Thinking Anglicans

Safeguarding issues in an Essex school

There has been discussion recently in the media and on social media of an incident at a Church of England school in Essex. This involved a Church of England priest who has resigned as a governor of a church school and also as the local incumbent because he did not like the way that the school handled the gender transition of a child.

This discussion began on 25 May when the Mail on Sunday reported: Vicar resigns after being ‘silenced’ over a Church of England school’s plan to keep an eight-year-old pupil’s sex change a secret from parents.

That provoked a detailed press statement the same day from the Mermaids charity: Response to Mail on Sunday.It is worth reading..  You can read more about this charity here. It is recommended as a resource in Valuing All God’s Children, the Church of England’s guidance on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, republished in Autumn 2017 (see page 39 here.)

The next day, 26 May, Christian Today reported: Vicar quits over transgenderism policy at Church of England school.

Premier published on 28 May: Read the letter from the CofE vicar resigning over the Church’s approach to sexuality.

Christian Concern published  a statement dated 31 May:  Statement from Reverend John Parker.

Subsequently Christian Today reported twice on responses from the Bishop of Chelmsford:

1 June ‘I’m at a loss to know where this comes from’ – bishop responds to transgender accusations

5 June Bishop of Chelmsford denies suggesting vicar could leave Church of England over transgender views

The Diocese of Chelmsford then published the full text of the bishop’s Ad Clerum which I recommend reading in full.

On 6 June, Premier published this report: Bishop defends actions after suggestion he told vicar to leave Church over transgender complaint.

You can find other articles published earlier by Christian Concern about this incident here and here (26 May),  also here and here (28 May).

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Maggie
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Maggie

Surely the main safe-guarding issue is John Parker going public on this which makes the school easily identifiable?

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

The Reverend John Parker knows better about transgender issues than the WHO, the NHS, the GMC, the NMC, the Law, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the professional specialists in the field? No. He holds a particular religious dogma, at odds with the professionals and specialists in this field, and frankly at odds with the position of the Church of England, whose bishops have already issued affirming guidelines. He clearly thinks his religious dogma trumps medical science. It is widely recognised and understood that gender dysphoria is a deeply distressing condition, and is experienced at almost any age. It is… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“As for the mention of Christian Concern, don’t make me laugh”

Paul Diamond as made a good living out of losing cases for them. He might be able to make a few bob by losing another.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I thought I’d check out Christian Concern’s facebook page, and half an hour of reading revealed a very hostile environment for trans people (and indeed lesbian and gay people too): On trans kids and adults: “It’s so ridiculous it sounds like a pantomime. Shouldn’t the response be… ‘Oh no we’re not!'” On the Mermaids counsellor who came to the school: “Someone bitchslap that lady!” “Changing gender at that age is 100% RUBBISH!!” “Tony Blair repealed Section 28 – the law which prevented the promotion of homosexual/other sexual lifestyles and that is the problem – there is no longer a law… Read more »

Dan Barnes-Davies
Guest

The incidence of LGBTQIA+ (well, GB really) among bishops may be a bit higher than the population average at last count, but still, 50%?! ;P

Jo B
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Jo B

Do “Christian” “Concern” have any redeeming features or are they exclusively there to make Christians look like horrible people?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Their main leader is a member of general synod. For Chichester, as I recall.

Kate
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Kate

This is a minister asking to be allowed to follow his conscience on LGBT matters. Again, doing so causes problems.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Kate, John Parker can follow his conscience on LGBT matters, but he can’t dictate state education policy in a state-funded school.

David Exham
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David Exham

I am sorry, Kate, but this will not do. This is about a very young,very vulnerable child and a school that appears to be doing its best to support the child and the parents. The minister chose to breach his duty of confidentiality as a school governor by secretly recording a meeting that he attended. He could have ‘followed his conscience’ by quietly resigning as a governor. Instead he chose to make the whole matter public, without apparent concern for the effect of the child involved and its parents, and he also chose to resign from his living, while making… Read more »

John Wallace
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John Wallace

I agree with David. The personal shibboleths of an individual priest need confronting. As David says, if it was so important to him, he could have quietly resigned. Instead he displays his hang-ups for all to see. As I have said before on this forum, let us all forget about sex as a secondary issue and turn to the proclamation of the love of God in Christ that alone can save the world – straight, LGBT+ and all those who don’t want to be labelled.

