Thinking Anglicans

Scottish bishops publish Aberdeen review

Updated Sunday and again Friday 17 September

The Scottish Episcopal Church has today, 11 September, published the Review of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney by Professor Iain Torrance. The College of Bishops has also published a lengthy explanation of the complications which arose following its receipt on 31 July, which is copied in full below the fold.

Earlier, on 8 September, the College had published this: College instigates mediation process and commits to publish Aberdeen & Orkney review.

The Church Times has a very detailed news report: Review recommends Bishop step back in ‘dysfunctional’ diocese

Update

Another Church Times report: What about those who bullied me, asks Dyer, alleging one-sidedness and a letter to the editor: Heed Torrance on the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney.

College of Bishops Statement

The publication today of the Torrance Report comes after a period of difficult and lengthy consideration by the College of Bishops. In publishing the report, the College expresses its thanks to Professor Iain Torrance for his work in receiving submissions and compiling the report, which contains a number of useful findings which will help the College and the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney to address the difficulties that have been identified.

The College received the Torrance Report on the 31st July 2021. The College met by Zoom in the week beginning 2nd August, then again on the 10th August, to discuss how to proceed. The College also met in-person on the 24th and 25th August to review these issues. At these meetings, the College was informed by the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney that she felt there were major errors and omissions in the report that should be addressed. These included the view that various voices, including the Bishop’s own, are not heard in the report. She also indicated that she had not had the opportunity to hear or respond to specific and serious allegations made against her which are contained within the report, before it was completed and submitted.

The College, having read the report and having listened to Bishop Anne, noted these concerns, and the concerns shared by other members of the College after reading the report. A second phase of review was therefore proposed by the College to consider this information and address any such matters which required further exploration, as reported on 29th August.

The College has noted that, very unhelpfully, the confidential report has been leaked to the press and part of its contents have been made public. It has also become aware that copies of the report have been provided to some individuals within the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. It does not know how copies of the report have become available in this way and deeply regrets that that has happened.

The unauthorised circulation of the material is highly disrespectful to those whose submissions appear in the report, to members of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, to Bishop Anne Dyer and to the College of Bishops. It has led to extensive comment in the press on a matter which should be handled in accordance with appropriate procedures in the Church.

In the process of setting up further exploration, external advice was taken about the identified conflict in Aberdeen and Orkney Diocese and it was recommended that a mediation process was more likely to be a means of enabling all in the Diocese to move forward.

The College met on Tuesday 7th September to consider this suggestion and agreed that a mediation process, set up under the Canonical processes of the Church, would be the best way forward for Aberdeen and Orkney.

The College acknowledges that it made a commitment earlier in the year to publish Professor Torrance’s report. Having received the report, the College had noted the author’s own statement within the report that “it may be considered impossible to publish any part of this review” and had reserved its position on the question of publication. One reason for caution was the pastoral concern about possible identification of individuals who made submissions to Prof Torrance from comments, even if anonymised, appearing in the report. That remains a concern for the College, but it considers that it is now essential, to avoid unhelpful and continuing speculation, that the report is made public.

As a second phase of review is no longer to be carried out, the report can therefore be published. Prof Torrance provided a separate confidential appendix with his report. That appendix is not being published – Professor Torrance was clear in his submission to the bishops that it would “not be responsible” to make the appendix public or grant general access to it.

As announced earlier this week, an Episcopal Synod, planned for 30th September, is to be invited to initiate the setting up of an independent mediation process to help the diocese as a whole move forward. The College recognises the level of hurt and upset experienced by a number of people in the Diocese and hopes that the mediation process will help to bring healing.

In the meantime, the College reiterates its appeal to members of the Church to act with restraint, respect and Christian charity and grace and to join with the College in praying fervently for a just and fair outcome to future process.

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Father Ron Smith
2 months ago

WOW! At fist sight of the Report, this would seem to describe the actions of a ninetenth-century despot – regardless of the local Bishop’s gender or understanding of the justice needs of the LGBTQ+ members of the Church.

