Thinking Anglicans

Oxford University Chancellor writes to Christ Church

Andrew Billen reports in The Times: Oxford fears Christ Church dean dispute is damaging reputation.

The chancellor of Oxford University says its reputation is being damaged by a long-running dispute between Christ Church and its dean.

Lord Patten of Barnes, a former cabinet minister, wrote to the college’s 65 fellows about the dispute with the Very Rev Martyn Percy and requested an urgent meeting to discuss its “protracted and ongoing dispute” and the “damage it is doing to the reputation of the collegiate university”…

…On Saturday the Rev Jonathan Aitken, an ally of Percy, wrote to The Times calling the attempt to classify Percy mentally ill “comic and contemptible”. The dean was, he said, “on sparkling form”.

Last night Christ Church said: “We have received the letter from the chancellor and vice-chancellor and welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation with them. We have no further comment to make at this time.”

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
91 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Lamming
David Lamming
1 month ago

Somehow, I doubt that the malcontents among the Governing Body of Christ Church do “welcome” the opportunity to discuss the situation with the University’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. The statement, by an unnamed spokesperson (“Christ Church said…”) must have been spoken through gritted teeth! This is a significant intervention that may, at long last, jolt those trustees who, to date, have loyally followed the lead of the malcontents, into reconsidering their support, having regard to the potential financial peril they may already be in (flagged up by the Charity Commission letters), as well as the damage that the actions of… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  David Lamming
1 month ago

While an unnamed spokesperson for Christ Church may have told The Times that they ‘welcomed’ the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, a thread of e-mails between the three censors, their [new] solicitor Penny Chapman (of bdbpitmans), and PR consultant Martin Townsend (former Sunday Express editor), tells a rather different story: see this prominent follow-up report in The Times on Monday 27 December 2021 (page 9 of the print edition): https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dons-turn-on-lord-patten-of-barnes-in-oxford-college-spat-bdtdlls37. One wonders what the majority of the Governing Body, seeing this report and the unflattering references in the e-mails to the University Chancellor and… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  David Lamming
1 month ago

It seems to me that the malcontents are gaining traction with the undergraduates, most of whom regard the Chancellor as a relic of a bygone age, and not competent to intervene.

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Michaelmas Term ended on 4th December. The letter from the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor is dated 20th December. The undergraduates will not have known about this move before the latter date. I think you will find that the mention of ‘dinosaur’ introduced in the Dons’ emails refers to other earlier and unconnected matters.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

The graduates and undergraduates were already upset with an essay the dean wrote last term, as reported by Cherwell on 12th November: A joint statement from the two common rooms said: “The JCR and GCR are both adamant defenders of the natural rights of freedom of thought and speech, and these impart the right to condemn actions which we find to be offensive. As a JCR and GCR, we find this rhetoric abhorrent. “Attempting to draw a parallel between the Holocaust and the investigation regarding the Dean trivialises the suffering of victims of Nazi persecution. Martyn Percy’s essay is deeply offensive… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
30 days ago

Thank you. Totally unconnected to the 20th December letter from the Chancellor and Vice-chancellor to the Trustees. The rider in the final sentence puts things in a proper perspective.

I believe that Martyn Percy subsequently withdrew the article in question.

Flora Alexander
Flora Alexander
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

I’d be surprised if what the undergraduates think turns out to matter at all.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  David Lamming
1 month ago

One wonders whether the people involved have ever heard of “the oxygen of publicity” and its alleged effects. They ought to be more conscious that, as trustees, they have a responsibility to secure public benefit. The idea that “keeping this to ourselves and the few” makes it acceptable for trustees to behave in ways which don’t bear scrutiny is just why the Charity Commission needs to demonstrate the presence of a backbone.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

In all fairness to the governing body, their public benefit remit has been severely undermined by the college’s own historic statutes. Under a new broom, however, the censors appear to know what they’re doing. It’s difficult to see what the Charity Commission can do, except in a supportive capacity. The best way to bring the college’s constitution into the 21st century is via an Act of Parliament. This would enable the college to implement procedures in accordance with employment law best practice. Statute XXXIX (Redundancy, Discipline, etc.)Part VII (Removal of the Dean from Office)“42. If it appears both(a) to the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

The provisions of Statute XXXIX Part VII were followed correctly. Members of the Chapter were parties to the first Tribunal, but chose not to nominate members to sit on the Tribunal. Accordingly the Governing Body similarly did not do so, and with the agreement of all parties Sir Andrew Smith heard and decided this matter alone.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rowland Wateridge
Angusian
Angusian
1 month ago

It is curious that a group of supposedly intelligent people, responsible for the education and welfare of the brightest young people, fail to realise how utterly stupid they appear in a mindless persecution of one decent man !

Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
1 month ago

As it’s buried in an earlier thread, but possibly more applicable here, αnδrεw wrote: “The employer always wins… Decisions about hiring or firing staff are made on the basis of expediency, not high principle… a board of directors ultimately has the right to determine strategic direction, and to appoint senior executives fully in alignment with corporate objectives… there comes a point where a parting of ways is the only way forward. How else do you propose to end the stalemate?” If you set things in a corporate context, in most ‘companies’ (including not-for-profits) the ‘directors’ can be removed by a… Read more »

RogerB
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I wonder how many of the ‘malcontents’ are familiar with the attempt to have Alexander Cruden (of the Concordance) put away as being mentally unsound, despite there being no evidence (delightfully covered in a book by Julia Keay)?
Hopefully Martyn is made of equally stern stuff as Cruden, who had to put up with being straitjacketed and chained to his bed before escaping from the private madhouse to which his enemies had conveyed him!

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

It makes little difference in law whether a board of directors comprises non-executives of a listed company, shareholders of a limited company, trustees of a charity, or senior academics of a university college. The hapless dean of Christ Church, Oxford is the servant of two masters. He has to choose one or the other.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

I don’t agree with your analysis. I wonder if you are seeing Christ Church as a secular academic institution? It isn’t, at least not formally. The formal name is ‘THE DEAN AND CHAPTER OF THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST IN OXFORD OF THE FOUNDATION OF KING HENRY VIII’.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

It is indeed a secular academic institution whose college chapel is the cathedral church of the diocese.

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Nick
Nick
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

My understanding is that, whilst the formal name remains ‘The Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church…’, the effect of legislation is that most of the assets and activities have been appropriated to the governing body, leaving the Dean and Chapter (acting alone) with very limited responsibility for the chapel (cathedral) and choral foundation.
In practical reality this means that, with the exception of the matters reserved to the D&C, Christ Church is indeed by essence a secular academic institution – something that has to be recognised in any church legislation which includes a specific exclusion relating to Christ Church.

Last edited 1 month ago by Nick
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

The surprise here is that University has taken so long to express concern about the threat to its reputation from this saga. However, it strikes me that several reputations are at stake here. I am mystified as to why a number of prominent academics, respected in their fields, seem willing to risk their reputations by pursuing a destructive course of action: is that really how they would wish to be remembered?

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

This is a very welcome step.

Hopefully too the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor will also ask to speak to the Dean, albeit in a gentle and caring way.

At the same time can the Bishop of Oxford act in tandem and publicly ask to see the Chapter about the damaging reputation to the Church of England?

Charles Read
Charles Read
1 month ago

I’m glad the chancellor had written but I fear they will ignore it – as I said on the other thread, the university does not control the colleges. This kind of moral pressure via a public letter is the best it can do , I suspect. Now it would be good if the diocese / bishop / archbishop wrote a similar letter. It too would be ignored – and the bishop has no control over the cathedral in Oxford – but it is a gesture worth making – and in my view which needs making. Unless that is, CC has… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

In ‘Oxford-speak’ C C means Corpus Christi. The response from Christ Church is unsurprisingly non-committal, but they do say that they welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter, so it cannot be said that they have ignored the letter. As always, we must wait and see.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

In ‘Oxford-speak’, Corpus is usually rendered CCC.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Thanks for the enlightenment. I went to a proper university so do not speak Oxfordese…..

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

It seems I was equally wrong, as corrected by Froghole! No offence was intended! It now seems that, at least on this thread, CC means the Charity Commission, but there are many other possibilities.

Andrew Lightbown
Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

Surely the University does have some levers and sanctions though. It is the degree awarding body for instance and its highly unlikely that any college would be able to flourish separate from the university.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Andrew Lightbown
1 month ago

That is an interesting idea – as are those of Sam below. It’s the nuclear option though isn’t it? Perhaps we are getting to the stage where the big red button is needed.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

Agreed. This is long overdue as is a similar letter from the Bishop of Oxford.

