Response to the Bishop of Ely's decision

Thursday 3 July 2008

1) The Bishop’s report opens
As the code of practice made under the incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977 explains, a basic principle underlying the 1977 Measure is that if problems arise between an incumbent and parishioners, every effort should be made to effect a reconciliation…... In this case, precisely the opposite happened, and the Bishop should acknowledge this. Instead of handling a complaint properly and revealing what it was, a series of events was set in train which encouraged parishioners to go to law rather than seek reconciliation. The Bishop and his team were involved in this.
a) Four parishioners wrote to the Archdeacon of Ely on 15 June 2001. At the Tribunal in September 2007 they claimed at the tribunal that they had copied their letter to the Bishop of Ely and to me. However, in June 2001 I did not see the letter. Whether or not it was sent to me I am unable to judge but I certainly did not receive a copy. However, copying it to the Bishop might account for what happened next.
b) Six weeks later I was called to a meeting with Bishop John Flack. He said he was investigating a serious complaint, and that he was doing this on behalf of the whole Bishop�s team. The Archdeacon had apparently refused to be involved, though it should have been his responsibility, rather than that of a suffragan bishop, to deal with a complaint which had been made to an Archdeacon. The Archdeacon from then on offered no help at all. As a suffragan bishop, John Flack could only act with the authority of the diocesan bishop.
c) At this meeting Bishop John told me that other team members wanted to remove me from my parish.
d)He said he had met with the four who had complained. I asked him their names. On being summoned to the meeting my first question, in reply to his email was ‘Who has complained?’ At this stage I did not know.
e) Bishop John did not show me their letter, reveal the existence of any letter, or discuss any of its contents with me. He spoke only of his meeting with Edmund and Jane Brookes, Marilyn Orson and Janet Hendy.
f) I was ordered not to speak of the matter to anyone. This meant I had nowhere to seek help, and was barred from attempting any reconciliation with those who complained. I also subsequently discovered that they had been barred from discussing their complaints with me.
g) Bishop John told me that those who complained wanted a different priest to minister to them. He knew that two of those who complained, Jane and Edmund Brookes, were people who were refusing to receive the sacrament at the parish communion because they would not receive at the hands of lay people. The difficulty had been reported to him and to the previous Diocesan Bishop before I came to the parish of Trumpington. Shortly after going to Trumpington he and I had discussed their refusal to receive at the hands of lay people, and he had endorsed a paper about this in December 1999. He said The Brookes had heard from parishioners in Harston that because they were unhappy with their priest, a retired bishop had been appointed to minister to the disaffected, and they wanted the same thing to happen in Trumpington. +John said he had not acceded to this request.
h) He said that their second complaint was that I had moved the date of the Harvest Supper. This was true, and the very successful change was supported by practically everyone else in the parish.
i) These were the only issues we discussed in response to the meetings of the four with Bishop Flack. I had not seen the letter of 15 June and there appeared to be no outstanding issue which needed to be resolved. However +John insisted that he would come to my next PCC meeting. I was not to tell anyone either that he was coming or why he was coming. What is more, I did not know his reason for coming, as nothing which we had discussed related to PCC meetings. He evidently knew the date of the next PCC meeting and had agreed with the gang of four that he would attend. They were therefore in a position to plot against me in advance of the meeting, and I was subsequently told that this is what they did.
j) He continued to interfere in the PCC: attending meetings, cancelling a meeting, then calling a meeting and chairing it whilst banning me from speaking etc.
k) He held a series of secret meetings with those who complained for over six months after their original letter, and during the whole of that time I was not permitted to discuss the letter with him.
l) In September 2001, after another meeting with those who had complained Bishop John told me that they were now planning to get rid of me. Edmund Brookes had claimed I was using an unauthorised service. It was a Harvest Thanksgiving Service at which the Bishop of Ely had been invited to preach. The form of service had been agreed with the PCC nine months before the event, and the Bishop had also seen the service. Edmund also claimed that a letter which I had written to him and copied to the Suffragan Bishop after the September 2001 PCC meeting was defamatory. Bishop John told me Edmund wanted to sue me for writing it. After hearing the complaints Bishop John told me he had said they were going the wrong way about it and that he had advised them the only way to get rid of a beneficed incumbent was to use the Vacation of Benefices legislation. Meanwhile I was to say nothing, and was not given any access to the legal advisers of the diocese.
m) At about this time I discovered that getting rid of me was actually the intention of those who had complained, both from overhearing a remark made by Janet Hendy and from parishioners who had spoken to her. The attitude of the four had hardened, and +John had not attempted any reconciliation. Instead he had told them to go to law.
n) I still did not know the nature of the original discussed with the Bishop in July 2001. Edmund Brookes admitted at the PCC meeting in October 2001 that the four had written to the Archdeacon. The whole episode at teh meeting caused great distress, but the letter was not forthcoming. I later asked one of the signatories, Marilyn Orson, for a copy, but was refused. It was a short and courteous meeting: at that stage I didn't even realise that I had any right to know what they were doing, and I had nowhere to seek advice because of Bishop John's order.
o) The churchwardens arranged to see +John in order to get a copy of the letter of 15 June. When I finally saw a copy, I wrote a reply to +John. He refused to see me until a few days before Christmas. He ordered us to cancel the next PCC meeting, and continued to have secret meetings with those who had complained. Indeed, when I met Bishop John in late December Edmund Brookes, sounding very angry, telephoned Bishop John in my presence. The amount of contact between them has never been revealed.
p) On 6 January 2002 my wife and I both wrote to the Bishop of Ely to ask him to help. He refused to see us, and since that date there has been no effective pastoral relationship between the Bishop and me. He referred us back to Bishop John, who then called the PCC meeting at which I was not allowed to speak. I was powerless to do anything about this. I was under orders to say nothing, and at that time there was no grievance procedure which clergy could use against their senior staff.
q) Bishop John continued to interfere in the life of the parish. He chaired the Annual Parochial Church Meeting and at this invited people to bring complaints about me to him, which of course they did. It was becoming increasingly apparent that Bishop John was unwell and not acting sensibly and I was further undermined by his behaviour. But I could not turn to anyone else for help. My family and I were denied any pastoral help or support.
r) In November 2002 I went on sick leave caused by the stress of the situation and the fact that Bishop John was continuing to interfere in the parish. By this time one churchwarden had resigned, and the other resigned shortly afterwards.
s) In March 2003 Gill and I had a meeting with the Bishop of Ely during which I asked for permission to discuss with him Bishop John’s handling of complaints. At the meeting he agreed to do this. I put it to the Bishop that Bishop John’s inappropriate way of handling the complaint could have been caused by his illness. The Bishop firmly denied that Bishop John had been ill; something clearly demonstrated to be untrue by the members of the tribunal. It is now common knowledge that he was ill. Later, the Bishop went back on his word. Instead he granted me one meeting with Bishop John and said that this was all because Bishop John was about to leave the diocese.
t) It was promised that there would be a note taker at the meeting but when we arrived, this provision had not been made. As a result some of the meeting was recorded and a transcript was made. This was sent to the Bishop of Ely, so he was aware of all the damage that had been caused and of the train of events. Bishop John had apologised the way he had handled the matter and offered to help me return to my parish.
u) The Bishop of Ely refused to allow Bishop John to have anything to have anything more to do with me, and tried to prevent me from returning to the parish. During the seven months period of sick leave neither the Bishop nor the Archdeacon visited me, nor sent any message. I know that the Bishop instructed Bishop John Flack not to contact me, and it appears that he also instructed Trumpington parishioners to stay away from me.
v) Both the Bishop and Archdeacon have always refused to discuss this situation with me. Subsequently I learned that Bishop John Inge (the next suffragan bishop) and the Dean were also told to have nothing to do with me.

