Thinking Anglicans

Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

Updated Wednesday 26 May

From the Sheldon Hub

News 25th May 2021:

Major research paper published
and Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

‘I was handed over to the dogs’: lived experience, clerical trauma and the handling of complaints against clergy in the Church of England

A devastating systematic analysis of data from the Sheldon/Aston research survey. This paper explores the deeply troubling territory around the edges of the CDM. The painful testimonies are a hard read but these are voices that need your ears. Anyone in ministry can get caught up in this, often through no fault of their own.

We hope it will impassion you to become part of an unstoppable movement for constructive change.

That movement for change will no longer involve Sheldon’s leadership.
We are stepping back now. We have given it heart and soul for several years and much has been achieved. Now we are in danger of over-stretching ‘real world’ Sheldon. Sheldon has generously funded this project in direct cash (£35,000), but in many ways the time and emotional energy has been much more costly. We don’t put a monetary value on our time, but time spent on ProjectCDM is time not spent with people in need or on other necessary projects. We have attended many meetings, written papers, collaborated with researchers, contributed to consultations by others and built networks. There has probably been some vicarious trauma in the mix. Bringing to light such deep-rooted pain has generated significant additional correspondence and pastoral need from those directly harmed by the CDM.

The church can look away but can no longer say it didn’t know. A complaint against a caring professional in a public role should be treated as a pastoral emergency. Clergy urgently need a system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct against them that is swift, proportionate, easy to understand, presumes innocence unless or until found guilty, and is applied without fear or favour. It needs to be rooted in gathering of robust factual evidence and prioritise restoring relationships wherever possible. The administration of the process must itself be properly accountable. Reputations of institutions matter, but those of individuals are far more vulnerable in this context. A year after the bishops agreed that CDM should be replaced we have no evidence that the NCIs have a handle on any of this. This press release was published on 17th May but we have no idea whether the proposals considered relate to the heavily criticised Lambeth proposals of December 2020 or have already pivoted towards the ELS model. The lack of transparency is itself deeply problematic.

Sheldon, along with CECA, is therefore now recommending that the ELS proposals are urgently taken forward into legislation.

Do read the whole text of the Sheldon announcement here.

Updates

The Church Times has two items:

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
3 months ago

And if not “handed over to the dogs’ [eg Martyn Percy], then ‘thrown under the bus’ [eg George Bell].

There is a cancer within the church hierarchy which, if not rooted out, is likely to destroy it.

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

Many thanks for this. On p. 27: ‘the very institution that should exemplify the teachings of Christ is seemingly falling short of applying even the basic tenets of those teachings to the care of its own clergy’. Physician, heal thyself! For the targets of complaints to not know what their complaints are about, to not be given an opportunity to rebut these allegations, or to be put into such Kafkaesque scenarios as turning up to an ‘urgent’ meeting and only discovering the implications of it part way through, or to wait aeons to know what is to happen to them,… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
3 months ago

One key question which seems to arise again and again across wide fields of church life in the CofE is the practical, routine and effective accountability of bishops for the exercise of functions which materially affect the lives of others. The power of bishops is not new, but the context in which that power is exercised has radically changed without adequate reflection on what this means for the episcopal role and for the human beings who exercise episcopal authority. This is explicit in what Sheldon has said, and implies that the House of Bishops should not be holding reforms to… Read more »

Dave
Dave
3 months ago

Three years ago a spurious but serious complaint was made against my cousin who is in a caring professional role in major (not church) institution. His manager called in an independent person to investigate and report. That person was assisted by a lesser ‘rank’ person. The process was made very clear to my cousin, both verbally and in writing. The investigation began the day after the complaint was made and finished four working days later with a written result dismissing the complaint. It is another example of the way bishops have allowed themselves to be, and in fact settled comfortably… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

“Diocese plc” reminds me of a Financial Times article [December 17 2014]: “Church of England management courses overlook God, says critics”

Gilo
Gilo
3 months ago

Church of England should stop all current planned ordinations. The institution is unsafe. Without a properly functioning disciplinary process that is fair, sane, and carries no prospect of being grossly weaponized – new clergy may find their employer brings them professional and psychological harm, if they fall foul of a diocesan structure. The Church of England should be regarded as an unsafe employer of all clergy until it has sorted this mess out. That it has not been able to keep Sheldon on board its project of CDM reform is acutely embarrassing – a highly regarded organisation that brought a… Read more »

Peter
Peter
3 months ago

I have not read the report in full but as a recipient of a CDM from my former diocese I would like to commend Sheldon for their persistence, and pastoral care for people who, like me, were shown no such care from the supposed shepherds of Christ’s flock. I do hope that people will pay this matter some attention. A London vicar is the latest victim of this nightmare, simply for supporting a lay woman driven out of a HTB plant for her sexual orientation. I am now RC, as I was at the time of the CDM and I… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Peter
3 months ago

Peter, if you were already RC at the time of the CDM, how is it that you were subject to the CDM process?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  T Pott
3 months ago

If you are still legally in holy orders, as I was, you can still be liable to The CDM. Any penalty would be meaningless but they still went ahead anyway. Resigning my orders put an end to it.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
3 months ago

As a former Chair of the Faithworkers branch of the Trade Union Unite I saw the problems highlighted by Sheldon’s report firsthand. The most cruel and paradoxically self defeating tactic of the bishops was to summon clergy to a ‘pastoral’ conversation only for them to find themselves in a disciplinary/capability process. Even when these situations were resolved in the cleric’s favour all trust in the bishop/archdeacon was invariably lost, the relationship became wary at best, perfunctory at worst. The bishops couldn’t seem to see that the cleric was unlikely to flourish after such a bruising experience and the parish would… Read more »

Pete Hobson
Pete Hobson
3 months ago

As current chair of CECA, I want to be clear that whilst Sheldon have stepped back from their immense efforts to identify the problems of the current practice of CDM, both we and ELS have by no means stepped away from he challenge of seeking to ensure its replacement avoids all those pitfalls – as far as we can! Sheldon have asked us to take up the baton and we have agreed. And if there are TA members who want to join in that process, then Sheldon Hub remains open to debate and sharing of ideas, and there is also… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Pete Hobson
3 months ago

It’s good to hear that clergy can still contribute through the auspices of Sheldon even though they are not going to be active in the campaign for a humane alternative to the CDM 2003. CECA is part of the hard left trade union UNITE which will not be to every cleric’s taste. Recent news items show that UNITE has its own problems dealing with dissent in the Labour movement. I parted company with UNITE after I made a complaint of a homophobic and religiously motivated hate crime against me by a senior national officer. The Assistant General Secretary dealing with… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago

I had to look up CECA (it’s irritating when acronyms are used without ever spelling out the name of the organisation). It stands for Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA), and is part of Unite.

I used to be a Unite member, and my own experience wasn’t too good, so I hope CECA will be effective.

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