And while neither may have any legal power I am sure there are ways of exerting pressure. Could the university chancellor says that the university will cease to award degrees to christ church students? Or stop christ church fellows from working as university lecturers or sitting on committees etc.? Similarly could Stephen Croft threaten to withdraw PTO’s from christ church fellows? Or move ordinations, confirmations and other diocesan events to the university church or one of the larger churches in the diocese?

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

if my memory of reading past copies of the Church Times serves me correctly, in the Case of Lincoln Cathedral (though that is not tied to a University yet is still a Cathedral), when there was a dispute there with the Dean and Chapter, the then Bishop of Lincoln, Bishop Robert Hardy held a Visitation of the Cathedral and in his visitation remarks said the situation there “was remote from Jesus of Nazareth” and after a time he felt he could not in conscience celebrate the Eucharist nor perform any other Episcopal functions in his Cathedral whilst this dispute continued… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

Archbishop Carey instituted an inquiry into Lincoln Cathedral, and on receiving the report asked both Dean Brandon Jackson and Sub-Dean Rex Davis to resign. However, he had no power to compel them to do so. It was two years before Jackson stepped down, and only after he’d negotiated a payoff of £250,000. Davis didn’t resign at all. Jackson had also been tried in Consistory Court for ‘conduct unbecoming’ after a verger claimed they had had an affair. He was found ‘not guilty’, but according to Private Eye a claim against Bradford Cathedral (his previous post) resulted in a substantial out… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Indeed. The Lincoln case is useful because it (and the financial difficulties at Hereford) led to the creation of the Howe Commission, and the production of ‘Heritage and Renewal’ (1994), which formed the basis of the Cathedrals Measure 1999, diluting the discretion, powers and rights of capitular clergy significantly. Not only the late Rex Davis (who was sub-dean and treasurer), but also Christopher Laurence (archdeacon), John Nurser (chancellor) and John Rutter (precentor), being the other canons on the Lincoln chapter at the time, opposed Brandon Jackson. Davis and the previous dean, Oliver Fiennes, were probably most to blame for the… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

There was a delightfully acidic piece on BBC R4 at the time. A Residentiary, questioned on the stand-off at Lincoln, said, “I won’t discuss Chapter matters. But I will say that the Sub-Dean is at least a member of the human race.”

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

Steven Croft does have the power to withdraw a PTO at any time, and without the ‘victims’ of that decision having any right of appeal. However, it is not clear to me whether the members of the chapter affected by that decision would be prevented from officiating in the cathedral if it can be claimed that Christ Church is a peculiar and is beyond the bishop’s jurisdiction. Nor is it clear whether it is a stipulation of any of the ordained residentiary canons that they have a PTO as a condition of their employment or holding office (I suspect it… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

It was William Nye who justified the CDM brought against Martyn Percy on the grounds that clergy serving in ‘a non-Royal peculiar’ are susceptible to the CDM (and consequently) the diocesan Bishop’s jurisdiction. I believe it was you who explained this anomaly at the time. Bishop Croft, however, effectively recused himself and delegated his powers to the Bishop of Birmingham.

So, Christ Church a ‘non-Royal peculiar’, but seemingly the Bishop retaining disciplinary powers within it. I’m still puzzled!

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

There is a question mark over the validity of the delegation to the Bishop of Birmingham. The matter is currently under investigation: more anon.

Harry
Harry
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Diocesan bishops can withdraw PTOs at will, but not licences or deeds of collation. I think most Cathedral Canons are collated to their posts so their authorisation to minister could only be withdrawn by the bishop after a CDM. There might be clergy ministering in the Cathedral on the basis of PTO, but I’m sure the sub-dean and other residentiary canons will be on the firmer footing.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

Your position seems to be “let the sky and the mountains fall on the heads of everybody” – until Martyn Percy is vindicated.

Is that really justice at work ?

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Not until he is vindicated – until the matter is settled. Percy has clearly lost the confidence of the governing body and his position is untenable. So the answer is obvious and has been mentioned by a number of commenters on this thread – a financial settlement including full reimbursement of legal fees.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

I agree with you

Simon Dawson
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

But if Percy is not at fault, and the Governing Body is acting unreasonably, the other option would be for Percy to remain in situ and the removal/replacement of the governing body. That might not be an easy option to arrange, but the longer this case continues the more likely it might be, if the Charity Commission, and now the University Chancellor, are showing an active interest.

