Tag Archives: Archbishop Cranmer

SEPTEMBER 8 2020 – “CHURCH CLEARS OXFORD COLLEGE DEAN AFTER ‘BLACK OPS’ CAMPAIGN TO DISCREDIT HIM” – THE GUARDIAN

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy – Dean of Christ Church

on Tuesday, 8 September 2020 at 10.57 am by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of EnglandSafeguarding

DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH CLEARED OF ALL ALLEGATIONS‘THINKING ANGLICANS’

Dean of Christ Church cleared of all safeguarding accusations

Updated again Wednesday morning

The Church of England has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford:

Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop 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. The National Safeguarding Team, NST, followed the House of Bishops guidance when the four separate allegations were referred earlier in the year relating to the Dean, a senior office holder. At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the Dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.

I am aware this has been a very difficult time for all parties, particularly Martyn and his family, and I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation. There will of course be lessons to learn about the processes, as there are with any safeguarding case, and that is an essential part of our guidance to make the Church a safer place for all. We welcome the Dean’s commitment to taking part in this. Now the investigation has concluded and the Dean has been exonerated of these safeguarding allegations, the NST’s involvement has come to an end. I continue to pray for his ministry and the life of the Cathedral and its mission in the diocese and wider Church.

As I have said before, 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.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford
8 September 2020

In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. 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. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The Church Times has published this news report: Dean Percy exonerated over safeguarding charges. This rehearses a good deal of the background.

Update 1:
Christ Church has now issued this: Statement from Christ Church on Church of England Safeguarding Investigation.

8 September 2020

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has announced the outcome of its independent investigation into the handling of four disclosures to the Dean of Christ Church, made by survivors of sexual assault. The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols.

“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance at Christ Church, and it is our obligation to report such concerns appropriately. After a query from a national newspaper regarding a serious sexual assault, an independent QC advised that a referral should be made to the Church of England as the handling of such disclosures fell within its jurisdiction. It is vital that everyone has the confidence to report safeguarding concerns. We will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities.

“Our thoughts are with all survivors of abuse. If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.

Update 2
Martin Sewell
 has written at Archbishop CranmerChurch of England clears Martyn Percy of all safeguarding allegations.

“Lest anyone urge us to swiftly move on, suggesting that a good outcome is sufficient closure, let us remind ourselves that a man and his family have been put through the most awful experience by powerful, well-resourced bullies using other people’s money to pursue their own grievances and protect their own vanities. That they failed is good, but both the University of Oxford and the Church of England have a moral duty to look carefully into how this happened, and to ensure it cannot not happen again” ~ Martin Sewell

Harriet Sherwood writes in the GuardianChurch clears Oxford college dean after ‘black ops campaign to discredit him’.
Headline later changed to Church clears Oxford college dean over alleged safeguarding failures.

Tim Wyatt at Religion Media Centre has Oxford dean cleared by abuse investigation and Christ Church Oxford timeline.

Update 3
The Times Dean of Christ Church Oxford cleared of safeguarding failures

Telegraph Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

Daily Mail Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church college is cleared of all safeguarding allegations in abuse row

Cherwell Christ Church dean exonerated after safeguarding allegations Subscribe 

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3000{}[+]30 COMMENTSOldest 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 1 day ago

Next stop: full exoneration for Bishop George Bell? 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 1 day ago Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

Just imagine Archbishop Welby now saying there is still a “significant cloud” over Martyn Percy?!

If you can imagine it, then perhaps you can better understand how the Bishop Bell advocates feel. 

John Wallace

John Wallace 1 day ago

Really great news and an answer to the prayers of many. I do hope and pray that his accusers will consider their positions as well as make a full public apology. Reply

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge 1 day ago Reply to  John Wallace

The signs aren’t promising when the public statement concludes “If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.” (My italics.) Reply

Sam Norton

Sam Norton 1 day ago

That Christ Church statement reads like it was written by someone chewing on a wasp.

Mark Beach

Mark Beach 1 day ago Reply to  Sam Norton

Thank you, my thoughts entirely, but put in a very much more poetic way. Its hardly a ringing endorsement….

Can one hope for new beginnings at Christ Church? Reply

Toby Forward

Toby Forward 1 day ago

Mealy-mouthed and mendacious statement by Christ Church. There now needs to be some form of reform of the governing body. Reply

David Lamming

David Lamming 1 day ago Reply to  Toby Forward

A number of questions need to be answered by Christ Church: (i) who was responsible for and/or authorised the above statement on the College website? (ii) will the remainder of the Governing Body now disown the censors who made the wholly misconceived complaint about the Dean to the NST? (iii) who was the ‘independent QC’ who advised referral of the matter to the Church of England and will the College publish his/her advice and the instructions setting out the basis on which it was sought? (iv) what has been the cost to the College (legal fees and those of the… Read more » Reply

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge 22 hours ago Reply to  David Lamming

I am baffled by the final sentence of the Christ Church statement quoted above. Who, in these circumstances, would require ‘support’ – for which they are told they should contact the police and ‘relevant’ safeguarding authority? Is this further mischief-making or just incompetence – using a ‘standard’ wording irrespective of the circumstances – I wonder? Reply

Sam Jones

Sam Jones 1 day ago

It is good that Martyn Percy has been cleared, but his position is untenable if the governing body have no confidence in him. Reply

Kate

Kate 1 day ago Reply to  Sam Jones

Isn’t it senior members of the Governing Body who past and potential benefactors will wish to see held to account for the millions of unnecessary expenditure? Reply

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 1 day ago Reply to  Sam Jones

The position of those in the governing body is untenable – there is no confidence in them.

