Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church makes safeguarding accusations against Dean

Updated again Friday

Update: the Church Times has a news article today, Dean Percy faces further challenges at Christ Church, Oxford. This omits reference to the letter to the Charity Commission copied below. Concerning the National Safeguarding Team aspect of this story, it says this:

…In 2018, the Dean cited past safeguarding concerns reported to him as evidence that the college’s procedures were inadequate. Earlier this year, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team set up a core group to examine the Dean’s handling of those concerns.

The latest issue of Private Eye reports that two members of that core group are complainants from the college, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson. A C of E spokesperson said on Wednesday: “As at any core group, safeguarding leads from relevant bodies or institutions were invited to share information to work out a way forward; in this case from the Cathedral, the College, the Cathedral school, and the diocese.”

The Dean is not formally represented on the core group, though he has been sent its terms of reference.

The spokesperson emphasised: “The core group has never asked the Dean to stand down — he was asked to abide by certain conditions.”

Archbishop Cranmer has a comprehensive report on the latest horrific developments at Christ Church, Oxford here:

The harrowing of Martyn Percy (part ii): Church of England colludes in bullying

The article above links to many of the sources quoted, particularly those likely to be behind a paywall of some kind. Nevertheless here for completeness are some more:

Private Eye  Christ Church at war

Telegraph Oxford Dean row reignites as trustees calling for his removal say he has ‘lack of moral compass’

Daily Mail High noon at high table: Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, refuses to resign in bitter dispute over claims he was a ‘little Hitler’ who complained about his £90,000 salary

Two letters in the Telegraph (scroll down to “Row over Oxford dean”) from Brian Martin and Jimmy James

Another letter in The Times which you can read here.

Update 

A letter to Baroness Stowell, Chair of the Charity Commission, signed by 60 persons, has been released. See the PDF copy for the list of signatories (full disclosure: I am one). The text of the letter is copied below.

Dear Lady Stowell

You recently received a letter from some individual trustees of Christ Church Oxford making a series of allegations against their Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy.

We wish to express our confidence in Martyn Percy. We know him in our various capacities, as a man of consistently good character, an exceptional scholar, a respected public servant, and an outstanding Christian leader.

We do not speculate on the reasons why some members of the Governing Body of Christ Church wish to go to such extreme lengths to destroy the reputation of their Dean and to break his spirit. But we do know that :

  • The recent letter is the latest episode in a sustained campaign against the Dean led by senior members of the college Governing Body since his appointment.
  • The specific allegations against Martyn Percy have changed over time, but each allegation has been disproved. In August of last year Dean Percy was wholly exonerated after an extensive investigation by Sir Andrew Smith, a retired High Court judge.
  • The signatories of the letter are far from objective. Several of them were revealed by Sir Andrew to have employed devious methods and offensive language in their efforts to break his resolve, and some will be parties to an Employment Tribunal tobe heard next year.
  • The grievances in the letter are a set of untested and gratuitous assertions for which no evidence is provided.
  • The insinuation that Dean Percy personally represents a safeguarding risk is abhorrent and wholly unjustified.
  • The suggestion that he “lacks a moral compass” is so far from the truth as to be laughable, were it not so insulting.

We believe that Martyn Percy is a victim of gross injustice and malice. We wish to see this damaging business resolved justly, and with the minimum delay, so that he can continue to exercise his gifts in leading Christ Church.

Respectfully yours,

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Father Ron Smith
5 months ago

This latest action by the Christ Church Board of Governors is reprehensible. It is also not in the best interests of the Oxford University community as a whole. To accuse Dean Martyn Percy of a defective ‘ moral compass’ might be considered to be a reflection of their own understanding of what morality is all about. I pray this calumny will quickly be recognized for what it is: a vicious and unfounded attack on the Church of England and its integrity.

