Tag Archives: Diocese of Chichester

‘BISHOP BELL – DRESDEN’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY A. ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

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Image copyright GETTY IMAGES The bombing of Dresden created a firestorm that destroyed the centre of the city

‘DRESDEN – BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY A. ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

 

The Editor

The Daily Telegraph

London

SW1W 0DT

February 13th, 2020

 

Sir,

The article by Sinclair McKay (February 13th) on the 1945 bombing of Dresden was timely and welcome. What a pity, though, that he did not mention the most prominent wartime challenge to the British policy of Obliteration Bombing, which came from Bishop George Bell of Chichester.

In 1944, when Hamburg had been devastated the previous year and Dresden was still to suffer, Bishop Bell, a fervent anti-Nazi, questioned in the House of Lords the morality of such bombing of targets which were not primarily military. Few of his fellow bishops supported him, and he earned himself both widespread abuse but also agreement. The bravery of his stand is undeniable.

Recently, there have been shameful (and now discredited) attempts in Bell’s diocese to tarnish his reputation. Since an apology for this behaviour is still not forthcoming, it is more than ever necessary that we are reminded of George Bell’s courage and integrity, both in wartime and beyond it.

 

Barry A. Orford

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The Revd Dr Barry  A. Orford

Sept 23 2019 – European Links and the Coburg Conference – Chichester [Oct 10-14 2019]

https://web.archive.org/web/20171228223404/http://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/about-us/european-links.shtml

European Links

The Diocese of Chichester has links with the United Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, the Lutheran Evangelical Church (EKD) District of Bayreuth, Bavaria, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bamberg, Bavaria. Regionalbischof Dr Dorothea Greiner of Bayreuth, and Domkapitular Professor Wolfgang Klausnitzer are Canons of Honour of Chichester Cathedral.

The biennial “Coburg Conference” brings together representatives of the churches of Chichester, Berlin, Bayreuth and Bamberg; and the biennial “Feuerstein Conference” is a meeting of seminarians, theological students and curates. There are musical exchanges and visits involving Chichester Cathedral. There are also partnerships between many parishes in the Diocese and Catholic and Lutheran parishes in Bavaria as well as Berlin and other parts of Germany.

The Cathedral’s link with Chartres was established as part of the civic twinning between the two cities. In 2003 the Bishop of Chartres preached in Chichester Cathedral and the Bishop of Chichester preached in Chartres Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Seffrid Guild made cushions for the chairs of the Bishop and the eucharistic celebrant in Chartres Cathedral. The Dean & Rector of Chartres Cathedral, The Very Reverend Canon Dominique Aubert, is a Canon of Honour of Chichester. As with the German links, there are regular musical visits and exchanges.

July 26 2019 – “The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns” – Canon Paul Oestreicher [Church Times Letter – 26/07/2019]

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“The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns”

From Canon Paul Oestreicher

Sir, — Reading your General Synod report (12 July) leaves me close to despair. While England is in a state of social, political, and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation, our still would-be National Church seems very largely occupied with its own affairs and its own guilt. Oblivious to the mortal dangers, we are busy doing repairs on our leaky vessel, as Britain runs on to the rocks, come Hallowe’en.

Allow me an interpolation from the year of my birth, in a small middle-class German town, in 1931. I know history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening. The mainly middle-class citizenry felt insecure, disillusioned with self-seeking party politicians at war with each other, and drawn towards a charismatic power-hungry unconventional leader, promising them whatever they wanted to hear.

In my region, his Brown Shirts were easily elected (think the Brexit Party) by those on right and left and by most churchgoers (the promised new order, a godsend), just as I was born. Two years later, Hitler took absolute power. Dissenters were traitors, (think Daily Mail). Who was to blame for all that was wrong? The Jews, of course, and bankers or Communists (think immigrants or Islam or Brussels).

Brexit is not, as — with some exceptions — our hierarchy leaves us free to think, a matter of personal opinion but a national tragedy. Brazen lies have traduced a small majority of citizens into seeking a divorce from the admittedly imperfect peace project that is the European Union.

To leave should, from the start, have been recognised as an economic, social, political, and not least spiritual disaster. See the rise in hate crimes. “Great Britain First” is a surrender of the values we have claimed to cherish, an open and welcoming society, tolerant of difference, committed to human rights, protecting minorities and cherishing the natural environment that sustains us.