Froghole

Froghole 1 day ago Reply to  Sam Jones

I think this is right. I am an alumnus of Christ Church, and deplore what has happened. I agree with many of the pro-Percy comments (notably that of Interested Observer). However, the relationship between dean and governing body has become so bitter, so envenomed and so visceral that it is difficult to see how Dr Percy can be an effective leader of the ‘college’. Other heads of house have resigned, and in far milder contexts, when they have lost the confidence of their respective governing bodies. Whilst Dr Percy may be entitled to a feeling of victory, he might lose… Read more » Reply

Fr Gustavo

Fr Gustavo 1 day ago

Perhaps this has been already answered, but, with all that it is going on, would not a Visitation be in order? Reply

Richard

Richard 23 hours ago Reply to  Fr Gustavo

A quote from the Financial Times: (less than 30 words, so permissible according to their copyright rules)

“In another unfortunate piece of heritage, the Visitor is the Queen, whom nobody wants to involve.” Reply

Froghole

Froghole 13 hours ago Reply to  Richard

Many thanks. I really don’t think that anyone believes that the sovereign would be involved personally. What is more likely to happen is that the private secretary to the sovereign, or perhaps also (and more probably) the privy council, would be petitioned about a possible formal visitation or the creation of a dispute resolution mechanism (there is also an outside chance that they might act of their own motion after taking ‘soundings’). Then, following receipt of that petition and/or consultations, the sovereign (i.e., the prime minister) would secure appointment of a deputy, who will probably be a retired senior judge.… Read more » Reply

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge 11 hours ago Reply to  Froghole

I don’t know how many times I have dealt with these points on earlier TA threads! The procedure for Visitations is all set out in Statute XXXVI (at pages 37-39 of the Christ Church Statutes), and far too long to repeat here. It provides for both a ‘routine’ Visitation every ten years (at Her Majesty’s option) or by intervention. I’m unsure about the machinery for appointing Her Majesty’s Commissary. A retired senior judge seems a likely appointee. There has always been a direct right of appeal to the Crown, which I quote again below, but for whatever reason it has… Read more » Reply

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 12 hours ago Reply to  Richard

“In another unfortunate piece of heritage, the Visitor is the Queen, whom nobody wants to involve.”

Why not?

Her Majesty is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England!

Dominic Barrington

Dominic Barrington 20 hours ago Reply to  Fr Gustavo

I think you are making a false assumption about the powers of the bishop in relation to this unique (and utterly dysfunctional) cathedral. Reply

Interested Observer

Interested Observer 1 day ago

It isn’t actually Confucius, although often credited to him (or James Bond, either will do): “before setting off on revenge, first dig two graves”. It strikes me that there is no way that this ends well for either Christ Church corporately or for Martin Percy’s persecutors. Even “victory” is hollow (Tacitus actually did write “ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant”), if their definition of “victory” is Martyn Percy’s departure; the resulting employment tribunal looks increasingly difficult and the attempt to use CofE safeguarding as a weapon can only backfire in both the short and long term. The loss of credibility for… Read more » Reply

Pete Broadbent

Pete Broadbent 1 day ago

Martyn Percy cleared of all [trumped up] “charges” This is very good news! But it can’t end there – a full interrogation of how the NST became the patsy of the CC Oxford dons/plotters & into the procedures the NST employ must now take place. Reply

Kate

Kate 1 day ago Reply to  Pete Broadbent

Yes Reply

Paul Roberts

Paul Roberts 1 day ago Reply to  Pete Broadbent

Indeed. Reply

dr.primrose

dr.primrose 1 day ago

There’s an issue of the waste of money for legal proceedings on behalf on the college, which raises the issue of whether the complaints should be required to repay that amount. There’s also an issue of the fees that Percy incurred. I haven’t read anything about that. Is the college liable for those? Reply

Richard

Richard 23 hours ago Reply to  dr.primrose

I recall that previous articles about this have said that Percy is liable. There was a campaign underway to assist him financially. Does anyone know differently? Reply

Kate

Kate 17 hours ago

Does anyone know what standard of proof Core Groups work to? Is it “beyond reasonable doubt”, “balance of probabilities” or something unique to the Church of England? Reply

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 12 hours ago Reply to  Kate

Something unique to the Church of England: faithful belief in its own infallibility. 

Kate

Kate 3 hours ago Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

That’s something which needs to be fixed. Reply

Bill Broadhead

Bill Broadhead 12 hours ago

“An independent investigation into allegations…” Come on, it was hardly that, was it – and since when has the NST been in any way “independent”? Was the Bishop at Lambeth and Ecclesiastical Insurance in the room? While I share the widespread delight that this aspect of the burden Martyn Percy and those closest to him are carrying, if there had not been a significant challenge to the way the NST Core Group for this complaint was set up, there could have been a catastrophic miscarriage of justice. So, to my mind, nil points for the C of E over this… Read more » Reply

Father Ron Smith

Father Ron Smith 12 hours ago

This is very welcome news- especially to those of us who have witnessed with growing amazement the chutzpah of Dean Martyn Percy’s accusers. One hopes they will do the right thing now and meet all of Martyn’s legal expenses. They should also be responsible for some substantial monetary compensation for what Martyn and his family have suffered during this unfortunate breach of common justice. Reply

AUGUST 18 2020 – “THE NEW SAFEGUARDING BISHOP DEFENDS THE OLD MORALLY AND LEGALLY INDEFENSIBLE BANKRUPT SYSTEM OF ‘CORE GROUPS’ – LIKE A GOOD ECCLESIASTICAL PUPPET-ON-A-STRING”

“THE NEW SAFEGUARDING BISHOP DEFENDS THE OLD MORALLY AND LEGALLY INDEFENSIBLE BANKRUPT SYSTEM OF ‘CORE GROUPS’ – LIKE A GOOD ECCLESIASTICAL PUPPET-ON-A-STRING” – RICHARD W. SYMONDS – BELL SOCIETY

 

Lead Safeguarding Bishop to critics: “You don’t understand” – ‘Cranmer’

 

Safeguarding bishop sides with critics of the Church of England’s policy

17 AUGUST 2020

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMES

The Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, addresses the General Synod in February where he said that “serious money” was needed to fund redress for survivors of clerical abuse

THE lead bishop on safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, has agreed that the C of E’s system needs “root-and-branch change” in order to improve its response to survivors.