Kate
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Kate

Oh, I agree. And equally if a priest cannot treat same sex couples identically to other couples then that priest needs to resign his or her office. And the same if s/he cannot unequivocally support and bless a vulnerable person who changes gender.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

How could that be imposed on church communities that in religious conscience believed gay and lesbian relationships were wrong? I don’t see how that could be remotely practical. Wouldn’t it just drive probably thousands of churches into schism? Not only do I think it is wrong to impose a uniformity that tramples on the religious consciences of individual priests or whole church communities: I think you’re conflating a secular and voluntary role as a state school governor with the vocation and living community of a priest and their church. You seem to be basically saying that any priest who disagrees… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

You are talking about what is politically achievable. Before the resurrection, the disciples too thought in terms of political reality. Simon Peter even denied the Lord three times. After witnessing the resurrection though, they focused instead on what was right and many of them died martyrs. What is right is that no couple is turned away by any priest. What is right is that any person following the medically accepted route of transition can receive blessing from every priest. Our job as modern disciples is to accept nothing less and let the Lord worry about the politics. And if we… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

“If they leave… then that is a cleansing of the church, not schism.” That is what the Puritans thought, Kate. The need to purify the church, according to their own way. The Church has endlessly fragmented because one group thought the other group wasn’t pure enough. Again and again and again through Church History, sects have split, then split again, because they insisted on only their own pure way. Although I happen to agree with the attitudes you hold on human sexuality, what I am suggesting is that other Christians of good conscience, and with sincerity of faith, can be… Read more »

David Exham
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David Exham

Kate, priests of the C of E cannot legally treat same sex couples identically to other couples: they cannot marry same sex couples, but they can marry opposite sex couples (with some legal constraints, of course). Of course, they should treat them all with love and care.

Kate
Guest
Kate

So the Church needs to petition for the law to be changed

Kieran
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Kieran

I see why you’re talking about same-sex blessings, but by drawing the topic into this thread you’re carrying on the same confusion about issues that Christian Concern has raised. I know most people just lump questions of marriage equality and gender transition into the one LGBTI+ bucket. I find it hard not to see this as another way of imposing on consciences, since it is a form of erasure on the distinctives of gender transition and the sorts of duties of care that belong with caring for young people when they begin transition in school. It points to our wider… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I’ve been tracking ‘Christian Concern’ this week, and their continuing (some would say obsessive) preoccupation with trans issues continues: https://www.christianconcern.com/our-issues/education/schools-minister-primary-schools-should-normalise-same-sex-relationships They are complaining that the schools minister has said LGBT lives and relationships are ‘normal’ and children should know that. They argue that children should not be taught that it’s normal. But looked at objectively, in the context of our state and society, it’s pretty clear that as a society we now regard LGBT lives and relationships as a normal part of British society. Children are just being prepared for live in society, and being encouraged to be respectful and… Read more »

Kieran
Guest
Kieran

This is all pretty terrible. But it is hard to avoid seeing how some of it tips over into self-parody, like this gem you’ve quoted: “I think we should get rid of this ‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged’, ‘Love thy neighbour’ and all this namby-pamby liberal nonsense which promotes the idea that all humans are worthy of dignity and respect.” It’s almost Nan-level comedy in its vicious denial of basic Christian principles. I wonder if Catherine Tate could be persuaded to make a sketch out of some of this. It would be one way of turning Christian… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

And that’s the point, isn’t it? There has to be a line in any church of what is acceptable teaching and what isn’t. For me refusing to embrace fully LGBTI+ people, our transitions and our marriages, is the wrong side of the line and can’t be tolerated.

Kate
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Kate

If people want to hold other views, that is fine. But ministers and bishops should be required as part of their office to embrace all of God’s people equally.