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

Further to the many remarks made about the absence of intervention by the visitor, this might explain why no reference has been made to her: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/8/section/46 If the CC makes a ruling which obliges the students/trustees to indemnify the college for the money they have dissipated over the last 4 years, it will magnify greatly the burdens of college fellows across the university. They will either demand that their respective college statutes are amended so they no longer have the liability (but this may also mean that they no longer have the control) and/or they will demand much higher, US-style… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

‘If the CC makes a ruling which obliges the students/trustees to indemnify the college for the money they have dissipated over the last 4 years, it will magnify greatly the burdens of college fellows across the university. They will either demand that their respective college statutes are amended so they no longer have the liability (but this may also mean that they no longer have the control) and/or they will demand much higher, US-style HE compensation to insure them against the recurrence of this kind of risk.’

Or they will behave responsibly and not launch witch hunts against colleagues

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I agree that a quick settlement is best all round: pressurize the college into paying all Percy’s legal costs and award him a substantial severance package – they can clearly afford it. If they don’t, then the Charity Commission should intervene and force the students/trustees to pay out of their own pocket, so that the college’s charitable funds are strictly ring-fenced. This will save everyone the rigmarole of a protracted employment tribunal with an uncertain outcome.

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

I don’t entirely agree with this. The (effective managing) trustees of Christ Church have shown themselves in a particular light. They have a double trust to academia and to the church. Whatever happens to the Dean, the Charity Commission should be continuing to investigate how those trusts are being discharged and whether there need to be changes to ensure that the public benefit inherent in charitable status is properly being secured. If the Dean steps down, there is still a job to be done. And the big question is whether the Dean is being pursued as he is for asking… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

The problem with your proposal is that the ‘substantial severance package’ would (presumably) fall on the charitable funds which you wish to see ring-fenced.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

It would be a legitimate use of charitable funds unless and until the Charity Commission decides otherwise.

Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

“a quick settlement is best all round” It’s not best for Martyn Percy, or for the interests of justice generally, because he loses his job unjustifiably. That is exactly the outcome that the Governing Body wants. My perception is that their strategy all along has been to exert pressure on Martyn Percy again, and again, and again, and again… until he leaves. For those who regard this clique’s perceived vendetta as a form of bullying, your proposal ends up giving bullies what they demanded and sought to achieve all along. All along, it seems to me, they have resolved to… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

A hypothetical chairman of an employment tribunal would, presumably, ask the claimant whether he wishes to remain in post, and the respondent whether they wish him to remain in post. If the reply to either question is in the negative, then the tribunal must decide which party, on the balance of probabilities, has the stronger case. If it decides in favour of the claimant, then all his legal costs would be borne by the respondent, as well as damages, in order to restore his financial position, and compensate him for his loss.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

I thought costs awards are relatively uncommon in employment tribunals?

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Yes, you are right, Kate. My apologies!

“Who pays the costs of an employment tribunal?

“Each party will usually bear their own legal costs, regardless of the outcome. However, the tribunal has the discretion to make a costs order where, for example, a party has acted unreasonably in bringing or conducting proceedings.

“Can costs be awarded in employment tribunal?

“Costs can be awarded in the employment tribunal, although this is rare. This could be where, for example, a claim is misconceived or the claimant has acted unreasonably.”

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
PatrickT
PatrickT
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

A tribunal allows an employee to claim that their employer has breached the law in respect of their employment. If the claim is within the areas of law covered by the tribunal, the tribunal will hear the arguments and give judgment on the merits of the claim, on the ways and extent to which the law has or has not been followed, and on the award (if any) which is made to the claimant. Parties discussing whether an employment continues and on what terms it does so (or ends) is a somewhat different matter and would be dealt with through… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

“…bullies always need to be faced down, called out, resisted”

I agree – but if the bullied and abused decide to fight the bully and abuser, the cost (not just financial) to the former is beyond massive.

The realpolitik is that bullies and abusers with the most power and the most money get their way in a world dominated and controlled by those with the most money and the most power.

