Author Archives: richardwsymonds37

JULY 12 2020 – “IS SAYING SORRY ENOUGH?”

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Ten days before he was confirmed as archbishop, Cottrell admitted he had failed to take proper action relating to allegations of domestic abuse by a priest 10 years ago, saying he was “deeply distressed and extremely sorry”

The Guardian

 

‘THINKING ANGLICANS’

COMMENTS

 

Richard W. Symonds

The Guardian

‘Ten days before he was confirmed as archbishop, Cottrell admitted he had failed to take proper action relating to allegations of domestic abuse by a priest 10 years ago, saying he was “deeply distressed and extremely sorry”’

Is saying sorry enough?

JULY 9 2020 – GENERAL SYNOD 2020 – QUESTIONS – SATURDAY JULY 11

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GENERAL SYNOD 2020 – QUESTIONS – JULY 11

 

General Synod – Questions

The Questions paper for Saturday’s virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been published today. This contains the 131 submitted questions and their answers. A total of two hours has been allocated on Saturday for supplementary questions and answers.

Other papers are here.

The meeting will be streamed online here.

COMMENTS
Kate
Kate

 

“While praying in a church building is very important for clergy (and others), it could not be considered an essential practice.” – Archbishop of Canterbury

Words fail me.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds

Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q27

“The Church has embraced the concept of “unconscious bias”: will the Secretary General and the NSSP urgently review the composition of the Martyn Percy Core Group and confirm to General Synod members within a month, that having considered the importance of fair and proper process, they can assure us that that Core Group process was free from unconscious bias, and that the Core Group decisions were untainted by it?”

The Bishop of Huddersfield to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:

“A House of Bishops practice guidance “Responding to, assessing, and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers” (2017) provides that the membership of core groups should not comprise those who may have a conflict of interest or loyalty. We are not able to respond to specific ongoing cases but as a general rule we would accept that as far as is reasonably possible in the circumstances of each case, a core group’s work should be free from bias and we always keep the membership of core groups under review where there is a challenge on the grounds of potential bias” 

Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’:

http://survivingchurch.org/2020/07/06/a-guide-to-the-situation-at-christ-church-oxford/

“The case seems to be full of potential conflicts of interest which make it almost impossible for the Core Group to work with an adequate level of independence. There are just too many personal ties that exist between the Dean’s accusers and the publicity companies and legal firms who have now become involved in the case…….

“The two non-church organisations prominent in the case each have a lot of history and involvement with both Christ Church and the Church of England central structures.  One is the public relations firm, Luther Pendragon. They have already been working for the complainant dons in their earlier case against their Dean in 2018. They also do work for the Church of England and several of the dioceses. Alongside Luther Pendragon is Winckworth Sherwood, a firm of top end London lawyers. They are extensively involved with church work at the national level and also with the Provincial Registrar and the diocese of Oxford.  WS, as we shall now call them, used to be run by the Rev John Rees, who now works for the national Church at a senior level. The letter sent to Martyn telling him that he faced investigation by the NST was written in the name of Melissa Caslake, the director, but it appears to have been drafted by another senior lawyer with connections with WS, Alex McGregor. He is a priest lawyer who used to be chancellor for the Diocese of Oxford. The WS Oxford office was also drawn in to issue the letter from the Bishop of Oxford to George Carey, removing his PTO.

“Given the close personal and professional ties that can be seen to bind all the individuals within these firms with the national church and with members of Christ Church, we would have expected to see a number of recusals from the Core Group. It is surely impossible for members of such a small network to regard themselves as independent in regard to this investigation.  In actual fact, 13 out 14 members of the Percy Core Group are believed to have personal or professional links with WS.  Two of Dean Percy’s accusers sit on the group while no one represents the interests of the Dean himself.  Further, Alex McGregor, the member of the Church’s legal team and who reputedly drafted the letter to Martyn, is an alumnus of Christ Church.  He can be expected to have continuing social and other contact with some of the dons involved in the case. 

