on Wednesday, 22 December 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Martyn Percy Modern Church Rickety Religion (Part Four: Post-Advent Structures)
Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News Drawing the Line?
I think it so amazing that Martyn can still write with such insight and challenge in the midst of what is, so sadly, happening at Christ Church. Let us all keep him and Emma in prayer.
“Mentally incapacitated”? Hardly, as what Martyn Percy writes makes good sense. My only adverse criticisms, which are minor, are that the ghastly phrase, “social capital” would not be missed, and am I the only person very tired of the words “resilience” and “flourishing”? Could we give them a rest?
In order to advance the impact of social capital locally and nationally, I will be building a personal resilience over the coming days in order to flourish with greater intentionality in the New Year 🙂 Merry Christmas everyone!
Like the way you got “intentionality” in there as well. Christmas blessings to you.
I’m wondering if “mental incapacitation” is just the latest contractual excuse Christ Church is using to give The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy a boot out the door.
He must be crazy if he wants to continue to stay here!
I note Dean Percy’s enthusiasm for parish magazines. I wonder if the monthly magazine may be in decline, with the decline hastened by the pandemic.
A combination of websites, weekly notice sheets and social media has also contributed. My church used to publish a quarterly magazine but has not done so for a while. The last monthly parish paper at All Saints Margaret Street is being published this month. It will be replaced by a twice yearly magazine.
Paul Bayes will be a hard act to follow. One of the few diocesans with chutzpah and grit, and a theology which beating heart. I’ve not heard him preach but get the sense he’d preach up a storm. The House of Bishops seems rather monochromatic with the Purples all marshalled into their enclosure and forbidden to be exciting. Bayes is one of few who have retained independence of spirit. I hope he writes into his retirement as he’ll have interesting things to say. And Martyn Percy? He is the archbishop that might have been. I gathered from someone this week… Read more »
So agree, Gilo. I worked with + Paul when he was suffragan of Hertford – a breath of fresh air indeed who wasn’t afraid to challenge and say it as it is. I pray that his retirement ministry will be fruitful.
As you say, Martyn is a great theologian whon I have quoted (and critiqued) at length in the Lit Review chapter of my recently successful doctoral thesis. We need more Martyns and fewer managerial clones.
Best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a more hopeful 2022 to all ‘Thinking Anglicans.’
In view of motes and beams, it would have been more pertinent to attack the rickety structures of the author’s own place of work, rather than this series of four rather dreary Advent reflections.
I Thank God for the work you hosts do at ‘Thinking Anglicans’. I, for one, recognise the effort put into providing the latest news of the dear old C. of E. – and other parts of the Communion (like ours in Aotearoa/N.Z.) when something interesting is going on, especially in the areas of Social Justice. There needs to be more prelates like Bishop Paul, who has been straightforward in his support for LGBTQ+ people in the Church. God bless him and his family in their retirement. The ongoing saga of the persecution of Dean Percy is still a troubling situation… Read more »
Thank you Fr Ron for your sermon with its great theology, I’ve been thinking today aroud Charles Wesley’s words, not very often sung today, but they so clearly declare the Word made flesh,
Let earth and heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs Divine
The’ incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made man.
Blessings as you continue to minister
The womb of Theotokos is the universe from where our God, contracted to a singularity, the zygote, is transformed into cosmos. The seed multiplies in uterine earth (Irenaeus) as mystical Christ grows in us. Christ is humanity’s twin. Christ holds all creation within himself. God is present everywhere and in all things, yet above and beyond all things. ‘What is not God is nothing’ (Bulgakov).
Thank you Ron, for your kind words, as ever! One slight bone of contention is the portrayal of the Christ Church, Oxford saga as being one whose cast list includes ‘culprits’ or ‘martyrs’. It’s the sort of Sturm und Drang that afflicts thousands of workplaces day in, day out. The only difference in the case of the latter is that they tend to be very short-lived affairs – not ones which drag on for three and a half years, seemingly without end. Consider all those, for example, in the hospitality sector across the world this Christmas who suddenly find themselves… Read more »
Tribunals are a means of seeking justice; to describe them as “lavish” rather suggests that justice should be considered a luxury. Rather, the difficulty that even someone of Martyn Percy’s privilege and means should struggle to attain it in a timely fashion should highlight the need for it to be available to all. And yes, the precarious situation of those working in hospitality is a scandal, but surely you can see the difference between economic coercion and personal spite?
It is a luxury when the respondent’s legal bill already amounts to £3 million, and the claimant’s £400,000!
I think you have transposed the roles of claimant and respondent in the context of how the majority of those costs have been incurred.
Normally, the claimant is the employee, and the respondent, the employer.
