Category Archives: Christ Church Oxford

MAY 8 2021 – CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD “HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR UPHOLDING THE BASIC PRINCIPLE OF DIGNITY…TO HELP ACHIEVE A JUST AND SPEEDY RESOLUTION” IN THE CASE OF REVD PROFESSOR MARTYN PERCY, DEAN AND HEAD OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church

CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD “HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR UPHOLDING THE BASIC PRINCIPLE OF DIGNITY…TO HELP ACHIEVE A JUST AND SPEEDY RESOLUTION” IN THE CASE OF REVD PROFESSOR MARTYN PERCY, DEAN AND HEAD OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD

Workplace dignity and Oxford dons – Church Times Letters – May 7 2021

From Professors Gordon Lynch, Stephen Pattison, and Linda Woodhead, and 21 others

Sir, — We write as academics working in the field of theology and religious studies to express our concern about ongoing events at Christ Church, Oxford, in which several of our colleagues are involved.

We affirm the basic principle of dignity in the workplace and note the importance of upholding that principle in relation to all parties involved in investigatory and disciplinary processes. Unless used efficiently and humanely, such processes themselves cause harm. The previous disproportionate actions by the College against the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, have contributed to a current situation in which no one is well served.

We welcome the Charity Commission’s interest in this case. We also believe that senior figures in the University of Oxford, such as the Vice-Chancellor, as well as senior leaders in the Church of England, have a responsibility for upholding the basic principle of dignity for all in the workplace, and should not merely remain silent.

We call upon them, and all colleagues directly involved, to help achieve a just and speedy resolution.

NICK ADAMS, JOHN BARCLAY, SYLVIA COLLINS-MAYO, ABBY DAY, G. R. EVANS, GORDON LYNCH, DIARMAID MacCULLOCH, ELAINE GRAHAM, MATHEW J. GUEST, GERARD LOUGHLIN, WALTER MOBERLY, RACHEL MUERS, CHRISTOPHER PARTRIDGE, STEPHEN PATTISON, ALEC RYRIE, NICOLA SLEE, GRAEME SMITH, ROBERT SONG, JOHANNA STIEBERT, IAIN TORRANCE, HEATHER WALTON, PETE WARD, LINDA WOODHEAD, JAMES WOODWARD
c/o Department of Philosophy, Politics and Religion
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD

APRIL 1 2021 – “A BLOODY SHAMBLES – SURVIVING CHURCH BETWEEN GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER” BY ANONYMOUS

A Bloody Shambles: Surviving Church Between Good Friday and Easter

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

by Anonymous

The bloody history of shambles might help us process the God-awful mess of
the Church of England, the National Safeguarding Team, injustice and
incompetence, and the brutality of bishops and church officers “just following
their process…”.

Annibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop, oil on canvas, circa 1583, 185cm x 266cm.

Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford.

 Annibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop, oil on canvas, circa 1580

59cm x 71cm, Kimbell Art Gallery, Fort Worth.

You are looking at two pictures by Annibale Carracci, painted in the early 1580s.  It is one of two slightly different paintings called ‘The Butcher’s Shop’. One hangs in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. The other hangs in the Christ Church Picture Gallery, and is one of the paintings bequeathed in legacy by Charles 1.  It may have originally been commissioned by a Butcher’s Guild.  It is big picture of a busy butcher’s shop – much like you get in any market.  Meat hangs up; there are game birds.  Several staff chopping and prepping. Sharp knives, a saw, and some butcher’s blocks – all stained with blood.

But it is of course a religious picture, refracted into the everyday.  Here, in the picture, we see the foreground, almost at knee height, so you have to bend down to see it: a lamb about to be slain.  Passive, motionless and without blemish.  The picture gives us other clues as to its intentions.  Meat – like the soul in judgement – is weighed by one person in a balance. 

An armed guard gazes into some middle distance – a seemingly pointless detail in a butcher’s shop.  And there are on-lookers too, as though watching butcher’s at work was a good way to spend your free time.  This is a scene of ordinary slaughter. An ordinary day at a butcher’s shop is like an ordinary day in Palestine, two thousand years ago.  Death is routine.  Actually, there seem to be a lot of bystanders in the two paintings – people doing nothing whilst the slaughter just carries on.  Process.

In C.D. Dickerson’ intriguing Raw Painting (Kimbell Masterpiece Series, Yale University Press, 2010), he explains how the paintings portray the butcher’s trade in sixteenth and seventeenth century Bologna.  Dickerson puts Carracci’s painting into context by comparing it with a contemporary butcher’s shop painting by Bartolomeo Passarotti (1577-80) and Dutch-Flemish paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beukelaer.

The paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beukelaer (below) may appear, on the surface, to be mere representations of the produce available in a Dutch or Flemish market.  But on closer inspection, one can clearly detect a sacred scene painted in the background of Aertsen’s work.  Why did Carracci and others paint like this?  I think one clue is the link between the soldier and the passive lamb in the Oxford painting.  For here the imagery is pregnant with meaning.  This is no ordinary butcher’s shop. The man kneeling in the foreground with a cleaver in his left hand is about to ‘sacrifice’ the docile lamb in front of him.

The butcher standing left of him is holding a set of scales reminiscent of a Last Judgment. But what is that Swiss Guard with the ridiculous protruding codpiece even doing in a lowly butcher’s shop? The Swiss Guard were, and still are, the elite police force of the Vatican. A respectable Swiss Guard would have servants to do his bidding. Could he be representing one of the soldiers at the scene of the Crucifixion? Maybe. Yet the Swiss Guard represents something much more sinister: a symbol of the Church uncaring, just observing a slaughter.

Most readers of this site will know what an utter shambles the Church of England is, that safeguarding (and the work of the NST) and the implementation of CDM’s on clergy is form of process-torture and brutal butchery. Research from Sheldon found that 40% of clergy who were on the wrong end of a CDM contemplated suicide.  The rest merely feel crucified – butchered by an inhumane system of justice that follows a process that is numb and dumb to compassion. 

Our bishops admirably perform the role of Pilate, washing their hands to claim their innocence.  The NST and the Dioceses are little better than shuttling the victim between the court-trials of Pilate, Caiaphas and Herod.  If you are unlucky enough to be the Dean of Christ Church, you can be delivered up to all three tribunals in a matter of weeks.  No-one takes responsibility.  They will each blame the other.  It is a shameful shambles for an institution that is supposed to specialise in care-taking, receiving care and in care-giving.  It is incomprehensible that people who are supposed to be good and kind can tolerate such indolent brutality and butchery visited upon others.  What is going on, I wonder?

Our word ‘shambles’ commonly means “a scene or state of great disorder and confusion”, but it historically referred to a slaughterhouse.  The word (in a singular form) originally meant “a stool” and “a money changer’s table”. Later it acquired the additional meaning of “a table for the exhibition of meat for sale”, which in turn gave rise in the early 15th century to a use of the plural form with the meaning “a meat market”. A further extension of meaning in the 16th century produced the sense “a slaughterhouse”.

That meaning quickly led to the more figurative use of ‘shambles’ to refer to a place of terrible slaughter or bloodshed. A few centuries passed with the word being mostly used with the literal “slaughterhouse” and figurative “place of mass slaughter or bloodshed”. A bloody mess, literally. By the early 20th century, another extension of meaning took place. ‘Shambles’ acquired the sense of “a scene or state of great destruction” and “a scene or state of great disorder and confusion,” or a “great confusion; a total mess”.

The money-changer’s tables? A bloody mess? A slaughterhouse? Good Friday? You might ask why safeguarding in the Church of England is such a bloody mess – an utter, total shambles?  The answer from Good Friday is that Church has to do something with its crippling guilt over its past crimes and cover-ups.  So it matters not who is tortured and dies for all of these sins: someone has to.  A scape-goat is needed. Preferably a ready supply of them.

This is why the Swiss Guard in Carracci’s painting looks on, impassively. His pose is one of indifference.  But I also think it is one of pointless pietistic prayer and passivity.  Bishops will tell you they are praying for you as you are butchered and hung out to dry by the NST, before whatever remains of you is passed through the mincer of a CDM.   Carracci painted the church observing the victim die, for what in fact the church does.  The lamb-meat is to order.  So I think this is an image of atonement for the sins the Swiss Guard must represent.  As soldiers, they had a fearsome reputation for being tough, brutal mercenaries; they were butchers for hire, and commanded high fees for their work.

Perhaps like me, you have found yourself butchered and hung out to dry by the Church?  Perhaps you found that the bloody slaughter that is visited upon victims of abuse, clergy facing false accusations and ruin, and being condemned by courts, trials and processes that deny everyone their basic human rights, transparency and agency, is just too gruesome to watch anymore?  I agree. Sometimes, the only thing to do with a bloody ‘shambles’ is look away. 

Or perhaps leave it altogether?  Leave the butcher’s shop, I mean.  Assuming you don’t mind the analogical imagination at work here, if the vehicle for your means of journey and pilgrimage – be it boat, plane, car or train – is not roadworthy, seaworthy or able to fly safely, it is usually a mistake to presume the voyage ahead will not include some terror or likely misfortune.

