Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford seeks to remove dean on medical grounds

Updated Thursday

Gabriella Swerling reports in today’s Telegraph: Oxford college dean accused of being ‘mad and unfit to govern’

The Dean of an Oxford college will face a medical assessment after he was accused of being “mad and unfit to govern” in the latest attempt by dons to oust him, his supporters claim.

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over Christ Church college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a four-year row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure…

…the college has alerted the dean to a “notice of motion” ahead of a crunch meeting on Friday to determine whether he is mentally fit to govern.

The Telegraph has seen a copy of the summons which states that the college’s governing body will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.

A statute in the Christ Church governance states that figures can be removed on grounds of mental incapacitation. However, the dean’s supporters claim that this loophole is being “exploited” in a bid to remove him.

The mental incapacitation clause was added in a redraft of the college’s statute in 2011, but a bylaw dating from August 2021 enabled other members of the governing body – not just the dean – to initiate action on medical grounds…

Archbishop Cranmer comments: Martyn Percy is ‘mad and unfit to govern’ Christ Church, Oxford, including this:

…According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.

As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.

Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process…

Private Eye, Issue 1562 has this: Clique Bait. Some extracts:

…The sums already spent in the war against Percy are huge: estimates range from £2m to £5m in fees for PR firms and lawyers. The Eye can reveal that one of the college’s solicitors, Herbert Smith Freehills, has just dropped out, explaining that “it is no longer proportionate in terms of legal fees for Christ Church to continue to instruct HSF on this matter”.

Too late. This wild spending has brought down the wrath of the Charity Commission. Helen Earner, its director of regulatory services, wants to know what charitable purpose is served by the campaign against the dean. She asks exactly how much has been spent, how budgets were revised as costs spiralled, and by whom. She also demands to see the legal advice received about prospects of success in the various tribunals. She finishes with a reminder that it is a criminal offence for anyone knowingly to provide false or misleading information to the commission: “This includes suppressing, concealing, or destroying documents.”

If the college’s answers are unsatisfactory, the commission could make individual trustees personally responsible for the sums the college has spent. Or it could make the trustees, which is to say all 65 fellows, collectively responsible. Though Christ Church itself is wealthy, with an endowment of more than £500m, many of the individual dons are not…

and this:

…Meanwhile, the savage pettiness within Christ Church grinds on. The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint brought by members of the congregation over rumours he allegedly repeated. The governing body, while refusing to contribute to the dean’s legal costs, has asked the Charity Commission for permission to fund an action for defamation by one of its own members against another, who is a supporter of the dean. It appears the case is to be brought by the man who himself called Percy “a manipulative little turd” and “the little Hitler” in emails which the governing body has tried to suppress.

Now that the governing body has had to change lawyers, the hair-touching tribunal against the dean may be delayed until 2023. He remains suspended. Mediation has broken down again. Unless both sides can reach an agreement, the whole system by which Oxford colleges are governed may change as a result of a dispute over whether a clergyman once touched a verger’s hair.

Update

Andrew Billen has a report in The Times: Oxford college turns to medical team in row over dean’s future. Some brief extracts:

…Deborah Loudon, a former head of human resources at the Home Office who is supporting Percy, said yesterday: “No one who knows Martyn would describe him as mentally ill. He has suffered from the stress of the campaign against him which has resulted in anxiety and depression but he has received excellent treatment and is much better and ready for a phased return to work.”

….Christ Church dons, who make up the governing body, have previously made unproven assertions about his mental health. A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made…

…Christ Church was unable to comment on a “sensitive HR matter”.

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Toby Forward
Toby Forward
6 months ago

Causing a man mental anguish and distress by continually bringing false charges against him which are repeatedly dismissed, and then bringing more charges and refusing him costs for the massive legal fees he’s incurred, even though your charges have been judged to be without foundation, and then saying that he’s medically unfit is right up there with murdering your parents and then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you’re an orphan. I think that Dean Percy has shown immense strength of character and mental stability in the face of vicious attacks. When will this governing body be… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

I observe that the Christ Church website lists 62 members of its governing body. I wonder how many of them are responsible for this long-running saga. I recall reading some time ago that many members of that body had stopped attending meetings as things had become so unpleasant. I can understand why that may be the case, but I can’t help thinking that this whole mess could have been stopped a long time ago if enough members of the governing body had turned up and said ‘enough is enough’ and refused to support further action. Surely, when things get this… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