Last week, survivors, lawyers, academics, and members of the clergy and General Synod wrote to the chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell, urging her to intervene to address “the failures of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to devise a safe, consistent and fair system of redress” for victims and survivors of abuse (News, 14 August).

In his formal response last week, Dr Gibbs, who is the Bishop of Huddersfield and part of the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and Steering Group (NSST), deflected criticism of the NST and its core-groups system, adding that the NST should be trusted and respected.

He later told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday, however: “In one sense, I welcome this letter, because it adds weight to my desire to bring about the kind of root-and-branch change that we all long for: in particular in the way in which we respond to survivors, the way in which we deal with complaints, the way in which we change the culture of the Church.”

The letter to the Charity Commission, which also criticises the “impaired transparency and intermittent accountability” of the NST, calls for a complete reform of safeguarding practice and policy within the C of E. It urges the Church not to wait for the final report of the Anglican investigation by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is due to be published this autumn (News, 1 May), before acting.

Dr Gibbs told the programme: “There is no doubt that, in the past, our systems have failed considerably, and that was made very clear during IICSA. That made very painful listening for all of us involved in the Church and our hearts go out to and our principle focus must be on survivors, and improving the way in which we respond to survivors. . .

“There is still a long way to go. There is journey; but it is a journey to which we are absolutely committed. . . The direction of travel is going to be substantially influenced by the IICSA report when it comes out very shortly. We made clear our commitment to that journey of change especially in the debate at the General Synod back in February” (News, 14 February).

Dr Gibbs also remarked on the research, published in the Church Times last week, by Dr Josephine Anne Stein, who estimated that the Church spends between £20 and £25 million on safeguarding, but that just £55,000 of this went to survivors in the form of redress (News, 14 August).

“I welcome that piece of research; it is a great piece of work. . . The Church’s expenditure on safeguarding work has expanded very substantially in recent years and that is really important because that is part of making sure that we do begin to respond much better to all of these safeguarding concerns.”

He agreed that the money was not directly benefiting survivors, but “that is the commitment we made in February.” A staff member was being appointed “very soon” to begin advancing redress, he said.

“Even in advance of that work, I have written to the Archbishops and the heads of the Church Commissioners to say I want to set up an interim scheme that enables us to respond much sooner than the time it will take to put the full scheme in place. So, absolutely, not nearly enough has been done here on redress, and redress is not just about compensation, it is about helping people rebuild their lives, and that is underway. So, I welcome that; as far as I am concerned it is weight to help push forward.”

Dr Gibbs maintained, however, that he did not support all of the letter’s criticisms. “I recognise what lies behind the letter: its deep frustration with the Church’s failures, in particular to address the needs of survivors. [But] no, I don’t agree with the specifics of the criticisms there, and implications about a lack of integrity on the part of some of my colleagues. I think those are simply unfortunate.”

One of the signatories of the letter, Lord Carlile, who wrote the independent review into allegations against a former Bishop of Chichester, the late George Bell (News, 22 December 2017), said earlier in the programme: “The Church has a very haphazard way of approaching safeguarding cases. There are numerous conflicts of interest that arise; it doesn’t fit into any recognisable jurisdictional structure; neither complainants, nor people complained against are getting a fair hearing. Additionally, the process is far too slow.”

Dr Gibbs said: “Making change in a big institution always takes time; there is always a certain amount of institutional resistance that is just part of being part of large organisation. There is always a danger of thinking someone else is dealing with this issue.” He reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury shared his frustration with the present system.

MORE INFORMATION

“Pressure on Bishop of Huddersfield over lack of action on Church sex abuse” – Yorkshire Live

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

ChurchOfEngGeneralSynodJuly17_large

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

JUNE 20 2020 – VENDETTA AGAINST THE DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH MARTYN PERCY SPARKS LETTER TO THE GENERAL SYNOD

VENDETTA AGAINST THE DEAN OF CHRIST CHURCH MARTYN PERCY SPARKS LETTER TO THE GENERAL SYNOD

 

“This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.

“The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy”

‘Archbishop Cranmer’

Dear General Synod colleague,

Christ Church, Oxford and the NST

Private Eye recently carried a piece on the reporting of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy to our National Safeguarding Team for alleged safeguarding deficiencies. No child, young person or vulnerable adult has made any allegation of misconduct and the report comes from Christ Church malcontents whose complaints (not about safeguarding) have already been dismissed by the retired High Court Judge, Sir Andrew Smith, employed by the College pursuant to the College’s governing statutes to comprehensively investigate.

The Church is being dragged into a vendetta not of our making and, surprisingly, our officials and advisors seem to have allowed this to happen. This abuse of our processes by well-connected persons raises an important matter of principle. We doubt many internal parish bun fights would be so well received at national level. The issue flags up our institutional deference towards those of privilege.

It is not a currently a transparent process: the only transparency is the motivation. If Dean Percy is criticised by the Church or the Charity Commission it will be pleaded in the defence to the Dean’s Employment Tribunal claim against the Governing Body to defeat or mitigate the damages for the dons’ failed coup. We are being used. This is a route to an objective that can now only be secured by pretending the Dean is unsafe.