Father David
5 months ago

Head of a College and Dean of a cathedral. Perhaps when Dean Percy reaches the compulsory retirement age of 70 – it may offer an opportunity to review the onerous twin responsibilities and go for two people instead of one person doing the two jobs. Mind we’ve heard a great deal lately of – one rule for them and another rule for us. I note that the deans of Canterbury and St. George’s Chapel Windsor have long since passed 70 years of age and are both still in post – no doubt with the confident backing of Cantuar and H… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
5 months ago

Utterly preposterous. It is time for the Bishop of Oxford and the University Vice Chancellor to start banging heads together and conclude the matter.

Percy’s position is untenable if 2/3 of the dons want him out so it is time for a generous payoff including full reimbursement of all his legal costs to date.

And the roles of head of the college and dean of the cathedral should be separated before any further appointments are made.

Froghole
Froghole
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

I have to agree with this. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this matter, any head of house has to be a focus of unity if college government is to be effective; for all his merits, Dr Percy is not and cannot be. As you mention the obvious solution is to cover his costs and for everyone to move on. I suspect that is his objective in appealing to the ET, but he might also want an additional cushion because of anxieties about his future employment prospects. His opponents know very well that he has been a de facto… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

Everything one reads about Oxford conveys an impression that the academics reign supreme, and that the ecclesiastical Deanery comes very much second. In all this, aren’t the laity and parish clergy of the Diocese overlooked, if not actually ignored? In other ‘conventional’ dioceses the Dean, a Crown appointment, is treated as the next senior priest in the diocese after the diocesan bishop, and he or she has responsibilities in charge of a host of diocesan events, notably, ordinations, special liturgies, e.g., especially those during Holy Week which are important to clergy and laity alike, and the daily Offices. In fact… Read more »

David Exham
David Exham
5 months ago

Not all Cathedral Deanships are Crown Appointments. In parish church cathedrals (if that term is still used) the Dean is appointed by the Bishop, though the appointment procedure is very similar. As far as the Diocesan functions of the Christ Church Dean and Cathedral are concerned, the Dean sits on the Bishop’s Council, and Cathedral certainly hosts its fair share of the services and events mentioned, though some are moved round the diocese to, for example, Dorchester Abbey. I don’t know what is meant by “we rarely hear anything about the laity in this enormous diocese”. Who are the ‘we’?… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

I’m pleased to learn that things are better than I had thought. It’s pretty unusual not to be able to enter a cathedral by a main door, and I would not expect that privilege to be restricted to members of the diocese, with or without an annual pass. One accepts that there are great occasions when entry. by ticket for special services is necessary. Separation of the two roles is an interesting idea, and I have dealt with it in detail in two posts below (and on earlier TA threads) with extracts from the Christ Church Statutes. There would, unless… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

I believe that the new Archbishop of York will be considering diocesan mergers. The best way out of the mess (which is wider than the conflict between the Students and present Dean) from the perspective of the Church of England might be to abolish Oxford as a diocese.

David Exham
David Exham
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I speak as a member of the Oxford diocese. What on Earth good would come from abolishing it?

Father David
5 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

Or – for as long as I can remember there has been talk but no action with regard to separating the Oxford diocese into its three constituent counties – Oxon, Berks and Bucks – thus creating a trinity of smaller dioceses. It’s not that long ago that Bucks was added to Oxford. it being incorporated from the diocese of Lincoln. Alternatively, I suppose that Bucks could always return to Lincoln thus recreating a larger diocese which stretched once again from the Humber to the Thames. However, for that the happen there would have to be an un-suspended Bishop of Lincoln… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

I am not sure that either the Bishop of Oxford or the Vice Chancellor has any jurisdiction. The Dean is a Crown Appointment, and the Crown, i.e., Her Majesty, is the Visitor of “the House” meaning the College and, less clearly, of the Cathedral also, I believe. The Bishop does not appear to have exercised any episcopal authority in relation to the deanery during these disputes, tending to support the fact that, while retaining some other episcopal powers defined in the Statutes, he is not the Visitor. It’s a very complicated set-up.

american piskie
american piskie
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Are the roles not effectively separated already? Isn’t the Sub-Dean appointed to look after the cathedral?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago

This is beyond shocking…”Christ Church At War” – Private Eye “But the word “safeguarding” sends the Church of England’s leadership into a spin, as his detractors presumably knew. The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks. “Yet Percy is not accused of breaching any C of E safeguarding protocols. Nor does he even work for the Church of England: he is employed directly by Christ Church, Oxford. Only a… Read more »