It is typically the case that a student with a capacity for administration will be encouraged to become junior censor in his/her early 40s. S/he will then serve a 4 year term and will usually then proceed to become senior censor. So there will usually be about 15 or so past and present censors on the governing body (assuming that they continue until retirement at 67). The two censors and the dean constitute a triumvirate, and who is to be Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus will depend upon the personalities. To use the analogy of the Venetian Republic, the governing… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Froghole
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

I should add that this is the classic primer for a don on the make: https://ia600708.us.archive.org/0/items/MICROCOSMOGRAPHIA-ACADEMICA/MICROCOSMOGRAPHIA-ACADEMICA.pdf (1908), by the great Cambridge classicist, F. M. Cornford. It should remain required reading for anyone wanting to navigate the treacherous waters of academic politics.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

Slightly puzzled by the reference to the (very recent) August 2021 bylaw allowing others to bring a complaint as the Christ Church Statutes themselves, last revised in 2015, already contain that provision in Part 7 of Statute XXXIX. But it’s not at all clear from the above summary, or other details so far made public, what stage the matter is at and whether the preliminary requirements of Part 4 of Statute XXXIX have been met. They are too long to set out here, but can be read at pages 47- 48 of the Statutes. In this context ‘member’ means the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

I am reminded of the words of John Milton in 1642

“Those who have put out the peoples eyes reproach them of their blindnesse”

Father Ron Smith
6 months ago

I, too, think that the continuing saga of the persecution of Dean Percy by the Dons of Christchurch, Oxford, is a disgrace for both the University and the Church of England. This scandal should have been nipped in the bud very early on by the Church of England, whose House of Bishops could have intervened – long before the Charitable Insitution was called in to consider the legal implications of the awful extravagance of the Governing Body’s expenditure on legal matters that have little or no basis in evidential truth. There is also the matter of Dean Percy’s own expenses… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Father Ron Smith
Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
6 months ago

The CofE could have publicly declared what they do say in private that there is currently no reason why the Dean should not resume his public ministry when medically fit to do so. They absolutely refuse. Had they done so it would have been effectively impossible to establish that a cleric in good standing with the Established Church was guilty of “scandalous immoral and disgraceful” behaviour. They could have killed the nonsense dead in its tracks but such is the moral bankruptcy of the senior leadership that they refused to do so. So the Dean remains suspended for behaviour that… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Martin Sewell
6 months ago

Actually it is the same behaviour in both cases – heads beneath the parapet.

Charles Read
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
6 months ago

The diocese has no control over the situation – CC is very peculiar, if you get my drift.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Charles Read
6 months ago

One issue is that the Christ Church authorities have sought to inhibit both parts of the Dean’s role – both as Dean and as Head of House. So if I were to invite Dean Martyn to preach or preside in Thatcham (which is in the Diocese of Oxford) the National Register of Clergy says that there is no problem with issuing the invitation. However the Christ Church authorities would, I think, suggest that accepting the invitation would put the Dean in breach of what might in the circumstances appropriately be called his bail conditions. It would be a significant public… Read more »

Tony Bellows
Tony Bellows
6 months ago

It is surely those trying to oust Martyn Percy who are “mad and unfit to govern”. Their continual vendetta, surely now scraping the bottom of the barrel, do not appear to me to be the rational actions of sane people.When all this kicked off, I’d never heard of Martyn Percy. Since then, I’ve read his various writings, and I think most people would be hard put to detect any mental instability in them. I almost expect to see some ancient Medieval statute brought out next, dusted off, and used against him; something that last saw the light of day during… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
6 months ago

I wonder if anyone will ever commission a review of what has happened in this case? Who would do such a thing? [The Visitor – the Queen – might just do it, or the Charity Commission]. I have a feeling that it would read worse than the Monmouth review (referenced on another recent thread). Given the use of assets and income intended for public benefit, a public account ought to be necessary. I wonder also whether there is a case for an injunction (or other action) to bring what looks very like outrageous behaviour to at least a temporary halt… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Mark Bennet
6 months ago

The Charity Commission is already seized of the matter.

As mentioned above, it’s unclear exactly where this latest development sits within a strict interpretation of the Christ Church Statutes (a minor correction to my previous post: read Parts IV and VII in place of 4 and 7). One can only hope that Martyn Percy is being supported with the best possible legal advice.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

I am well aware that the Charity Commission is involved, the question is whether they, or some other person or body will take any immediate decisive action in the light of this latest development.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Mark Bennet
6 months ago

Thank you. I don’t think petulant responses are called for. What I have not yet seen anywhere is an analysis of the current action and whether it conforms to Statute XXXIX. I concede that we don’t know all of the facts, hence my hope that the Dean is being legally supported.

