Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford: two reviews

Updated again 1 July

On 25 May, as previously reported, the Church of England reported that its Independent Safeguarding Board would conduct a review on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council and the Diocese of Oxford, see Christ Church safeguarding review for further details.

On 15 June (apologies for delay in reporting) Christ Church Oxford announced: Christ Church appoints the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC to lead its Independent Governance Review.

Christ Church, Oxford has today appointed the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC to lead an independent review into governance of the Foundation, after its Governing Body voted overwhelmingly to endorse the former Attorney General for England and Wales as chair of the review…

…The Independent Governance Review, which is expected to report in 2023, will make recommendations that the Governing Body will carefully consider, to ensure that Christ Church’s statutes, by-laws and governance arrangements meet the needs of this unique institution in the 21st century…

Criticisms of the Church of England review were expressed in a letter to the Archbishops’ Council from Martin Sewell and others, dated 13 June, published here on 20 June: Independent Safeguarding Board and the Percy review.

(I also provided a recap of ISB history and other related links in a separate article here.)

All these developments were reported in the Church Times on 24 June. Regarding the criticism of the ISB Percy review:

…A Church House spokesperson said this week: “The Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, was set up in 2021, following a decision by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops to provide independent external scrutiny and oversight of the Church’s safeguarding activity. This includes overseeing the work of the National Safeguarding Team, NST, which along with Oxford diocese referred this issue to the ISB.

“Its remit is also to advise on how an independent presence on safeguarding should work in the long term. The ISB operates independently in that it decides its work programme, it sets its own terms of reference for its work, and it can scrutinise any aspect of the Church’s safeguarding activity that it chooses. General Synod received a full presentation and paper on the work of the ISB at its February Synod.”

Update 30 June

The Church Times has a further report on 30 June: Nye backs Independent Safeguarding Board for Oxford review

…In a letter to Mr Sewell, sent on Wednesday of last week, Mr Nye clarifies the limited nature of the ISB review. Having been asked by the Archbishops’ Council and the diocese of Oxford to look into the church safeguarding aspects of the Christ Church dispute, “the ISB agreed that it would undertake a review of these safeguarding matters, as part of its oversight remit, in order to learn any lessons. This would include looking at whether these issues should have been dealt with as safeguarding matters at all. This is entirely consistent with the ISB’s remit…”

…In the letter, Mr Nye also accuses Dr Percy of launching “a series of personal attacks on the professional standing and competence of the chair of the ISB, extending to contacting other clients of her work, with a view to discouraging them from employing her”.

Approached for a response, Dr Percy called the accusation “baseless”, but declined to comment on an allegation made to a third party and not directly to him.

Mr Sewell said on Tuesday: “William’s letter really doesn’t answer many of our questions, and we are pressing him again. I am happy, however, to explain why nobody should be surprised that a measure of frustration and anger has crept in, at the end of lengthy correspondence between Dr Percy and the ISB.

“It has completely ignored his most significant complaints and failed to answer reasonable process enquiries. This comes on top of four years of intensive bullying by College and Church alike. The Church and its agents are alleged to have actively promoted a false narrative of serious risk which was abandoned on the day after settlement….”

Updates 1 July

  • The full text of the 22 June letter from William Nye to Martin Sewell, discussed above, can now be read here.
  • Martin Sewell has made a further reply, dated 30 June, and the full text of that is now also available.
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1 year ago

Is William Nye one of the “agents” that Mr Sewell refers to?
In other words, did Nye “actively promote a false narrative of serious risk”?

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
1 year ago

‘Mr Sewell said on Tuesday: “William’s [Nye] letter really doesn’t answer many of our questions.”‘ No change there. Lessons in obfuscation, learnt at the heart of the Royal household, are being put to good use in defence of another unaccountable institution.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
1 year ago

I believe that there is a third review under way: namely the Charity Commission still undertaking a review into the governance of Christ Church by its trustees during the Percy dispute(s). Is there any indication of the progress of that investigation? Perhaps not as weighty as the others, but I am told that there is also a fourth internal review in progress, namely the relationship between Christ Church and its alumni, who are the people to whom the charity looks to raise the funds that it has spent so enthusiastically on legal fees, reputation management, private detectives and so on.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 year ago

I remember the report from the IICSA investigation into the church of England. It said:

“Many of these cases demonstrate the Church of England’s failure to take the abuse seriously, creating a culture where abusers were able to hide. Alleged perpetrators were given more support than victims, who often faced barriers to reporting they simply couldn’t overcome.”

Ask what has changed.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 year ago

Update: I’m told that the alumni association has started meeting again, but only in person in Oxford. Apparently people who raise awkward questions are being invited to have a walk round Christ Church Meadow, where they can be briefed personally.

Last edited 1 year ago by Unreliable Narrator
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