It has all the hallmarks of bullying, plain and simple. The Dean, uniquely at Christ Church, has no grievance procedure under the Statutes. This means that he can be attacked with impunity by malcontents and has no defence other than an Employment Tribunal. The Charity Commissioners are now involved. Yet the NST have decided to side with the malcontents at Christ Church, without so much as interviewing the Dean, or even doing a simple fact-check. The strain, and the financial and emotional burden, must be dreadful; but the Dean is resisting injustice, and the abuse survivors who are aware of the circumstances unanimously support him.

Christ Church has no procedure for removing the Dean, either by the dons or the Church, other than by a complex statutory process (and which applies to all dons). Seven dons tried to remove the Dean in 2018-19, and this failed completely with all 27 charges against him dismissed following a costly 11-day hearing. We ought not to allow the dons now to try to use safeguarding as their short cut, and with the complicity of the NST and its processes abused for ancillary purposes. We defer to nobody in our concern for proper safeguarding practice. But this case has nothing to do with safeguarding. The allegations of “safeguarding concerns” now being made to the NST never featured in the complaint of 2018-19. No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.

Dean Percy is trusted by survivors and was invited to be a contributor to the seminal book Letters to a Broken Church, published in July 2019. When two lone survivors protested the enthronement of the Bishop of Oxford on 30 September 2016 for safeguarding concerns, the entire Church hierarchy ignored them save for Dean Percy, who ensured they had access to a College toilet and brought them coffee and sandwiches.

The NST declined to investigate Jonathan Fletcher as he was not employed by the Church of England but was, rather, vicar of a proprietary chapel. William Nye, in his evidence to IICSA (witness statement 22 December 2017, paras 87-90) states that clergy in institutions such as Christ Church must have “due regard” to C of E standards in safeguarding, but that discipline remains with the independent institution (in the case of Christ Church, as a formal process in accordance with its Statutes). The C of E does not have jurisdiction. However, the NST has decided, with specious reasoning, that jurisdiction nevertheless applies in order to investigate Dean Percy, despite this being an entirely parochial Christ Church matter.

As this is going to be a growing controversy with more information emerging, we are undertaking a detailed analysis which we will share with you in the near future, should it become necessary. We draw on our experience of the George Bell controversy. This case is arguably even worse: lessons have been ignored despite the expensive Carlile Review.

Below are links comprehensively addressing the issues. We hope you will take the trouble to acquaint yourself with the story and find the links helpful in understanding the controversy. There are to be two Q&A sessions at the informal ‘virtual’ General Synod on Saturday 11 July. As you learn of the problems, you may have questions relating to the issues.

Members of clergy might usefully apply the following test: would I have confidence in the NST to handle a case against me in the light of this?

With best wishes,

Martin Sewell
David Lamming

 

Annexures:

MAY 28 2020 – CHRIST CHURCH AT WAR – PRIVATE EYE

https://www.private-eye.co.uk/in-the-back

in the back

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

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Daily Telegraph Letters [May 25 2020] kindly provided by Jimmy James – on request

May 28 2020  – Thinking Anglicans – Christ Church makes safeguarding accusations against Dean

 

The Church of England prong has been reported in Private Eye, and is an altogether more concerning development, for it alleges “very serious safeguarding concerns”, which, as we know, ring alarm bells in the Church louder than bombs over England. But instead of informing Christ Church’s Governing Body that the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has no jurisdiction in this matter; and instead of informing them that an NST investigation would be ultra vires and in breach of a number of the House of Bishops’ own guidelines, the church has determined to establish a ‘Core Group’ to examine these alleged “very serious safeguarding concerns” against Martyn Percy.

Just like they did for Bishop George Bell, where the conflicts of interest of certain members of that ‘Core Group’ were manifest; and the notable exclusion of an advocate for the dead Bishop and his descendants was a clear breach of natural justice.

You would think that the National Safeguarding Team, now under the new leadership of Ms Melissa Caslake at Church House, might have learned from their past mistakes. But no: the ‘Core Group’ convened by Ms Caslake reportedly includes at least two members of Christ Church’s Governing Body (who may have slight conflicts of interest); and excludes any advocate for Martyn Percy (which may constitute a slight breach of natural justice). The make-up of the group hasn’t been disclosed the Dean: its membership is secret, except to the two members of the Governing Body.

Quite why the Church of England is prepared to collude in a chronic campaign of bullying against the Dean of Christ Church is a mystery. The mere establishing of this ‘Core Group’, in contravention of its own guidelines, constitutes harassment: the NST can’t create a bespoke investigatory process for Martyn Percy – who isn’t even an employee of the Church – without defaming him further. What exactly are these “very serious safeguarding concerns” which merit a quasi-judicial process which bypasses established guidelines, contravenes basic principles of natural justice, and ignores the law on defamation?

And yet, setting aside the fact that the Dean of Christ Church is not an office-holder of the Church of England; and setting aside the fact that the safeguarding disclosures all concerned adults (not undergraduates); and setting aside the fact that none of them has complained about the Dean or his conduct; and setting aside the fact that there has been no internal investigation at Christ Church which has established “a consistent lack of moral compass”; and setting aside the fact that the Employment Tribunal process needs to have been completed before any investigation may be initiated, the Church of England has indeed convened a ‘Core Group’, which its own guidance says it must do:

Martyn Percy is not accused of any of these behaviours or crimes, but the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England has now smeared him with the whiff of possibility.