(I am personally in favour of women bishops and LGBTQ+ justice issues, generally)

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

This situation along with other situations in England such as in Winchester raises the question as to whether the notion of ‘episcopal obedience’ needs completely re-thinking in order to be appropriate in our contemporary world. In its present form, it would seem that it is not compatible with current notions of collaborative ministry or the concept of the CofE as being ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’. The authoritarianism displayed by some bishops throughout the Communion is no longer an appropriate means of exercising leadership. It strikes me that Yorkshire origins is doing some heavy lifting here but I am a… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

Did we have this kind of authoritarian bullying (‘let me be clear’) from David Hope? I don’t think so. He wasn’t so insecure, or lacked basic emotional intelligence, that he couldn’t clearly see the boundaries of his authority. So let’s stop hiding behind the Yorkshire caricature. It only serves to amplify the existing lack of credibility.

A commenter
A commenter
Reply to  Bill Broadhead
2 months ago

Recollections may vary.

(For obvious reasons I’d prefer if the moderators could either not let this comment through, or let it through anonymously. Thank you.)

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

I fear that, in England, too many people refuse to understand that “canonical obedience” and “obedience” are two very different things. They seem to imagine “canonical” is just a noise word. It isn’t.

Doug Chaplin
Reply to  T Pott
2 months ago

But this is not about a situation in England.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Doug Chaplin
2 months ago

No, but Anne is English.

Andy
Andy
2 months ago

As I remember, the issues started with the college of Bishops appointing a bishop who could not be accepted by a large proportion of this conservative diocese. https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/09/anne-dyer-aberdeen-orkney-priests-threaten-quit-over-first-female-bishop

Last edited 2 months ago by Andy
Adrian
Adrian
2 months ago

I wish I could comment on this case, but in case anyone wonders about her time at Cranmer Hall, this is the announcement that was made on the college website (I noted it on Monday 13th December, 2010): “Canon Anne Dyer moves on as Warden of Cranmer Hall Cranmer Hall announces that Canon Anne Dyer, who is currently on study leave, has, after a time of prayer and reflection, sensed that her time as Warden of Cranmer Hall is drawing to a close. She has resigned her post effective from 24 April 2011, Easter Sunday. Anne has held the post… Read more »

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
2 months ago

Reading the Report online, and reading how the Bishop treated her Cathedral Provost, with the Cathedral Provost in Aberdeen coming from the Indian Sub-Continent, the Bishop is today’s climate could easily be accused of racism, even if she was to vehemently deny it, and it could lead many to wonder whether there has been a hint of Racism in her treatment of the Provost Dr Isaac Pooberlan, whom she seems to have sacked. It does seem to me , given Dr Pooberlan’s cultural background a pertinent question, which has to be taken on board and cannot be ignored. Jonathan

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
2 months ago

I was at the same selection conference as Anne, and we trained at the same theological college (Wycliffe). I have never personally had an issue with her. However, there is a lot in this Review which gives cause for grave concern. Among all the other things, one sentence in particular seems to sum it all up: ‘Authority structures I am bishop – with all of my rights and authority, now and into the future.’ (p. 11) Nothing is said here about responsibilities, or care for those in her charge. It seems a long way from, ‘If you want to be great in… Read more »

Hilary Dawes
Hilary Dawes
2 months ago

I couldn’t help but read Professor Torrance’s report without ‘hearing’ resonances of the situation in Winchester. In particular, the failure of the selection process to thoroughly investigate aspects of the candidate’s past, where things had gone wrong, aspects of her personality that could prove potentially disastrous – both for her and others. In that sense, the Scottish bishops bear a huge weight of responsibility for appointing someone to a bishopric without doing their homework. Or did they simply choose to ignore the warnings they were given? Why was Anne Dyer the first Warden of Cranmer Hall in recent memory the… Read more »

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
Reply to  Hilary Dawes
2 months ago

Hilary – when Anne Dyer left Cranmer in 2010 women could not become bishops in the Church of England. She then served 7-8 years (by all accounts reasonably happily )as Rector at a Scottish Episcopal Church near Edinburgh. It was from that position that she was chosen to become Bishop in Aberdeen – so she was reasonably well known in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Anne is originally from quite a conservative background but has become more liberal over the years. When she worked in Rochester Diocese – before Cranmer where I met her on a few occasions – I suspect… Read more »

Charles Read
Reply to  Hilary Dawes
2 months ago

In fact the only recent Warden to leave Cranmer and become a bishop was Mark Tanner who went to Berwick. Steve Croft went to be head of Fresh Expressions, John Pritchard went to be archdeacon of Canterbury.