Justice rarely comes into the equation. But of course it should. It is a critical precondition for humanity’s survival and wellbeing.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Totally agree, and I have to say – though I have not always shared all your views – you are incredibly tenacious in defence of values you believe in, and in pursuit of justice.

All other the world, bullies, and rogue states, abuse principles of justice and human rights. They need to be called out, or we risk descending into a dark phase in history.

Andrew Lightbown
Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

if it were as straightforward as a quick settlement and move on this would have been ‘sorted’ years ago! The fact that the situation is ongoing is proof that for at least one of the parties – guess which – this isn’t about money.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

A week is a long time in British politics, so they say. In light of today’s report in the Times, the Charity Commission would be well advised to steer well clear of this. The censors clearly know what they’re doing: the dean doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

The censors clearly do know what they are doing – they are persecuting an innocent man who has asked awkward questions which they don’t like.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

Standard practice in corporate governance necessitates the resignation of a chief executive following a board of directors’ vote of no confidence in him or her. The inevitable acrimony that followed the governing body’s vote of no confidence in the dean is a direct result of that crucial step not having been carried out.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  αnδrεw
30 days ago

As has been pointed out often, Christ Church is a peculiar case and your analogy does not hold. In any case,it assumes injustice can be allowed to go unchallenged. The Gospel of the Kingdom says otherwise.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
1 month ago

Ah yes … One Lord, one church … One University, at least 30 colleges … One Christ Church, two systems- College and CofECathedral…
https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/research-and-academia/governing-body

How many Masters?

One Governing Body? One body?

and, en passant, two Lords Patten, formerly MPs, this of Barnes and of Bath and formerly Hong Kong and EU and BBC and Oxford University and RC and SoS for the Environment

‘t’other, John of Wincanton and of Oxford West & Abingdon and RC and SoS for Education

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

I note various comments being made on this and other threads about sanctions being imposed upon Christ Church. These remarks are perhaps understandable in view of what has happened, but strike me as being highly problematic and somewhat implausible. As far as I am aware the university does not have the power to remove a college from the list of approved colleges set out in Statute V (it can add to the list, however, further to a petition to the crown). There is a detailed process for removing academics from university lectureships and other offices under Statute XII (Part D,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

Some of the suggestions in this thread might even be illegal.. But I think people are maybe underestimating quite how incendiary this short letter is. Christ Church’s charitable objectives are set out in the 2020 accounts which are available online here https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Christ%2520Church%2520Accounts%252031%2520July%25202020%2520FINAL%2520Unsigned.pdf   Read A(ii). “the provision, support and maintenance of Christ Church as a college within the University of Oxford;” I guess others might read the letter from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor differently to me, but I read it as the senior leadership of the university expressing a concern that the dispute is having a deleterious effect on the… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Kate, Maybe those accounts were available; I got this at 13:30 on 22 Dec 2021 The requested page “/sites/default/files/Christ%2520Church%2520Accounts%252031%2520July%25202020%2520FINAL%2520Unsigned.pdf” could not be found. Hmmmh- some mistake, surely? I also find myself wondering about the ‘Charitable Status’ question, which seems to raise a number of ‘bigger’ questions. That status for private education is being questioned by some, despite Oxbridge attempts to demonstrate how good they are at admitting plebs from ‘state education’. ‘The church’ too is under threat from the jury in the ‘court of public opinion’; Living in Homophobia and Hypocrisy? Bishops in the House of Lords. Time for the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

Sorry for the extreme length of this, but if only people (not directed at you!) would look at the Christ Church Statutes. So many comments here seem to assume the existence of some kind of hypothetical Christ Church College PLC, ignoring the Cathedral and the Dean’s priestly role in the latter. From Statute I. – CONSTITUTION OF THE HOUSE; THE GOVERNING BODY AND ITS GENERAL POWERS: 2. The objects of the House The objects of the House are (a) the advancement of religion, education and learning, in particular but not exclusively by: (i) the provision, support, conduct and maintenance of… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I would be interested whether the students who are strongly pushing for the removal of the Dean attend chapel regularly or not. One of the questions to be considered after the immediate disputes are concluded is whether there is a structural tension between secular academics and Christ Church as a religious institution.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I can’t answer that question, except to say that the students opposing the Dean include ordained priests.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Many thanks. It would *appear* that at least three members of the chapter are antipathetic towards the dean. None of the students are in orders, and it has been some time since the college chaplain was a student; for example, the long-serving theology student, Mark Edwards, who is a distinguished patristic scholar, is a layman. Only a small minority of the students will attend cathedral services regularly, and one of them has to attend as a function of directing the cathedral choir. An even smaller minority will be meaningfully Christian. Absent the happenstance of the cathedral, the college is as… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Froghole
Kate
Kate
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

