Thinking Anglicans

Reforming Clergy Discipline

We linked some weeks ago to an article at Surviving Church titled The Clergy Discipline Measure – RIP? but we have been remiss in not following up on this topic.

The Church Times had reported on 16 July: ‘Toxic’ CDM leaves clergy suicidal, research finds

THE Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) is part of a “toxic management culture” in the Church of England, and is so flawed that it needs complete replacement.

This conclusion, in a paper published on Thursday by Dr Sarah Horsman, Warden of Sheldon, an independent retreat centre and support hub for those in ministry, is based on the results of a survey of one third of the C of E clergy, carried out with the University of Aston…

That paper by Dr Horsman and others can be found here.

Dr Josephine Stein has now responded here.

The Clergy Discipline Measure was a disaster from the word go.  Ten years ago, I wrote to the Chair of the Clergy Discipline Commission to explain why the CDM was not an appropriate instrument for dealing with clerical sexual abuse, and why a completely different approach was needed.  My paper was circulated to the Commission and put on the agenda for their next meeting.  But did they ‘listen’?  It appears that they did not; the amended measure, the ‘Safeguarding and the Clergy Discipline Measure’, only exacerbated the problems.

Things may be different now.  The devastating impacts of the CDM on clergy, two thirds of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, have been exposed by the Sheldon Community’s research and Dr Sarah Horsman’s report.  The findings make depressingly familiar reading for survivors of clerical sexual abuse.  Survivors encounter similarly horrendous responses to disclosures and experience the same sorts of impacts on our mental and physical health, finances, careers and relationships as clergy subjected to CDMs.  And it is for similar reasons: the Kafkaesque ‘toxic management culture’ that privileges arcane, inhumane processes (often themselves incompetently managed) over appropriate professional judgement, practical and pastoral support, and working towards healing and reconciliation.

Put simply, both the CDM and the Church’s responses to disclosures of ecclesiastical abuse are incompatible with Christian discipleship.  Not only is the CDM time-consuming and expensive, the human cost can be hell on earth.  The adversarial, legalistic approach causes structural damage to the relationships between bishops and clergy, between clergy, church-goers and congregations, and between the faithful and the Church itself.  Some survivors and clergy lose their faith; some their very lives.  The CDM is a disaster for the life of the Church.

It doesn’t have to be this way…

Do read the whole article.

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Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago

Yes, do read the whole of Dr. Stein’s superb article. I wish I had confidence that her advice will be followed.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

I first became aware of CDM’s five years ago when I read of the suicide of a village priest in our neighbouring parish. I was deeply shocked at the time. I am not shocked now. It makes me shudder – and beyond angry – to think how many have suffered, suffer now, and will continue to suffer under this unjust and cruel process.

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

It was revealed last month [July 11] “there are 27 extant NST core groups”. It really does make one wonder how many people have committed suicide [or attempted suicide] over the years. The statistics would be easy enough to compile internally, but the numbers may well be too shocking to make public.

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
3 months ago

I used to be Chair of Unite the Union’s Faithworkers’ Branch and I can only endorse what has been said about this pernicious piece of CofE legislation. My contribution is that even following the publication of these reports archdeacons and bishops are to this day behaving in the ways highlighted. Although not involved with Unite anymore (a long story) clergy still find their way to me seeking help. Only last week a young, relatively newly ordained cleric phoned me to say that he was considering suicide because his archdeacon had threatened him with a CDM but had forbidden him to… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

Read and weep From the Archives two years ago [Feb 2 2018] –  “New investigation into former Bishop of Chichester George Bell” – SpirtitFM] The Church of England says it is in the process of launching a fresh investigation into allegations of sexual abuse concerning the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell. A statement from the Church confirmed ‘fresh evidence’ has been brought to light concerning Bishop Bell, and that they would work collaboratively with Sussex Police. Bishop Bell was accused of abusing a woman over a four year period, starting when she was five-years-old in the 1940s and 50s. He… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago

Wasn’t this the subject of the Briden Report, and the claim effectively dismissed?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

Indeed yes, RW – Timothy Briden dismissed this scurrilous second allegation against Bishop Bell. But was it “effectively dismissed”? Obviously not by ++Welby and +Warner who continue to claim there is still a “significant cloud” hanging over the head of the venerated wartime Bishop. The only “significant cloud” which exists hangs over Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner.

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
David Lamming
David Lamming
3 months ago

Yes, it was. And it was nothing to do with the CDM. The original claim by ‘Carol’, that the NST mismanaged, was a claim for damages, which the current Bishop of Chichester settled (the claim was formally against him in his corporate capacity), the settlement announcement of 22 October 2015 provoking, eventually, the appointment of Lord Carlile CBE QC to conduct an independent review into the Church’s handling of the case. The ‘fresh evidence’ received shortly after publication of the Carlile Review in December 2017 led to the appointment of Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury (as Commissary… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

CDM’s have nothing directly to do with the George Bell case because he died in 1958, but CDM’s are inextricably linked to Core Groups via NST. It is disturbing to note that two prominent advocates of Bishop Bell within the CofE – former Archbishop George Carey and Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church Oxford – are ‘under investigation’ by the NST.

It might be worth reminding ourselves of the Church of England Statement on Rt Revd George Bell on 22 October 2015 – five years ago:

https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/promoting-safer-church/news-and-statements/statement-rt-revd-george-bell-1883-1958

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Yes, thank you, I am familiar with the background. There couldn’t be a CDM against a deceased priest, but the procedure which was followed was shockingly incompetent and a travesty of natural justice, inexcusably so, as there is a body of readily available independent specialist expertise, both legal and medical, which could, and should, have been employed, but was not.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rowland Wateridge
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

Will Archbishop Welby [& his Commissars] ever admit that the Bishop Bell Core Group was a Kangaroo Court which threw the wartime Bishop under the bus of the Court of Public Opinion by their Statement in October 2015?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

Sanlon & Tinker’s “outrageousness of silence” equally applies to Archbishop Welby in the Bishop Bell scandal.

I can only conclude a public apology is because a ‘higher authority’ has instructed him not to do so.

Heaven knows who this higher authority might be, but it certainly isn’t Divine.

Andrew
Andrew
3 months ago

In hindsight, it may have been unrealistic to attempt to shoehorn in modern working practices into a relic of feudalism when, even after the introduction of common tenure, clergy remain office-holders and not employees, reporting to archdeacons and bishops but not directly accountable to their congregations.   Limited by its terms of reference, Sheldon didn’t analyse the 75% of non-safeguarding cases into categories of offences or investigate the experience of congregations. These data will be necessary in devising a threefold replacement of the CDM, as they recommend.   Although most were ‘not guilty’, we’re in the dark as to whether… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
3 months ago

If you want clergy to be employees of the PCC and paid by them you might be happier in either Scotland or the USA where the Vestry has an enhanced role. I would not hold office or be an employee in either province of the Anglican Communion.

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