Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford suspends Dean

Updated Monday afternoon

There have been several media reports in recent weeks about the actions taken by the Governing Body of  Christ Church in relation to a complaint against its Dean, Martyn Percy.

The Bishop of Oxford has issued this statement: Diocesan Synod statement concerning the Dean of Oxford.

Saturday 17 November 2018: The Bishop of Oxford gave a statement to the meeting of the Oxford Diocesan Synod. The full text of the statement can be read below. Following media enquiries over the weekend the College confirmed that Martyn Percy has been suspended from his duties pending the tribunal’s outcome. Bishop Steven said; “As always in such circumstances, suspension is a neutral act and does not imply that the complaint will be upheld.”

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy

You may be aware that a formal complaint has been made against the Dean of Christ Church, Martyn Percy.

Christ Church is a complex institution and, uniquely in the Church of England, the Dean is also Head of an Oxford College. The Governing Body and Chapter have now requested that the complaint against Martyn, which relates to a governance matter, be properly reviewed by an independently chaired internal tribunal.

Martyn is a close colleague, widely respected across the Church and his absence is keenly felt. The tribunal must now conduct an impartial, thorough and fair review of the complaint that has been made.

I remain in close contact with Martyn and Emma and with the Subdean and Chapter and the wider college through this difficult period. I am monitoring the situation closely. I also want to see that any allegations of bullying are properly investigated. Meanwhile the Cathedral’s core work of prayer and the worship of God continues, albeit in very testing circumstances.

We wish Martyn a speedy recovery to full health following a period of sickness in recent weeks and commend all those involved in this difficult situation to the prayers of the diocese.

+Steven Oxford

The most recent media reports are these:

ObserverBullying claims at Oxford ‘medieval fiefdom’ take toll on reformist dean

Mail on SundayCorrections and clarifications which relates to this article, two weeks ago: Modernising Oxford University dean is taken ill after alleged ‘hellish bullying campaign by dons to oust him’

Earlier reports include: Church TimesDean of Oxford, Martyn Percy, faces removal from office and this week the Church Times opinion columnist Angela Tilby wrote: A reforming dean may be unpopular.

Local Oxford coverage has included:

Oxford Mail: Dean of Christ Church in Oxford faces tribunal

Oxford Student: Christ Church Dean In Tribunal Over Pay

Cherwell Online: Christ Church dean faces coup

A fundraising site has been established here, which contains a summary of some of the points at issue in this case:

It appears therefore that Martyn’s position is a uniquely powerless one. It takes just seven complainants under the statutes of the college to request a tribunal to remove the Dean of Christ Church. Three strange steps appear to have led to this position.

First, the Dean was offered no proper investigation, at which evidence from both sides could be heard, read and weighed.

Second, there was no disciplinary hearing in which he could defend any allegations made against him.

Third, to avoid unnecessary conflict, processes of genuine mediation should always happen. Such mediation is entered into in good faith by both parties – rather than being used as a means to coerce and expedite a virtually immediate resignation, which is increasingly common in workplaces today.

In any normal place of work, a Tribunal would be the very final stage: and only if the investigation, disciplinary procedures and mediation had all failed. In Martyn’s case, the first three stages did not fail: it seems they were not really attempted.

Under the college statutes, the Dean has no grievance procedure available to him either, so he can’t complain about the treatment give[n] him. Consequently, he can do nothing about the bullying and harassment he has received. Under natural justice any person should have rights. But [the] Martyn doesn’t.

Finally, the Dean seems to have no right to free speech. To defend himself, he has to find his own legal costs. His speech is not free. If you think this is unjust, then please help the support fund.

Updates

Archbishop Cranmer: The harrowing of Martyn Percy: Oxford University denies natural justice to the Dean of Christ Church

Surviving Church: Oxford Bullying and the Church of England

22
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
13 Comment threads
9 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
12 Comment authors
Rowland WateridgeRichard W. SymondsSimon BraveryNigel LLoydFather David Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Father Ron Smith
Guest

My prayer for Dr.Martyn Percy and his wife, Emma, is that true justice will prevail and that both will be restored to health and strength in these distressing circumstances. Shame on the Dons who have plotted against him! I pray, also, for a just settlement.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Henry Kissinger is not a man to go to for moral guidance, but he was not wrong when he said that the reason why disputes in academia are so vitriolic is because the stakes are so low. Unfortunately, although the stakes in the arguments are usually close to worthless the effects on the people involved may be profound, as here. On the occasions I have chatted to Martyn Percy I have found him a man of honour, integrity and sharp intellect. I am not surprised that he has come up against some nest of mediocre vipers, and I wish him… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

To tourists, Oxbridge colleges appear to be serene spaces. Some might be; many aren’t, and some are battlefields. I was at Peterhouse in the 80s and Hugh Trevor Roper in his autobiography has described the battles he faced, but he wasn’t the only fellow to be forced to fight for his survival. It has been said to me, although I don’t know if it is true, that the Peterhouse development office regards alumni from the 80s as a lost decade because so many have memories of conflict. I share the story because I can truly understand what Martyn and Emma… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Guest
Simon Bravery

Might it be time to separate the roles of Head of College (or “House” in Christchurchspeak) and Cathedral Dean? Both strike me as demanding full time roles. Surely the statutes can be amended.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I hope they aren’t separated. There are still Cambridge colleges where the Governing Body is supposed to select the candidate who will best enhance the academic and religious life of the college as Head of House where it is clear that the “and religious” is at worst either ignored, or, at best, relegated into clear second place. I have long thought that one of the great things about Christ Church is that the religious life of the college remains integral. It would be very said to see it diminished and separation would do that.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The material difference at Oxford is that the Dean of Christ Church is the head of a Cathedral Chapter (and, I believe, the Greater Chapter of the Oxford Diocese – we are frequently reminded that Oxford is one of the largest). My understanding is that the Governing Body with 64 members (including the Dean) represents the College. It may include an overlap of a limited number of members of the Cathedral Chapter. I haven’t specifically checked this.