Patently not so in this case. You might be referring to a hypothetical claim in the Employment Tribunal but these costs were not incurred in that context.
These costs were incurred in the Christ Church Internal Disciplinary Tribunal to remove the Dean from Office where the Dean was the Respondent and the 27 charges brought by the Governing Body against him were dismissed by Sir Andrew Smith.
Ah, okay! I was referring to: Claimant: Dean Martyn Percy Respondent: The Dean & Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry VIII Heard at: By CVP On: 12, 15 &16 October 2020 Before: Employment Judge Andrew Clarke QC (sitting alone) Appearances For the claimant: Ms S Fraser-Butlin, Counsel For the respondent: Mr P Oldham QC JUDGMENT 1. At all times material to his claims in these proceedings the claimant was an employee of the respondent pursuant to s.83(2)(a) of the Equality Act, 2010. 2. At no time material to these proceedings was… Read more »
Thank you for that, all of which I already knew! But without wishing to labour the point, the costs were incurred in other proceedings, not in these which were solely for establishing employment status.
Frankly, if this went to full tribunal, the governing body are likely to be completely exonerated in their desire to try and force the dean’s resignation as their trustee. Even if we accept Professor Nigel Biggar’s assertion, in a letter to the Times in May last year, that the dispute stems from the dean’s “challenge to the wonted control of a donnish oligarchy”, rather than his insistence on a pay rise, it is not for an employment tribunal to approve of, or disapprove of, the dean’s reforming agenda. If the dons wish to remain a “donnish oligarchy”, that is up… Read more »
I’m not debating the merits of either side’s case with you, merely pointing out that the costs were incurred in the internal tribunal and that the Dean was neither the claimant (nor the plaintiff, if you prefer, for someone of my generation who was involved in these things before Employment Tribunals had even been thought of!.).
The dean was the respondent in Dame Sarah Asplin’s inquiry into an incident alleged to have happened to a woman in the sacristy, ruling that it didn’t merit a CDM. According to the Church Times report of 1st June 2021: “In essence, therefore, this matter comes down to two versions of events given by two credible witnesses. . . There are two credible accounts. For these purposes, it is sufficient to conclude, therefore, that it is possible that on the balance of probabilities, a finding could be made that the incident occurred as [the woman] alleges.” In most organizations, a… Read more »
Your views are clear to all of us. Whether TA is a proper place to challenge, based purely on personal opinion, the decisions already lawfully reached is open to question. I have to withdraw at this stage as I happen to think that it is inappropriate.
Just to make it clear: I’m not challenging Dame Sarah’s ruling in the slightest. I was merely noting that most organisations would probably have accepted her conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, as the basis for an instant termination of the respondent’s contract of employment – which would, in all likelihood, have withstood a legal challenge. The CDM process seemed to require a higher standard of proof, which is why a referral to it was not made.
I’m afraid, Andrew, that you have misrepresented the President of Tribunal’s decision of 28 May 2021. Dame Sarah Asplin was not deciding whether or not the ‘hair-stroking’ incident in the sacristy of the cathedral on 4 October 2020 occurred as alleged by Ms X, but whether there was a case for the Dean to answer upon which a bishop’s disciplinary tribunal should adjudicate. She was not deciding whether Ms X’s version was true on the balance of probabilities—the standard of proof, incidentally, that such a tribunal would apply after hearing all the evidence, including cross-examination of the witnesses, not any… Read more »
Thank you David.
My point is that a typical HR manager, faced with evidence cited in paragraph 10, and in consideration of a standard contract of employment, would, at the very least, have triggered immediate disciplinary action – especially so given the seniority of the respondent. This would have resulted in gross misconduct proceedings: either a written warning, or an immediate dismissal.
Sarah Asplin never wrote “even if true”. That is a manipulation of her words and a misleading insinuation on your part David.
We can all read the Asplin decision
(that someone has obtained and provided to this website) I urge all readers to consider your apparent partiality and not believe your summary without question.
The safest thing is to quote Dame Sarah Aspli directly, and her last paras bear out David Lamming’s precis. They are in bold at the bottom. “In essence, therefore, this matter comes down to two versions of events given by two credible witnesses. I do not consider that any of the slight variances in the way in which Ms X describes the incident are of any assistance when determining whether there is a case to answer. There are two credible accounts. For these purposes, it is sufficient to conclude, therefore, that it is possible that on the balance of probabilities,… Read more »
The two phrases: “even if true” and “[even] if it is proved to have taken place”, are very different in meaning in context. The first one implies there was an element of doubt over Ms X’s testimony. The second one refers, in impartial terms, to a hypothetical standard of proof having been met.