Richard Scorer
Richard Scorer
5 months ago

Some really important points in the Private Eye piece. As a lawyer for victims and survivors in IICSA I have said repeatedly that unless safeguarding complaints are dealt with by an independent body external to the church the suspicion will always arise that safeguarding is being used as a vehicle to settle theological and political scores. The understandable concern expressed here is that Church House has it in for Martyn Percy because of his campaigning over Bell. Victims and survivors of abuse similarly mistrust church processes and core groups. Nobody, whether abuse complainant or those accused of abuse or safeguarding… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Scorer

“The understandable concern expressed here is that Church House has it in for Martyn Percy because of his campaigning over Bell” – Richard Scorer.

For example:

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/december-20-2017-why-the-churchs-response-to-the-george-bell-inquiry-is-so-shocking-the-very-revd-professor-martyn-percy-dean-of-christ-church-oxford/

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Scorer

“The understandable concern expressed here is that Church House has it in for Martyn Percy because of his campaigning over Bell”

What is less understandable, but equally of deepest concern, is why Church House still has it in for Bishop George Bell. They had no such problem with Bishop Peter Ball at the time.

James Allport
James Allport
5 months ago

For someone who went up to Christ Church (from a state comprehensive in north Wales, contrary to the Brideshead stereotype) and who “caught” Anglicanism by attending evensong in the cathedral, this is all sad and dangerous, as well as shockingly unfair to the Dean. It was said that a governance review was underway. It is sorely needed. But I’d be cautious about too quickly moving to prise apart the college and cathedral. The genius of the place is in the constructive entanglement of the two. The CofE needs more, better academic (especially theological) input not less. and I’m far from… Read more »

ACI
ACI
5 months ago

Why so few Oxford faculty (any?) presently in post? Of the sixty signatories most are outwith Oxford, or Oxford emeritus.

John
John
5 months ago
Reply to  ACI

“Oxford” faculty not really a part of this. Christ Church “faculty” are. One canon has broken ranks and written a public letter saying so; a mutual acquaintance tells me he is a man of integrity and a strong moral compass. But almost all the rest of the ChCh “faculty” are on the side this letter criticizes, so it would be foolish to expect them to sign the letter. I do note that at least some members of the governing body have dissented from its as well, but without knowing who they are, it is hard to speculate why they have… Read more »

ACI
ACI
5 months ago
Reply to  John

You have answered my question, thank you. Sounds like no (ChCh) Oxford faculty signed the letter.

John Wallace
John Wallace
5 months ago
Reply to  ACI

Is there any way in which other of us who value Martyn’s ministry and theological understanding can add our names?

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

Christ Church needs a Visitation.

Jayne Ozanne
Jayne Ozanne
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

It is Pentecost after all…

On a more serious note as a signature to the above letter myself to Lady Stowell I hope it is made public for others to sign

Jenny Humphreys
Jenny Humphreys
5 months ago
Reply to  Jayne Ozanne

Yes, I would happily sign it too if it was made public. I’m a member of General Synod, a Cathedral Canon, and a Reader.

David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago

If the 41 dons who have written to the Chair of the Charity Commission (calling for the removal of Martyn Percy from the Board of Trustees) had any integrity, they would ensure that the 110-page report by Sir Andrew Smith and its appendices was published in full and without any redactions.

David Emmott
David Emmott
5 months ago

Christ Church is a tiny cathedral for an enormous diocese. Wouldn’t the best solution be to find another church to fulfil that function and let the former cathedral revert to being simply a college chapel?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago
Reply to  David Emmott

Oxford’s Brian Martin offers another solution in his Daily Telegraph letter [May 25 2020]:

“There must be a separation of Church and Academy. The Dean should occupy his office like any other cathedral dean, with a salary appropriate to his position. The College should appoint a head of house [under whatever title is agreeable], remunerated like similar college principals. This rearrangement would cause an immediate cessation in hostilities, and both the present Dean and the College would be saved vast legal expenses”