“The minutes of the Christ Church Core Group, which met on March 13th 2020, have not yet been released.  The various conflicts of interest that would appear to be in operation, in bringing together such a group, need to be fully explored.  The group that is claiming to seek justice for the Dean needs to explain how they feel able to do this with any degree of integrity while these apparent conflicts of interest are neither acknowledged nor examined.  There is also something less than healthy when committee proceedings are apparently wrapped up in secrecy.  The Carlile report, which scrutinised the processes in the case around Bishop Bell, called for all such Church core groups to carry representation of the interests of the complainants and the accused.  That, clearly, is not happening in this case.  The impression is being given that the whole process is an expensive and dishonourable exercise in trying to wear down the Dean by litigious-type activities.  To their shame, the Church of England has allowed itself to become party to a what appears to be a thoroughly shameful process.  The NST has been manipulated to become part of something so toxic that it may itself be destroyed by this involvement.

“The reputations of two organisations are being severely damaged by this episode.  Christ Church dons have already seen twenty-seven accusations against the Dean rejected by a retired judge.  The repeat of the attacks on the Dean with a completely new set of accusations, while using another legal structure, seems foolish and even reckless.  The reputation of the Christ Church college has been muddied and brought low by this case.  At the same time the status of the Church of England is taking an equally heavy battering.   The Church, with the connivance of its top legal officers has allowed a church legal process to be used in a dispute within a wealthy Oxford college.  It is surprising that the advice of the Church’s own publicity machine and its reputation managers was not there to check this appalling waste of human and financial resources.  At a time of financial anxiety for the parishes and cathedrals of England, congregations are witnessing the expenditure of tens (even hundreds) of thousands of pounds of church money on this case.  This is money that properly belongs to the Church.  Quite apart from the evident flakiness of the case, the Church of England has allowed one of its structures to be used, abused and, arguably, totally discredited in pursuing a case which appears ultimately to be beyond its remit.  Let us hope that General Synod at its meeting in two weeks time will be able to do something to reverse this terrible train crash”.

 

GENERAL SYNOD AND THE QUESTIONS AROUND SAFEGUARDING – Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’

“Before I go on to examine one of the questions in more detail, I should make a general observation about all these safeguarding responses.  In February we heard from a fired-up Bishop Jonathan, who appeared passionate about his new responsibility for safeguarding.  In July this same man puts his name to 13 responses to questions on the topic.  It has to be said these answers to these questions sound like extracts from a dry legal text-book.  Of course, some of the required answers did touch on questions of legal protocol and definition, but not all.  The style of all of these responses is such that I would be very surprised if any of these answers were actually put together by Bishop Jonathan himself.  Every single one appears to have been composed by an anonymous lawyer and Bishop Jonathan is simply the spokesman who delivers these ‘official’ answers.  The human being that spoke with such passion back in February has somehow disappeared.  In his place is a legal functionary who is anonymous and speaks in the way that will best preserve and defend  the Church of England. 

As I have suggested, many of the 13 questions from Synod members did require a legal-type answer.  Safeguarding is, after all, often a matter of putting into practice the correct procedures, particularly as laid down by the House of Bishops in their 2017 guidelines. 

But amid the more formal questions of protocol. I detected a googly.  Martin Sewell, a lay member from Rochester, asked a question which was bound to catch my attention as it related to the Martyn Percy affair, something the Church of England may regret becoming involved in.  Sewell’s question, no 27 is as follows. 

The Church has embraced the concept of “unconscious bias”.  Will the Secretary General and the NSSP urgently review the composition of the Martyn Percy Core Group and confirm to General Synod members within a month, that having considered the importance of fair and proper process, they can assure us that the Core Group was free from unconscious bias, and the Core Group decisions were untainted by it?’ 

The questioner knew that the placing of any group of individuals, well known to each other, with others who have been actively  working to remove the Christi Church Dean for over two years , was operating with a built-in bias right from the start. Someone has likened this action as being like allowing members of the prosecution team to join the jury.  Bias within the group was far from ‘unconscious’.  It has made any objective pursuit of justice for Dean Percy by this group virtually impossible.

Bishop Jonathan or the lawyer speaking through him, chose to ignore the evident gross anomalies of the situation, and declared the following in smooth lawyer-speak.  ‘We are not able to respond to specific ongoing cases but as a general rule we would accept that as far as is reasonably possible in the circumstances of each case , a core group’s work should be free from bias ………’

The answer ascribed to Bishop Jonathan is almost certainly not the answer of the man who had spoken so passionately about safeguarding in February.  The question was one about reflection regarding the issue of unconscious bias, one that is much talked about in this epoch of ‘black lives matter’.  The question was not an easy one to answer and it demanded the exercise of the imagination by whoever tried to respond to it.  The Secretary General and the National Safeguarding Steering Panel were being asked to reflect on what they thought might have been going on within the Core Group for Dean Percy.   The answer that came back had not even allowed the question to be fielded on to William Nye and the NSSP.  It was batted away by a legal functionary working in Church House without apparently any serious attempt to engage with the deeper issues implied in the question.