2) The Bishop has not told the truth in the opening sentence of his report, and I believe my account of what happened would support this. It might provide grounds for appeal against the Bishop’s ruling.

3) When the PCC gave notice of an intention to request an inquiry on 2 February 2004 they broke off reconciliation meetings which were continuing with both ACAS and Bridgebuilders. It would have been possible for the Bishop of Ely to have referred the parishioners back to ACAS at that time and to have given his support to that process. He chose not to do that. Indeed, by this time he had no meaningful pastoral relationship with either the parishioners or me.

4) The mediation process conducted by Dr. James Behrens proved to be chaotic and threatening. Representations to him could initially only be made through people hostile to me. His one technique for running the two half day mediation sessions was a ‘Samoan Circle’. On the first day people co-operated and reasonable progress was made, but on the second it was clear that hostile people were only out to wreck the session. Joan Holloway prevented the session from starting by arguing with Dr. Behrens for almost half an hour. This was reported to the Tribunal and she did not disagree when questioned about it, except to say that she had not kept a watch on the time. Dr. Behrens was not able to control the meeting, and at the end he was in tears. I believe he wrote his report without taking sufficient time to recover from the trauma which he had suffered.

5) Dr. Behrens was assisted by a lady called Yvonne Craig. This initially appeared to be hopeful because Gill and I knew of an Yvonne Craig; a respected adult education adviser in the church. Unfortunately it was not this person. In the second session of the Samoan Circle she spent most of the time out of the room with a participant who had become distressed. In effect she abandoned Dr. Behrens when he lost control of the group. It may be of interest to know that the adult education adviser’s book Learning for Life (Mowbray 1994) mentions a group work technique called ‘fishbowl’ (pages 71-3), which is very like the Samoan Circle. She comments that ‘it needs skilled, experienced leadership’. My wife has worked in adult education in the Church for 20 years, and I, also a former teacher, have received adult education training from the Grubb and Tavistock Institutes. Dr. Behrens was out of his depth, like a trainee teacher with an unruly class.

6) When the Archdeacon reported that an inquiry would be appropriate he did so without giving the Incumbent any access to the representations which had been made by parishioners or any opportunity to respond to them. His conduct would seem to contravene the Human Rights Act 1998.