The only evidence of  “a consistent lack of moral compass” in this whole sorry saga is that manifest by the conduct of certain members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, along with the consistent moral failures and poor legal judgment of the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England. The only compass points which might touch upon Martyn Percy are his being driven mad north-north-west.

 

– 1 –
The Rt Hon. The Baroness Stowell of Beeston, MBE
Chair of the Charity Commission
102 Petty France, Westminster
London SW1H 9AJ

By post and email to chair@charitycommission.gov.uk
cc helen.stephenson@charitycommission.gov.uk

As from Mr Andrew Graystone, 17 Rushford Avenue, Manchester M192HG
andrew.graystone1@btinternet.com

Wednesday 27th May 2020

Dear Lady Stowell

You recently received a letter from some individual trustees of Christ Church Oxford
making a series of allegations against their Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy.
We wish to express our confidence in Martyn Percy. We know him in our various capacities,
as a man of consistently good character, an exceptional scholar, a respected public servant,
and an outstanding Christian leader.
We do not speculate on the reasons why some members of the Governing Body of Christ
Church wish to go to such extreme lengths to destroy the reputation of their Dean and
to break his spirit. But we do know that :
• The recent letter is the latest episode in a sustained campaign against the Dean
led by senior members of the college Governing Body since his appointment.
• The specific allegations against Martyn Percy have changed over time, but each
allegation has been disproved. In August of last year Dean Percy was wholly
exonerated after an extensive investigation by Sir Andrew Smith, a retired High
Court judge.
– 2 –
• The signatories of the letter are far from objective. Several of them were revealed
by Sir Andrew to have employed devious methods and offensive language in their
efforts to break his resolve, and some will be parties to an Employment Tribunal to
be heard next year.
• The grievances in the letter are a set of untested and gratuitous assertions for
which no evidence is provided.
• The insinuation that Dean Percy personally represents a safeguarding risk
is abhorrent and wholly unjustified.
• The suggestion that he “lacks a moral compass” is so far from the truth as to
be laughable, were it not so insulting.
We believe that Martyn Percy is a victim of gross injustice and malice. We wish to see
this damaging business resolved justly, and with the minimum delay, so that he can
continue to exercise his gifts in leading Christ Church.

Respectfully yours,

Professor Malcolm Airs OBE Emeritus Fellow, Kellogg College Oxford
The Revd Jonathan Aitken Christ Church alumnus
The Venerable Christine Allsopp Archdeacon emeritus
Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry High Steward of Banbury
Simon Barrow Director, Ekklesia
The Revd Canon Sue Booys Team Rector, Dorchester Team Ministry
Simon Broadbent Chair, The Ainstable Trust
The Revd Canon Andrew Bunch Vicar of St Giles’ and St Margaret’s, Oxford
The Venerable Gavin Collins Archdeacon of the Meon
The Revd Canon Rod Cosh Chaplain, St Monica Trust
Richard Dick Former High Sheriff of Oxfordshire
Canon Barbara Doubtfire Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Oxford
The Rt Revd and Rt Hon The Lord Carey of Clifton Former Archbishop of Canterbury
The Revd Canon Anthony Dickinson
Anglican Chaplain in Genoa,
Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Oxford
The Very Revd Dr Jonathan Draper General Secretary, Modern Church
The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull Bishop of Bristol
– 3 –
The Revd Canon Professor Paul S. Fiddes Professor of Systematic Theology,
University of Oxford and Principal Emeritus,
Regent’s Park College, Oxford
The Rt Hon Frank Field
The Rt Revd Jeremy Greaves, Bishop for the Northern Region,
Diocese of Brisbane
The Revd Canon Christopher Hall Canon Emeritus of Christ Church Oxford
The Revd Canon Rosie Harper
Vicar, Great Missenden
Honorary Canon of Christ Church Oxford
Dr Adrian Hilton, Chairman of the Academic Council,
The Margaret Thatcher Centre
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Lord Bishop of Salisbury
The Very Revd Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral
The Revd Dr T C Keighley Co-ordinator, Martyn Percy Support Fund
David Lamming Member of General Synod
The Revd Ruth Lampard
The Revd Andrew Lightbown Rector of the Winslow Benefice
Lord Lisvane
The Revd Lady Lisvane former High Sheriff of Herefordshire
Deborah Loudon
Professor Gordon Lynch Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern
Theology, University of Kent
The Very Revd Ian S. Markham, Dean and president of Virginia Theological
Seminary
Dr Katie McKeogh, New College Oxford
The Revd Canon Tom Moffatt Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Oxford
The Venerable John Morrison Former Archdeacon of Oxford
Hon Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Oxford
The Very Revd Andrew Nunn Dean of Southwark
The Rev’d Dr Steven Ogden Principal, St Francis Anglican Theological
College, Brisbane
Jayne Ozanne, Director, Ozanne Foundation
Member of General Synod
The Very Revd Nicholas Papadopulos Dean of Salisbury
Rt Revd Professor Stephen Pickard Charles Sturt University, Australia
– 4 –
Canon Nick Ralph Residentiary canon at Portsmouth
Cathedral
Sir Ivor Roberts
Former ambassador and former President
of Trinity College Oxford
Lady Elizabeth Roberts Trinity College Oxford
The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove Dean Emeritus of Durham
Simon Sarmiento Churchwarden, Knaresborough
Richard Scorer Head of Abuse Law, Slater & Gordon
Martin Sewell Member of General Synod
Canon Brian Shenton Canon Emeritus, Christ Church Oxford
The Revd Canon Vincent Strudwick, Canon Emeritus Christ Church Oxford
Honorary Fellow Emeritus, Kellogg College
The Revd Ian Tattum Area Dean, Wandsworth
Dr Anna Thomas-Betts MBE
The Revd Angela Tilby Canon Emeritus Christ Church Oxford
Professor Iain R Torrence Pro-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen
Terry Waite CBE
Professor Pete Ward Professor of Practical Theology, Durham
University
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson Bishop of Buckingham
The Very Revd Christine Wilson Dean of Lincoln
Professor Linda Woodhead MBE Distinguished Professor, University of
Lancaster

