Following on from our last update, More Christ Church shenanigans, Surviving Church now has a detailed discussion of the involvement of the CofE National Safeguarding Team, see The Martyn Percy affair – further comments. As usual, this article needs to be read in full, but here’s the last two paragraphs:
…Another question that is being asked by many of us is this. If Martyn Percy deserved investigation over safeguarding issues with apparently such flimsy evidence being offered, then why not are other more pressing cases given attention? There are several outstanding CDM claims against serving bishops which lie on file. Presumably these can now be activated by victims and complainants? There is the case of Jonathan Fletcher which seems to be ignored by central church authorities, even though it reached front-page headlines of the Daily Telegraph. If the allegations against Fletcher are even half-true, he still poses a safeguarding threat which should be a priority for the NST. To focus on Martyn, who poses no such threat, and ignore Fletcher can only be described as a deeply political choice.
Unless someone explains the real basis for NST involvement in the Christ Church factional disputes, Martyn’s supporters will conclude that the NST has become a political tool at the service of certain unaccountable factions within the Church of England. If that surmise is correct, one would hope that the General Synod would wake up to this fact and vote the NST out of existence. We cannot afford to have a rogue structure within the Church which operates with so much secrecy, factionalism and sometimes overt bullying. Whoever authorised the unleashing of the NST on Martyn Percy has been responsible for taking an enormous gamble with the Church’s assets and reputation. They have gambled on an outcome which, even if successful at one level, does no credit to the Church. If the anonymous power brokers are, however, unsuccessful in what they are doing in Oxford, this may have the effect of destroying the NST structure altogether and their future ability to exercise power through it.
And the Telegraph reports on the financial implications for the college: Christ Church loses more than £3m in donations in row over Dean, it is claimed
Christ Church has suffered losses of more than £3m in bequests and donations due to an ongoing “farce” over the Dean’s tenure, it is claimed.
A row between the Oxford college’s governing body and the Very Rev Martyn Percy has become increasingly bitter, fuelled by accusations that the latter’s critics will stop at nothing to have him deposed.
Rev Jonathan Aitken, one of Dr Percy’s allies, has now claimed that the dispute is costing the college dearly, not just in legal fees and tribunal costs but also in lost donations as alumni take action to make their voices heard.
He accused the Censors, dons who take on responsibility for the academic life of the college, of becoming “financial alcoholics” who could not stop pouring away the charitable funds of the college on legal fees.
“The failed coup and the continuing attacks by the Censors and their allies on the Dean have been a financial catastrophe for Christ Church,” he told the Telegraph.
“The majority of the governing body have not been told what the costs are and do not know, to the nearest million, what they might be.
“But as a conservative estimate, legal bills are already in excess of £2.5m.”
This week’s issue of Church Times has a series of comment articles on racism. There is also a related news item: Church leaders join the voices against racism.
The roots of racism in the Church are deep and thick – Catherine Nancekievill “has seen the challenges from within the Ministry Division”
The quietly privileged need to repent and commit themselves to change – Paul Butler “describes how he came to appreciate the importance of campaigning for racial equality”
Can the Church’s culture change? – White clerics should not remain silent about structural racism, says Rob Wickham
Racism is rife in this country, to0 – It is time for systematic change in Church and society, argues Arlington Trotman
If corona won’t get us, racism will – Anderson Jeremiah and Shemil Mathew find parallels between the death of George Floyd and the Covid-19 death rate among BAME people
Peter Francis & Charlie Gladstone A Statement from Gladstone’s Library – Black Lives Matter
Peterson Feital ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…But We Can Stop Hurting People!
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Outsider as the Prophet
Thomas Plant All Things Lawful And Honest From Anamnesis to Amnesia: how the Neo-Puritans in charge want to erase the Church’s memory7 Comments
Updated Friday evening to include Church of England latest advice issued at 17.15
This morning the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued:
This is a comprehensive document. The whole needs to be read carefully before allowing any opening for individual prayer, which is now permitted (date was changed by Government yesterday) from tomorrow, Saturday.
A PDF copy of the Government document, at the time of writing is available here.
A summary of section 4 is found in this Law & Religion UK post: Guidance on supervised individual prayer
Update The Church of England has now issued the following:51 Comments
Arun Arora The Guardian How can the Church of England speak about race when its leaders are so white?
David Hamid Eurobishop Racism is a sin. Full stop.