7) The inquiry was instituted on 9 May 2005 but it was not heard for well over two years. This is a failure of natural justice and demonstrates that the Church of England does not have the necessary expertise or legal machinery to handle this legislation. For all of the period from March 2004 until the day the Bishop announced his judgement in April 2008 I have had to exercise ministry in the parish without the support of either Bishop or Archdeacon, or indeed any other member of the Bishop's team. The parishioners have also lacked episcopal oversight.

8) A further failing of the Tribunal process was that it was held in entirely unsuitable premises, even though suitable venues in Cambridge had been suggested. The original intention was to use the basement of St. Mary le Bow Church, the traditional court of the Arches. This is completely inaccessible to disabled people. Since the Tribunal knew in advance that the need for facilities for the disabled was one of the issues to be raised, the oversight is particularly blameworthy.

9) Because of complaints about this, the Tribunal sessions were moved to the church on the ground floor. Again it had limited facilities for the disabled and two of my witnesses were thereby prevented from attending. Another, who used a wheelchair because of a recent knee operation, suffered illness because of the difficulty of attending.
a) There are steps to the church and no ramp.
b) There are further steps to the toilets, and the only one on the ground floor was too small, and access was severely hindered because it appeared to be used largely as a broom cupboard.
c) The church’s amplification system was inadequate. In particular the speakers were not directed towards those giving evidence, and counsel had to stand in front of witnesses and shout at them in a way which must have been intimidating.
d) The use of radio microphones was rather limited by the fact that one produced sounds like the singing of a canary.

10) In paragraph 7 the Bishop furnishes his press release, which was made public before able to see the report. I had asked his solicitor for permission to show it to my union representative in confidence, and this permission was refused. Another reason for seeking employment rights for clergy is that we need to have access to the professional services of people who support workers’ rights.

11) The list of people who have made representations on my behalf has some notable omissions. People responded in good faith to announcements in the press and on radio and television that representations could be made.

The Tribunal’s Report
12) I have not made any comment about the Tribunal Report because I believed that the line of defence followed by my legal advisers was correct, namely, that pastoral breakdown with parishioners, rather than the applicants or PCC members was what needed to be proved. I have therefore continued my pastoral duties until now and have not sought to have any leave in order to prepare detailed answers to the charges made. Nor have I shown the charges to others who would have been able to support my defence. A major defect in the Tribunal report is that it includes references to statements which were withdrawn and to witness who were not called have been included, when they were not open to challenge. Also the timing of the tribunal meant that three days were allotted to making the case against me, but only two for my response and the evidence of those who wished to support me. Some supporters were unable to speak because of the shortage of time.

13) The Bishop opens with a reference in his Paragraph 12 to child protection. The issue is that the letter from the gang of four dated 15 June 2001 included a criticism of the vicar for telling the PCC that their child protection was inadequate and he then said his wife, who had a diocesan responsibility for child protection, would advise about improving it. PCC minutes show that when the vicar came to the parish in September 1999 it was reported that the policy needed revision (Minute 99/96). At the next meeting he encouraged more PCC members to attend a meeting about child protection which would be held on November 16. Though it was not reported in the PCC minutes, at the PCC meeting on 6 December Edmund Brookes reacted angrily when the vicar said the policy needed revision. It is his angry reaction which is part of the letter to the Archdeacon on 15th June 2001. The reason for the urgency in revising the policy was because by this time the Revd. Douglas Gale had revealed that he had abused children in the past. Trumpington parish had never implemented a requirement that adults should not be alone with children, which they had reported to the PCC in 1995. The incumbent, Nicholas Thistlethwaite, admitted knowing Mr. Gale’s history, but had taken no effective steps to protect children, and the curate told me of parents who had complained about Mr. Gale�s behaviour. After Mr. Gale had admitted abusing children, several people had been alerted to the fact that he posed a danger. They included Kay Barker; PCC Secretary, The Revd Dr. Huw Jones, and Sunday School leaders Grae & Jackie Worster. Against this background the insistence of Edmund Brookes and others that the child protection required no revision was wrong. I pointed this out when I was eventually permitted in January 2002 to make a written response to the 15 June 2001 letter, but the same kind of complaint has been constantly made against me. What is more, Gill Ambrose received no co-operation from the Sunday School leaders in establishing a proper policy, in spite of the fact that they had been alerted to the danger which Douglas Gale posed to children. The Worsters did not sign disclosure documents, so really they should not have worked with children until they finally did sign after their sabbatical in the USA almost two years later.

14) The failure to protect children against the Reverend Douglas Gale was also a diocesan fault. Douglas Gale said that the Archdeacon and the vicar, Nicholas Thistlethwaite, had known about him at the time he was given permission to officiate, but no-one informed the new incumbent, and no-one had informed Gill Ambrose, the children’s work adviser. The permission to officiate had been given in spite of the fact that his name was on the Archbishops’ list of priest who should not be permitted to function.

15) Criticism of me continued for insisting that we needed to revise the child protection policy, with constant reference to the work done by Ted Powell. I was accused of saying this to spite him. I, on the other hand, was very aware of the danger which Douglas posed, and the fact that he had had unrestricted access to children throughout the 1990s.