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago

I had not seen this before posting my longer piece (which was in response to the suggestion of the Cathedral moving out). It seems sensible and pragmatic as long as all the parties concerned were prepared to go along with it. It would involve some additional or re-arranged accommodation – and an additional stipend! Just an added-on grumble about the laity of the Oxford Diocese (and others) having easier access than at present to the Cathedral. Unless things have changed, the last time I was there I was told by a College porter that I could only visit the Cathedral… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  David Emmott

This has been mooted on earlier TA threads. As has been so often said, Christ Church is an incredibly complex place. Just as a starting point, by the Statutes the following are reserved to the Dean and Chapter (i.e., of the Cathedral) and are excluded from the powers of the College Governing Body: “(i) the Cathedral Church and its fabric and appurtenances, including the Chapter House; and (ii) the Cathedral Chaplains, Organist, Lay Clerks, and Choristers, and other officers of the Cathedral Church; and (iii) the residentiary houses at the date of these Statutes assigned for occupation by the Dean… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago
Reply to  David Emmott

However it is achieved, having a diocesan cathedral outside the full control of the Church of England would be better fixed.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Sorry, I simply don’t understand this.

Father David
5 months ago
Reply to  David Emmott

Dorchester Abbey perhaps?

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago
Reply to  Father David

Surely a better idea is to leave the cathedral where it is and move the college.
 

Last edited 5 months ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Guy A Wilkinson
Guy A Wilkinson
5 months ago

Let’s not get sidetracked into the complex structural questions of governance which must be for another day. The main thing at present is to support @martynpercy against these quite extraordinary and reprehensible personalised attacks on him.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago

The letter to the Charity Commission has been sent. That is not affected by anything said here. It’s helpful for people to have solid facts to work from, such as what the Statutes do or do not say rather than guesswork. The structures of Christ Church are very relevant and these discussions have stemmed from people’s concerns about them. Of course we have no part to play in changing the structures.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago

How is it possible the Church Times can makes such a glaring omission which compromises its professional (and moral) integrity?

“Omissions can often be understood best…by understanding them in…terms…that they serve to mobiliize support for the special interests that dominate”

[Preface to ‘Manufacturing Consent‘ by Herman and Chomsky – Pantheon 1988]

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago

The letter was distributed – presumably also to the Church Times – sometime on Wednesday May 27 2020

https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Open-letter-1.pdf

The Church Times deadline is late Wednesday afternoon.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago

Editorial decisions are not the primary concern here, and we should not be distracted by such things. The primary concern is for how the Church has treated – and continue to treat – those who are victims of abuse, and those who are falsely, or wrongly, accused of abuse. The abuse of power by the Church, and its breathtaking scale of cover-up, have been near-criminal – and in some cases criminal. The Charity Commission letter states: “We do not speculate on the reasons why some members of the Governing Body of Christ Church wish to go to such extreme lengths… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago

In this case, and others, I am increasing in the conviction we are getting caught up in an Establishment war. 
 
As we know, the Establishment is made up of a nexus of different power systems. These systems are well-coordinated and knitted together in collusion and cooperation, but sometimes there is a ‘falling-out’..
 
This, I’m almost certain, has happened in both the Dean Martyn Percy case and the Bishop George Bell case. There is a high-level rift between two opposing factions – and it is now being played out in public in open warfare.
 

Neil J
Neil J
5 months ago

Not important in the grand scheme of things I realise, but the latest Church Times article is headed with the wrong picture and wrong caption: the photo is of All Souls, New College and others looking north from central Oxford, not CC and, the caption is titled Christ Church College. Though it is a college, the word is not in its name! Lazy journalism. Agree with other comments that the Governing Body don’t come out of this looking good.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Neil J

Accuracy is important. This seems a rare slip-up by CT which has a far better record for fair and accurate reporting of church matters (to be expected, really) in contrast to others – particularly in relation to Bishop Bell, the CDM against the Bishop of Chester (some reporters actually attributing to him the actions of a predecessor) and, by no means least, these Christ Church, Oxford sagas.

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