Paul Vallely Church Times George Floyd was an innocent victim
Archbishop of Canterbury on the Church’s response to racism (2 minute video)
Philip North ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Breathlessness
Nikki Groarke ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Preserving Bricks & Mortar
Edward Dowler All Things Lawful And Honest More than Bricks
“The Significance of Church Buildings”
Christopher Rogers Evening Standard The Church of England faltered when our country needed spiritual guidance48 Comments
Updated again Thursday morning
The Church of England House of Bishops issued a statement earlier today: Bishops revise and produce further guidance. The text is copied below.
The House of Bishops today discussed a range of issues around COVID-19 and approved further advice on funerals, the celebration of Holy Communion and ordinations.
The guidance advises that funerals may be carried out in church buildings from June 15.
It has been issued in light of the easing of restrictions on individual private prayer in places of worship, the reduction in death rates linked to Covid-19 and the pastoral needs of those who have been bereaved. It is in line with guidance from Public Health England.
In keeping with the Church of England’s wider approach to a phased reopening of places of worship, it will be up to each diocesan bishop and senior team how they use the guidance to support churches and cathedrals depending on their local context.
The House noted that this guidance is permissive and not prescriptive. If a building could not open because staff were ill or shielding or could not be easily cleaned, for example, it would be a local decision by those with authority over the building as to whether the permission was used or not.
The funeral may take place at a local crematorium or cemetery if the decision is taken not to open the church as is the case now.
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: “While the restrictions on everyday life necessary to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have been difficult for us all, I’m only too aware that those who have lost loved ones have suffered most of all. I know that the grieving process has been even more difficult because of the limitations on funerals themselves.
“There are now least some signs of hope of an improvement with a fall both in the number of new infections and the death rate, but there will still, sadly, have to be significant limitations on how we mark funerals for some time to come.
“Nevertheless the House of Bishops has agreed that in light of the changing circumstances it is time to review our advice so that it will soon be possible for funeral services to be conducted inside church buildings following Government guidelines.
“At the same time we are actively planning for a wider phased reopening of places of worship when it is safe and practical to do so and look forward to the time when we can meet and worship together again in our buildings which mean so much to so many.”
Separate funeral and bereavement resources for clergy and officiants for funerals can be found on our website.
Funerals: the most recent COVID-19 Advice for Conducting Funerals version 2.2 dated 3 June is here.
Ordinations: see COVID-19 Advice on Ordinations
On Holy Communion, see COVID-19 Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion
Updated risk assessment document for opening church buildings (version 2 dated 9 June). It carries this warning
THIS IS A PLANNING DOCUMENT ONLY. IT WILL BE UPDATED AND CONTENT MAY CHANGE ONCE GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE ON REOPENING PLACES OF WORSHIP HAS BEEN PUBLISHED. We are awaiting clarification from government on the extent and nature of what ‘supervised individual prayer’ means and what exactly will be required. We will update this document as further information becomes available. SUPERSEDED by version 3 at 17.15 Friday
This COVID-19: update from the Church of England on reopening church buildings by Becky Clark via Law & Religion UK is also very helpful.
Surviving Church has published a lengthy analysis of the recently reported development involving the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England: The Martyn Percy affair … a proper case for official Church involvement?
Here’s an extract (but do read the whole article):
…But more disturbingly, I have heard on good authority and am aware that others have also heard, that at a recent Governing Board of the college, one of the senior college figures boasted to the Trustees “the wily Censors have made sure they complained to the right part of the National Safeguarding Team”. If true, both ends of that statement are extraordinary. I don’t know if the NST are aware of this. I don’t imagine so. There would be an outcry across the Church if the NST had been complicit in their own ugly appropriation. It would raise questions about who is controlling different bits of this structure, and in particular who is pulling the strings of the “right part” of the National Safeguarding Team. I suspect Synod members would throw their hands up in horror and ask: how the hell does one rescue a Church’s national safeguarding so far down a road of ethical dysfunctionality?
But this core group sets an interesting precedent. Quite a few Church of England Bishops have been accused of safeguarding failings, cover up, poor response or no response towards survivors, gaslighting, blanking and fogging, dishonesty – yet how many have had core groups convened about them by the National Safeguarding Team? It would now seem that a complaint from a single source against a senior church officer is no longer time-limited, but will result in the formation of a core group on which the complainant can be personally represented. The person under investigation will presumably be asked to step aside from safeguarding responsibilities during the investigation. Although the circumstances in which this has come about are ugly and point to church officialdom targeting a well-known critic – the situation has unexpected potential for survivors. There are a significant number of survivors who have credible and legitimate claims that serving bishops have mishandled disclosures of abuse or have been dishonest in their response. We might welcome the opportunity to have core groups established, and to have complaints acted upon at last. I suspect the number of bishops who could feasibly be asked to stand down through such action might be surprising…
And then there’s another weird development, reported exclusively (so far) by Archbishop Cranmer: Christ Church dons launch new attack on the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.