16) A clear example of this was the letter, described by me as ‘cruel’ written by Grae Worster in October 2002. It first named Douglas, saying that this was the only conversation of any significance which Grae had had with me. Then it repeated the allegation that revising the child protection policy was an attack on Ted Powell. Grae went into some detail on this, and then the following Sunday afternoon came round to the vicarage to discuss what he had written. He then admitted that he really had known all along why we needed to revise the policy. Gill had told him and his wife that Douglas was a known abuser who must not be allowed to be alone with children. I do not consider that someone who takes the attitude to child protection which Grae had exhibited should work with children without proper training in child protection.

17) An additional burden that I had had to bear was that at the time we had to take action about Douglas I was given no support from my Archdeacon. Matters became even more difficult when, as Bishop John told me in January 2000 that he had learned that Douglas should not have been given permission to officiate, he also said another well-loved retired priest should also not officiate. The reasons were not spelt out, but I was given the clear impression that he was like Douglas, i.e. not to be trusted with children. His permission was not being renewed, and I was told to remove the names of both priests from the parish magazine. I tried to explain my decision to remove the names of retired clergy from the magazine by saying that actually none of them was available to officiate at a service. This was true. Douglas was quite unsteady on his feet, and the other priest was out of the country. But, in order to avoid virtually naming the banned priests, I had also removed the names of two other elderly frail priests. The resulting hate mail was most unpleasant, and I could only say that I did this on the (acting) diocesan bishop’s orders. Letters over several years indicated that this has never been forgotten or forgiven.

18) In paragraph 14 the Bishop refers to ‘disputed matters of fact, obviously informed by the view that it took of witnesses’. In general there appears to be a clear tendency to disbelieve me and my witnesses, whilst those of the applicants, who often colluded in telling false stories, were believed. One of the most blatant early examples of people conspiring not to tell the truth was that Marilyn Orson and Kay Barker, who assisted with the chalice, claimed that they had not been upset by the refusal of communicants to receive from them in the weeks immediately after my arrival in the parish. This was not true. I was unprepared to answer this lie because I did not believe that Christian people could do such a thing. However, I have to state that they deliberately lied under oath. My evidence is
a) Bert Truelove, the sacristan and crucifer observed their distress. He was available at the tribunal to give evidence but was not called. I said at the tribunal that he was in the church and would answer the question, but this received no response.
b) I made reference to the distress caused by Jane Brookes’ behaviour, though without naming her, on the church notice sheet, so the whole congregation were aware of it.
c) I discussed it with Bishop John and he agreed that I should write the paper about receiving from lay people. He then agreed the text which I produced.
d) The curate, the Revd Dr. Huw Jones, was also aware of the distress of the lay people who assisted with the chalice.
e) My own subsequent observation of Jane’s behaviour in pushing away the chalice offered by a lay person, and the distress which it caused again to the person assisting in the distribution of communion.

19) The allegation which has received the largest headlines has been one of spitting, claimed by Marilyn Orson. I have never spat at anyone in my life, nor sworn at anyone. Had I done either of these things the act would have been so foreign to my nature that I would have remembered doing it. I would also expect that the person who claimed to have been spat on would have reacted in some way which would have made me aware of what had occurred. I remained completely ignorant of any such allegation until the year of the Tribunal. There is no indication that it was reported to anyone at the time, and there were numerous occasions in the pre-Tribunal process when this could have been alleged, but it was not. The allegation is false. Her evidence was confused, and it was clear that she was being prompted in her answers by one of the applicants. Indeed both Mike Hendy and Graeme Minto, who as magistrates should have known better, were seen prompting witnesses.

20) Marilyn Orson has made other false allegations. At a PCC meeting she claimed that at the previous meeting I had shouted ‘Shut up, shut up’ and banged on the table. Other PCC members agreed with her, including Reg Tarrant who made the same allegation in writing. Fortunately I recorded both the meeting referred to and the meeting at which the allegation was made, so eventually both she and Reg stopped repeating it.

21) In May and June 2002 Marilyn made false and hurtful allegations about Bert Truelove. This was done to divert attention from her disgraceful behaviour in church. She was assisting with the chalice at Communion, and, with an ordinand, getting in something of a muddle. Instead of circulating around the altar after giving Communion, they were trying to squeeze past the priest to return to the beginning of the row. Bert, who was crucifer and had a clear view of what was happening, advised them to go round the altar. It was very clear that though the ordinand found the advice helpful, it made Marilyn furious. As Bert returned to his seat the person next to him noticed how angry she was and said 'Now you're for it". After the service the ordinand thanked Bert for the advice, but Marilyn sought a pretext for an argument. Afterwards she was in an uncontrollable rage and shouted out at the top of her voice at the person who attempted to greet her at the door. I only observed her behaviour and did not intervene, but went at once to see people who had been around at the time, including the ordinand, to discover what the cause had been. They confirmed my observation that the cause had been simply that Marilyn could not accept Bert's advice, and I reported this to the Suffragan Bishop. She made false allegations against Bert which caused such distress that he and his wife left the church. I assume the allegation of spitting has the same origin; a wish to divert attention from her uncontrollable temper.