Nov 24 2019 -“Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell” – ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ – Martin Sewell

Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell

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Chichester Cathedral

CRANMER’S ‘CURATE’S EGG’ COMMENTS

  • Well in the case of Bishop Bell daylight should have been allowed into this long ago. I firmly believe if you want to accuse you do so in the light of common day, not in the shadows of anonymity. And nor do I believe that the Church, nor anyone else for that matter, should be sending fat cheques for allegations which have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

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      This was a civil proceeding and claim, not a criminal case. Out of court settlements happen all the time without acceptance of culpability or liability. The error in this instance was not the payment (which was small given the nature of the allegations) but the Church of England accepting the claims were credible and that George Bell was guilty. There was no need for Welby to say he could not, with integrity, clear Bell’s name.

      To be honest, having been in similar situations, Jack has some empathy with Welby’s statement:

      “We have to treat both Bishop Bell, his reputation — we have to hold that as something really precious and valuable. But the person who has brought the complaint is not an inconvenience to be overlooked: they are a human being of immense value and dignity, to be treated equally importantly. And it is very difficult to square that circle.”

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        I agree. For many reasons the CoE made a grotesque mess of its handling of this case, but it is worth asking what should have been done that wasn’t. In my view, (1) ‘Carol’ should have been told: “We are not pre-judging anything but we need to cross-examine you, because someone who has genuinely been abused and a golddigger would say the same thing, and cross-examination will give us more information to distinguish. Can you see why we require that?” And (2) That reporter who said others had been abused in a local newspaper should have been followed up by the enquiry, no matter how many phone calls had gone unreturned.

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          What should have been done ? That is patently obvious: ‘Carol’s’ story should have been rigorously examined and she should have been made to make her accusations in the light of common day, not in this hole in corner manner. Bishop Bell deserved far better than this nonsense. I think the lessons of ‘Nick’ should be heeded and those who claim to have been abused in 1892 or whenever should not be believed without their story being tested properly. And the last thing that ought to be done is sending fat cheques. Time to derail the compensation gravy train.

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          Any decent qualified child protection expert assessing this woman’s allegations, would have tested her account. “Cross examination” is an adversarial process intended to discredit and undermine. Truth and justice isn’t always the outcome. For victims of abuse, this can be harmful and traumatic. This matter was settled and didn’t go to court – civil or criminal. If it had gone to a civil court, given that George Bell was dead and the action would have been against the Church of England, it would have been the Church who would have been “cross examining” the claimant and seeking to undermine her testimony. As Jack said, he empathises with Welby in this situation.

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            I mean the same by “cross examination” as you mean by “testing her account”. I agree with the words of Welby you have quoted, but overall I believe he grotesquely mispresided over the matter.

          • Reply
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              In going public with George Bell’s name? He argued that when the details eventually became public at the inquiry, the Church would have been accused of a cover-up. And he was right in this. His error was in stating (or implying) that he believed Bell was guilty when there was no clear evidence for this.

            • Reply
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    At IICSA Justin Welby said “We’ve got to learn to put actions behind the words because ‘sorry’ is pretty cheap.”
    He also said that he had apologised to me in person at lambeth palace in November 2016. He did not. Neither my solicitor or myself remember an apology and the minutes for the meeting, taken by a member of the nst, record no apology. This meeting was 7 months before Devamanikkam was even charged (and nobody knew if he would be). Was Justin Welby so convinced of Devamanikkams guilt that he apologised to me 7 months in advance of charges? This is not likely.
    Further an internal memo (obtained through a subject access request) from the same member of the nst dated April 2018 clearly states that no apology had been issued.
    So was Justin Welby mistaken, badly briefed or deliberately telling an untruth to the inquiry?
    The ‘letter’ Justin Welby produced (a few minutes before the start of the hearing despite there being months to prepare statements and hand in documentary evidence) , which I have never received, was a fudge anyway and the barrister asked Justin Welby if that was an apology or the beginning of one.
    I was sat behind him the whole time but he never turned round once.
    I have still had no formal apology despite being raped by a vicar in a vicarage. I would not want that regurgitated excuse now anyway.
    If apologies are so cheap..then do it along with restorative action that is appropriate.
    The truth is that any apology now would be worthless because it would have had to be dragged out of Mr Welby or Mr Sentamu. It is a cold, cold heart that behaves like this.
    Raped by a vicar in a vicarage as a youngster and the archbishop, nor any of the other bishops who have acted shabbily and shambolicly can even say sorry. I was right in my observations at iicsa….not fit for office.

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    About time too! Any idea when George Bell’s statue will be unveiled at Canterbury cathedral? A great Dean and a great Bishop. Let’s hope that his hymn – “Christ is the king” will have been sung today in many churches and cathedrals on Christ the King/Stir up Sunday.

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    When is Welby resigning?

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    The guide book has been changed. Good.
    Central to justice for George Bell is the fight against those who judge the past, without sufficient evidence or context, by the standards of today, to buy approval and signal virtue.

    If you can see this in the case of George Bell, Martin, why do you still support us repenting for the acts of slave traders, antisemites and persecutors of homosexuals? These things were done in different times by other people. To suggest that we bear guilt is just another form of injustice and stupidity.