Again, you need to read the whole article, but here’s a taster
…a few weeks ago Professor Biggar received a letter from the College’s lawyers on behalf of the Governing Body, demanding that the McDonald Centre remove all references to Christ Church from its website, including the Centre’s logo, which has the appearance of the famous Tom Tower. The request was effectively to sever all association between the McDonald Centre and Christ Church.
It is curious, after more than a decade of harmonious scholarship and manifest fraternal accord, that that the Governing Body or ‘Censors’ of Christ Church would seek suddenly to censor this academic relationship. Curious, that is, until you consider that Nigel Biggar has been vocal and very public in his defence of Dean Martyn Percy, who is currently being bullied out of his job by a faction of Censors. Having failed to tarnish him with “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature“, they have now turned for assistance to the Church of England to try and oust him for “a consistent lack of moral compass“…
Update 11 June
The Telegraph now also has a report on this, Row escalates between Christ Church Dean and dons as Oxford college tries to distance itself from McDonald Centre.20 Comments
Update Tuesday A press release was issued this morning; I have copied it below the timetable.
Update Saturday A note on the Handling of Questions in the Meeting of Synod Members has been added to the website. The Questions Notice Paper will be published by 10.00am on Wednesday 8 July.
A provisional timetable for a meeting of General Synod members on Saturday 11 July 2020 has been published today. This will be the informal remote meeting proposed by the officers of Synod last month when the residential meeting in York was cancelled. There are no details as yet about how this virtual meeting will be conducted.
The timetable is copied below.
GENERAL SYNOD: July 2020 Timetable
Saturday 11 July
10.30 am – 12.45 pm
10.30 am – 10.45 am Opening worship
Introduction and welcomes
10.45 am – 11.30 am Presidential Address
11.30 am – 11.45 am Pause for reflection
*11.45 am – 12.45 pm Question Time part one
1.30 pm – 4.30 pm
1.30 pm – 2.45 pm Response to Covid-19: Presentation followed by Questions
*2.45 pm – 3.00 pm BREAK
3.00 pm – 4.00 pm Question Time part two
4.00 pm – 4.15 pm Reflections and/or Scriptural thought
4.15 pm – 4.30 pm Closing worship
*4.30 pm Close of Business
* not later than
Please note that all timings are indicative unless marked with an asterisk.
Deadline for receipt of questions for the formal Question Time: 1200 hrs Tuesday 30 June 2020
Update – press release
Informal virtual meeting of General Synod members to take place
The timetable for an informal virtual meeting of General Synod members has been published.
The timetable for an informal virtual meeting of members of General Synod on Saturday July 11 has been published. This has the support of the Business Committee of the General Synod after it was confirmed that the residential meeting due to take place in York in July had been cancelled in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. The term of the current General Synod has been extended for a year with planned elections to the General Synod postponed until next autumn. Synod officers continue to explore options to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person in November.
The timetable can be found on the Synod area of the Church of England website.0 Comments
The Chelmsford Diocesan Synod recently considered plans put forward to “achieve financial resilience”. The papers are published on the diocesan website, and may well be of wider interest as other dioceses consider the same issues.
The overall plan is contained in this document: Towards Financial Resilience.
One aspect of that plan is to accelerate the reduction of stipendiary incumbent posts, so as to achieve in 2021 what was previously the target for 2025, i.e. from 275 (as at 31 March 2020) to 215 in the next 18 months. Surprisingly, 48.5 of these posts are already vacant. The detailed plan is described here: An approach to reducing stipendiary numbers.
To understand the background the Summarised Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2019 and the Parish Share and Budget 2021 Proposal may be helpful.49 Comments
Updated to add links to risk assessment template, and to add more media reports
The UK Government made an announcement, which was reported in the media (see below) late on Saturday evening, 6 June.
The full text of this, dated Sunday 7 June, can be found here: Places of worship to re-open for individual prayer.
The Church of England issued this on Saturday evening: Statement on individual prayer in churches.
On Friday morning, 5 June, the Church of England had issued updated guidance on a number of aspects of worship in church buildings, all of which can be found here. That included COVID-19 Advice on Individual Prayer by Members of the public in Church Buildings (dated 3 June) and also this parish risk assessment template (Version 1.6 dated 22 May, Word file, four pages, here is a PDF version of the template). NB this is now superseded, see 9 June article.