What are the issues implied by this question?  Surviving Church has also asked the same question in a different way.  How can a Church core group function properly when it contains openly hostile individuals to Dean Percy?  Bishop Jonathan must be completely aware of all the ambiguities of process and law that still bedevil the Percy Core Group and its proper functioning.  The formal answer that is published as a response to Martin Sewell’s question shows no  trace of uncertainty or ambiguity.  The answer neither answers the question nor does it hint at the struggling humanity of the bishop who spoke to Synod so movingly and passionately about the issue of safeguarding in February   Rather we seem, in this answer, to have the words of a legally trained functionary with no pastoral awareness of the issues at stake.  That does not reflect the reality of Bishop Jonathan.  This formal answer seems neither to engage properly with the question nor offer an answer that could be said to be of any obvious value.

I have no means of knowing exactly how questions at Synod are dealt with and responded to.  If my speculation is even partly right, that a Bishop’s reply has been drafted by a lawyer and we are witnessing a terrifying vision.  The Church of England is led, not by bishops or archbishops but civil servants and lawyers who are hidden away in Church House.  The task of General Synod is surely to demand to see the ‘real’ Bishop Jonathan, not the one who is not permitted to answer for himself questions put to him by members of Synod.  In the case of Martin Sewell’s question, the individuals addressed were not reached.  Bishop Jonathan/anonymous Church lawyer deflected the question before it reached its destination.  Is that really how we want the Church to be organised?   Is there an English word to denote an organisation run by lawyers?  Perhaps that is indeed what we now have in England!

COMMENTS

  1. Froghole

    “It has to be said these answers to these questions sound like extracts from a dry legal text-book.”

    It is not just the Bishop of Huddersfield’s responses which are problematic. I am struggling to think of a single answer to a single question by any bishop or other official that is not mechanistic, robotic, evasive or slippery….What we have here is a collection of politicians in fancy dress. They could quite easily be standing at a dispatch box in the House of Commons.

     

 

ONE QUESTION WHICH WILL NOT BE ASKED TOMORROW AT GENERAL SYNOD 2020

Church Times – July 10 2020

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — Did nobody, at any point during the appointment process for the new Archbishop of York, think to ask him whether there were any past safeguarding failures (News, 3 July) that he ought to disclose?

JULY 5 2020 – “SOMETIMES A DISRUPTIVE CHALLENGE IS THE ONLY RIGHT THING TO DO” ~ MARTIN SEWELL

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CHRIST CHURCH VS MARTYN PERCY

 

Christ Church vs Martyn Percy

Martin Sewell and David Lamming issued a letter to fellow members of the CofE General Synod, which was published by Archbishop Cranmer on 19 June: Martyn Percy: Synod challenges Christ Church abuse of CofE safeguarding process.

Peter Adams, another General Synod member, responded to that letter on reconciliationtalk.org on 28 June: When a safeguarding referral is made no amount of special pleading should change that.

Today, Archbishop Cranmer has published a further article, which contains a very detailed response from Martin Sewell to Peter Adams: Christ Church vs Martyn Percy: a conspiracy of lawyers, divine PR, and the purgatory of CofE Safeguarding. That letter will also be sent to all General Synod members ahead of the online “meeting” planned for next Saturday. As “Archbishop Cranmer” writes:

Members of Synod should read both letters and ask themselves three questions:

1) Am I prepared to publicly defend the Church of England’s conduct in this ?
2) Would I wish myself or someone I care for to be subject to such processes?
3) What exactly am I going to do about this?

TA readers are encouraged to read all these letters in full.

 

Freedom of Information request rejected by James Lawrie at Christ Church

 

Dear Christ Church, Oxford,

a) What is the amount of money spent by Christ Church on the action against the Dean , including legal fees, tribunal costs , expert advice ( legal and otherwise) , Public Relations expenditure, and any other related spend.

b) How was this expenditure authorised?
Please provide minutes of meetings referring to this expenditure.