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

Rowland, I think your characterisation of Mark Bennet’s comment as ‘petulant’ is uncalled for and deserves an apology. If you read Mark’s original comment carefully, you will see it acknowledged that the Charity Commission was already involved, when he wrote: “…the Governing Body might be seen as potentially subverting their [i.e. the Commission’s] proper interest in ensuring the proper governance of the charity.”

I can assure you that the Dean is being supported both legally and by his many friends. For those who, as you concede, “don’t know all the facts”, comments are not necessarily helpful.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

And how is he to pay for the best possible legal advice? Part of the Governing Body’s strategy seems to be to bankrupt him through prolonged and tortuous legal processes, in which he has to pay for his own lawyers.

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago

I have nothing new to add to this, except to register my utter revulsion at the behaviour of the dons of Chrust Church. This is a scandalous affair that has gone on far too long. I hold the bishop of the diocese partly responsible – I can see no effort having been made by him to support his senior priest, indeed the diocese’s countenancing of the CDM only made things much worse. Since that was cleared away why is Croft not swinging into action.

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago

Because he is utterly complicit in the abuse: more anon.

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago

I so agree with Fr Jeremy. How this persecution of Martyn has been allowed to continue is abhorrent. Surely there are more than 32 (50%+1) of the governing body who need to stand up to the nasty coterie. To me it seems that privilege and a subservient regard to ‘tradition’ could be at the root of this. Perhaps the governing body needs to read some of his books / articles – but perhaps that’s where the problem lies. Scripture tells us that prophets are not honoured and were even stoned because of the unacceptable nature of their message. Martyn is… Read more »

Charles Read
Reply to  Jeremy Pemberton
6 months ago

As above, the diocese has no control over the situation. Whether you think the bishop ought to have made a public statement or two is another matter. And maybe there are powerful CC lawyers sitting on the bishop – who knows?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Charles Read
6 months ago

The diocese and bishop have consistently undermined Martyn both in their public statements and by their silence. They should make it clear that he is in good standing and free to exercise his ministry as soon as he is well enough to do so. They bear a very heavy responsibility for not having done so.

David Lamming
David Lamming
6 months ago

Note that the report in the print edition of The Times (16 December 2021,page 25) omits these paragraphs from Andrew Billen’s online report: “…A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made. Lindsay Judson, the head of the… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  David Lamming
6 months ago

It will be virtually impossible to resolve this quagmire without root-and-branch reform of the college’s constitution, for that is where the crime scene is located – not with the respective parties, who have behaved like any of us would probably have done under similar circumstances. How on earth is the chairman of an employment tribunal, for example, expected to decide who is ultimately right, if the claimant reports to two boards of directors – the college’s governing body and the cathedral chapter – only one of which is the respondent? As an example of how leaders caught up in the… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by αnδrεw
Susannah Clark
Reply to  αnδrεw
6 months ago

But Martyn stepping down is exactly what the Governing Body has been trying to force all along, isn’t it? So they win. My view is they have been bullying Martyn Percy, with repeated attempts to force a vendetta through to the very conclusion you seem to be proposing. As for:

“…the respective parties, who have behaved like any of us would probably have done under similar circumstances…”

Absolutely not.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

The employer always wins. At the end of the day, no judge can force it to keep a member of staff on the payroll against its will. Decisions about hiring or firing staff are made on the basis of expediency, not high principle. That doesn’t of course justify arbitrary or unfair actions, and the employment tribunal service is there to provide redress for workers whose bosses err. Nevertheless, a board of directors ultimately has the right to determine strategic direction, and to appoint senior executives fully in alignment with corporate objectives. That right ought to have been expedited from the… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by αnδrεw
Susannah Clark
Reply to  αnδrεw
6 months ago

If you set things in a corporate context, in most ‘companies’ (including not-for-profits) the ‘directors’ can be removed by a shareholder vote. At present, Christ Church operates as a charity. That charitable status may need to be called into question. Another line of resolution would be to ‘dislocate’ Christ Church entirely from Oxford University and cut it adrift, if its conduct and values are viewed to be antithetical to the values of the University, and destructive to the University in reputational terms. There comes a point when Christ Church, under alleged malignant governance, becomes a pariah – at which point… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  αnδrεw
6 months ago

