One of the most misleading aspects of Lee Gatiss’s recent report is that it falsely claims that my husband and I were asking Church Society to intervene with the parish and with the diocese. This is untrue, but it has confused readers of the report.
The actual issues I wanted Church Society to address were 1) The dishonest and bullying behaviour of the President of Church Society, Rod Thomas; and 2) The behaviour of the Church Society leaders themselves towards me when I tried to raise the issues about Rod Thomas. Church Society could and should have addressed these matters.
I first approached Church Society in 2018 to raise the issue of the President of Church Society’s behaviour. The Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas had decided to become involved in the situation at Stapenhill, and my husband and I had been left shocked and distressed by his conduct. Although I described the situation in the parish for the sake of context, Church Society was clear that it was the conduct of Rod Thomas that was the issue, as the email below (sent to the Chair of Church Society Trust, Dick Farr) shows.
We were very clear that we wanted to raise issues about the behaviour of Rod Thomas. It was Church Society who wanted to deflect the issues and make it about us and the parish, as these emails with Dick Farr, Chair of Church Society Trust show. As the email distribution list clearly shows, Lee Gatiss was well aware of this, as were other senior Church Society leaders. So why, throughout his report, does he misrepresent the reasons why we approached Church Society?
In addition, the Church Society senior leaders’ own emails amongst themselves show their awareness that the conduct of Rod Thomas was the matter being raised and they acted to protect him – his role is important to their raison d’être for remaining in the Church of England.
Lee Gatiss writes in his report: “Rod Thomas is the Bishop of Maidstone, and was clearly acting here in that capacity and not in his capacity as Honorary President of Church Society. So it is not the business of Church Society to respond to this point.” It is shocking that a Christian in Lee Gatiss’s position operates in this way. As Christians we simply don’t compartmentalise people’s behaviour like that – Christian leaders are called to have integrity. Rod Thomas is President of Church Society and if his behaviour is inappropriate in other areas of responsibility that he has, that should be a matter of serious concern for the senior leaders of Church Society.
Lee Gatiss also claims throughout his report that Rod Thomas is only accountable to the Archbishop of Canterbury and not to Church Society, but this is disingenuous. Of course, the only person who can formally discipline Rod Thomas as a bishop in the Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, the Church Society leaders could certainly address misbehaviour on the part of Rod Thomas by making their views clear to him and the person he has mistreated, or asking him to apologise and put things right, or even by asking him to stand down as President of Church Society. It is completely untrue for Lee Gatiss to say that the Church Society leaders could not have addressed the situation with Rod Thomas. Rod Thomas could easily have provided answers in the report to the points I had raised, and Church Society could have asked him to do so.
Secondly, we have long been trying to raise the issue of the Church Society senior leaders’ behaviour towards us and Lee Gatiss is well aware of this. I have written elsewhere about how I was left traumatised when I tried in 2018 to raise the conduct of Rod Thomas with Dick Farr, Lee Gatiss, William Taylor, Mark Burkill and Jason Ward. I have written about their behaviour towards me on the Surviving Church blog. http://survivingchurch.org/2019/12/05/conservative-evangelical-bullying-a-case-study/
In 2019, I tried to raise both the behaviour of Rod Thomas and the other leaders with Andrew Towner, the Chair of Church Society, but to no avail, as I have already explained in another article on this website. Lee Gatiss falsely claims in his report that Church Society did have a complaints policy and procedure in place, but this is also untrue. The emails below between Andrew Towner, Lee Gatiss and others, show that no such policy existed in 2019 when I was trying to get these matters addressed.
(Emails obtained by me through a Subject Access Request, redacted in black by CS)
Lee Gatiss is well aware from material already in the public domain that I was not asking Church Society to intervene with the diocese or the parish. Nevertheless, their recent report shows very clearly that they are intervening in the parish, despite claiming that they have no power to do anything! Lee Gatiss is well aware that I was raising the issue of the senior leaders’ behaviour, which they certainly have the power to address.
A question to ask of the 45-page report would be why Lee Gatiss and Church Society have knowingly misrepresented the reasons I approached them in their recently published and widely circulated report. Their aim would appear to be to confuse readers (which has happened – we have received many comments from people to that effect) and to deflect attention from the behaviour of the Church Society senior leaders.