Initial media reports:
Guardian Limited re-opening of places of worship in England planned for 15 June (original headline’s erroneous reference to UK now corrected)
and later Religious leaders split over reopening places of worship in England
James Gilder All Things Lawful And Honest A Church for All
“Want a Church for all? Be prepared to engage with the nitty-gritty.”
Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Pretending!
Danny Pegg Anglicanism.org A New Beginning or a Curate’s Egg?
“A local and national reflection on the Church of England during the time of Coronavirus”
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Clergy Discipline Measure. Time for Replacement?31 Comments
Press release from the Church of England
Safeguarding data 2018
Safeguarding data has been published today taken from annual safeguarding returns, collected by dioceses in 2018 and sent to the National Safeguarding Team. It also contains comparison on data collected over the three previous years 2015-17.
The majority of safeguarding-related concerns or allegations relate to children or vulnerable adults who attend or who have contact with the Church and their lives within the community.
Overall the number of concerns or allegations reported to dioceses in 2018 relating to children, young people and vulnerable adults in the Church was 2,504. This compares to 3287 in 2017, and is slightly higher than 2015 and slightly lower than 2016.
A quarter of concerns or allegations in 2018 required reporting to statutory authorities similar to 2017.
In 2018, 16% of all concerns (400 cases) relate to clergy, including retired and deceased clergy, a slight increase on the average for 2015-17 which was around 12%. There are currently around 20,000 active clergy in the Church.
Safeguarding-related disciplinary measures against clergy decreased in 2018 and combined with the increase in reports against clergy this suggests that more concerns are being raised earlier because there are greater overall numbers of reports but lower numbers of disciplinary cases.
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, a member of the National Safeguarding Steering Group, said:
“In any report about data of this nature, it is important to recognise that behind each statistic are real human lives and that this is a snapshot of the vital safeguarding work going on in all our 16,000 churches across the country. As the report states it is most likely that where there is an increase compared to previous years this reflects the impact of safeguarding training across the whole Church, and the increased likelihood that people will report concerns to their diocesan safeguarding adviser, where there may have been greater reticence in the past. The NST will continue to study trends over a longer period to inform its ongoing safeguarding work and has committed to publishing data on an annual basis.”
Press release from Number 10
Reverend Canon Doctor Amanda Ford appointed Dean of Bristol: 3 June 2020
The Queen has approved that the Reverend Canon Doctor Amanda (Mandy) Ford be appointed Dean of Bristol.
Published 3 June 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved that the Reverend Canon Doctor Amanda (Mandy) Ford, Canon Chancellor and Director of Discipleship and Ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, be appointed Dean of Bristol following the appointment of the Very Reverend Doctor David Hoyle MBE as Dean of Westminster.
There are more details on the Bristol diocesan website.1 Comment
Alison Webster ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to not Caring about Care
Russell Dewhurst All Things Lawful And Honest Table for One
“The lawfulness of Holy Communion celebrated without a congregation”
Together for the Common Good The Plague and the Parish: An Invitation to the Churches
Church Times Lockdown could change the Church permanently
Richard Giles, John Sadler, and Robert Warren “call for a radical rethink of the work of a parish priest”
Janet Fife Surviving Church The Church of England Gentlemen’s Club34 Comments
New Dean of the Arches and Auditor of the Chancery Court of York appointed
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are delighted to announce that Morag Ellis QC has been appointed as Dean of the Arches and Auditor on the retirement of Charles George QC. Morag will take up her duties on the 8th June 2020.
Morag was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1984 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2006. She began her career at 8, New Square (now Cornerstone Barristers) before moving to Francis Taylor Building in 2014. Morag was appointed Commissary General of the Diocese of Canterbury in 2011, and Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of Southwark in 2013. In 2015 Morag was appointed as a Panel Chair to Clergy Discipline Tribunals and became a member of the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod in 2016. She was appointed as QC Church Commissioner in 2019. She is also a Reader licensed in the Diocese of Chelmsford.
The Archbishops would like to express their enormous thanks to Charles for his remarkable service over the last 11 years and wish him well as he steps down from the role.
The Dean of the Arches (Province of Canterbury) and Auditor (Province of York) is the most senior ecclesiastical judge in England and as Master of the Faculties is responsible for the regulation of the notarial profession in England and Wales and some overseas jurisdictions. The appointment is made jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with the approval of Her Majesty the Queen.2 Comments
Sam McNally-Cross All Things Lawful And Honest For the love of God, don’t sacrifice the poor.