To turn our back on Europe’s soul is to abandon a great part of our own heritage; for everything that is good and bad about Europe is good and bad about us. The self-centred cliques that are in the process of wrecking both of the political parties that have been the mainstay of British tradition is a calamity for which others cannot be blamed.

Last weekend, concerned citizens, alas without a recognisable church component, demonstrated against the imposition of an untrustworthy Prime Minister. The German churches failed to warn in time. Could not the small minority that the Church of England now is, still help to turn the tide?

PAUL OESTREICHER
Brighton

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Boris Johnson and a warning from history

I pray for our PM and hope that I am needlessly crying wolf, writes Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher, who fled the Nazis as a child. Plus letters from Professor Bob Brecher and Pat Kennedy
 1931: National socialist demonstration in Berlin. The banner reads ‘Only a strong Germany can provide employment to its people’. Photograph: Imagno/Getty Images

I was born in 1931 in the small German town of Meiningen, famous for its theatre, much like Stratford-upon-Avon. Its mainly middle-class citizens were deeply disillusioned, tired of the infighting of the political parties. Germany seemed to be in a state of social and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation. People were drawn to a charismatic, unconventional power-hungry leader who read their minds and promised what they wanted to hear. I know history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening.

The single issue was the exceptionalism (Opinion, 29 July), the superiority of the German race. The good, mainly churchgoing citizens easily voted his Brown Shirts onto the regional council (think the Brexit party). Two years later they voted nationally in sufficient numbers to enable Hitler to seize total power. It was all perfectly legal, too late to effectively protest. Dissent was now treason (think the Daily Mail). My father’s parents were Jews. Outcasts now (think our non-Brits), a few years later we had no choice but to flee and my grandmother to take poison. I pray for our PM and hope that I am needlessly crying wolf.
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Brighton

 

The Church of England’s ecumenical legacy in Europe is being airbrushed out of history by the totalitarian mindset of Brexiteers.
Dr Dorothea Greiner, German Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral’s Canon of Honour, is determined that legacy is not side-lined within the Diocese of Chichester and beyond.
The next Coburg Conference will be taking place in the Cathedral City this October, and the European delegates – including the Cathedral Chapter – will focus on the ecumenical vision of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell, in the light of today’s political situation.
Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society

June 30 2019 – “Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting” – BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

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Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting

Bishop of Burnley calls for Mandatory Reporting

Thinking Anglicans

See our earlier article Senior Blackburn clergy reflect on IICSA reports on Chichester Diocese and Peter Ball.

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme carried an interview by Donna Birrell with the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North (starts at 32 minutes, 45 seconds).

BBC Radio Cornwall has a longer version of this interview, listen over here.

A transcript of this (longer) interview is copied below the fold.