As House Members we are concerned that our (and others) donations to the college have been mis-spent, and that given the fact that Christ Church has charitable status , this expenditure is in breach of charity commission rules .

Yours faithfully,
Alan Fox
Charles Kingsley-Evans

“DISMAYED BY CLOSURE PROPOSAL” / “CLOSURE SURELY NOT JUSTIFIED” -CHICHESTER OBSERVER – LETTERS – JUNE 25 2020

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Chichester Cathedral from 4 Canon Lane [aka George Bell House]

Dear Editor

The world has gone mad and Church hierarchs along with it [‘Dismayed by closure proposal’ / ‘Closure surely not justified’, Observer Letters, June 25]

Peter Lansley is rightly “dismayed to read Chichester Cathedral may permanently close its Cloister Cafe (aka Bishop Bell Tea Rooms)…”

What’s next – the closure of 4 Canon Lane (aka George Bell House)?

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

2 Lychgate Cottages

Ifield Street, Ifield Village

Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN

Tel: 07540 309592 [Text only – Very deaf]

Email: richardsy5@aol.com

 

 

JUNE 30 2020 – “COTTRELL AND CAREY: WHY IS SOME SAFEGUARDING SECRET, WHILE OTHERS ARE THROWN TO THE MEDIA?” – ‘ARCHBISHOP CRANMER’

Cottrell-Carey

Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of York [left] – George Carey Former Archbishop of Canterbury [right]

“COTTRELL AND CAREY: WHY IS SOME SAFEGUARDING SECRET, WHILE OTHERS ARE THROWN TO THE MEDIA?” – ‘ARCHBISHOP CRANMER’

 

“Bishop Stephen Cottrell: Safeguarding Statements” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ [+ Comments]

 

JUNE 26 2020 – “OXFORD COLLEGE ROCKED BY ALLEGATIONS OF LEAKS AND BLACKMAIL” – FINANCIAL TIMES

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“OXFORD COLLEGE ROCKED BY ALLEGATIONS OF LEAKS AND BLACKMAIL” – FINANCIAL TIMES

Academics at one of Oxford’s richest colleges have presented mobile phone records to support an allegation that the institution’s dean leaked confidential information, the latest twist of an extraordinary governance row.

Trustees of Christ Church, the alma mater of 13 prime ministers including William Gladstone, have been locked in a very public pay dispute with the dean, Martyn Percy, that has so far involved an attempt to oust him from his position, more than £2m in legal fees and a suspected blackmail campaign.

On Thursday the Charity Commission, which has regulated colleges at Oxford and Cambridge since a legal change a decade ago, ordered the two sides to return to mediation. “It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes,” it said. Both sides had wanted the Commission to intervene after Mr Percy broke off mediation efforts in March.

The college had offered the dean a settlement worth more than £1m to leave his post, which would cover his legal fees of at least £450,000. But senior university figures fear that significant intervention by the Commission could have implications for all Oxford colleges, which, unlike most charities, tend to have large numbers of trustees — academics — who are also paid and therefore have a financial interest in the charity’s spending.

The latest row between Mr Percy and the college centres on who leaked a confidential tribunal judgment that largely vindicated Mr Percy of allegations of impropriety relating to the dispute.

The dean, who is a senior Church of England priest, has consistently denied being the source of the document.

However, Christ Church’s governing body was told last week that Mr Percy’s work phone records show that in February he was in regular contact with the former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, who in March circulated the judgment.

Another PDF circulated by Mr Aitken showed its author to be “Martyn Percy”. Mr Percy declined to comment. He has told the college that an old document could have been edited to include new information. Mr Aitken told the FT that he had not received any documents from Mr Percy. He said he had received the document from an unknown email address by the name of “Henry Wolsey”.

The Charity Commission’s powers include firing trustees and ordering an independent review. The head of another Oxford college said, “If [Christ Church] were a school in Hackney, it would already have been taken into special measures.”

The dispute dates back to 2017, when Mr Percy, who had been appointed three years earlier, asked for a pay increase. It escalated after college figures accused him of trying to rig the make-up of the board that set his salary. In return, Mr Percy began multiple employment claims against the college.

The dean survived an initial attempt to oust him last year, when a retired High Court judge largely cleared him of allegations of impropriety. But relations have worsened since, after copies of the confidential judgment were circulated and leaked to the governing body and the media.