Ultimately, there will, surely, have to be a parting of the ways. Even if Percy is cleared, again, of wrongdoing, I cannot see how he could resume his duties as Dean after all this. The question then becomes that of the terms on which that parting happens. An acknowledgement that Percy is not guilty of scandalous or immoral conduct and the reimbursement of his legal fees could, I would have thought, be a basis for him to agree to step down. However, I am not in a position to know whether there is enough sense on the part of any… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

“a negotiated settlement” in which the ‘bullies’ (as I perceive the Governing Body) get their way. All they really want is to get rid of Martyn Percy. To that end (in my view) they have behaved abominably. My view is that they have ‘negotiated’ through bullying. And they have calculated that if they wage a war of attrition on and on long enough, people will tire, and give in. None of that is negotiated settlement. It is (in my view) vindictive pursuit and hunting down of an innocent person. There need to be penalties for that kind of behaviour (again,… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

I think you are missing a key point here: that, in the event of his being completely vindicated, there is no way Percy could pick up the reins and carry on where he left off. The earth has been scorched by years of trench warfare, and I cannot imagine what working relationships within Christ Church must be like. The situation is now one in which it is hard to see a happy ending for anyone: a negotiated settlement which sees his name cleared and his costs reimbursed must be the best Percy can hope for. Equally, the malcontents may find… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

Spot on, Dexter!

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
6 months ago

It ought to have been the Governing Body’s prerogative to remove the Dean from the outset, if he did not retain their full confidence. This is the reality of most in positions of authority, whether in politics or business. But the Church seems to regard itself as above the ordinary affairs of the world of secular employment! It took an employment tribunal to establish that there was indeed a contract of employment. No wonder the public look on with increasing bafflement at this torrid affair.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  αnδrεw
6 months ago

“…rhe Church seems to regard itself above the ordinary affairs of the world of secular employment…”

Clearly, not just the Church.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
6 months ago

You should read the Christ Church Statutes (a link is provided to them in my first comment above). These are matters governed by law, not whim, and your comment seems to overlook that the Dean is also Dean of the Cathedral. The Governing Body does not have a sole prerogative in the matter of dismissal and, indeed, the procedure cannot go ahead without the consent of the Chapter. I have provided references, but the starting point is Statute XXXIX Part VII – Removal of the Dean from Office: pages 52 and 53 for quick reference.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

It may be the law, but it is still palpable nonsense.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

Fr Thomas Mansella
Fr Thomas Mansella
6 months ago

Pardon the ignorance, but, would it not be a case for the Supreme Governor to order a Visitation and bring about the decency and order so sorely needed?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Fr Thomas Mansella
6 months ago

Why? All it would do is add to the burden and cost for all parties, providing information to the Visitor. I see no reason to believe that a Visitation at this point would offer more than the Charity Commission. I think those advising Her Majesty are likely to come to the same conclusion.

On the other hand, once the disputes have been settled, a Visitation might be useful in making recommendations for future structures and statutes.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
6 months ago

Might the position of the Chair of the Governing Body ever come into question? IIRC the Revd Canon Professor Foot was only ordained relatively recently- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Foot both deaconed and priested in 2017. I believe Steven Croft has been Bishop of Oxford since 2016. Martyn Percy became Dean of Christ Church in 2014, having been previously Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon Might she be compromised and/or have an interest to declare and be expected to be a recusant on this? I find myself wondering about where and by whom the learned professor was ordained and those who may have had a… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  God 'elp us all
6 months ago

According to Crockford, Prof Foot was ordained in Oxford so presumably at Christ Church Cathedral. She seems to have commenced her training on the Oxford Ministry Course, been deaconed and priested, all in the same year (2017). Then, after only two years as an NSM at the cathedral, she was made a Residentiary Canon in 2019 – after the persecution of the Dean had begun.

This is certainly an ‘interesting’ pattern, and argues a certain cosiness with the diocesan.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

Prof. Foot was entitled to be ordained to the title of her chair. She has actually been a residentiary canon since 2007. The regius professorship of ecclesiastical history was laicised in 1995, and attached to a residentiary stall in the cathedral so that the relationship between the chair and the stall should not be severed, as was the case with the regius professorship of Hebrew in 1959. This was a neat compromise, and ante-dated the introduction of ‘lay canons’ by dint of the Cathedrals Measure 1999. So she has been ‘Canon Foot’ for 14 years, and was so for a… Read more »

Cantab
Cantab
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

If an exception was made in this instance, it would presumably have been on the grounds that she definitely has the knowledge, and has had the experience, to render a longer interval unnecessary. Along with John Blair, she is perhaps the leading scholar of the Anglo-Saxon church.