If the car or bus has no MOT, and looks like it is clearly a shambles, my counsel is you’d be unwise to climb aboard and take a seat. It may already be too late for me to give you this advice, and you may well find you are already (s)trapped in.  If so, I am sorry.  But please, try and leave when you can.  You may have to wait for the next stop at a junction or at a port. But when it comes, this is your chance to hop out, and hop off.  Escape. Seize the moment.

The quality of the driver, a cheerful conductor or smiling flight attendant won’t help.  The recent (promised) dubious health and safety audits won’t be worth the paper they are written on. Leave now. Because once inside this shambolic vehicle, your life is actually in far more danger.  It is better not to risk the ride.

Leaving the butcher’s block was not an option for Jesus on Good Friday. Or for the two thieves. Or for Spartacus and his friends. Such carceral crucifixions were common: there to intimidate the masses, suppress dissent and bypass true justice. But you do not need to be crucified for the sake of the church, looking on, with pitiful piety and pastoral pity.  This is their shambles, not yours. You do not need to be another vicarious victim in their butcher’s shop.

A lamb being slaughtered is not a very promising symbol for a new religious movement.  Yet from the first Easter, Christians proclaimed that “the Lamb who was slain takes away the sins of the world”.  The gospels converted the shepherd of the sheep into one of the flock.  Jesus becomes a victim; one statistic among the numberless who were butchered by an autocratic State. 

Jesus is simply a routine execution – a regrettable process to be started and finished as quickly as possible. And then we can all go home.  I find it interesting the Jesus is condemned to die before the jury can deliberate; his trials are afterthoughts, and only there to rubber-stamp the sentence.

I think I may know what you are thinking now.  So please let me say, try not to worry too much about Jesus struggling and gasping for each breath on the cross.  Or protesting about the injustice of three consecutive kangaroo courts.  Because Jesus is not alone, you see.  He has the constant presence of episcopal company in his suffering, and I promise you, is sincerely offered “prayer and pastoral support during this difficult time”. You should remember that the thieves don’t get that, so Jesus is actually quite fortunate.

Seriously, Jesus is “well supported”. If it were not for that cross keeping him upright, he’d be a crumpled, tangled heap of bloody mess, bruises and broken bones on the ground, where no-one could see him. Such is the brutality of our CDM’s and the faceless unaccountable processes of the NST. I, you, we: are led like lambs to the slaughter. 

So much for Good Friday, then.  Yet I do not think you have to be another notch on the NST and CDM roll-call of victims.  That is why I wrote this.  Good Friday is not meant for you.  The Swiss Guard may still look on, but there is life outside the butcher’s shop. It is not your prison, or your butcher’s block, and you do not need to be some tangled mass of discarded offal in an ecclesial meat display. You are actually worth much more than the sparrows. Jesus told us.

So at Easter, what might you try to remember? That death has no more dominion over you. As C. S. Lewis once said, part of the Deep Magic of Good Friday lies in surrendering to something else that the Church neither owns or knows; namely the wisdom of God.  You can let fear do it’s worse, but it cannot kill you, so do not be afraid. 

Try to keep your faith, knowing this is foolishness and weakness to the world; but to God, it is wisdom and strength. A resurrection strength that will actually save us from this butchery. 

That Swiss Guard has it all coming to him.  Much like the soldiers who stood guard by the tomb of Jesus.  The cracks appear; the light breaks in. The guards can’t cope without a corpse.  Their dead prisoner has left; they have nothing to watch over any more.  The light floods out of the tomb. 

Resurrection is coming, and for those indolent passive soldiers – instruments of unjust butchery going through their motions of process a few days before – the resurrection is going to be, quite simply, terrifying. Revolutionary.  The tomb-guards and soldiers then have nothing to process, and nobody left as the object of their grim vigil.

New life comes, and the old order is swept away. The guards, sore afraid, must scatter. We will now witness to something else: new life, new hope and radiant resurrection light piercing the darkness, and exorcising the indifference of our church leaders and the banality of their butchery back into the shadows, where such evil belong. 

Lent and Good Friday are but a season. Resurrections are forever.

Pieter Aertsen, The Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, oil on panel, 1551

115cm x 165cm, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

Joachim Beukelaer, Fish Market, oil on panel, ca. 1568

56cm x 213cm, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Thoughts on “A Bloody Shambles: Surviving Church Between Good Friday and Easter”

Rowland Wateridge

Here’s a link to a website about this painting which might be of interest. I am sure there must be others. Interesting, and a little surprising, that this painting previously hung in the kitchen at Christ Church, Oxford until its importance – and value! – were recognised. https://www.artble.com/artists/annibale_carracci/paintings/the_butcher’s_shop

Janet Fife

I don’t think it’s such an odd comparison as it might appear. There are questions about irregular procedures at Christ Church, including the pursuit of legal proceedings against a man who has been medically certified unfit to brief a lawyer. And the safeguarding expert who investigated the case has been credited as the author of a risk assessment which she denies having carried out. Jesus was subject to irregular proceedings, an illegal (because held during the night) trial and false charges. In the Christ Church case, of course, there has yet to be a verdict on whether the allegation is true or false – but the Oxford diocesan website has published several statements critical of the Dean. This seems to prejudge the verdict; especially as they claim the allegation is of serious abuse, when it does not meet the legal criteria of serious abuse. The irony is that the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that they were doing the right thing – probably for varying reasons – and church leaders also probably believe they’re doing the right thing when they inflict this kind of psychological and reputational damage on a survivor, a person alleged to have committed abuse, or someone thought to be guilty of safeguarding failures. It’s a cruel system, to everyone who gets caught up in it. Holy Week is a call to all of us to be honest our motives and question our own judgements.

Janet FifeThe Clergy Discipline Measure is currently being reviewed and will eventually be redrafted.If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that there are longstanding and deep-rooted problems with the way the Church of England handles allegations of abuse; the processes are incompetent, often unfair, and usually inhumane for both complainant and respondent. Good processes are necessary for all concerned. It has taken the National Safeguarding Team nearly three and half years to get as far as setting a core group in my own case.

Janet Fife

The Swiss guard seems to be getting off on the butchery. On another tack, I think Anon is right to draw a parallel between churches’ often brutal treatment of their own, and the victimisation of Jesus which we commemorate In Holy Week. The Church of England is not alone in this, but is certainly a serial offender. And the horrors unfolding at Christ Church are a prime example. My prayers are with the Percy family, as they live through their own narrative of suffering, and with all those involved.

Innocent Bystander

I don’t know the situation at all well but I do agree with you that one must feel compassion for them. It must be a very difficult living through ‘their own narrative of suffering’ as you put it. Hopefully they will be able to walk away soon (or go by boat, car, train as Anon says) and start afresh.

Stanley Monkhouse

You lot are obsessed. The guy’s hand is in his pocket. Codpieces have been fashionable on and off throughout history, size signifying nothing. Lots of military portraits show the tight trousers outlining male genitalia such as would dwarf those of male rock stars. Google Prince Albert ring. Stephen compares the disinterested guard in the picture to the passivity of the bishops so perhaps the codpiece (not particularly large I assure you) represents the cock-up they preside over.

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/blog/easter-2020-lamb-who-was-slain-has-come-reign?fbclid=IwAR2zV5dFEIYgFzTrUwsHm1TMSb81B5br6m6izjVjIFLdL826kwp7rXqGvQQ

MARCH 21 2021 – CHURCH OF ENGLAND CRIMINAL FORGERY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE AND/OR CHRIST CHURCH CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE ?

“If this isn’t forgery, it is certainly a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

‘Archbishop Cranmer’

“AVERTING A CATASTROPHE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND. IS IT TOO LATE?” – STEPHEN PARSONS – ‘SURVIVING CHURCH’

Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

In September 2018, the Church of England, as part of its ongoing safeguarding efforts, published a very comprehensive fact sheet on different types of abuse.  It is an attempt to encourage a reader to become used to recognising the great variety of abusive practices that can occur in the Church and elsewhere.  In 2015, English law codified the idea that domestic abuse is much more than just physical violence.  It may include a range of behaviours that come under the broad category of coercion and control.   Even without evidence of physical violence, a man or woman can now be convicted of a criminal offence for abuse.   Educating people to have a broader understanding of abuse in a religious context was also needed.  I have a personal interest in this topic.  When I wrote my book Ungodly Fear over twenty years ago, I was trying to explore this idea that the misuse of power in a church context was a widespread reality and the cause of much suffering.  Abusing power is a far bigger topic than just the sexual exploitation of a vulnerable person.

This morning, on a sister blog Archbishop Cranmer, we heard new details about the Dean Percy affair.  I do not propose to repeat the points made in that disturbing article, but to use some of Cranmer’s material to indicate that Percy has become the victim of many of the types of abuse mentioned in the 2018 document.  Apart from naming a wide range of abusive practices, the 2018 CofE document also provides suggestions of the way that the Church can respond to the victims and survivors.  Percy, because he has been labelled as a perpetrator, has not been offered much help, pastoral, financial or practical.  Help is supposed to be offered in such cases, according to the Church’s safeguarding protocols but only the tiniest amount has been forthcoming.  Somehow the level of vitriol in the College is such that a regime of extreme isolation has been imposed.  The help and support that Percy has been able to gather is that which has come from family and friends.  He has also seen the complete depletion of the family finances. 