Transcript of full interview with Bishop of Burnley, Philip North. (Shorter interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4, longer version on BBC Radio Cornwall.)
Jesus puts a child in front of the disciples as a model of discipleship, Jesus cared for children, put them at the centre of His community….and yet ….. as a church we’ve been complicit in appalling acts of abuse and of cover-up of children and I think we need a spirit of repentance now and to change the language and think through the structural changes this might entail.
DB : It’s very interesting you say that because you also make the point that this is about the whole Church and it’s about today…..
I do not doubt that things are infinitely better than they were 10/20 years ago in terms of training of clergy and parishes and safeguarding policies and procedures and good structures and systems in place, BUT to try and think that everything is historical and there are no longer vulnerabilities is just the kind of complacency which allows manipulative people to abuse children. We MUST look very honestly at the Church today a see what further steps we need to take and I think there’s a whole series of structural changes that we still need to consider, which is what we’re pointing to in this letter.
DB : Well you certainly have, in fact, in the letter, and I quote the letter, you say ” Does a de-centralised structure with independent parishes, diocese and cathedrals, create gaps that manipulative people can hide in? So therefore, Bishop Philip, would you be in favour of an independent safeguarding structure and mandatory reporting?
I think in terms of an independent safeguarding structure, that is where we need to have a very serious debate and personally, I would, because separate structures in each diocese don’t allow checks and balances that are needed and it means that safeguarding teams can always be prey to budgeting cuts. There is no evidence of that, but it is going to be a temptation in straightened financial times. It seems to me that an independent national safeguarding team with locally deployed safeguarding officers working in dioceses but answerable to the national team, is going to provide the kind of checks and balances that we need.
I think in some churches there is excellent practice, in others, safeguarding is still a matter of ticking boxes and we need to be very clear that every single local church is absolutely safe for children and families. And I think also we need to look at the way we engage our clergy, so does common tenure allow the level of accountability that is required now?
Is the Clergy Discipline Measure efficient and speedy and fit for purpose? These are big areas that we need to look at.
Evasive talk of culture change just won’t do, because culture is determined by appointments and by structures and by decisions and that is what we’ve got to look at.
DB : Well indeed, in fact the letter refers to “vague and evasive talk of culture change.” So you’re also suggesting that there is an inappropriate culture of deference to clergy, especially senior clergy, which has resulted in “cover-up” and I’m quoting your letter again, and the voices of the vulnerable being silenced?
That’s a significant concern. I think clergy are often unaware of the power they hold, but actually especially senior clergy, occupy extremely influential powerful positions. Abuse is all about the abuse of power and I think we need to be very aware of the power we hold. And I think we need to be much more serious about the checks and balances on power – an unhealthy clericalism, an unhealthy deference to clergy, especially in senior positions, undermines that.
DB : Very interesting. that you as a diocese have chosen to write this letter, it’s been signed and put together by all the senior clergy  within the diocese…and a few weeks back, other Bishops, including the Bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull, also came out and was scathing in response to the Independent Inquiry report into the Diocese of Chichester and in her words, she said that that culture of tribalism and clericalism still exists today. So it’s quite something that senior figures such as yourself are beginning now to speak out against the culture within the Church, but do you think you will be listened to?
Yes, I think we are. What I’d love to see is that people are beginning to see survivors not as a nuisance that needs to be managed, but people speaking with a prophetic voice to the Church. And I think they need to listen to the voices of survivors and hear very clearly what they’re saying to us. It’s absolutely essential. It’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of priestly ministry, it’s the voices that are most worth hearing are the ones that are the most difficult and the most grating. Those important voices, I think if we can hear those who have been abused multipley, because survivors have been abused by a priest or a church leader initially, but then the slowness of the church response, a culture of cover-up, all these things re-abuse and re-abuse and those are the people that I think we now need to hold in the centre of the Church, just as Jesus held that child at the centre of His community.
DB : Why do you think its taken so long to reach this point then, when senior figures such as yourself will actually speak out about it?
I think we’ve been ashamed of our past, I think we’ve blamed and scapegoated perpetrators, rather than thinking about our own structures and about our own culpability and responsibility. I think this is an issue the Church of England has not wanted to face up to and it’s high time we did.
DB : Right, well Bishop Philip, let’s go back to the culture and the structure of the Church, because survivors do indeed say that the process of bringing a case against the Church for sexual abuse is so damaging that it is almost a type of re-abuse. They talk about the process of going through the insurers, of going through the forensic psychiatric reporting which many survivors, I’ve spoken to, have said it is so damaging that effectively it has caused mental health problems, in some cases, it has also caused them to consider taking their own lives, how can the Church try to look again at the way it deals with survivors and their claims?|
I am embarrassed by some of the stories that I’ve heard from survivors – people being told they have a pre-disposition to mental health problems, people being told that the priest who abused them was not acting in his capacity as a priest at that time. People being told they are simply chasing the money – all of this is re-abusive. And I’m embarrassed to be honest, to be part of a Church which has said those things to people. And I think one thing that IICSA, I hope, will look at clearly is the relationship between the Church and its professional advisers – its lawyers and its insurers- to ensure that what comes first is the pastoral response, so survivors are treated properly as victims, so that their voices are heard and they have much easier access to the compensation that is their due.
DB : But there’s a lot of money involved isn’t there? the whole structure and the whole insurance culture s worth millions and millions of pounds. Do you really think that in reality, the Church will go some way to reforming this system?
Compensation needs to be moderated to the level of what happened to somebody, but if church leaders have been responsible for ruining someone’s life, then there needs to be financial compensation and that needs to be generous and appropriate and if that has financial implications for us as a Church, then that’s something we have to swallow, I’m afraid.
DB : And will you be asking the Church as well and in the light of IICSA indeed, to perhaps look again at the way it responds to survivors, particularly with regard to the insurers?
What I’ve read from some survivors is alarming and I do hope that those in those positions will look seriously at those relationships.
DB : OK and we touched upon a little earlier the Clergy Discipline Measure. You suggest that it needs reforming, what would you like to see done to that?
I think it needs to be sped up hugely and I think we need to be much more aware of voices of survivors who are involved in often very long processes. From the point of view of a Bishop, it’s a very, very difficult process to implement, it’s very slow and it’s particularly difficult where there is ambiguity, where the level of evidence is uncertain, where you’re sure in your heart that things aren’t quite right.
DB : And as you mentioned, the Independent Inquiry is about to hear another two weeks of evidence into the way the Anglican Church handles allegations of child sexual abuse. How hopeful are you that its findings and recommendations will lead to a safer Church?
I’m sure there will be critical engagement with whatever they find, I’m sure there’ll be proper debate, but I think the mood is changing. I think in the Blackburn Diocese, it’s interesting that it was not difficult to get the six senior clergy to sign up to a letter which said some quite far-reaching things and I’m hearing other Bishops and other senior leaders speak similarly, so I think the culture is changing . I think we’ll be very receptive to what IICSA has to say.
DB : How much notice will the powers that be..for example, Church House and Lambeth Palace, how much notice do they take of something like this do you think?
I think they listen very, very seriously and we look to see what happens. It would be good to see perhaps other dioceses writing similarly and responding similarly to keep the debate going, but the response we’ve had so far, has been a positive

