Sodor and Man: How Anglican “Shariah” law trumped democracy on the Isle of Man
NEWS ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
By David Virtue, DD
November 6, 2016
This is a black week for democracy and Christianity in the British Isles. In Belfast, a court ruled against Christian bakers who refused to bake a gay a cake with a slogan “Supporting Gay Marriage.” Just across the water, on the Isle of Man, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, used Anglican “Shariah” law to subvert the democratic process and pervert the course of justice in the world’s oldest Parliament.
Aided and abetted by his Archdeacon Andie Brown, “professional” victim Andrea Quine, ordinand Mark Payne who was offended by having his preaching critiqued, and two disaffected churchwardens, Alan Grace and Timothy Henwood, Bishop Robert Paterson used the Clergy Discipline Measure to silence the island’s Canon Theologian and scupper his Petition of Doleance to Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s parliament–the longest continually functioning parliament in the world.
In 2015, the Revd Dr Jules Gomes took two Petitions of Doleance to the island’s open parliament on Tynwald Day. The custom of bringing a petition before the island’s parliament in full view of the nation is a remarkable custom that continues to be celebrated on the Isle of Man. It is a vehicle for citizens to address a grievance when all other avenues of justice have been exhausted.
One of Dr Gomes’ petitions called for an investigation to assess if clergy had adequate protection from bullying and harassment. Speaking to the press on that day, Dr Gomes made it clear that he had been bullied and harassed by Bishop Robert Paterson over the last two and a half years.
The bishop responded by filing a Clergy Discipline Measure against Dr Gomes. In a court of law, the credibility of the plaintiff and witnesses are indispensable to justice being done. Such a system of Western jurisprudence has its origins in our Judeo-Christian heritage. The book of Deuteronomy requires two or three witnesses to establish a charge. It warns against a ‘malicious witness’ (19:15-19).
Malicious witnesses have malicious motives. Bishop Paterson’s motives are obvious. If Tynwald appointed a Select Committee as a result of Dr Gomes’ petition, witnesses would have privilege to testify against him without fear of reprisal. A number of cases of bullying and harassment of clergy would tumble out of the closet.
Did the cabal cloistered around the bishop have malicious motives? If so, what were they? The bishop and his chaplain, Margaret Burrows, instigated Andrea Quine to complain against Dr Gomes after he allegedly shouted at her one evening. The matter would have been resolved internally. Dr Gomes offered to apologize through his churchwarden. Quine initially accepted. The bishop then stepped in and asked her not to accept Dr Gomes’ apology, but to lodge a formal complaint.
A number of churchgoers on the Isle of Man describe Andrea Quine as a “serial complainer” and a “professional victim.” ‘She has been a “serial” worshipper who drops out of a congregation, goes on to the next one and complains that she has been thrown out of every church on the island,’ a vicar’s wife told VOL.
She accused her ex-husband of beating her up and breaking her bones. She accused a friend, Jillian Carran, of trying to run over her with her car and kill her after a Sunday service. She accused a staff member at the Buchan School, of sexual harassment. She accused people at the Cathedral, where she now worships, of trying to take her voluntary role as Verger. ‘Andrea is completely mixed-up and is often on medication for mental health issues,’ women at her former church in Castletown said. Sources say that she has now returned to St Mary’s on the Harbour in Castletown and has left the Cathedral.
So why did Mark Payne, an ordinand who was training under Dr Gomes, change his testimony to implicate Dr Gomes? Payne is Head of Charitable Services for the Children’s Centre on the island. He is a self-confessed liberal. He is divorced and married to a non-Christian. After withdrawing from ordination training many years ago, he was recently granted a special dispensation that would allow him to be ordained as a divorced man.
Dr Gomes made it clear to Mr Payne that he would not let him preach in his pulpit without first vetting his sermons. Dr Gomes allowed Payne to preach only one sermon at St Mary’s on the Harbour and that, too, after asking him to rewrite it at least three times. The quality of the manuscript was so poor that Dr Gomes asked a ‘critical friend’ to make comments so he would not offend Payne.
In his report on Payne’s sermon, the critical friend stated: ‘If I had to be very honest, I would almost describe this sermon as “indulgent.” It has been written with the priorities of the speaker clearly paramount and very little discernment shown for the needs of the listener. 90% of the important theology from this extremely rich passage has been ignored completely so that the preacher can get his (slightly left-wing) message across. The impression gained is that “although Jesus obviously didn’t think the family was important, I still do.”‘ Did Payne express his grievance by betraying Dr Gomes and handing him over to Pilate like Judas did?
What about Alan Grace? Mr Grace, who was Dr Gomes’ churchwarden, had not been attending any church for around three years before Dr Gomes invited him to be a member of his church. Grace, who is divorced and remarried, part of a Hindu guru cult and took drugs at one point in his life, was also a Methodist lay preacher and resigned his position. A Methodist minister told VOL that Grace created trouble in every church he visited.
One of the most serious miscarriages of justice was made when another of Dr Gomes’ churchwardens, Timothy Henwood, accused him of swearing against the bishop and archdeacon in a private phone conversation. There is no evidence for this since there are no witnesses in a private phone conversation. Instead of dismissing the charge as hearsay, the tribunal ruled in favour of Mr Henwood. Henwood joined Dr Gomes’ church after he fell out with the Revd Paul Mothersdale, the former and now deceased of the Parish of Malew and Santon.
Bishop Paterson triumphantly announced the verdict against Dr Gomes this morning. The tribunal concluded Dr Jules Gomes had an over-inflated view of his self-importance, lost his temper and displayed anger–even with those who supported him. Speaking on Manx Radio, Dr Gomes hit back by accusing Bishop Robert Paterson of taking a dictatorial line on discipline issues, tantamount to Shariah law–the strict legal code of Islam governing public behaviour.