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
2 months ago

I feel torn on this one. I know Anne Dyer very slightly and I certainly know of situations where she has been well appreciated. I have read the Torrance report. I certainly drew in my breath at remarks quoted in correspondence (so presumably factual rather than hear-say) where she states ‘I am bishop – with all of my rights and authority, now and into the future’. I do not think that is a helpful attitude for a bishop to take in our times (In parenthesis readers of TA may know that one of my own bugbears is the way the… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Clare Amos
2 months ago

It needs to be remembered that Scotland is a small parish and the SEC a small parish within that parish. The interconnections between professional people are quite dense, no matter where they live, so finding someone who is totally independent even if they don’t live in Aberdeen is difficult. Moreover, Professor Torrance has spent a considerable time in the USA. It is a strength of the Scottish Parliament that the Independent Advisor on the Scottish Ministerial Code is a former Attorney-General of Ireland ie someone from outwith Scotland.Perhaps something similar might have been appropriate here. I think, Clare, you are… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
2 months ago

The report makes disturbing, and at times shocking, reading. I can’t help but think, however, that this is only half a story, and whatever faults Bishop Anne may have, the visceral hostility from some in the diocese also needs to be brought into the light. In this regard Andy’s comment above is illustrative: “a bishop who could not be accepted”. Could not, or would not? It seemed from the get-go that some were more interested in resisting Bishop Anne than working with her. Without knowing the context of the reported remarks it’s hard to know whether they’re outrageous or merely… Read more »

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
2 months ago

A further thought that comes to me is that even though in the Code of Canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church, since the time Bishop Bruce Cameron was Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, in tandem with being Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, there has been provision for the election of Women as Bishops, after what has happened in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, if any new Episcopal vacancies were to arise in the not too distant future it could have the effect of putting off Diocesan electors from electing a women Bishop for a very long-time. for the… Read more »

Lavender
Lavender
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
2 months ago

Adding to Jonathan’s comment, The SEC has a remarkably democratic system whereby each church has a consultation process in electing their Diocesan Bishop, considering carefully among other factors, each candidate’s pastoral skills.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 months ago

comment deleted

Last edited 2 months ago by Simon Sarmiento
Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Anonymous
2 months ago

I should like to clarify the latter part of my post yesterday. English commentators and people further afield are likely to have in their minds a particular model of a Diocesan bishop. Even now, English Bishops are very grand. They live in large and even impressive houses even if, as in Wells, they have a maisonette in the former very grand Bishops Palace. They can aspire to a seat in the House of Lords. They will have a full-time Chaplain, at least two office staff, and the support of at least one suffragan, at least two archdeacons, and a Cathedral… Read more »

Flora Alexander
Flora Alexander
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

Having worked for some years in the same university as Iain Torrance, I think Clare Amos has got him wrong.

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

To which I might respond that even if I am English I am still entitled to my feelings and perceptions. I deliberately prefaced my remarks about Iain Torrance with the words ‘I felt’. I still ‘feel’ what I wrote previously. One example – I genuinely cannot work out from the first couple of pages whether Professor Torrance thought his report should be published – or not. I ‘felt’ it was not clear. That I don’t find helpful as a starting point. Nor did I find the ‘out of the blue’ comments about Cranmer Hall helpful as a finishing point. I… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Clare Amos
2 months ago

Prof. Torrance does have ‘a bit of distance’, in that he is from a different denomination.

As for Cranmer Hall, when there are accusations of bullying it may be helpful to look at the accused person’s track record to see if there have been similar complaints in the past. This may give substance (or not) to the accusations, and indicate the person’s likely ability to adapt or change their behaviour.

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
Reply to  Janet Fife
2 months ago

In turn two responses to you Janet – though I note that both you and I earlier expressed similar concern about a comment that apparently Bp Anne made re her understanding of episcopacy. First it does seem apparent from the report that a lot of the tension directly or indirectly was linked to the change in the status of St Andrews Cathedral. It is not however clear from the report whether its close is likely to be temporary or permanent (and actually it would have been more helpful to have more background about that in the report). But somebody, like… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Janet Fife
2 months ago

Also, before 1993, his career was outwith Aberdeen and from 2004 until 2012, he was Principal of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Clare Amos
2 months ago

There is a distinction between commenting on the content of a document and on its author. Clearly it is legitimate to comment on the strengths and failings of the Torrance report. I think, however, that it is necessary to be very careful in commenting on the author. My objection is to your ad hominem remarks about Iain Torrance and in questioning his integrity. I do not think it is appropriate to refer to him as a ‘nice well meaning old codger’. We have a tradition of being courteous and respectful here. I have said that I have no connection whatsoever… Read more »

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
2 months ago

With respect to previous correspondents I feel that a letter published in today’s Church Times somewhat confirms my previous suppositions and suggestions about the Torrance report and I do not feel inclined to wtihdraw them. The letter can be found at Letters to the Editor (churchtimes.co.uk) – scroll down and you will discover it.