June 4 2019 – Revd Nick Flint – Rector of Rusper

STATEMENT DELETION – 2/10/2019

 

TIMELINE

1992/3 – Ball resigns from Gloucester – “The Jimmy Savile of the Church of England – Ball conned and duped everyone – including Bishop Bell” – RWS

2012 – Flint provides Warner [and Police] with info about James Francis. Neither are interested, it seems.

2015 – James Francis alerts Police to the extent of Ball’s abuse. Ball pleads guilty. Flint was unaware of extent of Ball’s abuse. Flint close friend with Vickery House. Flint’s meeting with Warner.

2016 – Pre-Gibb Harrington police investigation. Flint approached by Police for information about James Francis. Francis arrested.

2017 – Gibb Report. Flint now fully aware of extent of Ball’s abuse. Gibb very reliant on the testimony of James Francis (who felt Francis was “unreliable” and said so]

 

 

Nick, I note with concern your comment: “In my evidence I also record my repeated concern that as recently as 2016 Martin Warner had not passed on to the Police information I gave him about a suspect.”

Nobody has picked up on this. Not surprisingly the discussion has focussed on the finer details of patronage, as this was the subject of the article.

It’s troubling if any bishop is not acting on information reliably given by a member of clergy or officer within the diocese. And astonishing really that after many layers of failure and cover-up in this diocese have been brought into daylight – this lack of response might still be happening under a current bishop.

I hope the situation has now moved forward a considerable pace since the time of your statement. I’d be surprised if it hasn’t. I imagine you have had help from the IICSA lawyers to ensure a definite response. To my mind the bishop’s inaction would be grounds for a CDM. But that piece of structure has been brought into considerable disrepute with dismissals within the purple circle, time limits, ‘floods’, etc.

Two CDMs brought against Bishop Wallace Benn by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group (DSAG) were dismissed on the basis of 12 month time limits. It is worth reading the IICSA summary to be reminded just how dysfunctional Bishop Benn’s approach was. And startling to see how easily the time-bar protects bad practice.

https://www.iicsa.org.uk/reports/anglican-chichester-peter-ball/case-study-1-diocese-chichester/b6-complaints-under-clergy-discipline-measure

IICSA says the CDM “is not a suitable tool to deal with ongoing issues of risk management.” That seems a right assessment. But in the absence of anything else that might hold bishops to account, it’s all there is. Sir Roger Singleton brought a recent CDM against the Bishop of Chester for failing to respond to a letter ten years ago. If there’s any consistency, that will be dismissed by the Clergy Discipline Tribunal. And the Measure descend into more of a farce than it already is. One can only assume that Sir Roger’s reason for bringing this CDM was to highlight the farce and demonstrate the total collapse of the CDM. And force the church to address glaring unaccountability.

At the very least, Bishop Martin Warner should be asked to explain his reasons for the inaction. I’m not surprised the media did not pick up on this at the time, as there are so many documents on the IICSA website. Unless a witness lands in front of Counsel in a hearing, much goes past the media who tend to report the ‘big stuff’. The material on IICSA might be source for historians and theologians in the future….