22) I now understand that Marilyn was amongst those who falsely alleged that I was angry at the first service I took after returning to the parish from illness in June 2003. Apparently the story was widely circulated, and a number of people made false statements to the tribunal about it. These were withdrawn once the grandfather of the children who were baptised that day made his own statement confirming that I was in the best of spirits: indeed, it was such a delight to discover that I was baptising the grandchildren of a good friend that I was entirely happy throughout the service. It was probably this which had infuriated Marilyn, so she decided to claim that I was angry.

23) In the following weeks Marilyn became increasingly angry until one Sunday when I approached her to greet her at The Peace and found Edmund Brookes with a hand held recorder. No doubt he recorded my greeting, ‘Peace be with you’ but would not have wished to retain the recording of Marilyn’s response. Unfortunately her loud outburst was picked up by my radio microphone and relayed fortissimo to the congregation. I believe that was the last occasion on which she came to church.

24) When Nicholas Wise described the PCC members as ‘harridans’ it accurately summed up his impression of the behaviour of members at meetings. But as other people at the meetings was hostile to me, his truthful testimony was not believed. I have recordings of meetings which vindicate his testimony.

25) The Summary of Key Findings of Fact, makes a number of errors. In paragraph 4 it states that Graeme Minto had behaved properly with regard to PCC funds. Graeme had boasted to John de Bruyne that he was ‘deliberately running down church funds’ to make things look bad for the vicar. In fact he was doing this.
a) He told the Tribunal that he did not give to the church.
b) At no point in the past five years has he suggested or supported any initiative to increase funds, even though the parish share had not been paid in full.
c) Margaret Marrs spotted that he was not reclaiming tax, and the following year he did the same. It was only after this was pointed out at a very stormy annual meeting that he took remedial action. Almost £10,000 was unclaimed. I also gather that at the APCM meeting on 13th April 2008 he had again made an error in assigning a tax reclaim. He has since apologised to Margaret for the error and corrected it.

26) The allegation that I ‘made personal attacks’ in a sermon paragraph 9, from 122, is false. Many people congratulated me on the sermon in question. The Revd Helen Dawes gave evidence and was prepared to speak about this. No-one was mentioned in the sermon by name, but I did defend the churchwardens. The sermon was extempore, so no record is available. However, a hate campaign against the churchwardens drove out Mary Dawes in August 2002 and David George by the end of the year. I did not see the gang of four as my enemies, but they certainly saw the vicar and anyone who failed to join them in their attacks on me as their enemies.

27) Paragraph 10 sets out a list of my failings. It is certainly a consequence of the attacks made on me following the complaints of the gang of four which were taken up by Bishop John Flack. I do not claim to have behaved appropriately or indeed rationally during the period of intense plotting in secret, in which Bishop John colluded. I do not believe any person could have withstood such pressure, particularly when the suffragan Bishop’s repeated orders to say nothing to anyone prevented me from finding help. This underlines the effect of bullying by a group of people on a single individual. It underlines the need for proper complaints procedures, including agreements about the handling and recording of disputed information, and the need for someone to accompany anyone against whom allegations are made.

28) My barrister has argued that the Tribunal report is incorrect in stating that serious pastoral breakdown has taken place with parishioners (par 15). It was only demonstrated that there was a disagreement with the applicants.

29) It is difficult to know what reduction in the activities of the parish is alleged to have occurred, (paragraph 16). Sunday services continue to be held. The only midweek activity when I came was a Wednesday morning Eucharist. New activities have taken place more recently, for example
a) Morning Prayer has been said at 8.30 on weekdays by a group of people, with up to six participants at one time. Because the service is advertised, many people have dropped in on occasion and some people have prayed regularly for several years.
b) There is a regular bible study group. There was no such group on my arrival.
c) Few members of the parish took part in the wider life of the diocese before my arrival However, nine people from Trumpington attended the first diocesan weekend conference for laity in March 2001. Total numbers were around 300 so this was a sizeable delegation from one benefice.
d) There have been two Lent courses each year: one is a series of Sunday evening sermons, and the other a house group. Sermon series in recent years have been on English Medieval Mystics, Reformation figures and issues, Spanish Counter Reformation Saints, and John Robinson’s study of St. John's gospel. This year a visitor gave an engaging set of talks on recent scholarship about Jesus. The study group this year followed the very successful idea of watching religious films and then having a discussion over supper. Nothing of this nature took place before my arrival.
e) We started a youth group.
f) At one stage of the legal process the applicants reported a reduction in the number of weddings in the parish. In fact the only weddings lost were two booked by other priests, which they moved to other churches. The evidence is that from about four weddings a year in 1998 we have had a steady increase in my time, and there were ten weddings in church in 2007.
g) The Mothers’ Union now have an annual visit to a cathedral, concluding with choral evensong or, if possible, a Corpus Christi Mass.
h) The Mothers’ Union committee, a group of around a dozen, regularly attend the Wednesday morning Eucharist and then meet at the vicarage.
i) We have held ‘Angels & Stars’ workshops in church for young children before Christmas and at other times. No such activity took place in my predecessor’s time.
j) The Nursery children come to church for a Christmas activity including singing carols and hearing the Christmas story. The nursery did not do this in my predecessor’s time.
k) Fawcett School have a carol service in church. I have been involved in the past in teaching the children carols, and the standard of performance has improved to the point at which a music specialist was employed, and the service is now a delight, with children singing extremely well.
l) The regular Evensong continued to be well supported.

