Thinking Anglicans

Dean of Christ Church to resume his duties

Christ Church, Oxford has tonight issued the following statement:

Tribunal outcome: Christ Church Statement

As required by Christ Church’s Statutes, an internal tribunal was convened to consider a complaint raised against the Dean in September 2018. Following a thorough investigation, the tribunal has decided that the charges are not upheld and that there is no cause to remove the Dean as Head of House. However, the tribunal made some criticism of the Dean’s conduct and found that there was one breach of his fiduciary duty.

We can therefore announce that Martyn Percy will resume his duties as Dean of Christ Church, on his return from holiday on 27th August. The complaint process has now concluded.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this:

Following the announcement by Christ Church this evening, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has issued this statement:

“I am delighted to learn that this matter is now resolved. I look forward to seeing Martyn return to the Cathedral and his duties as Dean of Christ Church. This news will be widely welcomed across the Diocese of Oxford. These have been testing times for all involved, and my prayers are with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College in the coming months.”

+Steven Oxford

The Church Times has reported this, and offers some background information: Dean of Christ Church can return to work after tribunal dismisses complaint.

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Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“the tribunal has decided that the charges are not upheld and that there is no cause to remove the Dean as Head of House. However, the tribunal made some criticism of the Dean’s conduct and found that there was one breach of his fiduciary duty”

And what of the “conduct” of those who have made life hell for Martyn Percy and his family?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

I would guess that there is an element of realpolitic in the minor criticism. If after getting on for a year of turmoil the tribunal had just said “nothing to see here, move on” then the college, the diocese and the tribunal would look like idiots and the complainants would be up in arms. I suspect a very carefully negotiated (negotiated with the Dean) bone has been thrown to the complainants so that they cannot claim they were simply ignored and so that the people that didn’t immediatel dismiss the complaint can pretend there was something there. And then, hopefully,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Just to reinforce the point also made below, I don’t think the Diocese of Oxford has had any input in this matter. That is rather reinforced by the separate sources of the two announcement statements by Christ Church and the Diocese. Both are very brief. I’m not sure that natural justice is served by including reference to “some criticism” without further explanation. Of course, it could be a ‘fudge’ as you suggest, which would have been better omitted in the absence of a full report of the findings – I’m assuming that the four lines of the Christ Church announcement… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

This dispute never involved the diocese, which has stood by Martin throughout. It has been an issue within the college.

Charles Clapham
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Charles Clapham

Are the identities of those who made the complaint against Martyn now public? Can they be made public?

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

I am delighted for Martyn and Emma. The reputational damage to Christ Church and the University has been profound (as I said in a letter to the Treasurer last year), but at least this draws a line under the issue. I agree with those who believe the seven or so Students who invoked these not-fit-for-purpose Statutes should be identified, including (it is alleged) a member of Chapter, a shocking suggestion made to me that I very much hope is untrue. They should all consider their positions. And if they won’t be named, they can be certain that over time their… Read more »

John Wallace
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John Wallace

I totally agree with Anthony. The whole episode has been disgraceful. The complainants certainly need to consider their position and the harm they have caused to Maryn and Emma

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

We analysed this in great depth on TA last year; I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Diocese had any input whatsoever. Subject to correction, aren’t the Canons on the Cathedral Chapter also members of the College? As in all other cathedrals, the chapter is a distinct body from the diocese and, as mentioned below, albeit that the Oxford Diocese is a large one, the Bishop’s jurisdiction is limited in the Cathedral.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Post-script: My clear recollection of the Christ Church Statutes is that the complaint could not proceed without the consent of a member of the Chapter. I recall pointing out last year that the Chapter had the power to veto the complaint. So, yes. At least one member of the Chapter supported the complaint.

Philip Hobday
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Philip Hobday

Can you point to that provision, as I could not easily find it in the statutes?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

This was gone into in very great detail last year, but I can’t locate the page(s) on TA. However, here are the relevant provisions from the Statutes: Part VII – Removal of the Dean from office: 41. If it appears either (a) to the Governing Body; or (b) to the Chapter that the complaint is not supported by sufficient evidence of good cause for the removal of the Dean from office, the Senior ex-Censor may determine that no further action shall be taken upon it. 42. If it appears both (a) to the Governing Body; and (b) to the Chapter… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

An array of people need to be called to account for this scandalous affair. I don’t know who the ‘Senior ex-Censor’ is. The predecessor of the current holder of this office was Professor Brian Parkinson (until August 2017). I agree that it is likely that paragraph 42 operated rather than paragraph 41. No doubt vast sums of money were spent on learned Counsel to determine the procedure going forward, not least because of the severe reputational consequences of proceeding, consequences the full impact of which may still be unfolding.