It charts a church in breakage, a gospel in collapse.

Gilo

June 1 2019 – “Patronage and Power Abuse in the Church” – ‘Surviving Church’ – Stephen Parsons

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Patronage and Power Abuse in the Church

Patronage and Power Abuse in the Church

While studying the life and times of Joan of Arc for a lecture I was giving, I was reminded of one distinctive feature of Western mediaeval society.  The whole of that society was held together through a complicated system of patronage.  Power was not only possessed by those who commanded the most soldiers, it was also exercised by those who possessed the legal and traditional right to put others in positions of power.  To possess the power of patronage was to control others and to be the focus of influence right across society.  Joan of Arc was only able to make headway in her short meteoric career having persuaded individuals possessing the power of patronage to back her. 
Patronage, the right to raise up or cast down another person, is still a power that we find in our society.  The Church of England is one contemporary institution that still openly exercises the power of patronage in its affairs.  Arguably this manifestation of patronage is less salient than it was in the days of Jane Austen when Mr Collins, in Pride and Prejudice,used all his charm to flatter his patron, Lady De Bourgh for the right to occupy a particular vicarage and the substantial income that went with it.  My old parish in Gloucestershire was under the patronage of a Cambridge college and its endowed income of £800 was sufficient in Victorian times to keep a vicar in style.  Other parishes were worth a quarter of this and the vicars who occupied lesser posts scrambled to survive, like Mr Quiverful in the Trollope novels, in a permanent state of genteel poverty.  It was no fun to live in a falling down vicarage with inadequate resources to heat the building or keep out the rain.
The traditional power of patronage that was exercised by bishops and others over the parishes of England was arguably the greatest source of power that they possessed.  Keeping on the right side of this power was perhaps the only way clergy had to escape out of abject poverty into a position of relative affluence.  A black mark against your name could mark your record for ever and prevent you ever finding a post which would keep you in reasonable comfort.  Clergy were rightly in awe of those who had this power to create or destroy a career and a livelihood.
Anthony Trollope’s novels are also, in many ways, an exploration of the way that the exercise of patronage power was exercised and experienced in Victorian times.  Today things have changed for the better.  In the first place, stipends of the full-time clergy below the level of Archdeacons and Deans are largely the same.  When I was ordained fifty years ago, there were vicars in some parishes earning seven times the level of their curates and living in far superior accommodation.   Inflation has destroyed these differentials of income.  A second change today is that posts are now mostly advertised in the church press and the appointments system is far more open.  A transparent interview process takes place for most posts, even for bishops.  But, as a recent letter in the Church Times points out, the exercise of patronage is an issue that is still a live one as we ask questions about how Bishop Peter Ball was elevated to Gloucester in 1991.  It transpires that two other dioceses, Norwich and Portsmouth, had both refused to consider his candidature on the grounds of Ball’s known predilection for the company of young men.  The CT letter from the retired bishop, Colin Buchanan, hints at political interference in this appointment.  Patronage on the part of the ‘great and the good’ was thus apparently allowed to override normal checks and balances.  To become a diocesan bishop in 1991 did require impeccable references.  One of those who provided such a reference had to be his Diocesan bishop, the then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp.  Are we to believe that Bishop Kemp had no insight or knowledge of the rumours around Peter Ball?  Kemp’s legacy of having allowed Bishop Ball’s translation to Gloucester and later obstructing the police enquiries into his conduct have left a mark against the bishop’s historical legacy which is unlikely ever to be erased.
The power of patronage in the church may be indeed weakening in the way that democratic processes reach further into the management of the church.  And yet, even as it weakens, we need to have a full awareness of how important a role patronage has played in the church in the very recent past.  In some dioceses all posts are advertised, even for senior clergy such as archdeacons and residentiary canons.   Other dioceses, such as Chichester, appear to advertise relatively few of their posts.  Most appointments seem to be done ‘in-house’.  For one clergyman at least, this near total episcopal control over livings in Chichester has been experienced as an abuse of power.
Among the many documents released by IICSA in the course of its hearings was a witness statement by one Fr. Nicholas Flint, a Chichester incumbent. His testimony strongly criticises the way he felt he had been treated by the diocese.  His complaints directly and indirectly touch on issues of patronage power.  Flint had for a long time felt drawn with others in the diocese to support Peter Ball after he was cautioned in 1992.  The eventual conviction of Ball in 2015 and the revelation of the full extent of his offending left him and other supporters in considerable confusion and dismay.  His self-description was that of being ‘collateral damage’ to the whole sad affair. Eventually he obtained an appointment to see the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, in October 2015 and he hoped to receive some pastoral care and support.  He needed some understanding for all he had suffered in trying to respond to local perpetrators and victims who were part of the wider abuse scandals in the diocese.  He was also looking for a possible move within the diocese after being in the same post from 21 years. 
The Bishop stated, in Flint’s words, that ‘he did not have anything for me in his diocese’. 
Whatever else was being communicated, this declaration by the Bishop is of interest because it indicates that the Bishop regarded himself at the sole dispenser of patronage in the diocese.  This old-fashioned approach to the filling of appointments also runs counter, according to Fr Flint, to one of the recommendations of the Archbishop’s Visitation to Chichester Diocese a few years earlier.  I have no figures on the dioceses where a bishop could make such a statement about appointments, but I would hope that these dioceses are now firmly in the minority.  Centralised control of the power of patronage may be one of the factors that had helped to create the Chichester ‘scandals’ in the first place.  It is strange as well as regrettable that the current Bishop of the diocese has no apparent insight into the possibility that a secretive structure from which outsiders are excluded is also one where malefactors can most easily hide.   The old-fashioned feudal attitudes which exemplified the ‘reign’ of Bishop Kemp have no place in the 21st century.  The current Bishop of Chichester should be making every effort to transform that culture in every possible way.  The interaction with Fr Flint in 2015 suggests that the old culture of patronage and patriarchal power was then still very much alive in the Chichester Diocese. 
This blog invites the reader to become better sensitised to the existence of a silent power in the Church.  This is present in church patronage.  When used corruptly, patronage power can quickly create situations of abuse, secrecy and rampant bullying.  In the case of the Chichester Diocese, we would claim that any continued exercise of an unlimited patronage by a bishop over a whole diocese is, in 2019, something now totally inappropriate.  The recent IICSA report on the recent history of their diocese, now in the in-tray of the Bishops and senior staff at Chichester, should surely be driving forward a new openness.  Is the Diocese of Chichester to be a place that resists, as the Bishop of Burnley puts it, ‘deep-seated cultural change’? The episode that took place account of the Bishop of Chichester’s study a mere 3 ½ years ago is an example of reactionary attitudes that have no place in a post-IICSA church.  This post-IICSA church is watching and waiting to see evidence of ‘learnt lessons’, transparency and a new penitential atmosphere involving real care by all bishops for their clergy. 