Mr Percy has denied speaking to journalists about internal matters. But he handed over a screenshot of his phone calls, which revealed contact with a journalist at the Times newspaper before it published extracts of the judgment.

The college subsequently found multiple text messages and calls between the journalist and Mr Percy. The dean told the college they were regarding his advisory role at the British Board of Film Classification.

Nearly two-thirds of the trustees, mainly academics, have accused Mr Percy of “a consistent lack of moral compass”, and called for the Charity Commission to help to remove him.

The dean, who has been portrayed as a reformer, was the subject of vicious emails by some trustees soon after his appointment in 2014. The issue has raised questions about Christ Church’s statutes, which offer few ways to resolve governance disputes, and its unique structure, with the college and the adjoining cathedral both headed by a dean.

Christ Church, whose endowment was worth £578m as of July 2019, has suffered a series of unrelated embarrassments. A professor was suspended last year, over claims he was involved in the theft of a papyrus, which he denies. Millions of pounds of art, including a painting by Anthony van Dyck, were stolen from the college library in March.

An undergraduate also made an offensive joke about Black Lives Matter protests during recent student hustings.

In a sign of the vicious atmosphere surrounding the dispute with the dean, senior academics reported receiving emails saying that, unless they paid large sums to Mr Percy, confidential documents would be published.

Christ Church said the emails “were reported to the police, and are being treated as blackmail”. The emails were also from an account labelled “Henry Wolsey”, the same name used by the person Mr Aitken says sent him the judgment. Mr Percy declined to comment on the allegation.

Mr Aitken said that the dean had no intention of leaving Christ Church, and instead called for his accusers to be removed. “He’s not going to move for 20 years. Why should he?” the former minister said. “The Augean stables have to be cleaned out — which must mean some departures”.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

“Charity Commission calls for urgent mediation at Christ Church” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

“CHRIST CHURCH PR AGENCY LUTHER PENDRAGON COLLUDES WITH FT JOURNALIST [AND ALUMNUS] TO DEFAME DEAN” – ‘ARCHBISHOP CRANMER

 

JUNE 24 2020 – “CLERICAL ABUSE AND CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP” BY JOSEPHINE ANNE STEIN – ‘MODERN BELIEVING’ – THE JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM

“CLERICAL ABUSE AND CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP” BY JOSEPHINE ANNE STEIN – ‘MODERN BELIEVING’ – THE JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM

Abstract

The Church of England’s official responses to clerical abuse compound the harm done to victims/survivors, as well as damaging clergy accused of abuse, congregations and not least, the Church itself as a Christian institution. This article explores the reasons why the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) and other current responses to abuse are incompatible with Christian discipleship, and presents Christocentric alternatives which prioritise the cure of souls and reconciliation. This approach draws upon non-adversarial practices such as occupational psychology, pastoral and social work intervention and restorative justice to craft bespoke responses to ecclesiastical abuse by clergy and church leaders. Improved understanding of clerical abuse and applying theologically grounded responses would improve spiritual recovery for all those wounded by ecclesiastical abuse: survivors, perpetrators, congregations, church leaders and their families and communities. But it is the Church of England itself which would stand most to benefit from enacting its Christian vocation.

 

JULY 2016 – “SURVIVING THE CRUCIBLE OF ECCLESIASTICAL ABUSE” BY JOSEPHINE ANNE STEIN – ‘SAFEGUARDING’ – THE CRUCIBLE JOURNAL OF CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ETHICS

https://www.anglicannews.org/features/2016/08/archbishop-welby-abuse-victims-must-be-heard.aspx

 

file:///C:/Users/Symonds/Downloads/Crucible%20front%20matter%20plus%20JAS%20article.pdf

JUNE 22 2020 – THE MARTIN SEWELL LETTER – DAILY TELEGRAPH [20/06/2020]

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SIR – The way allegations have been made against the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy (Letters, June 19), breaches the Church of England’s guidelines and ignores recommendations of the Carlile Report into the Bishop Bell fiasco.
I hope that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury whose right to officiate has been revoked (report, June 18), fares better. Abuse victims know that an organisation which puts PR before justice is no friend of theirs.

Martin Sewell
Member of the General Synod
Gravesend, Kent