Paul
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Paul

I do wonder if the remark you quote is not someone trolling Christian Concern.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Possibly, but how can you tell when there are so many disgusting comments on those terrible Christian Concern Facebook pages – comments that are not taken down by Andrea and her team? People with gender dysphoria being described as acting in a pantomime. Violence being advocated – “somebody bitchslap that lady”… “that minister needs a pop on the nose”. Diagnosis of demons and witchcraft. False claims that 50% of bishops are in same sex relationships. Homophobic remarks like “Sodomite-loving perverts.” “He is vermin and he should return to the sewer where filth belongs.” “You [schools minister] are a moron.” When… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

You published links to 4 ‘Christian Concern’ articles, and thank you for that. However, I have serious concerns about ‘Christian Concern’ as an organisation (and indeed Charity). In a previous post I have tried to illustrate the way they act – through their Facebook page – as a platform for commentary that verges on or actually is hate crime, and which sometimes calls for violence (I gave 2 examples). Of course, the internet will attract all kinds of fanatics, but I believe it is the duty of a charity, and a Christian charity at that, to take down hate comments.… Read more »

Jenny Humphreys
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Jenny Humphreys

Susannah, I agree with you absolutely on ‘Christian Concern’ and its terrible theology and the way it appears to condone hated and violence. However they are not a Charity – if you search their website you will not find a registered charity number. I know because I checked them out after receiving a mailing from them a couple of years ago which went to all members of General Synod. It was an appeal for funds, and their literature looked and read as if it was from a charity. I even asked the Synod office if it was appropriate that organisations… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

One of the most distasteful aspects about the story in the Daily Mail is the pictures of John Parker stood holding a Bible in his hand. Clearly he’d been posed by the newspaper’s photographer but the words ‘Holy Bible’ are clearly visible; it perpetuates the myth that only evangelicals really know the Bible or indeed have the authority to interpret it ‘correctly’. Why shouldn’t the head teacher of the church school have some claim to Scripture; or Mr Parker’s colleagues on the governing body? Might not the Diocesan Director of Education have some biblical insights or the Mermaid charity? As… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

An interesting point Dean re the Lectionary. I remember some years ago a priest who assisted at the church I was then serving telling me a story about a preaching class he attended at Moore College Sydney in the late 1950s, taken by the Principal the redoubtable Evangelical T. C. Hammond.One of the students was asked to read his sermon. he told the class he had found no sustenance in the lectionary readings and had therefore prepared a sermon on something more congenial. Hammond exploded” You have no authority Mr X to disregard the lectionary” and the chap was ordered… Read more »

James Allport
Guest
James Allport

It was an interesting experience, when this first blew up, to ask the director of Christian Concern (Andrea Williams), who happens also to be one of my General Synod reps in the Diocese of Chichester, to confirm whether the recording by Mr Parker had been made without the consent of those present. I did so on Twitter, I thought politely. She has not replied. But a few really odd people then piled in to condemn Mermaids and all their works, and to suggest, none-too-gently that I shouldn’t be worried about minor niceties of safeguarding like clergy recording people without consent;… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

The Big Lottery Fund awarded Mermaids £500k a few months ago. There was such an uproar that BLF formally reconsidered the grant.

NSPCC appointed a trans woman, Munroe Berdorf as advocate, then quickly dropped her. They refuse to say why but the BBC speculation is that the trustees received a lot of anti-trans mail and threats to withdraw funding. More in the Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/munroe-bergdorf-nspcc-childline-anti-trans-lgbt-pride-a8953591.html

Rich
Guest
Rich

Now clergy are saying that +Chelmsford lied: he did tell Parker he could leave.

https://churchsociety.org/blog/entry/we_are_used_to_being_told_that_we_dont_belong/

RosalindR
Guest
RosalindR

Except this adds further confusion as the date given for a split is last September:
“It was after a smaller meeting, in September 2018, that John Parker and another colleague felt compelled to break fellowship with the bishop.”

JAmes
Guest
JAmes

It does look Chelmsford has been caught telling porkies

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I want to speak up on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford. His character has been slurred in these threads and I want to say that personally I regard him as a man of integrity, wisdom, faith and balance. Without getting embroiled in the ‘he said, they said’ stuff (evidence?) I think it is pertinent to observe that protest is originating from conservative media and individuals who dislike his possibly more liberal views on sexuality, and who are reluctant to ‘walk together’ in a church where acceptance of gay sexuality has a place. For a start, far from being told… Read more »

JAmes
Guest
JAmes

You still haven’t answered the point though of 35 clergy saying the Bishop said one thing to John.