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. 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 the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

10 thoughts on “Patronage and Power Abuse in the Church”

  1. Thank you for pointing this out in the case of Chichester Diocese. Patronage by those who wish to exclude women priests is still prevailing and controlling appointments in many rural parishes. I wonder if, when our present incumbent leaves, the parish will be granted a fair and open access to candidates from ALL the Church of England, not just those who belong to ‘The Society’? St Hilda should rise up and crown them with her episcopal staff!

  2. There is unofficial patronage, too. Even a humble vicar can put someone forward for training, and what they say will be believed. I witnessed a situation where someone was put forward for basic training as a lay minister with a whole raft of things they were supposed to have done, working with young people here and there signed off by the incumbent. When in fact it was all completely fictional. And of course, reverse patronage. Someone says you are not suitable, and that’s that. Accuse a cleric, and you are a priori not believed. If you are accused by a cleric, they are.

  3. Thank you for sharing my story. In my evidence I also record my repeated concern that as recently as 2016 Martin Warner had not passed on to the Police information I gave him about a suspect.

    Since giving my evidence he has made one other attempt, fortunately bungled, to remove me from my one remaining supra parochial responsibility in the diocese.

    At my age I have another 7- 13 years in full time ministry, but the experiences have been so traumatic that I cannot now face the thought of moving on in ministry. I am blessed to be in a supportive village and to be affirmed by my parishioners and other priestly colleagues.

    1. Nick, I found your statement to IICSA painful to read. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a rough time. I’m glad your parish is supportive, at least that’s one positive.

      I’m from Chichester Diocese; Gordon Rideout was my vicar and Peter Ball my bishop. I don’t want to go into the story here but I too regard myself as collateral damage.

      And yes, what you say about patronage is absolutely true, and still goes on.