The 2018 document first of all discusses emotional or psychological abuse.  I would see these two forms of abuse as sometimes distinct categories and, at other times, overlapping.   Over the past three years there have been many examples of psychological threats and abuse towards Percy.  Phone calls/emails late at night are part of the stock-in-trade for those who want to harass and put someone permanently on edge.  Also within a community like a college, it is not difficult to create an unfriendly environment for an individual.  Shunning and ostracism, when they are practised, are especially cruel.  This is a topic to which I often return in this blog as it is one of the most evil practices that can be enacted.  The 2018 document mentions this behaviour when it describes ‘causing or forcing isolation/withdrawal from family/friends and support networks’.  The extraordinary lengths to which the Censors and members of the Chapter has gone to prevent members of the clergy/colleagues even visiting Percy are described as practices that the Church should be fighting against.  Can unproven allegations of sexual harassment ever justify the rolling out of such viciously cruel behaviour?

Abuse can also be financial.  The 2018 document has in mind such things as the forcing of an elderly person to change a will or hand over property.  In Percy’s case, the financial abuse has been by forcing him virtually to bankrupt himself in employing lawyers to defend him in the first legal challenge by the College to oust him in 2018.  He was declared innocent of all the 27 original charges brought by the Censors.  Percy’s accusers were also shown up to have produced manipulated documents.  In short, the accusers engaged in lying to make their case.  Retired Judge Andrew Smith saw the lies and commented on them in his report.  In the latest attacks by College and National Safeguarding Team, overseen by the Bishop of Birmingham, Percy has been unable to instruct legal representation.  This is partly for financial reasons and partly for reasons of his health.

The CofE document mentions discriminatory abuse.  This is taking advantage of someone who is in a weaker position because of poverty, disability or some other handicap.  Discriminatory abuse is to be found all over the recent treatment that Percy has received.  The Sub-Dean, Richard Peers, has taken it upon himself to prevent even the fellow members of Chapter from making contact with Percy.  I understand that not even his request to receive Communion in the home has been allowed.  Such isolating of a sick man, socially, spiritually and psychologically is desperately underhand behaviour. 

Institutional abuse is described.  This is the kind of situation that might occur in a Home where one patient is treated badly because they are deemed to be difficult in some way.  When an institution, like a Home, turns against an individual, it is hard to see how anyone can resist such enormous pressure.  It is clearly going on at Christ Church. The financial bullying of Percy, backed by the enormous financial resources of the College, was another example of institutional abuse.   The Censors must be hoping that the Dean’s ability to fight back financially will eventually be defeated by the sheer fire power available to the College because of their endowments. 

Abuse by neglect and acts of omission are other examples of behaviour suffered by Percy.  The utter failure of the College or Canons to reach out to a sick man to offer help and support of any kind is an inexplicable failure of any institution, let alone one founded on Christian principles.  The 2018 document is not a particularly Christian document.  It is rather an adaptation of the Care Act of 2015 which wanted to show how we need to take a much broader understanding of abuse than society has done hitherto.  As with the Charity Commission, the values being articulated are human values.  If Christian individuals and institutions find these hard to hold on to, what can we expect of the rest of society?  Are we not able to hope that Christians take morality and goodness seriously?

The final category of abuse mentioned in the document is complex abuse.  This is a name given to a situation when an institution or an individual is using a variety of abuse methods against one person.  We have already indicated that Dean Percy is the target of a many-sided form of abuse.  Complex abuse might be considered to be an convenient shorthand for what is going on here.  But there is one great irony about the document Types of Abuse.  This was put together by experts in the Safeguarding world to help Christians identify those in need of help.  Here we are discovering that in fact it is, in this case, the Church itself committing acts of abuse against an individual.  If I am right in identifying six of the categories of abuse in this church document being set in motion by church officials, then someone needs to blow a whistle on this event.  We often speak about survivors on this blog, but here we have to describe Percy as a victim.  Six forms of abuse coming from two distinct institutions, operating with an extraordinary level of malice, is enough to put anyone into a breakdown.  No one going through such an experience is easily able to fight back.  Humanly, the force being used is barely survivable.  The only human strength that can operate here is that provided by supporters, family and friends.

Two things need to happen if the Church is to emerge from this disaster with any integrity. 

One is that all the clergy who have been guilty of dirty tricks and abuse against Percy should be named in a new Clergy Discipline Measure process.  There have been so many procedural dishonesties in this episode.  One mentioned by Archbishop Cranmer, is what I call the dirty dossier.  This is a fraudulent risk assessment document submitted with the CDM documents to the Bishop of Oxford.  The College have admitted that they were wrong to back this document but the damage has done in creating the over-the-top risk assessment which has now been put in place around the College. 

The second thing that could save the day and rescue the Church’s integrity from a mire of self- destruction, is for someone of stature to come forward.  They would then ask for all the destructive church processes to be halted for a while.  The one person that could do this is the Archbishop of York.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to be entangled with the same legal firms as have been advising the Diocese of Oxford and Christ Church College, as well as the various bodies that work out of Church House.  Stephen Cottrell, hopefully, can recognise what a disaster these events are for the whole Church of England.  I believe that the paths of Dean Percy and Cottrell have crossed in the past.  If that is true, he will know that Percy is not a sex-crazed lunatic, which is how his enemies at Christ Church have been trying to portray him for their own political ends.  If the Archbishop pf York could put in place a moratorium on the church processes for three months, this might help to calm things down and stop the current madness infecting and afflicting the church in Oxford and elsewhere.   There is a crisis; we need something dramatic to happen to resolve things.  Stephen Cottrell, you are our last hope!

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding how power works at every level in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. 

3 thoughts on “Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?”

  1. John Wallace Stephen, you are so right in this. Nearly 30 years ago, the children’s home where I worked was subject to allegations of abuse as a result of a new deputy Social Services Director, who wanted to make her mark. 52 of us were suspended. Fortunately, through the strength of numbers and putting pressure on councillors, we eventually got an independent enquiry which exonerated us and resulted in the Director and the deputy resigning and the rest of us being redeployed or receiving a financial settlement. Even at that time, the enquiry was reckoned to have cost the County Council around £1m. Martyn does not have the luxury of these numbers, but perhaps those of us who want to see fairness for Martyn – and believe in his integrity – should start a campaign of writing to + Birmingham (as in charge of the CDM), to +Oxford as the diocesan and to ++ Canterbury and ++ York (copying the Charity Commission into our correspondence). I believe totally in Martyn’s innocence and integrity but equally believe that any challenges to this should be based on fairness, openness and, dare I say, the spirit of Christian charity and humility. Initiating CDM processes during absence due to sickness is certainly bad practice and could well be illegal. I’m sure our legal participants to this blog will clarify this. Martyn has already suffered enough at the hands of vindictive academic and ecclesiastical manipulators. It is time for more vocal support for fairness and transparency of process.
  2. Rowland Wateridge If, and we have to say if, a fraudulent document was used in initiating the CDM procedure, the CDM should be set aside, no ifs and buts about that. You can’t have a legal disciplinary procedure based on illegal material. So, the full facts about that document including how and by whom it was produced must be established urgently. I believe steps to that end are already in hand.

“LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD SAGA” – ‘THINKING ANGLICANS’

COMMENTS

Richard W. Symonds Awaiting for approval

Stephen Parsons, over at ‘Surviving Church’, asks: “Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?”, and concludes it is not – but…

“This morning, on a sister blog Archbishop Cranmer [and elsewhere – Ed], we heard new details about the Dean Percy affair…
Two things need to happen if the Church is to emerge from this disaster with any integrity. 
One is that all the clergy who have been guilty of dirty tricks and abuse against Percy should be named in a new Clergy Discipline Measure process. There have been so many procedural dishonesties in this episode. One mentioned by Archbishop Cranmer, is what I call the dirty dossier. This is a fraudulent risk assessment document submitted with the CDM documents to the Bishop of Oxford. The College have admitted that they were wrong to back this document but the damage has done in creating the over-the-top risk assessment which has now been put in place around the College. 
The second thing that could save the day and rescue the Church’s integrity from a mire of self- destruction, is for someone of stature to come forward. They would then ask for all the destructive church processes to be halted for a while. The one person that could do this is the Archbishop of York. The Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to be entangled with the same legal firms as have been advising the Diocese of Oxford and Christ Church College, as well as the various bodies that work out of Church House. Stephen Cottrell, hopefully, can recognise what a disaster these events are for the whole Church of England. I believe that the paths of Dean Percy and Cottrell have crossed in the past. If that is true, he will know that Percy is not a sex-crazed lunatic, which is how his enemies at Christ Church have been trying to portray him for their own political ends. If the Archbishop pf York could put in place a moratorium on the church processes for three months, this might help to calm things down and stop the current madness infecting and afflicting the church in Oxford and elsewhere.  There is a crisis; we need something dramatic to happen to resolve things. 
Stephen Cottrell, you are our last hope!”