John
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John

The actual senior ex-Censor still living has been retired for several years and is not part of the governing body. Annual reports do not identify retired censors, so I cannot identify the most senior ex-censor who is still a member of the governing body. But I’m reasonably sure someone who really wanted to find out who that is would be able to do so. Censors normally serve four years – two as junior and two as senior — so at a guess the senior ex-censor still around would have served in that office up to 20 years ago. And for… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Sorry, I’m afraid you have misunderstood the legal effects of the Statute which I tried to explain emphasising the differences between and the effect of “either or” in paragraph 41 and “both” in paragraph 42. The Senior ex-Censor cannot ‘dismiss’ the charge under paragraph 41 if both the Governing Body and the Chapter consider there to be grounds for proceeding. In that scenario, as you surmise, paragraph 42 comes into play – that is definite (not a case of “it is likely that paragraph 42 operated”). This is a matter of statutory interpretation. Accordingly there are no grounds for questioning… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I have to add an addendum, as I had not seen John’s post when replying to Anthony Archer. I hope it is clear to everyone that there are no grounds for criticising or questioning the actions of the Senior ex-Censor.

For the record, I have no connection whatsoever with Christ Church.

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

I wasn’t implying any criticism of the Senior ex-Censor, whoever she or he may be. It’s just that this person seems to be one of the myriad dramatis personae. My only connection with Christ Church is that I advised the Governing Body on the appointment of the Treasurer in 2006, with whom I have been in direct contact over this debacle.

Anne
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Anne

Thank you, Anthony for your input. It would be good to see an apology to Martyn on the College website. There is also a real need for the complainants to be named and the complaints put into the public domain. AND a ‘lessons learned’ Review put in place. The damage done to Martyn and his family is inestimable, an apology might be a very small gesture in this dreadful saga.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Christ Church Oxford is unique in that Academics have a role, and seemingly a majority role, in potentially being able to unseat the Cathedral’s Dean in his dual role as Head of the House. It uniquely also has a Diocesan Bishop who isn’t the Visitor in his own Cathedral – the Queen is Visitor. The recent proposals for reform and charitable status of cathedral chapters specifically exclude Oxford, so it appears that the unique status quo will continue at Christ Church.

Helen King
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Helen King

The reports before the tribunal suggested it was going to cost Christ Church £500,000. If that’s true, I wonder where the money went? And why they agreed to fund what turns out to have been a flimsy case?

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Winckworth Sherwood’s John Rees [Oxford Diocesan Registrar & Archbishop Welby’s Provincial Registrar] should be able to provide some clarification – or perhaps not, as Mr Rees is at present the subject of a complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Mr Rees cannot have had any input at all. We went into the provisions of the Christ Church Statutes in detail last year. It was an uphill battle persuading people that Christ Church is an autonomous self-governing college, that the University had no say in the matter and, (as Charles Read correctly points out above, and in more definite terms than my earlier contributions to this thread), that is equally true of the Oxford Diocese – and hence its Diocesan Registrar.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“Mr Rees is at present the subject of a complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.”
Very interesting. Thank you for this detail.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

This is the relevant para in the blog by Stephen Parsons which Richard has linked to below: ‘One thing we have learned in the last 48 hours is that a key legal figure active no doubt in both the church and civil cases was closely identified with the alleged abuser, the late Trevor Devamanikkam. The Provincial Registrar for Canterbury, who also happens to be the Oxford Diocesan Registrar, John Rees, once served as curate in a parish in Leeds where Trevor Devamanikkam was Priest in Charge. This is obviously something known but never revealed by Rees himself, Bishop Croft, Archbishop… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

http://www.childabuselaw.co.uk/2019/07/iicsa-anglican-2nd-12th-july-evidence-notes/

“Trevor Devamanikkam (‘TD’) retired in 2006. He was charged in 2017 of buggery times three and indecent assault times three against Rev Matthew Ineson.

“Mathew Ineson had been sent to TD as a youth due to a falling out at home. He was to live with TD at his vicarage in Bradford.