I quite agree Faith – best to quote Dame Sarah directly. Unfortunately you haven’t done this. There is a very interesting omission in your summary before your final bold section (to which you have added the word ‘even’ – this simply does not appear in Dame Sarah’s summary. Why do you and David insist upon adding it?) She actually says in her conclusion: “it seems to me that it is entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal. When arriving at this conclusion I also take into account that Christ Church itself has instigated its own inquiry… Read more »
I remain unconvinced that most organisations would consider a one-off incident of this nature to be gross misconduct. Grounds for a formal written warning, perhaps, but no more.
The cost of something doesn’t tell you it is a luxury. The cost of obtaining justice is a huge problem in the UK, not unlike the cost of healthcare in the US (and medication can easily run to 6 figures).
Andrew, Pauline – the woman complained to the police, the NST and then a CDM. None took any further any action after thorough investigations. The CDM has the power to impose light penalties, rebukes and other disciplinary sanctions. None were, as the alleged conduct – note that Asplin states there is nothing sexual – does not meet the bar of “conduct unbecoming”. The internal tribunal in Christ Church is a full trial, with barristers, judge, etc – and has to hit the far higher bar of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful”. It stands to reason that if the low bar can’t… Read more »
I agree with Martyn Percy on his assessment of the unnecessary growth and centralisation of the diocesan office and services. Most of his suggestions ring very true with me and I wish he would be heeded on that. He is right to point out that ministry does have to balance the tension between the intensive and the extensive and I sadly see that the current evangelical grip on our church favours the latter where intensiveness is not evangelical in flavour. I suspect however, that he would be better served by arguing for true conflict resolution and mediation expertise to be… Read more »
At Sheffield, it was as though they’d knocked down the cathedral, sacked the architect, the surveyor, and the stone masons, and then wondered how on earth they were going to rebuild the edifice.
Indeed. It would have been much better I’d the diocese had the tools and capability to step in before rather than after. I note it has now been several months since the appointment of a new Dean at Sheffield and I have not seen anything said about the choir (who seem to be doing rather well for themselves in secular exile). I can only hope this is because sensitive and earnest discussions between the cathedral leadership and the representatives of the choir are ongoing, particularly in the light of the Bishop’s statement on the visitation directly mentioned the harm done… Read more »
Sadly, many organisations see HR professionals as meddlers and jobsworths who prevent them doing from what management wants. I write as one in a previous existence,with one of my Masters’ degrees, in HR Management. I worked for a County Council and had to fight my Senior HR Manager who always erred on the safe side, to pursue an issue. I was warned that if I lost, there woud be consequences! The council would have rather caved in at significant cost. I won the case. The important thing to note as I undertook Employment Tribunal proceedings, is that the presentation of… Read more »
My comments were more directed at the goings on in Sheffield rather than at Christ Church as I really don’t have much knowledge of the latter at all save it seeming to be a somewhat more clear employment dispute that has dragged on due to the archaic and confusing governance structures of august institutions. To my mind the disbanding of the choir was not an employment dispute and, even if it was, your post kind of demonstrates what I was talking about in the need to have mediation and reconciliation support available in the diocese rather than just a HR… Read more »
Faith asserts that “It stands to reason that if the low bar can’t be hit, neither can the high bar.” That may be true, but the low bar set in terms of ‘conduct unbecoming’ is still a relatively high bar, in my view, when compared with standard contracts of employment, which are part and parcel of corporate best practice. The censors are proceeding with an internal tribunal – “a full trial, with barristers, judge, etc.” which “has to hit the far higher bar of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful” – because they are constrained by the college’s historic statutes.
I’m not sure why you see “corporate best practice” as a goal to which any organisation should aspire. It ought to be difficult to hound someone out of their job and should require more than a single allegation of minor misconduct. That it doesn’t in much of the corporate world is an indictment of the corporate world rather than something to commend it.
It is good, αnδrεw, that you at least acknowledge that the Censors at Christ Church are constrained by the Statutes (revised, by the way, most recently in 2015) in their attempts to get rid of the Dean, which they have been attempting to do, with consistent lack of success, since 2018. You have only to read the poisonous e-mails cited in Appendix 5 to Sir Andrew Smith’s decision of August 2019 (which, you will note, the Charity Commission have called for in their letter of 4 November 2021). This calls into question the motives of the cabal on the Governing Body… Read more »
So how does Christ Church, Oxford resolve this impasse except by removal of the dean from office? Working relationships there have deteriorated to such an extent that I can see no alternative. To imagine otherwise is, to my mind, in the realm of fantasy.
Agreed they are ‘constrained’ by the Statutes. I don’t know whether there is any alternative disciplinary procedure open to them in relation to the Dean’s position, but a tribunal seeking his dismissal from office is clearly disproportionate – one might fairly say that it is irrational.