Sorry. I had a Google link miles long and edited it. Obviously I made a mistake – I suggest you Google for it.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

The country needs to increase tax. Removing the charitable status of educational establishments seems an obvious move – which won’t happen under a Conservative Government.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
1 month ago

On the face of it, this is a run-of-the-mill squabble over governance, pay and conditions, which has been blown out of all proportion. Internal wranglings should have been confined to college cloisters and never seen the light of day. This airing of dirty laundry in public has been a spectacularly self-indulgent episode: both sides would have been better to part company way back in 2018. I imagine that the Charity Commission is less interested in the micro-politics than the mounting legal costs incurred by both sides, and the apparent squandering of charitable funds. The most egregious aspect of this saga is… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

P.S. I’d like to endorse Froghole’s comment on 10th January 2021 on Stephen Parsons’ blog under the post: Dean Percy and the case for specialist professional competence. In England the tradition has been to tolerate anomalies save unless they become toxic. Christ Church has become toxic, so it is now time to end the anomaly. On this basis, the connection between cathedral and college should be abolished, and the two remaining chairs reserved to clergy laicised (as they were at Cambridge once the last connection with Ely was severed in 1980). I think the cathedra should be removed to some… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

It seems to me that disentangling the so-called “secular” college from the Cathedral might be more complex than you suggest. First, the older colleges of both Oxford and Cambridge were originally religious foundations, and some have gone further than others to disentangle themselves from that. Christ Church still has a joint foundation. Then the question of how the assets are to be divided between the two principal charitable objects is likely to throw up some interesting considerations – after all the college provides accommodation for the residentiary canons, and there is also the question of how the endowment might be… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

“The lawyers and accountants will get even richer and the case will be argued in public for years”

That must not be allowed to happen.

The ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ is required. But such wisdom is in very short supply – and shunned – in a world controlled by money, power and over-inflated intellectual egos.

Some version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission might work maybe?

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

It was comparatively straightforward for the colleges, which had been perceived as ecclesiastical corporations, to secularise themselves in the wake of the Oxford University Act 1854: the colleges were permitted to amend their statutes by supplication to the privy council, and this resulted in the rapid erosion of clerical fellowships. Some of them had paid lip-service to clericalism for some time before then: All Souls, for example, was notorious in that many of its clerical fellowships were held by laymen who had obtained certificates of exemption from pliable archbishops (visitors of the college). After 1871 all tests were abolished and… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

I should add that, since 1840, capitular assets have been passed to the Church Commissioners and, in exchange, the Commissioners have underwritten a portion of the cathedrals’ costs. If cathedral were to be severed from college, the question would be whether, in the event of any apportionment of assets, it would be reasonable for those assets to be transferred to the Church Commissioners, whose endowment (after another year of inflated share prices) will be approaching £10bn. The cathedral and college have separate accounts, at least notionally. The outgoings of the cathedral routinely exceed its income, and the deficit is made… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

In the Christ Church Statutes the Cathedral and accommodation for the Dean and residentiary Canons vest in the Dean and Chapter to the exclusion of the Governing Body, not the other way round (although the Dean and Chapter are to facilitate the continued use of the Cathedral as the College Chapel), and these provisions are subject only to the legal authority of the Visitor. You are right to point out the extreme complexities which would be involved in any separation of the Cathedral and the College. If it were to happen, the Crown would be the starting point as Visitor… Read more »

David James
David James
1 month ago

I suspect that any excitement that might be generated by the suggestion of a other Chuech becoming (or acting as ) the Cathedral is whistling in the wind. The complexities involved in setting up such an arrangement would involve long and protracted negotiations and add yet more cost. I wouldn’t be surprised that the Residentiary Canons (and the Dean) could anticipate retaining their status wherever the building happened to be so little would be gained. As far as Lincoln is concerned the mistake that Margaret Thatcher made was in appointing a Dean from a different theological perspective from the Chapter… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Peter Hitchens writes in the Mail on Sunday [Boxing Day]: The author of Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, was a don at Christ Church, Oxford’s grandest college. It is thought that he based some of his characters, many of them crazy, on his fellow academics. But could he have written anything odder than the story of the relentless persecution of Christ Church’s Dean, Martyn Percy, by colleagues? For four years they have been trying to drive him out for reasons they have never been able to explain coherently. Now they seek to have him classified as mentally ill. Yet these… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