One wonders what exactly it is about knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon church which confers the necessary experience and readiness to receive priestly orders!

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Cantab
6 months ago

Well, yes, indeed. However, she will surely have studied scripture fairly widely in order to get under the skin – so to speak – of the people she writes about. One of my tutors told me in one of the first tutorials I attended that the single most important book with which any aspiring student of Anglo-Saxon England should acquaint him/herself was not Bede but the Bible. She will also have contributed to innumerable services at the cathedral as a residentiary canon during the decade before Croft ordained her deacon, and Fletcher priested her a few months’ later. On that… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Cantab
6 months ago

Some of us believe that all baptised people are ready as soon as they are called by the Lord to serve in that capacity.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

Who decides that one “is called by the Lord”?

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Cantab
6 months ago

Canon C5.5 has some relevance perhaps?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

Thank you, Froghole. Crockford has the following with regard to the Rev Prof Foot’s residentiary canonry: MinistryRegius Prof Ecclesiastical Hist Ox Univ from 2007 Non-stipendiary minister, OXFORD Christ Church 2017-2019 Can Res Ch ChOxford from 2017 However, I am not objecting to the rapidity of her progression – I’ve long thought it ridiculous that experienced and qualified people are made to go through lengthy training and curacies as if they were callow 20 year olds. Rather, I offered the information from Crockford with the intention of supporting G’eua’s point that Prof Foot might be held to have an interest, and… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

To have an interest is rather different from having a conflict of interest. For a conflict to exist one really has to have duties to two entities which might be differently affected by a decision. And this is also different from participating in a decision on a matter on which one has already decided – which may or may not be a good thing. For example, when I chair a finance committee and we go through a set of audited accounts, and I recommend to the board that the accounts be adopted, I have already made up my mind what… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Mark Bennet
6 months ago

With conflict of interest, even the perception that conflict of interest may occur is an issue, in my opinion. In many cases, a person will responsibly recuse themselves from decision making, but that may still leave a perception issue, that may undermine public confidence in an organisation. If a company or organisation takes ‘conflict of interest’ seriously… not least if they operate as a charity… then I believe they should take ‘perception’ into account. I agree it’s not easy to draw lines. But perceptions can subvert credibility. In the case of Christ Church, my personal view is that the Governing… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

You are right, Susannah, about perception of conflict of interest (strictly, interests) being as significant as an actual conflict. This is equivalent to the principle that a person acting in judicial or quasi-judicial capacity should recuse himself or herself, not only if s/he is biased but if it could appear that s/he might be biased. This was the basis on which the House of Lords set aside their previous 3:2 ruling in favour of the extradition of Senator Pinochet when it emerged that Lord Hoffmann (one of the majority) had links to Amnesty International, an organisation that had had been… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  David Lamming
6 months ago

I think it depends on context – on the Diocesan Synod and the Diocesan Board of Finance I vote on budgets which include consideration of how much I will be paid as a stipend – that is one of the things I am there to do. And that is a significant driver of whether the budget balances or not. Perception is much more important in a judicial context, of course, but people can have utterly unreasonable perceptions. One point in the case you cite is that the perception was reasonable, and there were grounds for holding it. I do agree… Read more »

Kate
Kate
6 months ago

What many here may not realise is that, in the private sector, trying to push someone out on medical grounds if they are signed off sick with stress caused by an employment dispute, is sadly not uncommon. I am not trying to condone it, but what is needed is more rights for workers to say that they cannot be dismissed on health grounds.

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

You are right but there are a number of laws which do already protect people. This situation amazes me – I work in the public sector and would have been disciplined and sacked for harassment, victimisation, bullying and discrimination by now. It’s not the law that needs a change – it is the archaic way churches, colleges etc can exempt themselves or make it up as they go on. This whole episode is a disgrace to the institutions involved. I also belong to a very good union who have fought my corner when needed over safety issues and working hours… Read more »

Dave
Dave
6 months ago

The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint”
The role of the sub-dean and the Cathedral Chapter must surely also be very carefully considered. Presumably the sub dean chairs the Chapter at present, yet, it is, I believe, said has publicly spoken against the dean, and ordered the locks to be changed to prevent the dean from entering the cathedral.