FURTHER INFORMATION

“THE CASE OF BISHOP GEORGE BELL” BY DAVID JASPER DD FRSE

COMMENTS

COMMENTS

You may have seen a recent letter to the Church Times...about the case of the Revd John Roberts in Woolton. Liverpool…But it was Justin Welby’s behaviour when John Roberts was ‘helping’ at the cathedral that really struck us. In that situation, Welby sided with a convicted abuser against a genuine complainant. Clearly, he has very poor judgement on occasion, as was abundantly shown later by his ‘significant cloud’ comment. Private Eye has covered the case to some extent but, so far, Welby has largely escaped as far as the national press is concerned. At the time of IICSA, the John Roberts case was going through the courts, so there are only veiled references to it in their reports. Liverpool diocese is undertaking a review of the case, so we shall see if that says anything much about Welby’s involvement.

‘M’ – 21/03/2021

It brings it all back, doesn’t it?  I don’t think my anger and disgust will ever go away and my regard for the Church of England which was low anyway has pretty well gone…

‘J’ – 20/03/2021

Thank you for sending me this article by David Jasper. Whilst its contents will be familiar to those of us concerned for Bishop Bell’s reputation, it brings the necessary material together for a wider readership. I wonder whether copies of it have gone to Welby and Warner, though in the case of the former it would probably be intercepted by his staff and kept from his sight, and Warner remains obdurate in his refusal to admit his errors and those of the group which tried to trash Bell’s reputation. After the Carlile Report, an honourable man would have apologized and at least have offered his resignation. It was suggested to me that Warner’s chief concern is protecting his safeguarding team from all blame. I do not know whether this is so, but it is a black day for the Church when matters of truth and justice take second place to defending diocesan functionaries.

I also wonder whether a copy of the Jasper article has gone to the Church Times – not that I have much faith in the paper to concern itself with the Bell case. I believe several letters have been written to the Editor on this matter, including one from me, none of which has been published.

However, the important thing is that Welby and Warner must by now be aware that Bell’s defender’s are not going to “put up and shut up”. Warner, in particular, appears oblivious to the fact that it is his own reputation, and that of the diocese and the Cathedral, which are now in the gutter.

‘B’ – 20/03/2021

Lamentable

‘G’ – 22/03/2021

What a devastating summary of the case!  I hope that the press will pick it up – not just the Church Times, but the national dailies as well

‘T’

I think what distinguishes the present situation from what has gone before is the suggestion that there has now been a breach of criminal law, not just irregularities in the Church’s own procedures, very serious as some of those have been. We can only wait to see whether this latest development changes things. It may be that only outside intervention will do so

‘R’ – 22/03/2021

Surely it would be better for him to go elsewhere.” That’s what the Governing Body wants. It’s called giving way to bullying

‘S’

Bullying is abuse. The bully is an abuser

‘R’

CHURCH TIMES – MARCH 26 2021 – SUB DEAN CANON RICHARD PEERS

Christ Church Cathedral ‘praying for Dean Percy’

THE Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Canon Richard Peers, issued a pastoral letter on Wednesday to assure the congregation that the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, who has currently stepped back from duties while a complaint of sexual harassment is investigated (News, 19 March), is prayed for daily in the cathedral. He rebutted rumours on social media that Dean Percy, who is unwell, had been refused communion and was unsupported. He wrote: “Throughout all this, I have encouraged friends and colleagues to make contact with the Percys to offer love and support and prayer in what must be an extraordinarily difficult situation.”

Safeguarding decisions at Christ Church, Oxford

From the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford

Sir, — I write as Christ Church Cathedral’s Safeguarding Lead, and I can, therefore, confirm exactly what was, and was not, in the leaked risk assessment (News, 19 March).

The version of the risk assessment leaked to the Church Times lists a timeline, including a “Second risk assessment” as having been carried out by Kate Wood on 22 October 2020. Instead of “Second risk assessment”, it should have read “Investigation”: this is what was carried out by Kate Wood and submitted on that date. That subheading was corrected in subsequent versions of the documents.

None of this has any bearing whatsoever on the complaint itself, or indeed the assessment of risk made in the documents. The risk assessments are confidential, password-protected, and with very limited circulations, designed to protect all those involved, including both the young member of staff who made the allegation, and the Dean of Christ Church himself.

It has even been sensationally suggested that the risk assessments in some way restrict the Dean’s freedom to be visited and supported by friends and family, or even to receive communion. None of this is true; and pastoral support has been in place for Martyn throughout.

It is very disappointing how one heading from those preliminary documents is being disingenuously used to imply that the assessments are somehow invalid, to generate mistruths, and to cast doubt on the CDM process itself.

GRAHAM WARD (Canon)
Christ Church
Oxford OX1 1DP

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — I read your report last week about the wholly disproportionate irregular risk assessment concerning Dean Percy. Taking the document at face value, I was one who criticised the independent investigator Kate Wood for exceeding her area of expertise.

The affixing of her name gave that document the authority of her experience and independence, which, it transpires, it did not have. Accordingly, she did not deserve my criticism, though legitimate criticism must now be considered elsewhere.

I hope that you will allow me to apologise to Ms Wood publicly for the upset and frustration that this aspect of the scandal will have caused her, and my inadvertent part in it.

MARTIN SEWELL
Member of General Synod
8 Appleshaw Close
Gravesend
Kent DA11 7PB

MARCH 17 2021 – “THIS IS A ROTTEN SYSTEM RUN BY PEOPLE WITH A THOROUGHLY DEFORMED VIEW OF FAIR PRACTICE…THERE ARE FEW THINGS THAT MAKE ME ANGRY, BUT STUPIDITY, BULLYING, AND INJUSTICE ARE ON THE LIST. ALL ARE PRESENT IN THE PERCY CASE IN SPADES” – MARTIN SEWELL ON CHRIST CHURCH/CHURCH OF ENGLAND SAFEGUARDING

“THIS IS A ROTTEN SYSTEM RUN BY PEOPLE WITH A THOROUGHLY DEFORMED VIEW OF FAIR PRACTICE…THERE ARE FEW THINGS THAT MAKE ME ANGRY, BUT STUPIDITY, BULLYING, AND INJUSTICE ARE ON THE LIST. ALL ARE PRESENT IN THE PERCY CASE IN SPADES” – MARTIN SEWELL ON CHRIST CHURCH/CHURCH OF ENGLAND SAFEGUARDING

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD SAGA

Richard W. Symonds

“Dean Percy, therefore, faces three concurrent investigations: the CDM; a second core group set up by the National Safeguarding Team; and a second tribunal set up by the Christ Church Governing Body under statute 39, “seeking the removal of the Dean from office for good cause”. In the earlier Christ Church tribunal, to consider a complaint lodged in 2018 (News, 9 November 2018), Dean Percy was exonerated of every one of the 27 charges against him (News, 23 August 2019)” – Church Times

So, three quasi-legal kangaroo courts ‘lynching’ the unwell Dean – with injustice, cruelty and brutality – inflicted with an illusion of impregnability, immunity and impunity.

Martin Sewell

Martin Sewell – Child Protection Lawyer [Retired] and Member of General Synod – on Church Safeguarding

The malcontent dons and their lawyers “sold“ the dodgy risk assessment to the Governing Body on the basis that it was an official CofE document compiled by people with the requisite qualification and competence to do so. They prayed in aid the authority the CofE logo and Kate Wood’s name though she was plainly embarrassed to be associated with it.

I was unhappy at her being involved in an exercise outside her core expertise. The failure by the College and lawyers to correct that false impression or correct it in a timely way when requested by her to do so, speaks volumes.

Somebody created that document and saw fit to badge it as a CofE assessment, somebody saw fit to share it with the Bishop who – when challenged – still apparently asserts it is a valid assessment by unauthorised people. Perhaps he will confirm and release how many such assessments those responsible have undertaken. Did he undertake ANY due diligence – if so what?

Had the College clarified Ms Wood’s disassociation from the documents. I would have given Ms Wood an apology, insofar as I implicitly criticised her involvement in this shabby apology of a fair risk assessment. That said, she did not contact me. I am not hard to find.

She has my apology, ( albeit limited by being misled ): would that others were so quick off the mark to those with a grievance.

That said, I do wish she could have felt able to distance herself from it earlier. To do so would have undermined the status of the RA [Risk Assessment] earlier. It is a shame the document stood unchallenged for so long.

It was apparently not created on a CofE template. I understand the metadata reveals the template used is a generic one, not designed for safeguarding use, but for generic event purposes. Its format was once employed to assess the risks of a school classroom hamster!

Interesting to note the standards of scrutiny of important documents by the College Censors.

Martin Sewell 

I ought to briefly address the decision of the Bishop of Birmingham to progress the matter whilst the Dean has been assessed as unable to engage in legal proceedings by his treating Psychiatrist. His lawyer knows the proper legal practice that one cannot act for such a person and were the lawyer to purport to do so they would be doing so improperly and moreover any decision taken by the respondent, under harassment for a reply, would not be valid.