“Matthew Ineson made disclosures between 2012 and 2016 and alleges that there was a failure by bishops he spoke to to either provide him with support or refer the case to the police”

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“John Rees, Archbishop Welby’s provincial registrar and Oxford Diocesan Registrar (among other dioceses) is currently subject of complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. He once served as curate in a Leeds parish where an abuser was Priest in Charge. Rees did not disclose this when handling CDMs against bishops (including the current Bishop of Oxford) who did nothing when told of the abuse. It should have been obvious to a very senior Church legal figure that the multiple conflicts of interest made his involvement untenable”

– ‘Gilo’ – Aug 2019

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Isn’t it about time someone investigated the role played by John Rees – and Winckworth Sherwood – in the Bishop Bell debacle?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Perhaps more to the point has been the financial cost to Martyn Percy, and how much he has had to bear out of his own pocket.

Kate
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Kate

It will have cost Christ Church much more than that because many would-be donors will have been deterred. That effect is liable to endure to some degree for several years.

Lister Tonge
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Lister Tonge

One wonders what the Christ Church Statutes say about Students (or canons) who have brought about extreme reputational and financial damage to the college.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

The Statutes are readily available on line from the Christ Church website. The person charged with preserving discipline (except in relation to himself) is the Dean as the Head of the House.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
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Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Our prayers are with Martyn and Emma who have had to live with situation, and Thank God the matter has been resolved, and Martyn can continue his ministry.
But let no one forget the hurt they have had to live through, and one must question if ever the complaint should have been given credence.

Fr John Emlyn

Lister Tonge
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Lister Tonge

Furthermore, Martyn has to continue living, working and praying in the community that has allowed him to be subject to this kind of treatment the instigators of which will continue to be colleagues on GB and Chapter, one presumes.

Sam Jones
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Sam Jones

I am no fan of Martyn Percy’s theology, but it is disgraceful that this has taken nearly a year to resolve.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/aug/22/martyn-percy-suspended-dean-of-oxford-college-to-be-reinstated

The Guardian reports this cost the college £500k. What a waste of money. There have to be better ways of resolving disputes like this.

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

It had cost Christ Church half a million BEFORE the actual tribunal. Since the latter involved a top judge, QCs, and all the usual tribunal apparatus sitting for two weeks, I’d guess it’s over a million now. All for a row over minor things that could surely have been settled with tea and common sense in any normal organisation. Martyn, meanwhile, has had to find his own funding to defend himself, which has come from generous supporters and from borrowing – in total we’re talking about a six figure sum. So the cost to him has, in all senses, been… Read more »

Tom
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Tom

Can the Charity Commission actually demand that? Is that normal?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I think this is a matter for legal expertise which I don’t possess. At every turn there is a new facet. The Dean is one of the Christ Church charity trustees. There are many others – I lost count.

James Byron
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James Byron

This trivia should never, ever have been taken to law: and now the law’s done its ruthless work, those who insisted on that ruinous path will understand why. I’m glad that Percy’s come through the ordeal as well as he appears to have, but it was absurd that he was ever placed in that position. Hope long and hard reflection will follow and this cruel farce won’t ever be repeated.

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

Fortunately, Oxford University, unlike most institutions, has a very long memory. 1209 is as yesterday.

Nick
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Nick

I am not a fan of Martyn’s theology, but I contributed to the crowdfunding campaign, because he has been treated terribly. The wasted time and money is disgraceful.

Dan Barnes-Davies
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It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other worthy greater churches in Oxford. Why shouldn’t the Diocese kick the dust off their feet and move the cathedra?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Perhaps it’s necessary to reiterate that the Diocese had no input or involvement in the suspension of the Dean. As explained above (and at considerable length last year when the Christ Church Statutes were discussed on TA in great detail), the ‘Diocese’ is not a free agent. Like all other bishops, the Bishop of Oxford is appointed by the Crown, but unlike any other bishop, he is not the Visitor in his own cathedral – that, again, is the Crown, i.e., Her Majesty. Quite clearly, the ‘Diocese’ is in no position to ‘kick the dust’, nor – I suspect –… Read more »

David Exham
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David Exham

Which are these suitable and worthy greater churches in Oxford which have the capacity to host, for example, an ordination service, and have the space around them for any necessary expansion?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I couldn’t think of any. Greater St Mary’s? Hardly, also it’s the University Church. Surely Dan Barnes-Davies wasn’t suggesting yet another college chapel? Last year I recall someone making the radical suggestion of moving to Dorchester Abbey (a cathedral in Saxon times), but that idea was quickly knocked on the head. But it is an undoubted paradox that with one of the largest dioceses in the C of E Oxford has one of the smallest cathedrals.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I did, of course, mean to refer to “The University Church of St Mary the Virgin” (not ‘Greater St Mary’s’ – unsure how that happened). A fine church, undoubtedly, and important as the place of John Keble’s ‘Assize Sermon’ with its enormous implications for the C of E.