Are the Chapter active in seeking to bring about peace and reconciliation – or, as it seems, are they ‘taking sides?’

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

The sub-dean can be very influential. He (there have not yet been any female sub-deans) will preside at dinner in lieu or the dean, or will stand in for the dean at collections. For example, the sub-dean during much of the 1990s was Ronald Gordon, who had been bishop of Portsmouth, before serving as bishop at Lambeth for Runcie and Carey (1984-92). The sub-deanery was presumably something of a consolation prize for him. He was very affable and a superlative pianist (like Keith Ward or, previously, Henry Chadwick). However, I also recall that he was referenced in IICSA over the… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

It is hard watching a crucifixion happening before our eyes. The behaviour of Christ Church to me is utterly repellent, repugnant and reprehensible. To treat another human being like this is beyond deplorable and brings shame upon shame. The irony is that the very accusation brought on Martyn of being “mad and unfit to govern” could/should be brought against the dons. Frankly, I would close the Cathedral down. It is rotten and evil. There are plenty of CDMs around which are as nothing in comparison to the workplace bullying that the likes of Judson, Foot and Ward are colluding with.

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
6 months ago

It is not a crucifixion!

Jeremy Ames
Jeremy Ames
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
6 months ago

I think the word might have been used figuratively?

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Jeremy Ames
6 months ago

I thought this was a Christian website. As a Christian I find it offensive to compare the conduct of the Governing Body to crucifixion.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
6 months ago

You are right, Bob. The comparison is vulgar in the extreme. None the less, both parties will have experienced this as a sort of Via Crucis – in the metaphorical sense of being ‘a lengthy and distressing or painful procedure’. Employment disputes are often like this. Easy to say in hindsight, but Martyn had the option of walking away as soon as it was obvious he was persona non grata on the Governing Body, shaking the dust off his shoes as he departed. Equally, the latter should have paid him off a handsome sum along with issuing his P45. He… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
6 months ago

Bob, clearly a literally physical crucifixion wasn’t being suggested here. It was metaphorical. However, the concept of crucixion IS used in the Bible: “I have been crucified with Christ”. At the heart of our call to follow Jesus, is the exhortation to “be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with – by which He meant his death.” The heart of trust in God involves death to self, and everything that means. It’s clearly a mystery, but it’s something all Christians are called/encouraged to embrace. It’s totally part of covenant love. The metaphor of baptism running through the Bible –… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

The word ‘crucified’ is more than appropriate in this case – as is the term ‘character assassination’. I could put it more strongly – but probably best I do not.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

Indeed. I feel the same way, Richard. I am appalled by the way Martyn Percy has been treated. I am also astonished that people at the top of the Church, with pastoral responsibilities for those who give their lives to priesthood in the Church, seem to have remained silent and to have done so little to defend one of their own priests. I find that staggering, frankly. I see no solidarity, and get the impression of an abandonment of care. I think the poor man is being hunted down, and there comes a time when Bishops or Archbishops surely need… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

Well said, Susannah.

It has never been claimed that Jesus’ suffering was unique – indeed, he came to share the sufferings and temptations of us all. It’s only in his complete freedom from sin that Jesus stands alone.

As for the metaphor being ‘vulgar in the extreme’, it’s not the metaphor but the behaviour of the Christ Church malcontents which fits that description.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
6 months ago

Just as Jews rightly object to conduct being compared inappropriately to the Holocaust, as a Christian I find it objectionable that the conduct of the Governing Body is compared to crucifixion.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

I think it’s a perfectly acceptable metaphor.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
6 months ago

I agree. Must we now find another word for the deaths of the thieves who hung on crosses next to Jesus?

Jeremy Ames
Jeremy Ames
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

The word ‘holocaust’ is appropriately used for a number of atrocities and should not be privatised uniquely in the legitimate opinion of many. Similarly the unique nature of Christ is not challenged by the fact that crucifixion was suffered by a vast number of human beings at the time of the Roman Empire…..Christians along the Appian Way at the time of Nero’s scapegoating after the Great Fire of Rome for instance. During the he Ottoman Siege of Malta in 1565 Christian captives were crucified and floated across the harbour toward the Knights Hospitallers in Fort St Angelo. Human cruelty is… Read more »

John Wallace
John Wallace
6 months ago

I have heard that other senior clergy in the Oxford Diocese have been told to ‘keep out’. This does call into question Stephen Croft’s judgement. He may be good at FX but as a diocesan in one of the largest dioceses in the C of E, he is proving not up to the job! The Oxford Diocese is too large. It needs the Dioceses Commission to take it by the scruff of the neck – and its surrounding areas. I am in St Albans, 20+ miles away with no real relationship to us – it’s almost a foreign land. What… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  John Wallace
6 months ago

What is FX?