We have come to terms with the Church not complying with the Human Rights Act.

Now we need to accept that it recognises that a person may be under legal disability and unable to act – but attributes no consequence to the status and ploughs on regardless.

This is a rotten system run by people with a thoroughly deformed view of fair practice. 

Father Ron Smith 

There would seem here – to an outsider – to be a whiff of injustice being perpetrated by the Church of England; in its treatment of the situation of the Dean of Christ Church. The seeming intransigence of the University Dons who want him out is not being challenged by the Church – or at least, that is what appears to be the case from this side of the world, in Polynesia.

Neil

Neil

It is interesting that virtually all commentators seem to be taking Dean Percy’s side. Is this because of his theological views and general position on Church politics? This I could understand given that I agree entirely with his criticisms of Archbishop Welby re managerialism and the poor and misguided leadership he gives. And also I agree with those who feel a great injustice was done to the saintly Bishop George Bell. But I don’t think it was Dean Percy’s finest hour when he and his wife (or possibly vice versa) hounded out Bishop Philip North whom God had called to the see of Sheffield. Also I am not sure anybody has noticed that when Dean Percy was asking for a pay rise to match that of other College Heads in Oxford, he was actually comparing apples with oranges. In that there is a very limited field of talent and suitability for the post of Dean of Christ Church – given you need to be in Holy Orders – and this has been compounded by Welby’s system failing to support academics within the church. I don’t think Dean Percy, for all his gifts, quite matches the pedigree and stellar achievements of many if not most Oxford Heads.
The situation is very sad for everybody involved and hopefully a settlement can be reached without further legal battles. My friends who were at the House have told me they are fed up with both the Dean and the Students of Christ church (the Governing Body). 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Neil

There is no moral equivalence between the behaviour of the Christ Church Governing Body and the behaviour of Martyn Percy. To attempt to do so only adds to the obfuscation, perpetuates the injustice and cruelty, and justifies the unjustifiable and unacceptable.

Charles Read

Charles Read Reply to  Neil

What Faith said – well put. As for the Sheffield debacle I would add:

  1. Martyn and Emma Percy did what theologians do and asked hard questions – as summarised by faith. Philip North could have formulated a coherent reply by saying that he thought the C of E had no authority to ordain women without ecumenical agreement (with Rome…) but instead he gave no answer – accounts of his meeting with the women clergy of Sheffield bear this out too – they pressed him and no answer did he give (so it was not just the Percys doing this).
  2. The CNC failed to consider the effect on the diocese of appointing Philip and prepare him for the inevitable furore.
  3. Sheffield has a high percentage of female clergy – what was the CNC thinking?
  4. Martyn and Emma served in Sheffield diocese so they are not disinterested or uninformed about that diocese. I would be concerned if an inappropriate appointment were made to any of my former dioceses – you retain a concern for their wellbeing after you move elsewhere.

Martyn is in fact a top flight scholar but I wonder if there is an air of sniffiness about the fact that he writes and researches in what may broadly be termed sociology of religion? I know from another place that some academics (including theologians) think that is not proper theology.

And finally – does anyone wonder if the sniffiness is connected with Martyn’s humble origins? I am sure such attitudes do not exist in Oxford….

Martin Sewell

Martin Sewell Reply to  Neil

Neil. I can assure you that I and others take a stand on a very simple platform – Transparency, impartiality, accountability, proportionality and adherence to the basic principles of Natural Justice and the Human Rights Act.

i have inter alia defended a dead Anglo Catholic Bishop, a retired Evangelical Archbishop, the liberal Dean, survivors of varying churchmanship and none (including one from a different faith entirely). At present, those seeking my advice and pastoral support tend to be clergy getting unfair treatment. Given how critical I have been of the Conservative Evangelical community over Smyth and Fletcher, I am surprised and (though sorry for them) pleased that some from that constituency have felt able to seek my advice and pastoral support.

So, I hope you can see from this, that the advocacy of Dean Percy’s case by a number of us is rooted in the principles set out above. We advocate good practice for anyone, whether we agree or disagree with them.

There are few things that make me angry, but stupidity, bullying, and injustice are on the list. All are present in the Percy case in spades. 

Faith

Faith

Responding to Neil briefly. He needs to read the Smith Tribunal judgment.

a. The Dean did not ask for a pay rise, but rather requested transparent processes in setting pay – others first, and then his.

b. For having the temerity to challenge the dons on ‘transparency’, they saddled him with a charge of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct” – and for four months refused to even explain what lay behind the charge. Most laypeople would assume adultery or much worse – but it suited the dons (again) to not be transparent.

c. They are at it again – “serious sexual assault” and “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct” are all very headline-grabbing. But the allegation turns out to be something to do with a comment about a person’s hair. This is the dons second go at tarnishing him. It is worth remembering that the Dean has no grievance procedure under Christ Church statutes – so defenceless, and taken to trial all the time.

d. I can’t see that the situation with Fr. North is comparable. Fr. Philip could have defended his theological position and explained how he proposed to work with clergy whose orders he did not recognise. He was not able to explain how he could support the priestly ministry of clergy (male) if ordained by a woman bishop and female (all) if he continued to assert that such people were not actually real priests at all. That was/is his theological position. They never were, nor ever could be priests (although males could presumably be ‘properly’ ordained by a male bishop, if they were prepared to accept that ordination by a woman bishop was inherently void?). Fr. Philip’s position would have meant that potentially 50% of the Sheffield parishes were not getting valid sacramental ministry, which as a diocesan bishop should concern him and those parishes. Most clergy and laity cannot see how that is a sustainable position for a diocesan bishop to take.

e. Heads of House in Oxford come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, some are top of their profession (legal, government, commerce, civil service etc). But the majority are, like the Dean, fellow academics who happen to have also run complex and large institutions too. The Dean has been (amongst other things) the Senior Independent Director of the Advertising Standards Authority, which he somehow managed whilst also being Principal of Cuddesdon. I think he still advises the British Board of Film Classification? He’s reasonably well-known as an academic in his field, and one festschrift behind him before you turn 60 is not too bad. Besides running Oxford’s largest College, there is also a Cathedral to manage too. But the dons conspire to make him the lowest-paid Head of House in Oxford (amongst forty colleges). Typically, he has not complained about that and doesn’t – despite the clunky PR of the dons trying to narrate him as greedy.

Read the Smith Tribunal and a. b. and e. are crystal clear.

Stephen Griffiths

Stephen Griffiths Reply to  Faith

Regarding point d), Philip North’s views may or may not be exactly as you describe. But in any case, his views are allowed and upheld by the Five Guiding Principles which General Synod voted through in 2014 and to which every ordinand has since then had to assent before ordination. I for one found Dean Percy’s heavyweight opposition to Philip North’s appointment unreasonable, given the Church of England’s settled and generous position on the matter as enshrined in the Five Guiding Principles. The fact that bishops representing the full spectrum of views can work and flourish together in the same diocese (e.g. Blackburn and Chichester) shows that Dean Percy’s concerns were unfounded. Whether the CNC and Sheffield Diocese handled the matter well is another matter. Reply

Neil

Neil Reply to  Faith

Re a.
From the FT (the Smith Tribunal doesn’t seem to be readily available)
In December 2017 Martyn Percy emailed one of the people who set his salary. As dean of the Oxford college of Christ Church, Percy was already among the best paid clerics in the Church of England — earning more than the Archbishop of Canterbury. But he was unhappy. A priest since his late twenties, the 55-year-old was not rich by the standards of college heads. At Christ Church, with its huge quadrangles and £500m endowment, he was surrounded by wealth. He felt overworked. Perhaps, he told the college’s salaries board, he should “adjust [his] availability” — and skip a fundraising tour of the US? From such exchanges has arisen one of the most embarrassing and expensive debacles in the university’s recent history.

I didn’t realise that the Dean wasn’t asking for a pay-rise, which you say is made crystal clear in the Smith Tribunal.

Re b.  ‘immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct’ I agree are totally over the top as charges even if he had asked for a pay rise. Unless his behaviour changed (if such a pay-rise was not granted) into a disgraceful sulk and non-cooperation. But I don’t think this was ever alleged? I’m not sure what ‘adjusting availability’ might have amounted to…

Re c. I agree that commenting on someone’s hair does not merit a charge of ‘serious sexual assault’ – but that if you touched someone’s hair then the matter does become serious. Especially if you are the boss. It isn’t clear what is alleged.

Re e. The point is that the field of potentially suitable candidates for appointment as Dean is really very small indeed, and given the need to be in Holy Orders Dean Percy might have thought it more suitable to compare his remuneration with other priests in the Church of England – or Deans of Cathedrals. It would be interesting to know how his predecessors managed on their pay, and if they were content.

FEBRUARY 27 2021 – “GOVERNING BODY OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD COMMISSIONS REVIEW OF PERCY TRIBUNAL” – CHURCH TIMES

Governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, commissions review of Percy tribunal

byA STAFF REPORTER 26 FEBRUARY 2021

Cloisters in Christ Church, Oxford

THE Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford, is commissioning a review of its decision to start tribunal proceedings that could result in the dismissal of the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy.

