Thinking Anglicans

Events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton

The Diocese of Oxford has published a summary briefing and recommendations, along with the full report, from the independent review into events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

Press release (also copied below)

Summary briefing: this page includes all the recommendstions and diocesan responses (scroll down) and also links to a Seven Minute Briefing.

Full report

Press release:

In 2017 Peter Farquhar was murdered. His need for an emotionally close relationship had been exploited, and an intelligent, talented man was made vulnerable. Peter was a member of his local church; his strong personal faith featured in the abusive relationship, and his murderer, Ben Field, also had roles within the church.

This was an extraordinary and unusual case. Everyone who came into contact with the murderer, Ben Field, was manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church.

The Church and wider society need to be ever more vigilant of those who can be made vulnerable by the likes of Ben Field, simply because they are elderly or lonely. For this reason, the Diocese of Oxford commissioned an independent review to establish lessons learnt from the events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

The review, commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Panel, was carried out by Dr Adi Cooper, OBE, an independent consultant in adult safeguarding and adult social care. Dr Cooper makes 13 recommendations for improving safeguarding awareness and prevention as well as supporting a shift to a more open culture within the Church of England around safeguarding in all its complexity for parishes.

“Although the events in the Parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton were unusual, there is learning from them that can inform improvement in safeguarding policy and practice,” writes Dr Cooper. “The lessons from the harm done by Ben Field presents a challenge for the Church regarding specific themes: the abuse of trust in a religious paradigm, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and safe recruitment both of clergy and volunteers.”

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “I welcome the report and the recommendations it contains. The events to which it relates have caused immense distress to many. Following the trial and conviction of Ben Field, the Diocese was determined to learn what further action was required to ensure that potentially vulnerable adults attending church are adequately protected from harm. This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse, and it is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.”

23 October 2020

Notes for editors:

  • The independent report and recommendations were published in full on 23 October. The Diocese will report progress against each of the recommendations during 2021.
  • We believe this to be the first independent review concerning the Ben Field case. A Domestic Homicide Review is due to report in 2021
  • The report and recommendations are published at oxford.anglican.org/events-in-stowe-maids-moreton/
  • For media enquiries, call Steven Buckley 07824 906839 or Liz Hudson on 07702 563211
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God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
1 month ago

Not just another bus, as rightly remarked by Simon Dawson on the parallel TA thread: Bishop Victor Whitsey: safeguarding review publishedbut looking like a good day or week or year for the CofE to ‘bury bad news’.
I say again, so much for ‘reputation management’; there’s an Augean Stable needing attention here. Don’t make a fuss??
How many ‘lessons learned’ NOT (yet/ even now?) learned? A ‘clarion call’ now! How much time; how many fine words? Is anyone ‘in power’ listening DOING anything? It doesn’t look like it.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Yes, ‘reputation management’ has despicably buried the bad news all in one go, causing more damage in their wake. The only ‘safeguarding’ these people seem to understand is the safeguarding of their own interests. If the Church can shed itself of the malign influence and control of the likes of Luther Pendragon, then possibly the Church of England as an institution can avoid moral and political extinction, and we can repair the damage and rebuild together in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
James
James
1 month ago

I hope that readers will forgive my drawing attention to an article which my wife Rachel White wrote for the Church Times back in March: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/6-march/features/features/disturbed-by-the-discernment-process During the discernment process, I was asked questions from the traffic light document (and some questions which are not listed therein) with no warning and immediately following a discussion about Peter Ball. This seemed very strange to me, especially being alone at night in the interviewer’s vicarage, and was why I raised concerns with my home diocese. After all, that is what Church of England safeguarding training had told me to do if ever… Read more »

Clare Amos
1 month ago

This case has already impacted – as it probably needed to – on the institutional life of the C of E. What I think has not been explicitly said in the current reports – but I understand to be the case – is that Ben Field was arrested only 5 days before he was due to attend a national selection conference for training for ordained ministry. The fact that somebody who was capable of such incredible and wicked behaviour could get so far in the processes felt very very scary. I believe that the substantial shift in the ordination selection… Read more »

Michael
Michael
29 days ago
Reply to  Clare Amos

Yes the fact that Ben Field was about to attend a national selection conference is scary. How on earth did he get that far? Was nobody uneasy? That begs the question – what should someone do in that kind of situation? Is it feasible to raise an objection about a candidate from the local community?

Stanley Monkhouse
29 days ago
Reply to  Michael

In my brief spell as an ADDO I had one supplicant who, despite having “passed” a local interview, was IMO unsuited for reasons that I could identify in my mind (nothing sexual AFAIK) but that I couldn’t set down on paper because the fairly prescriptive categories did not accommodate them. I was as frank on paper as I could be given that I had no wish to court prosecution. I phoned the selection secretary and had a fruitful conversation. The supplication was not recommended, DG, Unfortunately, the supplicant’s local supporters were noisy. My point here is that sometimes – rarely… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
28 days ago

Having supervised several student interns, and been asked to comment on their suitability for ordination, I find that is a problem. The forms ask for suitability as to specific skills and attributes for ministry. When there are visible deficiencies (a candidate whose time management and organizational skills were a mess), the forms have a place to note that. But when you have a gut feeling that something is not quite right, there needs to be a way to express it.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
1 month ago

The reference to grooming of communities is one which needs to be explored further – in a community which has been groomed, it is much harder to call out bad behaviour and the people who do can be frozen out. That has happened too many times – and things like the psychological insights and diagnostic tools which create awareness in communities and an ability to respond appropriately are still under-represented in the training of lay and ordained leaders in congregations.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
30 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

Bad actors don’t need to groom the typical congregation: they’re sadly only too likely to be pre-groomed. It’s a fatal (in this case, sadly, literally) combination. There is not just a willingness, but an active predisposition to think the best of people, a sometimes performative enthusiasm for “forgiveness” and a hierarchical structure of following. What could possibly go wrong? People join churches for a sense of belonging, moral certainty and the company of people like them. Good people. Decent people. People like them. People who don’t do bad things or, if they do, do so reluctantly and are seeking redemption.… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
1 month ago

Paragraph 6.6 of the report (p. 25) includes this sentence: “It is essential that this Report is made public and the recommendations are delivered so that the Diocese and Church of England are not vulnerable to such accusations and can evidence that there has been a change in their approach”. The report is dated April 2020. Perhaps someone from the diocese can explain the six months delay in publishing the report.