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Simon Bravery
6 months ago

FX = Fresh Expressions

Terry Tee
Terry Tee
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
6 months ago

FX in most of London (well, the City at any rate) means Foreign Exchange (as in a bank’s or investment house’s FX department). Just sayin’ …

Last edited 6 months ago by Terry Tee
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  John Wallace
6 months ago

Blame the Anglo-Saxons! The dioceses of Salisbury and Lincoln were organised around the new counties of the ninth/tenth centuries, which were based on a certain number of hides, and were, in origin, military units. Berkshire had to be taken from Salisbury, because the old Ramsbury diocese (Berks, Dorset and Wilts) was absurd. Bucks had to be taken from Lincoln because the post-1541 ‘pars australis’ (Bucks, Beds, Hunts and half of Herts) was also an absurdity. The Henrician diocese of Oxford was too small. Now it is too big, but it is effectively three ‘areas’ based on the post-1974 counties. It’s… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

“Would people in south Northants be happy under MK (assuming they cared at all)? Based on my experience of parishes between Towcester and Passenham 5-6 years ago, many residents there are relieved that MK stops at Stony Stratford.” This is true. I grew up in Cosgrove, and our village had a very definite sense of belonging to the county of Northamptonshire, even though we had an MK postcode, and the congregation had a clear sense of being part of the diocese of Peterborough, even though other cathedrals were closer to us. There is more than geography at play when working… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
6 months ago

I’d just note that Cosgrove used to be in South Northants, but is now part of West Northants after local government reorganisation. Things can be reorganised for practical efficiency. In any event, MK is 12 mins away and easy to get to, Peterborough is 75 mins away going across country. Similarly, the excellent Andrew Lightbown at Winslow, just to the south, is far closer to MK (and Cosgrove) than Oxford. Both Cosgrove and Winslow would fit well in a putative MK diocese, rather than the much more distant Peterborough to the NE and Oxford to the SW. Both villages are… Read more »

RobT
RobT
Reply to  John Wallace
6 months ago

I’d agree with that. Some dioceses are rather badly shaped – e.g. Oxford’s neighbour Peterborough, where almost all parishes are closer to the cathedra of another diocese.

Living and worshipping in Oxford Diocese, I have not been impressed with Bishop Steven generally. Yes he does travel round to other areas other than his principal episcopal area of the Oxford and Cowley deaneries, but he doesn’t inspire me as the chief pastor of the diocese.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  RobT
6 months ago

I recall we waited a long time in Oxford Diocese for Steven Croft, with relative calm under the interim leadership of Colin Fletcher. When +Steven eventually landed we were presented with a vision of three words beginning with c. We had already come up with four beginning with c in our rural benefice, so we felt rather underwhelmed. I remember thinking that it would be good to have someone at the helm who made it feel good to be an Anglican. The cathedral became, for me, a rather toxic place during the Philip North affair and I have since then… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
6 months ago

It would be interesting to know just why the diocese of Oxford waited so long, who was in the frame ,why they were unacceptable and where the idea of Steven Croft came from. But I suppose we will never know, given the system we’ve got.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  John Wallace
6 months ago

John I almost always agree with your every word but I can’t agree that the entropy at Christ Church means we need another diocese. As the CofE continues to decline at an alarming rate we need consolidation not proliferation. A new diocese would need a palatial home for the bishop which couldn’t be found in the city itself and would therefore inevitably be situated in a posh outlying village. The bishop would also expect a full retinue of domestic and office staff. The newly designated cathedral would want a staff team the size of the neighbouring cathedrals, with the concomitant… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

It’s too bad Martyn Percy can’t earn some sort of royalty for every comment on every Thinking Anglicans article on this issue. There must be literally thousands of comments by now.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

I feel for Martyn but I am uncomfortable at the attention lavished on a single cause celebre rather than on the generality of the power differential between individuals and their employers.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

Martyn Percy’s case is important for us all. If he loses the battle, abusing bullies with power and money know they can win every time. None of us will be safe.