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      Absolutely agree, Chef. The biblical, godly principle is that each person is responsible for his (or her) own wrongdoing or sin, and no-one elses’s. The instruction given in Deut.24:16, 2Ki.14:6, and 2Chr.25:4, while expressed within a context where the death penalty was implemented, gives a principle of personal responsibility that applies in contexts where other penalties are implemented.

      The requirement for retrospective grovelling apology for wrongdoings that are not a particular person’s fault or responsibility is a form of guilt manipulation that needs to be resisted with full determination, no matter what the force of social coercion applied to that person to perform an act which is nothing but virtue-signalling. Justice demands that the innocent should not be punished, but the guilt-manipulating coercing social mob cares nothing for justice, but only for vindictive, unjustified punishment.

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Feb 20 2019 – “‘General Synod has no confidence in the Church of England’s capacity to regulate its own safeguarding culture'” – Martin Sewell

2000px-Logo_of_the_Church_of_England.svg

http://archbishopcranmer.com/general-synod-no-confidence-safeguarding/

MARTIN SEWELL

“Was this not the process that created the Bishop George Bell debacle? The Church of England leadership will still not follow the plain and increasingly irritated advice of its independent investigator Lord Carlile, who said: “The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him….

“If witnesses accounts and denials of knowledge (if appropriate) are not captured in a timely way, may not their reputations be placed “under a cloud” of complicity in the cover-up by some future archbishop without evidence, just as Justin Welby has tainted the memory of Bishop George Bell? Justice requires due process to victims and those under suspicion alike. We are woefully failing many in this case”

COMMENTS

Len

“The church in trying to preserve its reputation has all but lost it. Kicking allegations ‘into the long grass’ and then throwing long dead Bishops ‘under the bus’ has all added to the loss of credibility of the church and its hierarchy…

Nov 2016 – “In Defense Of George Bell” – Peter Hitchens – ‘First Things’

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/11/in-defense-of-george-bell

 

George Bell, Bishop of Chichester: Church, State, and Resistance in the Age of Dictatorship
by andrew chandler
eerdmans, 224 pages, $35

The best way to get a belly laugh from a Roman Catholic is to mention the words “Anglican” and “principle” in the same breath. It is easy to see why.

The current leaders of the American Episcopalians and their English mother church are wedded firmly to the spirit of the age. And as William Inge, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London warned long ago, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” So it has proved, and so it will continue to prove. The leaders of this rather interesting version of Christianity mistook its breadth and openness for a benevolent, politicized vagueness. They adopted social democratic politics and economics in England, and 1960s liberationism in the U.S. They then waited for the kingdom of heaven to arrive as their churches grew emptier and their voices fainter and shriller.

And yet there were exceptions. The British radical politician Tony Benn was fond of saying that there were two types of public figure: weathervanes that revolved, squeaking, in the prevailing wind, and signposts that grimly continued to point the way, often to an oblivious multitude, which missed the straight and narrow and surged instead on to the winding primrose path. George Bell, bishop of Chichester in the middle part of the twentieth century, was one such signpost. By a single action he asserted the primacy of the Christian conscience above all considerations of power, popularity, and convenience. Yet by this same action he gravely damaged himself. I have a slight suspicion that the merciless attacks being made on his reputation today are part of the reaction to this singular act, an attempt to tear down an example to which we cannot rise.

After much study of his life, I am convinced that I would not have liked George Bell if I had met him, and that he would not have thought much of me. This is surely a good thing. Bishops are not supposed to be likeable. They are supposed to be stern, set apart from the world, and ready to put up with some unpopularity. In the seventeenth-century consecration service which Bell would have undergone, he had to assent to the following question: “Will you deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that you may show yourself in all things an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against you?”

One of several sons of a parson (two of his three brothers died in the last bitter months of the First World War), Bell was academically bright, but not brilliant. He had, it is necessary to say, a poor speaking voice. He had an unlikely early friendship with Oliver St. John Gogarty, a bohemian Irish republican whom he defeated in the battle for an Oxford poetry prize. He had little in the way of social life outside his work. He was identified early in life as one destined for high position, and spent several years as an aide-de-camp to Randall Davidson, the archbishop of Canterbury. He loved poetry, wrote it competently, and was one of the earliest to recognize the genius of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Without his encouragement, T. S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral might never have been written, or performed in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral. He showed similar friendship and encouragement to the composer Gustav Holst. He was austere and painfully honest in personal dealings, traveling third-class by train and pursuing the railway company with offers of payment (often for tiny fares) if by any chance he had failed to buy a ticket for some rural journey. But his own trusting nature meant he was sometimes embarrassingly wrong, continuing (for instance) to harbor hopes of peace with Hitler’s Germany after the outbreak of war in 1939, and intervening mistakenly on behalf of some Germans who were later shown beyond doubt to have been war criminals.

state the case against him because I am currently being told (by Bell’s modern accusers) that I refuse to accept that he had faults because of my admiration for his good deeds. On the contrary, I have long believed that there are no great men, only great deeds. And yet it takes exceptional men and women to do such deeds, and Bell was exceptional. What were his great deeds? Many of them are easy to admire. He strove to comfort and rescue those persecuted by Hitler, recognizing the wickedness of the National Socialist state earlier than most. Several owed their lives to his efforts. He was a constant support to that giant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sent a last message of gratitude and comradeship to him from his cell. He intervened (this took some courage) to secure the release of undoubted anti-Nazis interned alongside actual Nazis thanks to a Churchillian invasion panic, just when Britain needed their skills and commitment to fight Germany more effectively. He supported the resistance to Hitler, and in 1942 tried to interest the British Foreign Office in early German plans for the overthrow of Hitler, of which he had been told in a meeting in Stockholm. Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, would not get involved. He probably knew that any talk of peace with Germany, even one cleansed of Hitler, was impossible once we were allied with Stalin. Bell, still clinging to ideals of just war and hoping to save Europe from a prolonged fight to the end, could not see this. Was he wrong? Probably. Britain had by then lost control of the war and was a helpless, bankrupt client of Moscow and Washington. And it seemed possible then that he was being used, though in fact this was not so.