However, the most important charge against Dr Gomes, that of doctoring his Resume was thrown out by the Tribunal, thus vindicating Dr Gomes’ integrity.
So what? Is this a civil or a criminal offence? Wasn’t there a more Christian way of resolving this conflict? Why did the bishop spend thousands of pounds and use the Clergy Discipline Measure to punish a vicar he found problematic?
The real lesson to learn is, will the Church of England now make attempts to restrict the tyrannical abuse of the Clergy Discipline Measure for the personal and petty ends of a peeved bishop and archdeacon?
An investigation is to be carried out by the Church of England to investigate possible misuse or abuse of CDMs by bishops since the measure was first introduced in England in 2003.
St. Augustine’s Church, Douglas, Isle of Man:
RECORD OF A STATEMENT BY SIR LAURENCE NEW, CHAIRMAN OF St AUGUSTINE’S CHURCH MANAGEMENT TEAM TO THE CONGREGATION AFTER SERVICE ON SUNDAY 30 OCTOBER 2016.
There can be no doubt that the attacks and counter attacks between the Diocese and ourselves are being viewed with less and less sympathy by many church-goers on the Island. Accordingly, the Management Team have authorised me to make the following statement and issue the request in the final paragraph below to us all:
When the original announcement was made on 2 September 2015 that The Bishop and the Archdeacon were launching a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) against Dr Gomes, the legal advice which he received from eminent ecclesiastical lawyers, one of whom is a senior clergyman and member of General Synod, was, and has remained, that because Dr Gomes was not ordained by the Church of England (C of E) and that after due notice on 31 December 2015 he had resigned from all his offices within the C of E, the CDM would be “meaningless”.
Before going on to discuss the complaints and the findings of the Tribunal, it is relevant to note there have been only four (CDMs) launched in the UK against priests within the C of E in the past thirteen months, one for theft of £30,000 from Church Funds, two for fornication with female members in the priest’s congregation and one for assault and fornication with a male and a female member of that Priest’s congregation. To undertake a CDM against Dr Gomes on the complaints indicated below would be seen by many as a significant misuse of the Clergy Discipline Measure and a clear indication not only of further intimidation and harassment, but that a separate agenda was being pursued, notably the suppression of the Tynwald Petition by Dr Gomes.
Because the legal advice has been unequivocal and consistent, Dr Gomes decided to have nothing to do with the CDM and not to defend himself or be represented. A Tribunal chaired by an officer of the Diocese paid by the Bishop, and without any defence being heard, was even more “meaningless”. Unsurprisingly, this combination led to a one-sided set of conclusions. An example of this is that the Tribunal found “no evidence whatsoever of bullying by the Bishop or the Archdeacon” (paragraph 88-89 of the Tribunal Report). They claimed that this assertion was borne out by the evidence before them that neither Dr Gomes nor his supporters had ever complained officially. In fact, two CDMs had been launched in protest against the Bishop, one by Mrs Gomes and one by Fr Robert Ferguson on his own account, detailing between them some twenty-seven specific instances of bullying by the Bishop. Both of these CDMs, incidentally, were dismissed by the Archdiocese of York. Nor was the Tribunal made aware that several very specific letters of complaint about the Bishop’s behaviour had been written to the Archbishop of York, and that there was an on-line petition which revealed that more than 129 identifiable Manx residents asserted that there had in fact been extensive bullying by the Bishop. Such omissions by the Tribunal reduced its credibility and any claim to impartiality.
In its early form, the CDM contained six complaints against Dr Gomes, trawled by the Archdeacon going back, in one case, over eight years. Two complaints were deleted on the advice of the lawyers employed by the Bishop. The remaining four complaints were:
a. That he had embellished his CV. The Tribunal found him not guilty of misconduct on this complaint.
b. That he had accused a member of the clergy of referring to him as a “darkie”. The evidence was inconsistent, but accepting the word of the clergywoman against Dr Gomes word and that of a witness statement which was not before them, the Tribunal found Dr Gomes guilty of misconduct.
c. That he had lost his temper with a church cleaner and had spoken strongly on several occasions to other individuals. Dr Gomes tried to offer an apology to the cleaner, but was told by her that she had been instructed by the Bishop not to accept it unless he was present. Dr Gomes admits and accepts this complaint, apologizes for his action and is determined that it will not recur. The Tribunal found him guilty of this misconduct.
d. That at Tynwald in July 2015 he spoke out about the Bishop and the Archdeacon’s bullying. The Tribunal found him guilty of this misconduct. Dr Gomes maintains that his remarks were not only true, but were within his democratic rights to free speech, and that a significant number of people agreed with him.
It follows that if the CDM is legally “meaningless, so, too, are the threats by the Bishop to damage or restrict Dr Gomes’ career as a preacher of the Gospel. The Bishop has no legal jurisdiction over Dr Gomes, neither has the Diocese. He remains the trusted and esteemed minister of St Augustine’s Church, a uniquely gifted preacher and Biblical scholar. In the eight months since our founding, he has brought a real joy in the Gospel to our church family.
The Management Team Prayer and Planning Meeting on Friday 28 October decided that once the recording already made by Marion Kenny with Dr Gomes had been broadcast on 31 October’s Mandate, the members of the Management Team would decline thereafter to respond in any way, on Manx Radio, in the newspapers or in social media. It would be a complete cease-fire to limit further damage and distress. They have authorized me to request that all of us, as individuals or as a church should commit to the same restraint, whether it be unilateral or not.