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

I would hope that any case of a clergyperson being bullied by the rich and powerful in their parish is ‘important for us all.’ We don’t seem to hear about many of the others, and when we do, they don’t generate this much discussion. Wealth and privilege still matter, I guess.

Last edited 6 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

Many of us aren’t safe. Our battles with bullying employers go on out of sight even of our colleagues, and rely on dedicated and indefatigable union officers, not on legal professionals (for the most part). I feel for Martyn Percy because I know what it’s like to have people try to force you from your job, but let’s not pretend his uniquely public and ludicrously expensive case is directly relevant (or influential) to more humdrum cases.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

As I say, the case is unusual because of the complex nature of Ch Ch but is otherwise sadly all too common. We should be campaigning for better workers’ rights and full legal aid for Employment Tribunals.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

Indeed Kate – and many of us here have been doing just that in different ways for most of our lives. It’s nothing new – it’s a centuries-old struggle which shows no sign of diminishing.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

I suppose the Church beyond Christ Church could escalate the commentary, if somebody launched petitions to the Governing Body to desist, or petition to Parliament, or the Charity Commission, or to the House of Bishops to intervene with public statement, or to the Archbishop, or to the Queen. If a well-phrased petition was launched, and fed to the media and religious journalists, and was signed by hundreds of priests and church members, Martyn would at least be getting a moral ‘royalty’ and some form of solidarity which has seemed so missing from some higher up in the Church who have… Read more »

Dave
Dave
6 months ago

The Bishop is the Chief Pastor in this situation, surely. Why can’t he exert wise Christian leadership in this situation which is causing so much discredit to his Cathedral. Even something along the lines of a statement such as: “I am very sad at the continuing situation at Christ Church Cathedral. As Bishop and Chief Pastor I call on all parties to seek every means possible to bring peace and reconcilation without involving expensive litigation, or further ill feeling within the Christ Church community and beyond. I publicly state my willingness to facilitate independent arbitration. I give my assurance to… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

First they came for a Bishop
But I did not speak out
Because I wasn’t a Bishop.

Then they came for a Dean
But I did not speak out
Because I wasn’t a Dean.

Then they came for me
But there was no one left to speak for me.

[RWS adaptation of Pastor Niemoller’s poem]

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

Enough is enough.

What is happening to Martyn Percy is beyond bullying – it is a near-criminal abuse of power [possibly criminal].

It is the most insidious form of abuse – psychological.

Those who are in a position to stop this cruel injustice are doing nothing – or not enough.

It is down to us to ensure those people do enough.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

I agree. But what should be done (and of course, respectful to Martyn’s own wishes)? If someone is willing to frame a petition, I will support that and sign up. I also have an extensive address list of many hundreds of vicars and rectors of generally liberal parishes who probably recognise Martyn’s gift and contribution to the Church. But who to send such a petition to? The Archbishop? Or a multiple audience including the Governing Body of Christ Church, and Her Majesty the Queen (obviously via her representatives)? I absolutely agree with you Richard, that enough is enough. Where –… Read more »

Charles Read
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

Those who are in a position to stop this cruel injustice are doing nothing – or not enough. Who is in such a position? Not the bishop – he has no jurisdiction in the situation as this is essentially a dispute within the college. Not the university of Oxford – colleges are independent entities, unlike in Durham for example (where there are even so two exceptions). The only people who can stop this are the fellows who are pushing it. I’d support – and sign – a petition too – but past experience is that the fellows won’t pay any… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Charles Read
6 months ago

Charles, it may be that the University can use its influence. The Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris Patten) and Vice Chancellor, Louise Richardson, have just written to the Christ Church trustees (the 65 members of the Governing Body) requesting “a meeting to discuss the protracted and ongoing dispute with the Dean and the damage it is doing to the reputation of the collegiate university.” They add they appreciate that the dispute is a matter for the college, but say that the trustees “must appreciate the deleterious impact it is having on the rest of the university“, adding that they… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The only ‘petition’ I see being effective is a formal petitioning to the Office of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England Her Majesty The Queen

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

If licensed clergy are putting pressure on a priest of their diocese who is off sick then surely the remedy is for an archdeacon to take an action against them under the terms of the Clergy Discipline Measure? (This would include Chapter members, who, for example, take the bizarre action of changing locks…) Surely there is no harm, at this stage, in the Bishop of Oxford formally requesting the Visitor to intervene as soon as possible. I fear a danger is this is now becoming an ecclesiastical version of East Enders where folk keenly watch and secretly don’t want a… Read more »

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