30) It has to be admitted that numbers at the Parish Communion have dropped, but this has been the inevitable consequence of a hate campaign against any who were considered to be my ‘supporters’. New worshippers have continued to be attracted by the worship, the preaching and the music.

31) Some activities have not continued. We have not had a Beetle Drive, Whist, Bridge, a Forties Night or a Fashion Show in the past few years. Other Trumpington organisations hold these. They do not appear to me to foster Christian discipleship to the same extent as is done by the activities listed above.

32) The major loss has been the parish garden fete and the Christmas Bazaar. The fete had been organised by Edmund Brookes and he refused to do this in 2002. A fete was still held in 2002, but not in subsequent years. It was never an event organised by the incumbent. The Christmas Bazaar was also not organised by the incumbent. However the year it stopped, an organ recital in church raised £800 for CMS which is more than the charity had received from the parish Bazaar in any previous year. Sadly, hostility from angry parishioners meant that no attempt was made to repeat this.

33) In the past few years the Church Hall has been let to a nursery, who occupy the premises full time. This has meant that whilst the parish has an income of £15,000 per year and does not have the financial drain of having to maintain an elderly building which was in a poor state of repair, the church no longer has access to its own premises for social events. However, alternative good facilities exist in Trumpington which are not fully used.


34) The Christian Aid collection has expanded to cover the entire parish during my time in Trumpington. This has been an ecumenical effort, with members of several churches taking part. The effort is always the same, but the amount raised varies considerably. A single donation of £1,000 can make a huge difference to the total, and the presence or absence of such large donations is noticeable.

35) The ‘What’s Going on Here?’ event was mentioned in my submission and is the largest piece of outreach to the community for many years. Inspired by the Mothers’ Union, but drawing in many other members of the church, the event at Fawcett School provided a showcase for around fifty groups in Trumpington to advertise themselves, recruit, and tell the community about themselves.

36) Improving disabled access to the church is commended. This has many aspects, and the Church was curiously blind to the needs of disabled people. Indeed, the high threshold at the church door also made it impossible to wheel children's push chairs into the church. The main features are
a) Removing raised thresholds, and putting glass panels in the main door, so that sidespersons can see if anyone needs help to enter the church.
b) Levelling the floor of the north chapel and providing access. This has provided a valuable space for meeting after church.
c) A ramp in the chancel to enable disabled people to reach the communion rail. A step at one awkward point had been hazardous for the elderly and several people had fallen.
d) Renewing the sound system and providing more speakers in order to reach the whole of the church.
e) Braille copies of service books.
f) Improving nave lighting to recommended levels.
g) Large print notice sheets and service booklets.
h) Making the room used for Godly Play at the vicarage and the adjacent toilet accessible to wheelchair users.
i) Providing a ramp for wheelchairs at the entrance to the vicarage, and toilet facilities at ground level.

37) Some of this work has been impeded by those who see themselves as rivals to the vicar.
38) The Bishop reports the findings of the Tribunal on this matter without comment. However this demonstrates his lack of acknowledgement of what did take place in the parish. The Diocesan Prayer Calendar in use at the time of the Tribunal reported featured the parish of Trumpington. It included
a) Vellore Rev’ds Sampath Sadhanandam and Samuel Gembeeram were here between September 2006 and February 2007 for part of their stay.
b) North Elbe Revds Hanno Fritzenkotter and Michael Friesicke-Ohler were here in July 2007
c) Gill Ambrose has taught Godly Play in Germany.
d) Thanksgiving: The growth of Godly Play in Britain and Europe.

39) The Vacation of Benefices legislation refers to the ecumenical aspect of mission, and it is therefore important to say something about this. The Bishop of Ely has written ‘At paragraph 129 of its report, the Tribunal said: There appears to be little in the way of ecumenical activity at Trumpington; however, this appears to have been the case for a long period and is therefore not related to the present difficult situation here’ If the Bishop had used the prayer calendar he would have realised that the Tribunal was wrong, and this should have merited comment. Certainly there was little ecumenical contact with the parish, either locally or with the worldwide church, before we came to the parish. The parish profile said so. Local contact was limited by the fact that there is no other church of any other denomination within the parish: people of other denominations tend to worship in the city centre churches, which have their own strong ecumenical links. But our international links since 2000 have been very impressive, and reference is made to them in the prayer calendar entry.

