In November 2017, a malicious complaint with false accusations and testimony against my husband was made under the Clergy Discipline Measure, as part of the ongoing campaign of bullying to drive my husband out of the church. This complaint was finally dismissed in May 2018.
Lee Gatiss wrongly claims on page 3 of his 45-page document that “the CDM complaint was voluntarily withdrawn”, and on pages 17 and 23 incorrectly claims that the CDM complaint was not actually dismissed. The former Bishop of Derby (who presided over the CDM process) wrote to my husband to dismiss the complaint – the decision to dismiss is called No Further Action in the CDM process. The Bishop told my husband that the complaint had been “legally tested” and that he was “exonerated” – Lee Gatiss disputes that, but it is difficult to see how, as, unlike my husband, Lee was not a witness to the conversation.
The former Bishop of Derby even used the phrase “my decision to dismiss the complaint” in his letter to the complainant – see below – so it is not possible that she could be in any doubt of the Bishop’s intentions.
It is true that the complainant did not appeal the bishop’s decision, but this is different from withdrawing a complaint. Not appealing means that the complaint has already been dismissed. As the bishop made clear in his letter, an appeal was not likely to result in the complaint going to a tribunal, even if those engaged in bullying us are now trying to suggest otherwise.
Under the Church of England CDM process, when accusations are made, the member of the clergy is asked to respond by the bishop, as my husband was. Once the member of the clergy (called the “respondent”) has provided a response to the complaint, the bishop has to come to a decision. Of the courses of action available to the bishop, dismissal of the complaint is covered by ‘No further action’ – see below. (There is no separate category of ‘dismissal’.)
On page 14 of Lee Gatiss’s long report, he wrongly accuses me of misrepresenting the issues involved in my husband’s CDM. He suggests that I failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the complaints. Yet the Bishop of Derby clearly did not regard the actual content of the complaints to be serious. If he had, he could have suspended my husband as the diagram above shows – yet my husband was not suspended for the duration of the complaint. If the bishop had considered the matters to be serious, he could have suggested a penalty for my husband or referred the complaint for formal investigation and then possibly tribunal – yet no penalty was suggested for my husband and the complaint was not referred for formal investigation by the bishop. This means that the bishop did not regard the actual content of the complaints to be serious.
The bishop did suggest conciliation as a possible option, which my husband accepted, as he would want to be reconciled to a Christian brother or sister, no matter how badly he had been treated.
The complainant, however, refused to have conciliation as her stated aim was to drive my husband out of his post.
The very suggestion of conciliation by the bishop shows that he did not consider the substance of the complaint to be serious. The CDM Code of Practice makes clear that conciliation is not to be suggested in cases where the alleged misconduct, if proven, is serious.
In addition, once the complaint under the CDM had been dismissed, the former Bishop of Derby and the Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas (also the President of Church Society, no less!) issued a statement of support for my husband and I just before we went on leave to recover from the bullying. It is very unlikely that they would have issued such a statement if they had had any genuine concerns about my husband’s ministry or conduct. This discredits the claims that Lee Gatiss and Church Society have made about my husband’s ministry:
Lee Gatiss deliberately presents a very different picture in his report. Is Lee Gatiss therefore suggesting that the former Bishop of Derby and the Bishop of Maidstone / President of Church Society were being dishonest in their commendation of my husband and me?
In addition, what is often not realised is that complaints against parish clergy under the CDM are very common and the fact that a complaint is made does not mean that the member of the clergy is guilty of any misconduct. (Indeed a member of the Church Society Council who is the spouse of a member of the clergy remarked that her husband had faced three complaints under the CDM.) My husband and I are aware of many clergy who have faced complaints under the Clergy Discipline Measure. It is also very common for CDM complaints to be made by disgruntled parishioners or senior clergy against parish clergy in order to drive them out of the parish – please see research by sheldon.uk.com for further evidence of this and for the harm done to clergy through the CDM system. The process involved for clergy often causes immense distress, as it did for us. The Bishop at Lambeth Tim Thornton even declared the CDM to be “not fit for purpose”. A huge part of the problem is that only parish clergy are really held accountable – parishioners are not held accountable and senior clergy only rarely. Accountability systems only work when everybody in the system is accountable.
The evidence that I have produced above shows that Lee Gatiss’s assertions about the CDM and my husband’s ministry are baseless. Questions clearly need to be asked of Lee Gatiss and Church Society (and others) as to why they have chosen to misrepresent what happened with my husband and to make false claims. Indeed, they have published and widely circulated these false claims. As I have said before, a very common form of bullying / mobbing towards an individual by an organisation is the attempt to treat someone who has been cleared of wrongdoing as if they are guilty. Surely the repetition of these false accusations (three years after my husband was cleared of them by a legal process!) is the very definition of bullying by Church Society and others towards my husband and me?