Father Ron Smith
2 months ago

Sad to think the Bishops of S.E.C. could have suffered from a random “Winchester Moment’ in their choice of a bishop for Aberdeen – in the opposite direction, though, from that of those in the C. of E., who favoured the recent appointment to the See of Winchester. This seems to have been a movement towards the re-alignment of Winchester in its retreat to authoritarian protty conservatism; whereas Aberdeen seems to have been mistaken in the choice of a strong force of feminine liberality being imposed on a stubbornly conservative diocese.

Last edited 2 months ago by Father Ron Smith
CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
2 months ago

A stately dowager at a dinner party in Kirriemuir once said, “I know everyone in Scotland.” I thought at the time it was meant to be a joke, but after ten years could see the force of her statement. Iain Torrance would fall into that purview, as well, “Torrance” being almost synonymous with “Kirk.” As people have noted, it is also a parlous time more generally in the Diocese.

Toby Forward
Toby Forward
Reply to  CR SEITZ
2 months ago

I think that it was perfectly serious. In the recently-published diaries Chips Channon says of a party that, ‘Everyone in London was there’.

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Toby Forward
2 months ago

“…after ten years could see the force of her statement.”

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
2 months ago

“Nice people don’t grow churches” is an alleged piece of wisdom that was once shared with me by an archdeacon. I have no idea how widely such an idea might be believed, but the logic that there is no time or space for civility seems to be seeping into the bones of Anglican leaders. Whether any of this will help the church grow remains to be seen.

Michael H.
Michael H.
2 months ago

Economical with the truth became an euphemism for not telling the truth. Maybe bullies in the future will be able to dismiss their bullying as Yorkshire bluntness.
The Torrance review is thorough but appalling to read. I hope the Winchester review is of the same standard.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Michael H.
2 months ago

Do you mean the Smyth review? No ‘Winchester’ review, so far as I am aware, intended about our Bishop. My only comment about the Torrance review (really none of our business in England) is its comparative brevity and how swiftly it was produced in barely five months. A possible omen that the Smyth review – now in its third, almost fourth year, I think – could be very lengthy indeed.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago

Well. of course, if you feel that it is none of your business you are free to refrain from commenting on it. Others may disagree. Perhaps the Smyth review is being indefinitely procrastinated for a reason.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  T Pott
2 months ago

I didn’t, and have not, commented on it! Why make these unnecessary (and dare I say discourteous) remarks? My point was to clarify what Michael H had in mind when referring to the ‘Winchester’ report and my question was addressed to him. I hope there is no deliberate procrastination in the publication of the Smyth report. I am told by reliable sources that Mr Makin is very thorough.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago

… and I am told by someone who has met him that he is not susceptible to the reptilian smarminess of the fee-paying-school evo elite. Let us hope so.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
2 months ago

Bishop Anne once said to me that she was of northern stock and had learned to speak with an honest candor. A phrase she has used regularly, and which illustrates her approach on these occasions, is “let me be clear”. To be victim of such robust ‘clarity’ is to feel bullied. There is a Harry Enfield sketch, which I think from the perspective of today is more problematic than it was at the time, in which he plays a Yorkshireman: “I’m a yorkshireman, plain-spoken, I say what I like and I like what I bloody well say”. The idea that you can somehow excuse being rude… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Interested Observer
Adrian
Adrian
Reply to  Interested Observer
2 months ago

Isn’t it funny how the language we use communicates volumes about the nature of our identity and of our understanding of Church polity and also of certainty (philosophical and theological). I doubt that in the situations given above there was much scope for diversity of opinion or diversity of identity. But then, please disagree with me, I welcome it, though it is a challenge to me getting my own way. Can truth be (philosophically) plural?

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Adrian
2 months ago

I doubt that in the situations given above there was much scope for diversity of opinion or diversity of identity.”

Indeed. Aside from anything else, I know plenty of people from “northern stock” who are welcoming, considerate, interest in the opinions of others and generally lovely. When someone says “I’m from the north so I’m a boor” they’re implying that everyone else from the same area is as well, which is manifestly untrue.



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