40) We were asked by Canon Fiona Brampton, who co-ordinates the Vellore link, to host a pastor from the Church of South India in September - October 2006. The link with Vellore is an ecumenical link between Vellore and the Cambridgeshire Ecumenical Council. Fiona knew that we had hosted people from Vellore before. On one occasion eight young adults came to visit Cambridgeshire churches, and all of them stayed with us for the best part of a week towards the end their visit. The result of this close contact, which included presentations in church by the young people during our Sunday worship, and a barbeque lunch with a considerable number of parishioners, was that two young adults from Trumpington went on the return, month long, visit to Vellore. Having two people out of about six from all Cambridgeshire churches on the exchange was not a bad proportion. After their visit they made presentations in the parish and diocese, including participation in the diocesan residential lay conference held at Caister. The Bishop of Ely should have been aware of this.

41) Fiona’s second reason for asking us was because the Bishop of Vellore had requested that one of his pastors should study work with young people, and Gill was at the time Children’s Work Adviser. Shadowing her might give a good insight into this area. We agreed that the pastor could stay with us for a month or so following the diocesan clergy conference. Unfortunately the visit had had to be arranged at very short notice, because of visa difficulties, and it became evident to us that few further hosting offers were available from any of the Cambridgeshire churches. Most of the responsibility for hosting fell to Fiona Brampton and us. We had one or both of the pastors staying with us for much of the time from September to January. We were also involved in the meetings of the Vellore link committee of the local Ecumenical Council. Can the Bishop of Ely really maintain that we don’t promote ecumenical mission? All I can say is that whilst his Suffragan, Bishop John Inge, the chair of the ecumenical council, did thank us, there has not been a word of acknowledgement from the Bishop of Ely.

42) During the time that our visitors from Vellore were with us the pastors robed for services in church, participated in worship and, on occasion, preached. Through the parish notice sheet I asked parishioners to invite our visitors to see them. Parishioners hosted the pastors for meals and excursions. Sampath wrote an article for the parish magazine about his experience and parishioners came to his 50th birthday party here in January 2007, along with members of other churches whom he had visited. A Trumpington parishioner prepared Sampath's favourite meal Chicken Byriyani for the party, and others brought contributions to the shared meal. The applicants make no mention of any ecumenical contact with Vellore, though they should have been aware of it, particularly when Sampath was present at a PCC meeting.

43) The next reference in the prayer calendar was to the visit last summer by two Lutheran pastors, members of a larger group visiting Ely. The Diocese has a link with the Church of the North Elbe, and both Gill and I have previously made visits and hosted church members. The object of this visit was for our visitors to share with their hosts in a programme of events and discussions organised by our education officers. As a member of the diocesan adult education committee, I felt a responsibility to help. I offered to host someone, and also share in the programme. In the event there was a shortage of hosts so I and some others found ourselves hosting two pastors each. The pastors participated in Sunday worship in Trumpington, including preaching, and shared in coffee after the Sunday morning service, so the applicants in the tribunal should have been aware of their presence. The pastors also had discussions with a number of Trumpington parishioners about the life of English churches.

44) The third reference in the Prayer Calendar is to Gill’s work in Godly Play. We pioneered the use of Godly Play (see in Britain by opening, in September 2001, the first fully equipped room for Godly Play in Europe. The room, in the outbuildings of the vicarage, was refurbished by parishioners, particularly David George, John Gibson, Bert and Brenda Truelove and Eddie Green. Godly Play has since spread widely across many denominations in Britain from the Salvation Army to the Roman Catholic Church. The charity Godly Play U.K. was launched in Westminster Abbey last December. It goes without saying that adults and children in the parish share in Godly Play.

45) Gill has taken Godly Play to the Lutheran Church in Germany, initially because of the diocesan link with the North Elbe. It soon became evident that this was ideally suited for use in the many church kindergartens throughout Germany. Someone who trains teachers for church work in Germany came to learn about Godly Play and he has returned with other staff, and with groups of students who have camped in our garden in summer in order to participate in Godly Play training. There were about a dozen students on each occasion. Godly Play has now become established in Germany with the translation of books, and the local sourcing of materials. Both the Bishop and the applicants in the Tribunal should have been aware of this, if only from articles in the parish magazine, a copy of which always goes to the Bishops and Archdeacon. It was completely unacknowledged in the Tribunal’s report.

46) Of course when it suited Trumpington parishioners, they have noticed our ecumenical links. Gill has been for many years a member of the diocesan group which fosters the North Elbe link. I was asked at fairly short notice by the Archdeacon in 2002 if we had a Remembrance Sunday service at which a German pastor might speak. It seemed an ideal opportunity to promote reconciliation, and I agreed. After this was publicised in the church notice sheet I received no direct adverse comment from worshippers, but a furious letter of objection in the local paper by a British legion member the day before Remembrance Sunday made it necessary for the pastor to preach elsewhere. The false claim was that he had been asked to conduct the service.
47) The fact is that whilst there was virtually no ecumenical contact up to 1999, there has been a great deal since. Perhaps the Bishop could be asked why he knows so little about the parish of Trumpington that he can quote an inadequate report without comment. And those who brought the case should ask themselves why they failed to report this aspect of parish life adequately, when it was shared by many of the parishioners.

