintenance. Where are the voices in this generation of the stature of Robinson, Taylor, Cupitt, Jenkins and others from a time when the Church was a laboratory of thought and transgressive ideas flowered in English theology alongside more conventional theology. Where is the wilderness voice; the call to a theology of… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Gilo
28 days ago

“….crushed by the weight of institutional cruelty and corruption”

This would suggest the ‘system’ [however that might be defined] is cruel and corrupt – and those who implement it are themselves made cruel and corrupted by it.

The nightmare is that it is now, already, a self-regulating ‘cloven hoof’ system – it runs itself – and no human agency can stop the cruelty and corruption.

Therefore, this would necessitate an intervention of Divine agency.

Tennyson said: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”.

So that is what we must do – pray – without ceasing.

Last edited 28 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
28 days ago

‘Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels; Send down upon our Bishops…the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of they blessing.’ Collect at BCP Morning Prayer

John Peet
John Peet
Reply to  Gilo
28 days ago

To redress the balance a little, there is at least one Bishop thinking on the lines you suggest. On a theology of beauty and imagination, what about Graham Usher’s Places of Enchantment? He is, I believe, Bishop of Norwich. John Robinson was, in my experience (he was my tutor) remarkably orthodox, and disagreed strongly with Don Cupitt

Last edited 28 days ago by John Peet
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  John Peet
28 days ago

How many Bishops question the institutional structures within the Church which have essentially remained unchanged for centuries?

John Peet
John Peet
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
27 days ago

Not enough! But it must be difficult, having (presumably) thrived and therefore been promoted within a system then to make radical changes to that system. Gorbachev is probably the most relevent counter example in accomplishing change within a system that nourished him, but it didn’t work out very well for him. I see change in the church largely being imposed by a combination of outside circumstances (secularization) and the catastrophic demographics within the church. To be fair on present day bishops, they haven’t been dealt an easy hand, even if we hope they could play that hand better. One of… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  John Peet
26 days ago

The ‘system’ – however beneficial to its recipients – is taking the Church of England (in its present form) to the very edge of irrelevance. Reason enough to change it.

Last edited 26 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

As Richard Pinch says:

“Unfortunately what we’re seeing here is the emergence of bureaucracy in its purest form: the notion that operational activities can be successfully managed purely by a process, with no human intervention at all”

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