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

This is what happens to those who challenge the status quo. It’s why more people don’t do it. I pray for the health of Dean Percy and for real justice.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Alas, this makes “Porterhouse Blue” look more like a documentary than a comedy! The Dean and his family are very much in my prayers. The internal tribunal terms of reference remind me of nothing more than the first core group’s investigation into allegations made against Bishop George Bell – “The Dean was offered no proper investigation at which evidence from both sides could be heard, read and weighed” In the above sentence, replace the words “The Dean” with “Bishop Bell” and “There was no disciplinary hearing in which he could defend any allegations made against him.” Ditto! We have been… Read more »

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

The Observer talks of ” archaic and opaque rules”. But it seems to me that the procedure is exactly that prescribed by the Commissioners who were appointed by the Government twenty odd years ago to modify University and College governing instruments so as to establish clear procedures for the dismissal of academic staff. (The high profile part of the reform was to allow redundancy as a cause for dismissal, but many other things were smuggled in.) Because of its complicated structure Christ Church secured some changes from the standard model, but not many — I think in most college five… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

The Statutes are available here https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/house/christ-church-publication-scheme if you are interested

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I don’t suppose that any of us should be commenting while “the law takes its course”. As mentioned earlier, the position of the Dean seems anomalous (and unique to Christ Church), but having been directed to the Statutes, the first matter of interest was who is the College Visitor? The answer is the Crown, and any appeal would ultimately fall to Her Majesty. But these are some salient points extracted from the redundancy and dismissal provisions: Part VII applies specifically to the Dean. “41. If it appears either (a) to the Governing Body; or (b) to the Chapter that the… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Guest
Simon Bravery

The only previous occasion I am aware of when the Queen as Visitor was appealed to arose from Wesley Carr’s sacking of Martin Nearly as Organist of Westminster Abbey. She was reportedly furious and appointed a retired Law Lord to sort it out. He ruled the Dean was within his rights but could have handled the situation better.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Christ Church Oxford is unique in many ways. The College and the Cathedral have a shared website listing both the members of the Governing Body and Chapter. Striking that the lay canons include members of other denominations and even different faiths.
Out of curiosity, I have just checked who is the Visitor at King’s College Cambridge: the Bishop of Lincoln. The Bishop of Winchester is the Visitor to five Oxford colleges.

Nigel LLoyd
Guest
Nigel LLoyd

Lincoln was once a vast diocese, before it was broken up and various other dioceses were carved out of it. The Bishop of Lincoln retained the position of Visitor, both of King’s College Cambridge and Eton College.

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

I pray for Martyn and Emma. Martyn is fearless (and so open to criticism) in wanting to make the Christian Faith relevant (and I hate that word) to people today, whether in University circles or on the Blackbird Leys Estate in Oxford. He has a prophetic ministry which the forces of privilege and reaction are trying to crush. +Paul Bayes summed things up in his descrption of Martyn. Prophets are meant to make us feel uncomfortable – sadly this discomfort is too much for some Christ Church dons. Perhaps the time of the dual role of Dean of Cathedral and… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Indeed so, the person the Queen, as Visitor to the Abbey, appointed then was Baron Jauncey of Tullichettle. I hope and pray that the Dean of Christ Church is receiving support from the Deans of all the other great English cathedrals.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“As always in such circumstances, suspension is a neutral act and does not imply that the complaint will be upheld” – Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft Bishop Croft is being legally naive. This suspension is not a “neutral act”. Suspension may well have been justified under the ‘precautionary’ principle of justice, when, for example, a police officer is suspended pending inquiry. In such circumstances, suspension is “a neutral act” which doesn’t imply guilt; it’s a necessary part of a process to ensure there is no miscarriage of justice. But in this case the suspension, of Martyn Percy by the Ch-Ch… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Guest
Simon Bravery

It will certainly be difficult for Dean Percy to resume his role even if he is cleared. If he is still living in the Deanery it must be very odd to be in the midst of an institution from which he is barred.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them”

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It’s very untidy, but there is a new thread on TA yesterday “Can the dons sack the Dean?”. I have made the point on it that there appears to have been little, if any, regard by the media to ascertaining facts. I quoted in a post below the provisions from the Statute in Part VII for removal of the Dean from duties: clauses (I incorrectly said paragraphs) 41 and 42. Now to clarify the power to suspend from duties, clause 46: 46. Where a complaint is to be referred to a Tribunal under clause 42, the Senior ex- Censor, after… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Having almost hijacked the two TA threads on this sad subject during the last few days (trying to be helpful, I hope, in clarifying the effect of the CC Statutes) I have since found just a solitary published article which summarises everything that has happened clearly and accurately: “Dean of Oxford, Martyn Percy, faces removal from office” by Madeleine Davies, The Church Times, 5th November 2018. The link is on this thread – see above – “Earlier reports” etc. Please read it if you find the Statutes themselves too daunting. I suppose an “earlier report” might get less likely to… Read more »