The Dean, who is currently on sick leave, is subject to a sexual-harassment complaint (News, 15 January), which follows a long-running dispute with the college authorities.

The college’s treatment of Dean Percy, who by virtue of his office is both Dean of the Cathedral and Head of House, was reported to the Charity Commission, which last month wrote to members of the Governing Body to say that it would be “seeking further information and assurances from the members of the Governing Body about why establishing a Tribunal is: in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries; a responsible use of the charity’s resources” (News, 5 February).

The review appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the Charity Commission’s investigation. A statement issued by the college on Wednesday of last week said: “Christ Church has begun the immediate process of identifying and appointing a chair for the independent review and agreeing its terms of reference. It is expected that the chair will be a senior figure from the judiciary.” The purpose of the review, it said, was “to confirm the disciplinary process it has put in place”.

In addition, the college’s statement addressed accounts of the harassment complaint which have appeared in other news outlets and on social media. The college has reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

OTHER STORIES

Complainant in Percy case says she acted alone 05 Feb 2021

Press: You wait for one church scandal, and then . . .05 Feb 2021

Charity Commission to quiz Christ Church trustees over Percy tribunal

THIS was the week when the various disciplinary scandals that had been bubbling under the radar all autumn blew up into the mainstream press.

Gabriella Swerling in the Telegraph got a couple of excellent stories out of Christ Church, Oxford — first with the news that the Charity Commission had responded to the appeal by Martyn Percy’s supporters in the autumn and written to all the fellows of college formally to ask in what sense the millions that they had spent on legal fees and PR companies, in the attempt to oust him, could be said to advance a charitable purpose; second, it seems, to remind them that, as trustees, they might be personally responsible if the actions of the Governing Body were found uncharitable.

This story had only been up for three hours before it was supplanted or supplemented by another one, which led with the response of the ruling clique on the Governing Body: “Now a further leaked internal leaked email between the trustees has been shared with The Telegraph, revealing their anger at the watchdog’s review.

“It reads: ‘Considerable anger was expressed at Governing Body about the nature of the Charity Commission’s communication and we are taking this up with the Commission. However, with regard to the enquiries they seek to make, we should feel confident that we have absolutely nothing to be concerned about.’

“It said members are ‘welcome to contact the Censor Theologiae or Senior Censor if you would like support in responding. . . You may also ask to have a representative with you and, if it is a formal interview, you are entitled to legal representation. This is unlikely to happen, but we thought it would be helpful to share this advice.’”

This last sentence would read even better in Japanese, alongside the Emperor Hirohito’s explanation in August 1945 that “The war has proceeded not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”

Andrew Brown – Church Times – “Press: You wait for one church scandal, and then…” – February 5 2021

“The all-too-familiar pattern of injustice” ~ Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

FEBRUARY 26 2021 – FROM THE ARCHIVES [SEPTEMBER 8 2020] – “OXFORD UNIVERSITY DEAN FINALLY EXONERATED AFTER SAFEGUARDING DISPUTE” – DAILY TELEGRAPH

Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

Photo source: Wiki Commons

Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church, was found to have acted ‘entirely appropriately’By Gabriella Swerling, SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR September 2020

Martyn Percy handout picture provided by Rachel Perham,
PA to the Dean of Christ Church
The Very Rev Martyn Percy has now been reinstated as Dean of Christ Church, after being suspended for alleged “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour” CREDIT: News Scans/ Handout Publicity Material

The dean of a prestigious Oxford college has been exonerated by the Church of England following allegations he failed to adequately deal with sexual abuse allegations. 

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church and head of its cathedral, has been embroiled in a long-standing row with Oxford dons over his tenure at the college.

However, on Tuesday church officials finally cleared him of the safeguarding charges against him.

They said that he had “acted entirely appropriately” in each of four cases referred earlier this year to its national safeguarding team (NST) by the college’s governing body.

Dr Percy was reinstated as Dean of Christ Church last September after being suspended for alleged “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour”.

Supporters of Dr Percy, who is thought to be paid around £90,000-a-year for his role presiding over both the college and Cathedral, claimed that the college’s reporting of him to the the NST was part of a smear campaign to discredit him. 

It was alleged that individuals within the governing body were determined to strip him of his role following his attempts to modernise the college.

Meanwhile, his critics claimed that the dispute originated in his attempts to secure a pay rise.

Christ Church College, Oxford, was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, and is one of the larger colleges with over 629 students
Christ Church College, Oxford, was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, and is one of the larger colleges with over 629 students CREDIT: ProjectB/Getty Images

Following the Church of England’s announcement that he had been exonerated, Dr Percy tweeted: “Thank you to everyone for their support and prayers. It is good [to] have a line firmly drawn under this.”

An internal tribunal by retired high court judge, Sir Andrew Smith, dismissed the complaints against the Anglican priest and theologian following an 11-day hearing behind closed doors in June, and ordered his reinstatement.

The full judgment was never published.  

In February, leaked emails appeared in the press revealing Oxford academics had described the dean as a “little Hitler“, “thick”, “nasty” and a “manipulative little turd” with a “personality disorder”.  

Dr Percy has subsequently launched an employment tribunal against Christ Church, which is set to be heard in public next year, claiming to have been victimised and seeking damages as a whistleblower.

Furthermore, in May, 41 members of the governing body wrote to the Charity Commission asking for its help to oust the dean, saying he had shown “unsound judgment and a consistent lack of moral compass”.

The commission ordered both sides to mediate, saying the dispute was damaging Christ Church’s reputation.

In a statement, Jonathan Gibbs, the bishop of Huddersfield and the lead bishop on safeguarding, said: “An independent investigation into allegations that the dean, Martyn Percy, failed to fulfil his safeguarding responsibilities has concluded the dean acted entirely appropriately in each case … At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.”

Dr Percy had been exonerated in relation to four separate allegations, he said, adding: “The NST has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the college and the dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.”

Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford, welcomed Percy’s exoneration by the NST. He said: “The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. 

“This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church,” he said in a statement.

Christ Church said it had an obligation to report safeguarding concerns. A spokesperson said: “The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols,” it said in a statement.

Christ Church, founded by Henry VIII in 1546, is the alma mater of 13 British prime ministers, 10 chancellors of the exchequer, and 17 archbishops.

The dispute has so far cost the college at least £2 million in legal fees. It is also thought to have lost millions in cancelled bequests and donations.

Following the announcement, Rosie Harper, the vicar of Great Missenden, and chaplain to the bishop of Buckingham, also showed her support, saying: “Martyn Percy completely exonerated, of course. So glad for him and his family but he should never have had to endure this travesty.”

FEBRUARY 20 2021 – “DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH CAN’T PRAY IN HIS OWN CATHEDRAL WITHOUT PERMISSION” – DAILY TELEGRAPH + “OXFORD JABS – SECOND DOSE” – PRIVATE EYE

Christ Church Cathedral Oxford

Photo: Wiki Commons

Dean of Christ Church can’t pray in his own cathedral without permission

The Dean has agreed to step aside from all ministerial duties, said a Christ Church spokesperson, and so he ‘must not attend public worship’ By Gabriella Swerling, SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR 19 February 2021 • 7:09pm – Daily Telegraph

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Greg Blatchford/REX (9300853c)
Annual Carol Service attended by Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral and College, Oxford.
Nine Lessons Carol Service, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, UK - 23 Dec 2017
The Very Rev Dr Martyn Percy has been embroiled in a long-standing row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure CREDIT: News Scans

The embattled Dean of Christ Church, Oxford has been told he can’t pray in his own cathedral without asking for prior permission.

The Very Rev Dr Martyn Percy, who presides over the college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a long-standing row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure. 

The latest dispute follows on from an allegation that he “sexually harrassed” a woman by holding her hair and complimenting her on her appearance. The allegation that was reported to police triggered a “thorough investigation” which was promptly concluded without arrests.

However, it has now emerged that the Dean is being treated as [a] “such a safeguarding risk” by the college that if he wishes to pray in his own cathedral, he must secure written permission and be supervised.

Even staff who carry out maintenance work in the deanery have to be accompanied, and college students, staff and visitors have been instructed not to speak to him or visit him at home, except in pairs.

It is also understood that a shared evening meal at home with his own adult son prompted a “threatening” legal letter from the censor’s lawyer. 

The letter was sent at a time when the Dean was staying away from home and returned to visit his family. However, this was seen as a safeguarding breach.

The Dean is also subject to risk assessments carried out every two weeks by people who, it is alleged, have no formal training to conduct such assessments.

However, the Dean’s supporters claim that the “threatening” legal letters amount to further attempts to oust him from the college.

One said: “It’s frightening to realise they’ve set in motion multiple legal processes on the Dean in the current situation. It’s massively disproportionate.”

Earlier this year, the College’s Governing Body was supported by the chapter of the cathedral in a vote to convene a second internal tribunal against the Dean amid an allegation of “sexual harassment”, which he denied.