  4. I dont know the facts of the Chichester case that you refer to but I am aware of this sort of ‘patronage’ being operated in other dioceses and across a variety of levels of seniority. This aids and abets the clericalism that is rife in the Church of England much to it’s shame. As a state institution in receipt of state and public funds as well as the infamous seats in the House of Lords that it holds, it is high time that this self serving institution was brought to book and excluded from these ‘perks’ until its house, or houses, are in order in the same way that we would expect from any other national or local government body or associated quango. The fact that the state church, or ‘ministry of religion’ is allowed to be exempt from the equality act is laughable, but very scary at the same time.

    1. I’d agree about the exemptions from the equality legislation! But isn’t a government or state organisation, nor does it get government money. Only the tax breaks any charity gets. The seats in the House of Lords are because some church legislation has to go to the House. So the Bishops have to have a say. The Chief Rabbi and various other religious Heads also have seats. It’s all very odd, I grant you.

      1. I think what I mean by state/public funding is the historical financial endowments that make up the basis of the CofE’s financial wealth including things such as Queen Anne’s Bounty, the land that it owns, and schemes like the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, as well as its large receipt of lottery money.

        It is the established church of the state and is therefore intrinsically linked to state bodies and it is through this that it has 26 Lords Spiritual, this is not offered to any other faith or Christian body although as you say the current chief rabbi is a Lord Temporal.

        I think any other body that received these advantages would be expected to comply with all employment, equality, bullying, pay and other legislation that somehow the CofE manages to navigate around.

        1. Wouldn’t disagree, broadly. Saying that the clergy are self employed also means they end up working ridiculous hours. Exploitation, basically.

  5. Thank you for this. The single best article – by far – that I have encountered on the subject of preferment and its origins is by the extremely distinguished student of the medieval church, A. Hamilton Thompson (1873-1962): https://www.le.ac.uk/lahs/downloads/1941-2/1941-42%20(22)%201-32%20Hamilton%20Thompson.pdf

    Historically, the patronage of the bishops of Chichester was very slender – for example, the 1841 Clergy List indicates that they had the gift of only thirty benefices (though four of these were plural) outside the cathedral dignities in a diocese with approximately 320 (or so) parishes extant at that time. I haven’t done a calculation of the current patronage rights of the bishops – inflated naturally by the foundation of many more recent parishes and the disposal or exchange of advowsons by former lay or corporate patrons – but thirty livings was obviously a relatively slender base on which to start, though not as extreme as the bishops of Peterborough, who had the gift of only four parochial cures in their own diocese, or Llandaff (five) or Oxford (six) (within the legal structures prevailing in Wales prior to 1921 and the expansion of the Oxford diocese beyond the confines of the eponymous county).

    Also, it is worth noting the relative financial distress of the Chichester diocese, occasioned in part by the fact that it still has far too many two or three parish benefices in rural situations, where benefices in excess of ten are now routine in nearby dioceses like Canterbury and Winchester.

    It’s therefore possible that when Dr Warner says “we have nothing for you”, what he might mean is that, given the way in which benefices need to be amalgamated in order to reduce the stipendiary headcount (and thus relieve pressure on the budget), and the pressing economic need to discount certain forms of churchmanship in order to effect any such rationalisation, the preferment cupboard is bare.

    Of course, it is also possible that there is something else going on, and that having certain associations can lead people, however blamelessly and unwittingly, into a sort of purdah. I have read Mr Flint’s witness statement, which speaks for itself. There is no biography in Crockford. However, I note that he is a long-serving incumbent of Rusper, between Crawley and Horsham (which you have pictured), and where I attended a service in 2009 as part of a pilgrimage I have been undertaking. Until recently it was in plurality with Colgate, where I have also attended a service. To my knowledge Rusper might now be the only rural single parish benefice in the diocese, absent Cowden (following the recent closures of Holtye and Hammerwood) where the incumbent has been part time; until 2015 Heyshott was also on its own, but it was led by an SSM. Knowledge of this will, I suppose, create its own pressures.

    Richard W. Symonds [unpublished]

    This disturbing case of the use and abuse of Church power has other implications. For example: If Archbishop Welby [and Bishop Warner] insist there is still a “significant cloud” hanging over the deceased Bishop Bell accused of sexual abuse, even though the accusations have been proved to be unfounded, then that Archbishop and Bishop are falsely accusing the deceased Bishop and thus is an abuse of power on their part – as well as breaking the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.