“In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake” – Wallace Stanley Sayre [‘Sayre’s Law’]

Henry Kissinger followed that up by saying:

“The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small”

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Toby Forward
Toby Forward
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Small?
A man’s health? His home and livelihood? His reputation?
Small for the dons. Immense for Dean Percy.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Toby Forward
1 month ago

I agree – but remember Henry Kissinger said that.

In a further development [‘Dons turn on Patten in Oxford college spat’, The Times, Dec 27 2021], Martin Townsend of Pagefield PR said:

“It is to our advantage there is still only limited public interest in this dispute. Picking a fight with Chris Patten would change that”

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
1 month ago

I am assuming Chris Patten has been fully briefed for this now five minute meeting on 7 January, not with the full Governing Body, as requested. The starting point is Sir Andrew Smith’s tribunal decision (which provides all the necessary background), of which there should be multiple copies in Wellington Square.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 month ago

Sir Andrew’s decision will be of less pertinence than the content of the 27 charges. Percy was suspended as dean in 2018 after he was accused of behaviour of an “immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” – the wording of the college’s statutes under which a dean can be removed. But given that a contract of employment exists, as determined by Employment Judge Andrew Clarke QC (sitting alone) in October 2020, the question is whether the governing body were justified in their vote of no confidence in the dean, in the context of standard corporate governance and employment law. If they… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

I have seen a copy of (what purports to be) the judgment in the original tribunal, and I have to say that the vast majority of the issues which were raised have crossed my desk (eg as chair of a Multi-Academy Trust) without causing the level of anxiety which seems to have been caused in this case – if my ego were bruised by such comments I would have escaped from parish ministry a long time ago. People who think the issues they raised in the Dean’s case merited the attention of a tribunal seem to me to be living… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Mark Bennet
30 days ago

You may well argue that the issues raised didn’t merit the attention of a tribunal, and in ordinary circumstances you may well be right. My point is that without the college’s archaic statutes, the governing body wouldn’t have needed to bring a tribunal in order to force the dean’s resignation. They would simply have needed to bring a vote of no confidence in the dean based on the content of the 27 charges – and that would have been that.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
28 days ago

Smith concluded that there was no evidence of “immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” because that is the threshold required under the college’s constitution in order to remove the dean. But in ordinary employment situations, no board of directors would be required to satisfy such a high evidential test. A vote of no confidence is all that is generally required to remove a CEO. Furthermore, it has already been established that the dean is an employee for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. To my mind that ought to be a fairly strong indication that a tribunal would apply recent… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by αnδrεw
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  αnδrεw
28 days ago

The presumption of innocence doesn’t seem to figure in this thinking. Equally you choose to ignore that the 27 charges were dismissed, moreover by a retired High Court Judge far better qualified than the people you would wish to decide the matter.

This is not a company with a board of directors. The Dean is appointed by the Crown, albeit by a different selection process to other cathedral deans.

As nothing you or I, or anyone else on TA, says will make a shred of difference to the outcome, why can’t you simply allow the law to take its course?

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
28 days ago

The presumption of innocence is generally speaking a meaningless legal principle in the context of run-of-the mill employment tribunals where the employee is claimant, and the employer is respondent, isn’t it?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
28 days ago

I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
28 days ago

“As nothing you or I, or anyone else on TA, says will make a shred of difference to the outcome…” – Rowland Wateridge

That is a questionable assumption – a personal opinion – not fact.

As Lord Tennyson said – if my memory serves me right: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world thinks of”

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
28 days ago

Trying to draw a line, Richard, in a discussion which has become increasingly unpleasant and doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Did you not pick up the significance of the two preceding paragraphs?

But I fully accept that it isn’t my role to do this, and, of course, I recognise the power of prayer.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
28 days ago

Sadly, Rowland, employment tribunals are always unpleasant affairs, whichever side you’re on. C’est la vie!

91
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x