However, the latest alleged restrictions on the Dean – who has already been exonerated in one tribunal against the college – come after it emerged that the Governing Body has voted to carry out an independent review regarding the handling of the original complaint made against the Dean

The independent review comes  after last month’s decision by the Charity Commission to inform Christ Church dons that it will examine whether “conflicts of interest” are behind the latest alleged attempt to oust him.

The watchdog questioned whether a second tribunal against the Dean was an appropriate use of college funds.   

A spokesperson for Christ Church said: “Following a sexual harassment allegation made by an employee in October, internal risk assessments were conducted relating to our school, college and Cathedral, and these were agreed with the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.

“No one at Christ Church has ever said that the Dean cannot meet or eat with his son, or that he can only do so when supervised. All this is entirely untrue – as has been reiterated to the Dean, and his lawyers – and is a clear attempt to undermine the allegation.

“In fact, for his own wellbeing, the Dean has been encouraged to see those who are in his network of social support.

“It is also untrue that any instruction has been given, not to speak to the Dean or visit him at home, except in pairs.

“The Dean agreed to step aside from all ministerial duties, as requested by the Bishop of Oxford. In line with usual practice for clergy in these circumstances, he must not attend public worship – which is not currently taking place due to the pandemic in any case — or otherwise be involved with the life of the Cathedral.

“However, he is absolutely able to visit the Cathedral for private prayer, on request. He has made no such request.” 

FEBRUARY 18 2021 – “OXFORD JABS – SECOND DOSE” – PRIVATE EYE + CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD AND MARTYN PERCY

Private Eye No 1541 – 19 February – 4 March 2021

FEBRUARY 18 2021 – “OXFORD JABS – SECOND DOSE” – PRIVATE EYE + CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD AND MARTYN PERCY

“CHRIST CHURCH – OXFORD JABS – A SECOND DOSE” – ‘PRIVATE EYE’ NO 1541 – 19 FEBRUARY – 4 MARCH 2021

In Eye 1539 we reported that the governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, is proposing to establish a second full-scale internal tribunal to rule on whether its dean, Martyn Percy, is guilty of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct” and so can be sacked.

This follows an allegation [which Percy denies] that he touched the long hair of a woman after a morning service last October. Now the Charity Commission has intervened.

Helen Earner, the commission’s director of regulatory services, has written individually to all 65 members of the governing body, revealing that the commission has “concerns about the prudent application of charitable funds and the proper process of decision making within the charity as the dispute involving the Dean continues”. She reminds them that as trustees they have collective and individual responsibility for the running of Christ Church.

The commission is keen to investigate any conflicts of interest or loyalty involved in the decision to launch a second tribunal. It will also be asking individual members of the governing body to justify the expense and proportionality of their action.

The arrival of the letter was followed by an angry governors’ meeting. Within hours the “wily censors” of Christ Church had sent their own letters to governors, advising them that they are not obliged to answer questions from the Charity Commission without warning.

The governors have good reason to be worried. As trustees of the charity, they have personal liability for any misuse of the college’s funds. Estimates suggests that the legal bill for the anti-Percy campaign may come in at around £5m. If they have to split the tab, that’s more than £75,000 per member of the governing body. The college has already lost about £5m in donations since the dispute began, and last month its chief fundraiser resigned.

Meanwhile, college students, staff and visitors have been instructed not to speak to the dean or visit him at home, except in pairs. He is deemed to be such a safeguarding risk that if he wants to pray in the cathedral next door, he needs written permission and must be supervised. A shared meal at home with his own adult son prompted a warning letter from the censors’ lawyer. Even staff who come to do maintenance work in the deanery have to be accompanied.

Correction

In a previous report on the allegation that the dean stroked a woman’s hair after morning service, we quoted the complainant as saying: “I knew it was a massive deal. People wanted the final blow. I was thinking, ‘Is this important enough for that to happen?'” We have now been informed that these were not her own words; they were those of another individual, with whom she discussed the incident. We are happy to make this clear.

“CHRIST CHURCH TO COMMISSION INDEPENDENT REVIEW” – ‘THINKING ANGLICANS’ – SIMON SARMIENTO – FEBRUARY 19 2021

Christ Church to Commission Independent Review

on Friday, 19 February 2021 at 7.42 am by Simon Sarmiento

Our last update on this subject was on 8 February: Christ Church Oxford: further developments.
Now comes this, from the website of Christ Church, Oxford:

Christ Church to Commission Independent Review

17 February 2021

Christ Church’s Governing Body has voted to carry out an independent review regarding the handling of a serious sexual harassment complaint, in order to confirm the disciplinary process it has put in place. The complaint was made last October by a junior member of staff against a senior member.

Last month, Governing Body addressed the complaint through its internal disciplinary procedures, but these have been questioned repeatedly by some in the media, while the motives of the complainant have been publicly challenged. While it is fully confident of the decisions it has made on this matter, Governing Body agreed that it wanted to respond to the queries that have been raised in a transparent manner. It felt that an external review would be the best way of ensuring that the complaint can be properly and swiftly dealt with for the sake of all those involved.

Governing Body’s decision follows a letter written by Christ Church student representatives to the Charity Commission, which stresses the importance of urgently addressing any allegation of sexual harassment. Christ Church’s internal HR processes are dictated by its statutes, and in this case require a tribunal to be set up to consider any appropriate disciplinary action.

A spokesperson for Christ Church commented:

“We entirely share our students’ concerns that a complaint of sexual harassment by this young member of staff must be treated with the utmost seriousness. That is exactly why last month we put our formal internal HR processes into action, and we are entirely confident these are the correct and necessary steps. However, we believe that an external, independent review will provide further reassurance about the decisions that were taken, and a way forward for all involved.”

Christ Church has begun the immediate process of identifying and appointing a Chair for the independent review and agreeing its terms of reference. It is expected that the Chair will be a senior figure from the judiciary.

Separately, Christ Church has reiterated its condemnation of attempts, through the press, social media and on a number of blogs, to gaslight and intimidate the complainant, their supporters, and the independent investigator who carried out a preliminary investigation into the allegation. Given the repeated leaking of confidential, personal information, Christ Church has reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office.  

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 

‘Might is Right’ and ‘Sledgehammer to crack a Nut’ join forces in the Theatre of the Insane

Mike Dobson

Mike Dobson

One of the pithy insights that comes up, again and again, every time I take part in safeguarding training is that abusers will spare no energy in their attempts to insist that they are the virtuous ones, or even the victims; while being completely oblivious to the damage they inflict on their victims as their tactics become more aggressive and diversionary.

The College’s Governing Body is obviously doing its best to conform to this model. Reply

John Wallace

John Wallace 

Or are they just hoping that this will pacify the Charity Commission?

Anthony Archer

Yet another retired High Court judge to be forced to admit that s/he is utterly bemused. 

Janet Fife

Janet Fife 

It’s remarkable that this group of elite academics should commission an independent review stating beforehand that it will prove their case. Don’t they know that it’s not done to start research expecting it to prove your hypothesis – let alone to announce beforehand what the result will be? Reply

Kate

Kate 

“Given the repeated leaking of confidential, personal information, Christ Church has reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office..”
 
…but plans to share deeply personal data with an external reviewer, not to progress the complaint, but simply to review Christ Church procedures. Reply

Filigree Jones

Filigree Jones

Not so long ago a bishop suggested to me that I might apply for a post at Christ Church Oxford. As I said to them at the time, nothing could have induced me. The problems at Christ Church go well beyond the relational, the political and the legal, although all those dimensions exist and must be addressed. They are first and foremost spiritual. In this broad Church of England of ours we will have different ways of describing what we are observing. Coming from a tradition that recognises spiritual evil as an Actual Thing I would say that the demons of malice and discord are currently roaming unchecked through the cloisters of Christ Church and urgently need to be dealt with. Otherwise, I fear for the spiritual safety of everyone involved, not just of Martyn Percy who has been treated so abominably, but of the wily Censors, the recent appointments, the latest complainant and ultimately of all those whose lives are bound up with this once respected institution. I hope that everyone who has ever commented on this blog is also committed to praying for the Holy Spirit to be at work in this dangerous situation.

FEBRUARY 15 2021 – THE TALE OF TWO CATHEDRAL DEANS AND THEIR MEMORIALS TO BISHOP BELL – PART II – FROM THE ARCHIVES [OCTOBER 22 2015] – THE VERY REVEREND PROFESSOR MARTYN PERCY DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD

THE TALE OF TWO CATHEDRAL DEANS AND THEIR MEMORIALS TO BISHOP BELL – PART II – FROM THE ARCHIVES [OCTOBER 22 2015] – THE VERY REVEREND PROFESSOR MARTYN PERCY DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD

Bishop Bell Memorial at Christ Church Oxford

JANUARY 9 2021 – FROM THE ARCHIVES [OCTOBER 21 2015 – TELEPHONE CONVERSATION BETWEEN CHURCH OF ENGLAND SECRETARY-GENERAL SIR WILLIAM FITTALL AND MARTYN PERCY DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD]

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FROM THE ARCHIVES [OCTOBER 21 2015 – TELEPHONE CONVERSATION BETWEEN CHURCH OF ENGLAND SECRETARY-GENERAL SIR WILLIAM FITTALL AND MARTYN PERCY DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH OXFORD]

Oct 21 2015 – Telephone conversation between Church of England Secretary-General Sir William Fittall and Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford

On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a ‘thorough investigation’ had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had ‘paid compensation to the victim’. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church. [Fittall was also educated at Christ Church Oxford from 1972 to 1975 – Ed]

Sir William Fittall

Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was ‘compelling and convincing’, and that the investigation into George Bell has been ‘lengthy, professional and robust’. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.

~ Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford – December 2017

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2021/01/09/january-9-2021-from-the-archives-october-25-2020-william-nye-shadowy-figure-behind-the-archbishop-of-canterbury-and-beyond-private-eye-23-october/

JANUARY 29 2021 – PRIVATE EYE ON WINCKWORTH SHERWOOD AND LUTHER PENDRAGON [FROM THE ARCHIVES – “CHRIST CHURCH AT WAR” – MAY 28 2020]

The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks– Private Eye, May 28 2020 [Issue 1522]

“CHRIST CHURCH AT WAR” – FROM THE ARCHIVES – PRIVATE EYE – MAY 28 2020 [ISSUE 1522]

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https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/may-28-2020-christ-church-at-war-private-eye/

Christ Church at war

Oxford by gaslight, Issue 1522

martyn-percy.jpg

OXFORD BLUES: Dr Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, who is being hounded by a cabal of disgruntled dons and ex-dons

THE dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has a unique double status: head of a major university college and senior resident cleric at the city’s cathedral. As the current incumbent the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy is learning, two jobs also mean twice the opportunities for a cabal of disgruntled dons and ex-dons who want to force him out.

War was publicly declared in September 2018, when seven of them formally accused Percy of “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” – the wording that justifies removal from office under college statutes (Eye 1484). The governing body duly suspended him and set up an internal tribunal, chaired by the retired high court judge Sir Andrew Smith. The college said the dispute “relates to issues surrounding the dean’s own pay and how it is set”, without explaining how that could be immoral or scandalous.

Percy had indeed proposed a pay review for himself, and for the treasurer and bursar. But his enemies were plotting well before that. The old guard didn’t see Percy – adopted, and from a humble background – as “one of us”. They were also infuriated by his attempts to modernise the college’s safeguarding practices, following a violent incident involving a student.

The sword of truth

Internal emails seen by Sir Andrew Smith revealed what the judge called “distinct hostility” from a clique of former “Censors”, the academics who regulate the college’s academic and social life. “He’s got to go,” an emeritus professor wrote in an email to cronies. “Does anyone know any good poisoners?” Another commented: “Just think of the Inspector Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly withered little body is found at Osney Lock.”

Sir Andrew Smith’s inquiry, completed last August, rejected all charges against the dean. His 110-page report, which the Eye has seen, often seems bemused by the whole affair: “I find it difficult to understand the real complaints… I cannot understand the Prosecutor’s reasoning… Nor can I understand how the dean can be said to be guilty of culpable behaviour, still less immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct.”

When the Censors read the report, they promptly lived up to their name by announcing that the rest of the governing body would get only a heavily redacted version. But college alumnus Revd Jonathan Aitken then deployed the sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play. Outraged that a “small cabal of anti-dean dons” were suppressing the report, in February this year he sent unredacted copies to all 60 governors. Within half an hour they had an email from the panic-stricken Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, ordering them to “immediately delete the email from Mr Aitken”.

‘Safeguarding concerns’

Despite being fully vindicated, Martyn Percy is left with legal bills of more than £400,000 – and because there is no internal grievance process available to him, the only resort is to an employment tribunal to recover his costs. But he is still dean. Having failed to oust him using college statutes, Percy’s nemeses have now turned to the Church of England to do the job for them. Early this year they alerted church authorities to “very serious safeguarding concerns” about him. The new allegation is that on four occasions students had told Percy that they had been abused, but he didn’t report this to the local authority.

The former students were all adults, and not otherwise vulnerable. Percy’s pastoral role was to listen and offer counsel. He gave them the option to pursue their case within or beyond the college. In the end they chose not to, and he respected their wish for confidentiality. The students made no complaint about the dean. But the word “safeguarding” sends the Church of England’s leadership into a spin, as his detractors presumably knew. The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks.

Scores to settle

Yet Percy is not accused of breaching any C of E safeguarding protocols. Nor does he even work for the Church of England: he is employed directly by Christ Church, Oxford. Only a few months ago the National Safeguarding Team declined to take action against Revd Jonathan Fletcher, a proven serial abuser, on the grounds that he didn’t technically work for the C of E, even though he had been a parish priest for 35 years (Eye 1513).

With Percy, however, there were scores to settle. The dean is not much loved in Church House Westminster, having helped to expose its mishandling of the false allegations against Bishop George Bell (an alumnus of Christ Church). Instead of telling the college to sort itself out, the C of E has decided to form one of its notorious Core Groups. The Core Group convened to deal with the Percy problem appears to breach the House of Bishops’ own rules. These say that if a complaint is made against someone who is engaged in a statutory process (such as an employment tribunal), that must be completed before the church has its go. Percy’s employment case will not be heard until the autumn of 2021.

The church has swept aside these obstacles and set up a secretive investigation. The dean himself is not represented on the Core Group, and not allowed to know who is on it or when it meets. But two of the complainants from the college, including Senior Censor Geraldine Johnson, are members. It is hard to see what the group can achieve. It can’t question the students whose safeguarding issues the dean allegedly mishandled, since they did not make any complaints and their identity is not known. It can’t ask the dean, since the students spoke to him in confidence. And it can’t see Sir Andrew Smith’s report exonerating the dean, because the Censors have censored it.

The National Safeguarding Team has now asked Dean Percy to stand down during the inquiry, even though nobody believes he poses a risk to anyone. Professor Johnson has indicated that if Percy is still in post when the governing body next meets, she will put a notice on the college’s website to the effect that Christ Church’s safeguarding protocols are all robust except in respect of the dean – richly ironic, given that one of the Censors’ previous complaints about Percy was that he wanted them to take their safeguarding responsibilities more seriously.

‘THINKING ANGLICANS’ COMMENTS

RICHARD W. SYMONDS – THE BELL SOCIETY

This is beyond shocking…”Christ Church At War” – Private Eye

“But the word “safeguarding” sends the Church of England’s leadership into a spin, as his detractors presumably knew. The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks.

“Yet Percy is not accused of breaching any C of E safeguarding protocols. Nor does he even work for the Church of England: he is employed directly by Christ Church, Oxford. Only a few months ago the National Safeguarding Team declined to take action against Revd Jonathan Fletcher, a proven serial abuser, on the grounds that he didn’t technically work for the C of E, even though he had been a parish priest for 35 years (Eye 1513).

“With Percy, however, there were scores to settle. The dean is not much loved in Church House Westminster, having helped to expose its mishandling of the false allegations against Bishop George Bell(an alumnus of Christ Church).

“Instead of telling the college to sort itself out, the C of E has decided to form one of its notorious Core Groups. The Core Group convened to deal with the Percy problem appears to breach the House of Bishops’ own rules. These say that if a complaint is made against someone who is engaged in a statutory process (such as an employment tribunal), that must be completed before the church has its go. Percy’s employment case will not be heard until the autumn of 2021.

“The church has swept aside these obstacles and set up a secretive investigation. The dean himself is not represented on the Core Group, and not allowed to know who is on it or when it meets. But two of the complainants from the college, including Senior Censor Geraldine Johnson, are members”

The Church ‘Bell’ Core Group was a kangaroo court made up of moral and legal incompetents who casually dispensed with the presumption of innocence for Bishop Bell and wantonly threw him under the bus in a despicable act of character assassination and injustice.

There seems little difference between the ‘Bell’ Core Group and the ‘Percy’ Core Group.

I’m afraid to say the fish stinks from the head down in the Church of England which has become institutionally corrupt.

RICHARD SCORER

Some really important points in the Private Eye piece. As a lawyer for victims and survivors in IICSA I have said repeatedly that unless safeguarding complaints are dealt with by an independent body external to the church, the suspicion will always arise that safeguarding is being used as a vehicle to settle theological and political scores. The understandable concern expressed here is that Church House has it in for Martyn Percy because of his campaigning over Bell. Victims and survivors of abuse similarly mistrust church processes and core groups. Nobody, whether abuse complainant or those accused of abuse or safeguarding breaches, will have confidence in investigative processes whilst these remain in-house. They need to be handled by a fully independent body.

RICHARD W. SYMONDS

“The understandable concern expressed here is that Church House has it in for Martyn Percy because of his campaigning over Bell”

What is less understandable, but equally of deepest concern, is why Church House still has it in for Bishop George Bell. They had no such problem with Bishop Peter Ball at the time.

FURTHER INFORMATION

May 25 2020 – “Row over Oxford Dean” – Daily Telegraph Letters – Brian Martin and Jimmy James