David Lamming
David Lamming
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lamming

The diocesan website, though not part of the press release, does give this explanation for the delay in publication: “Dr Cooper’s report was received and considered on 24 April 2020 by the Diocesan Independent Safeguarding Panel, chaired by Peter Hay, CBE. The report was finalised by the independent reviewer in May 2020 to reflect feedback from the Panel. Publication of the report was delayed due to COVID-19 and, following news of an appeal by Ben Field, seeking legal opinion on the publication of this report. The recent death of a much-loved minister in the congregation at Stowe further delayed publication… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
30 days ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Matters pending appeal are not, in any useful sense of the phrase, sub judice. Someone who has been convicted has been convicted, and is therefore not innocent. Appeals are not heard by juries, and judges are assumed to be able to put aside media comment. It is not necessary to wait until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted before assuming guilt. You cannot (these days) sue for libel about being referred to as a convicted criminal on the basis that the conviction was overturned. There is no end to the period past which someone can appeal: in criminal cases… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
28 days ago

I wasn’t seeking to comment on the reasons for the six-months delay in publishing Dr Adi Cooper’s report, only to note that reasons had been given (albeit not included in the diocesan press release), having suggested in an earlier comment that “perhaps someone from the diocese can explain the six months delay in publishing the report.” I note what you say about it “not [being] necessary to wait until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted before assuming guilt” (though I’m not sure I’d use the words ‘assuming guilt’), but I’d suggest that it was sensible for the diocese to… Read more »

Anne
Anne
1 month ago

I am hoping that the publication of this Report and the lessons which will be learned from it will be helpful for everybody. However I have one caveat. Ben Field, although professing to be a committed Christian and having explored ordination, for which he was turned down, was, obviously, a lay man. It is easier for the church to understand, admit to and hopefully learn from, abuse committed by a lay person. The clerical culture of the church is, so to speak ‘unharmed’ by this report. Where the culture has to change is the acceptance by the hierarchies of the… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
1 month ago

‘The policies of the Church of England regarding homosexual practice…continues to put people at risk… …a particularly unhelpful theological paradigm… This report, following on from those we are seeing with depressing regularity now (and with Smyth and Fletcher to follow) demonstrate unequivocally that Christianity is dangerous to LGBT people. Not only does it put our mental health at risk, it positively provides the environment in which abuse, up to and including murder, can take place with little or nothing to prevent it. All the ‘lessons learned’ will do absolutely nothing unless and until christians repudiate their toxic teaching on sexuality… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Ashby

Perhaps the Church of England General Synod could invite Pope Francis to address them on the issue of “Committed Same-Sex Relationships and the Treatment of LGBTQ+ People and their Validity in The Church”. Such an invitiation, and its subsequent treatment by the Supreme Pontiff, might help both Anglicans and Roman Catholics to understand the need for the ‘safeguarding’ of a significan minority of people within those parameters. .

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
30 days ago

Fr. Ron the Pope’s recent statement about civil partnerships is to be welcomed but I don’t think the Church of Rome has much to offer Anglicans on the subject. I plodded my way through Frederic Martel’s recent stodgy book In the Closet of the Vatican; the chapter detailing the cohort of male prostitutes based at Rome’s Termini station, who almost exclusively service priests from the Vatican was illuminating. The hypocrisy in the RC church (not least among the cardinals) makes Anglican shortcomings look like small beer in comparison.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
30 days ago
Reply to  Richard Ashby

Richard thank you for addressing this crucial point. The CofE cannot overlook the homoerotic aspects to Smyth and Fletcher’s activities; just as it cannot maintain the silly fig leaf that clergy civil partnerships are celibate. As this report has highlighted all the mixed and contradictory messaging from the CofE about LGBTQI issues just provides cover for abusers like Peter Ball and Ben Field to operate under. As Stonewall used to campaign: Some People are Gay; Get Over It. The CofE’s prim response to human sexuality makes itself look foolish but puts vulnerable people at risk of harm – the murder… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
1 month ago

The appointment of volunteers to roles within the church is a vexed issue. In some congregations there is hardly an oversupply. I cannot see many clergy undertaking detailed vetting.

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
24 days ago

If you haven’t seen it the channel 4 programme – Catching a killer, A diary from beyond the grave – try and watch it. It takes you through the case viewed from the police side. It is available to view on line.You also hear from women who were deceived at the same time as he was murdering Mr Farquhar. It has to be one of the saddest programmes I’ve seen in a long time and shows how someone can fall victim to someone who knows exactly how to play them where they are most vulnerable. There are a lot of… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
24 days ago

Very sad indeed. There’s enough material there to convince any right-thinking person that people who believe God directs their lives are at best deluded and at worst psychotic. That “the powers that be are still pretending it is business as [usual] when all of these horrific reports keep revealing what is going on around them” indicates to me (as I said on another thread) that they are petrified – in every sense. They have no idea what to do, but they refuse to let go.

Last edited 24 days ago by Stanley Monkhouse
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