Philip Murray All Things Lawful And Honest Thoughts and questions about ‘online Church’
Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of bishops, truth, & the flimsy altar of political expediency
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church A letter from the future. Safeguarding in 2025
Peter Crumpler Christian Today Longing for a return to church
Rachel Treweek ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Social Distancing
Richard Bastable All Things Lawful And Honest Archiepiscopal Contradictions44 Comments
Church Commissioners for England publish their 2019 Annual Report
The Church Commissioners for England, the endowment fund of the Church of England, published today its Annual Report for 2019.
Key results include:
To download a copy of the full report, please click here.2 Comments
Updated again Friday
Update: the Church Times has a news article today, Dean Percy faces further challenges at Christ Church, Oxford. This omits reference to the letter to the Charity Commission copied below. Concerning the National Safeguarding Team aspect of this story, it says this:
…In 2018, the Dean cited past safeguarding concerns reported to him as evidence that the college’s procedures were inadequate. Earlier this year, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team set up a core group to examine the Dean’s handling of those concerns.
The latest issue of Private Eye reports that two members of that core group are complainants from the college, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson. A C of E spokesperson said on Wednesday: “As at any core group, safeguarding leads from relevant bodies or institutions were invited to share information to work out a way forward; in this case from the Cathedral, the College, the Cathedral school, and the diocese.”
The Dean is not formally represented on the core group, though he has been sent its terms of reference.
The spokesperson emphasised: “The core group has never asked the Dean to stand down — he was asked to abide by certain conditions.”
Archbishop Cranmer has a comprehensive report on the latest horrific developments at Christ Church, Oxford here:
The article above links to many of the sources quoted, particularly those likely to be behind a paywall of some kind. Nevertheless here for completeness are some more:
Private Eye Christ Church at war
Two letters in the Telegraph (scroll down to “Row over Oxford dean”) from Brian Martin and Jimmy James
Another letter in The Times which you can read here.
A letter to Baroness Stowell, Chair of the Charity Commission, signed by 60 persons, has been released. See the PDF copy for the list of signatories (full disclosure: I am one). The text of the letter is copied below.
Dear Lady Stowell
You recently received a letter from some individual trustees of Christ Church Oxford making a series of allegations against their Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy.
We wish to express our confidence in Martyn Percy. We know him in our various capacities, as a man of consistently good character, an exceptional scholar, a respected public servant, and an outstanding Christian leader.
We do not speculate on the reasons why some members of the Governing Body of Christ Church wish to go to such extreme lengths to destroy the reputation of their Dean and to break his spirit. But we do know that :
- The recent letter is the latest episode in a sustained campaign against the Dean led by senior members of the college Governing Body since his appointment.
- The specific allegations against Martyn Percy have changed over time, but each allegation has been disproved. In August of last year Dean Percy was wholly exonerated after an extensive investigation by Sir Andrew Smith, a retired High Court judge.
- The signatories of the letter are far from objective. Several of them were revealed by Sir Andrew to have employed devious methods and offensive language in their efforts to break his resolve, and some will be parties to an Employment Tribunal tobe heard next year.
- The grievances in the letter are a set of untested and gratuitous assertions for which no evidence is provided.
- The insinuation that Dean Percy personally represents a safeguarding risk is abhorrent and wholly unjustified.
- The suggestion that he “lacks a moral compass” is so far from the truth as to be laughable, were it not so insulting.
We believe that Martyn Percy is a victim of gross injustice and malice. We wish to see this damaging business resolved justly, and with the minimum delay, so that he can continue to exercise his gifts in leading Christ Church.
Elizabeth Anderson Earth and Altar “Wash Your Own Feet”: on singleness and the domestic church
Trevor Thurston-Smith The Pensive Pilgrim Speeding up the Tortoise
Jamie Harrison ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Pre-Judging Our “Good Samaritans”
Christopher Craig Brittain Anglican Journal
The Eucharist and coming out of lockdown: A tract for these COVID-19 times
On virtual communion: A tract for these COVID-19 Times (Part II)
Updated again Thursday afternoon
There has been widespread media coverage of the interventions made by numerous Church of England bishops in the story about Dominic Cummings. Here is a sample:
And there have been several blog articles discussing them:
Mark Strange, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has published the letter he sent to the Prime Minister. You can read that here.31 Comments
Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back….to Power Games & Inequality
The Guardian reports on this as Synod member attacks Church of England’s ‘self-obsession’ in pandemic
Zoë Ettinger Insider Inside 19 of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world
The photographs are also available here.
Tom Wright Church Times Don’t let the weak go to the wall again
“Society needs wise, statesmanlike leadership — not a mad rush back to profiteering”
Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of ‘new vision,’ status, money and prayer.
Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau When lockdown ends, what will ‘normal’ be like?
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Iwerne Camps. All Change?
Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Zooming Along67 Comments