But this is just a preliminary to the one thing about which Bell was wholly right, the thing which marks him out from his generation of English Christians, and the thing for which we all owe him a great debt till the end of time. One righteous man can save a city and cancel out the unrighteousness of millions. And this is what he did.

After long preparation and study, Bell publicly condemned the deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes, which had by then become Britain’s main contribution to the war in Europe. For this purpose he used the House of Lords, in which a small number of senior bishops sit by right. They must always speak there clad in their priestly robes of plain and puritan black and white, to remind everyone that they are not politicians or their placemen. The privilege has never been used better. To this day, few really understand the issue. Many still believe that Britain accidentally killed German civilians while aiming at oil refineries and munitions factories. Or they think that Bishop Bell was protesting against the notorious bombing of the city of Dresden in 1945, so frightful that even supporters of the policy had their doubts about it. In fact, his speech, delivered on February 9, 1944, was a protest against years of deliberate warfare against defenseless women and children. Few now realize that British forces did this, and even to this day, debates about it in Britain can degenerate into fury and abuse, combined with simple refusal to acknowledge recorded fact. Those interested in the full, grisly story should read Richard Overy’s The Bombing War, Max Hastings’s Bomber Command, and A. C. Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities.

These are the facts: In November 1941, Sir Richard Peirse, then commander in chief of RAF Bomber Command, declared in a semi-public speech that his planes had for nearly a year been attacking “the people themselves,” intentionally. He said, “I mention this because for a long time the Government for excellent reasons has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call Military Targets. . . . I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.” Senior government officials knew of the policy but preferred the truth of it not to be widely known in case “false and misleading deductions” were made. An Air Staff memorandum stated that towns should be made “physically uninhabitable” and the people in them must be “conscious of constant personal danger.” The aim was to produce “destruction” and “the fear of death.” This is not chivalry.

Supported by the military historian Basil Liddell Hart and his own long-standing anti-Nazi credentials, Bell challenged this. These words of his speech echo right down to our own time: “It is common experience in the history of warfare that not only wars, but actions taken in war as military necessities, are often supported at the time by a class of arguments which, after the war is over, people find are arguments to which they never should have listened.”

The speech, which infuriated Winston Churchill and his friends, probably ensured that George Bell did not become archbishop of Canterbury. And yet the speech showed that the broad, reasonable church of Cranmer, Hooker, and Andrewes still possessed a backbone of righteousness, such as it had not shown since it defied the despotic King James II in 1688, and so helped save liberty for posterity. It was the culmination of a life of thought, prayer, love, dedication, and Edwardian high seriousness, just as notable in its way as all the other thousands of stories of physical heroism in the same generation. Bell’s example ought not to be forgotten, and Andrew Chandler’s new biography will help ensure that it will not be. This is a very different book from Ronald Jasper’s rather flat earlier biography, which gave the facts but lacked the personal sympathy with Bell’s intense seriousness of purpose and self-discipline, and also lacked the deep knowledge of Bell’s archive that Chandler demonstrates—especially in his account of Bell’s work with the German resistance.

Yet it is a sad story, and its ending—if such stories ever end—is sadder still. Bell himself, writing of a dead colleague, once adapted Richard Hooker’s words to say, “Ministers of good things are like torches, a light to others, waste and destruction to themselves.” Bell’s life did not really end very happily or completely, perhaps because he was kept from the high position he deserved. He was confined to a second-rank bishopric when his mind, distinction, and experience should have taken him to the Archbishoprics of York or Canterbury, or to the almost-as-significant See of London. His great energy had less and less of an outlet. He had been consumed by his work during his life, and so had little to fall back on as retirement approached. Like so many of his generation, he began to be forgotten by a modern age that regards the past as a storehouse of mistakes, best left locked. And then he was remembered, because of a solitary, ancient, uncorroborated anonymous accusation that he had long ago sexually abused a little girl.

What was his church to do about this charge? Reasonably and understandably, it offered sympathy and money to the unnamed accuser. Given the length of time (more than sixty years ago) and the shortage of witnesses—though it failed to look for at least one such witness, who worked closely with George Bell at the time and says the allegation is absurd—this was a kind and decent thing to do. Less reasonably, it publicized the allegation in such a way as to allow several major London newspapers and the BBC to behave as if the charge were proven. Yet it bears, as Chandler says, no relation to anything else in his well-documented life. Indeed, it contradicts the personal testimony of Canon Adrian Carey, a decorated naval veteran now in his nineties but absolutely lucid, who was Bell’s personal chaplain during the years covered by the accusations, and who has said the events described by the accuser are impossible to match with his own close experience of Bell’s daily life. Yet Canon Carey, who actually lived and shared meals with Bell and his wife during this era, was neither contacted nor consulted by the church authorities, who claimed to have “found no reason to doubt” the accusations.

Why were his successors so willing to toss his reputation into this stinking pit of ultimate shame? Was it because they did not value it, and had forgotten who he was, if they had ever known? Or was it because, when they did understand the great thing he had done, they did not much like it, not being men of his sort? As I think I may have said at the beginning, principle and the Church of England do not always mix very well, and it is not only Roman Catholics who think this. And yet, whatever they do, there is still the collect for the twentieth Sunday after Trinity: “O Almighty and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done.” George Bell would have known those words, said them many times, and, I believe, meant them.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.