48) There are informal links with neighbouring churches. For several years David Reindorp at St. John�s and I hosted meetings of the local clergy fraternal. I have shared weddings in Trumpington church with ministers of other denominations: Free Church, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

49) Members of other denominations worship regularly with us at Trumpington. This includes Lutherans and Roman Catholics.

50) The main pastoral issue in the parish today is the planned growth of Trumpington, from around 2,000 dwellings to almost 6,000. I have taken a significant role in the community response to the development through membership of the Trumpington Residents’ Association. My work has been greatly appreciated; in particular leading a campaign to prevent excessive building on the King George Playing Field, and against the inappropriate siting of waste facilities. I have also contributed to local responses about housing plans, and shared in the preparation for taking over the management of the pavilion on the playing field.

51) Other church members have also taken an active part in the group, particularly Andy Blackhurst, a local councillor and his wife Jenny, Primrose Wayman (who died on Christmas Day last year), Stephen and Shirley Brown, Bob Jackson, Margaret Marrs and Sheila Betts who produced the association’s report to developers and local authorities. Those who appeared for the applicants at the tribunal were notable by their absence in involvement in the future of Trumpington.

52) The heart of the pastoral committee of the parish was lost when Bert and Brenda Truelove were driven out of the church by the hostility of the members of the gang of four, who turned on the Trueloves because they would not join the attack on the vicar. The Trueloves are still members of Trumpington Mothers� Union, and continue to inform me of people who would appreciate a visit. Other Mother�s Union members do the same, and take a great part in visiting the housebound.

53) Shirley Brown continues to run the ‘Fish Scheme’ organising hospital lifts. It is odd that the Tribunal reports that Shirley Brown and I do not communicate directly: we attend a pensioners’ lunch most weeks. We often sit at the same table and always have conversations with each other. Indeed, the entire group is concerned about the welfare of elderly neighbours.

54) Paragraph 132 refers to my alienating retired and assistant clergy. I have already mentioned the need to remove the names of four priests from the parish magazine on the instructions of Bishop John Flack. This won me no friends but in the extreme circumstances I had no choice.

55) I did not seek pastoral help for hostile parishioners: they recruited the Revd David Deboys to their ranks during my sick leave. The story was circulated that he was about to replace me as vicar of Trumpington. He improperly chaired PCC meetings, claimed to be licensed to Trumpington parish, and presided over the plans to seek my removal. When I returned, the obvious thing was for those who had recruited him to join his church, and a number of people did this.

56) Plans for the toilet in church were not stalled whilst I was taking any part in PCC meetings. There had been a unanimous decision to go ahead, and the city council have given planning permission. Plans were reversed during the Reverend David Deboys’ chairmanship of the PCC. To support the case for not providing a toilet he commissioned a report from a builder saying that the stonework was dangerous and in need of repairs costing �250,000. This proved to be totally false and he had done this without consulting the church architect, who was satisfied that the church was safe. I consider that what he did was a malicious attempt to undo the good plans which we had.

Reasons for pastoral breakdown
57) I note that the tribunal wishes to blame the vicar. I would draw attention to the role of the senior staff, and in particular that of +John Flack who held a series of secret meetings with those who complained about me. No minutes appear to have been taken of these meetings and I am not aware for any detail of what may have transpired. In hindsight it would appear that the suffragan was inveigled into joining a conspiracy against me.

58) It is the role of the PCC to support the vicar in the mission of the church. Instead PCC members have seen themselves as rivals to the vicar. Reports of PCC meetings have been one sided because in latter years only hostile people have been present, other than my wife. I have made recordings of PCC meetings in order to have a true record of these meetings.

The law
59) I am not qualified to answer anything in this section, but would wish only to point out that the case made by the applicants failed to apply the law, in the opinion of my counsel, and as a result the defence which he made was never designed to answer the irrelevant issues presented.

60) There is clear evidence which would support an appeal against the Bishop’s ruling, particularly in the light of his failure to be open about his own role and that of his Suffragan. To suggest going to law, using the Vacation of Benefices Measure, rather than resolving conflict is most unchristian. St. Paul’s advice to the Church in Corinth has been set aside. He comments ‘In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.’

61) In paragraph 56 the bishop notes that the letter of 15 June 2001 was ‘concerned but constructive’. This may be so, but I never had an opportunity to answer it at the time. An opportunity to see it and address it might have resulted in a different series of events. Long before I even knew there was any letter Bishop John had advised the gang of four on how to remove the vicar, by resorting to this legislation.

62) The most serious aspect of the pastoral breakdown has not been acknowledged. This is that since June 2001 the entire Bishop�s team appear to have conspired to remove me from my parish and offered no constructive pastoral support in addressing the situation which has resulted. There appears to be at present no means of putting this right, or of ensuring that other clergy are spared the same kind of treatment. Indeed, if the verdict of the Tribunal stands, this would appear to give carte blanche to any difficult parishioners to conspire to bring down a priest, and indications are that the bishop will support them in ways that do not accord with established employment practice or respect their human rights.