The Truth about Christchurch, Oxford and the Dean

It was almost inevitable that, in the wake of differences of opinion on matters of Anglican Church Polity and governance, ther should appear a myriad of internet websites with names purporting to relate to their institutional, theological, philosophical or moralistic propriety. One such, in the Church of England (shown below), for example, is put out under the heading of ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ – so that one might expect the degree of episcopal gravity that ought proceed from such a bulwark of the Founding of the Church of England. In this article, we see ‘Cranmer’ at his best; critiquing (in an excellent piece of satirical writing) the actions of a small group of militant Oxford Dons who are part of the Governing Body of Christchurch, Oxford, who are currently hell-bent on getting rid of the incumbent Dean.

Another blog, which arose out of the Conservative Evangelical movement within the C, of E. which is dedicated to that ethos is called ‘Mainstream Anglican’ – a title which might lead observers to really think that it encapsulated the ethos of ‘Orthodox’ Anglicansm that its hosts would want people to believe means the propagation of Conservative Evangelical views on, for instance, gender and sexuality. These issues are currently being contested with the insights of those who feel the Church has gone ‘too far’ with the accommodation of LGBTQ people into the ministry and membership of the Church. Here is definitely a case of mistaken identification. What many of us see as a justice issue on the Church is here being manifestly misrepresented under the title ‘Mainsteam Anglican’ – as if the majority of Anglican Provincial Churches around the world are Conservative/Evangelical whereas, in fact, most western Anglicans are resolved to free the Church from the hitherto insitutionalised sins of homophobia and sexism! What is being called ‘Mainstream Anglican’ might more truly be called ‘SLIPSTREAM’

Those of us Anglicans around the world who have fought for the human rights of LGBTQ people – in the belief that such people are already part and parcel of the Church family, and need to be accepted as they are, without manipulation by ‘Gay Conversion Therapy” (which is one of the tools of the moralistic disaffected; that they hope will not be banned by the British Government in the near future) – have a valid objection to other websites that do NOT reflect the breadth of understanding of the Church on such contentious issues. Anglican were once understood to be a ‘Broad Church’ – a Church which could -without rancour – be understood to contain a broad variety of Churchmanship without compromising the basic message of the Gospel as ‘Good News’ for all who seek to celebrate the Love and Mercy of God.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


Archbishop Cranmer
Martyn Percy dean christ church oxford mad unfit to govern


Martyn Percy is ‘mad and unfit to govern’ Christ Church, Oxford

Let us consider a scenario in which the governing body of an academic institution takes an intense dislike to their teetotal principal and head, and their only mechanism for getting rid of him is if he were found to be drunk and disorderly. Members of the governing body write to one another, imagining how they might ply him with alcohol: two could hold him down while another forces a tube into his mouth to funnel a whole bottle of gin down his throat. There are emails, too, fantasising about injecting him with pure alcohol.

Let us then consider that a coterie of that governing body invite him round for drinks and lace his orange juice with vodka. He drinks two, suspects something, and makes an excuse to leave. The coterie all say he slurred a word or two. Disciplinary proceedings follow under an independent and highly qualified professional, who finds against the governing body: even if true, slurring a few words doesn’t amount to ‘disorderly’.

Let us then consider that the head is suspended for a few months regardless, in the hope that the isolation and humiliation might drive him to drink. It doesn’t, so the suspension goes on and on in order to induce mental and emotional distress and hopeful susceptibility to finding comfort in alcohol. The governing body send him a ‘Get Well Soon’ case of wine every month, without fail. One night he is seen driving his car, and a member of the governing body calls the police to report him for drink driving. He is arrested, and undergoes various tests. He is found to be perfectly sober, and released.

Let us then consider that the coterie of governors engage the police and an associated institution to investigate an allegation that the head appeared drunk when he touched the hair of a member of staff. The police investigate, but there is no evidence for the claim. The associated institution investigates, and determines also that the claim has no substance.

The years pass without any drunkenness or disorderliness.

The head of this academic institution then writes a piece of academic prose, which talks of the effects of alcohol on society and on individuals, with family breakdown, personal debt, aggression, self-disclosure, and sexual adventuresomeness. Some junior members read this and are disturbed by it, feeling somehow threatened by the darkness and creepiness conveyed. They wonder if it is in any sense an expression of autobiography, or worse, a perverse and much longed-for empathy. They ask the previously associated institution to put out a statement that the writing is ‘inappropriate’, which the governing body interprets as disorderliness.

Let us then consider that lawyers are then engaged to reinterpret the mechanism for riddance: ‘drunk and disorderly’ may extend to being drunk on the Holy Spirit, with the impression of occasional extreme elation in moments of worship or irrational serenity in prayer. Reams of legal paperwork are sent to the head, demanding theological exegesis and psychological explanations of how his inner peace and tenacity are any different in effect from being intoxicated and a cause of some considerable institutional trouble. They summon two medical professionals to determine guilt, and the head is instructed to produce a qualified professional by the end of the week to argue his case, or one will be appointed for him.

This is where the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Rev’d Martyn Percy, now finds himself. Having endured dark months and desperate years of bullying, slander, trumped-up investigations and fabrications of allegations, all to no avail, he now stands accused of being “mad and unfit to govern“.

For the avoidance of doubt, Martyn Percy is teetotal; not remotely given to public disorderliness or personal chaos at all.

Note the ‘Related Topics’ on the left of the Telegraph‘s page: ‘University of Oxford’ and ‘Sexual Harassment’. These are the terms which now hang around Martyn Percy’s name: an academic smeared by sexual impropriety and unwanted intimate advances.

So you drive a man to the depths of despair, with indelible stains on his character and personal integrity, subjecting him to an onslaught of oppression, including enforced isolation, the public impugning of his reputation, and personal attacks resulting in life-changing injury causing him to be signed off from work sick with severe trauma. And then you argue that he is “unfit to govern”.

They couldn’t get Martyn Percy on “conduct of immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature“.

They couldn’t get him even when they manipulated a compliant Church of England.

They couldn’t get him on breeches of ‘safeguarding’.

They couldn’t get him on sexual harassment or being any kind of sex pest.

They couldn’t get him by reporting him to the Thames valley Police and once again to the Church of England.

They couldn’t get him by conspiring to impugn his academic writing.

So they resort to a medical investigation to assess whether he is mentally fit to govern. The Telegraph has apparently seen a copy of the summons (yes, a summons, while the Dean is signed of work with stress) which states that the Governing Body of Christ Church will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.

What’s the betting that the Governing Body will indeed find that such a process must be initiated. It’s a lot cheaper than convening another tribunal, with very expensive lawyers and an uncertain outcome.

If you insert ‘mental incapacitation’ as a clause additional to “conduct of immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” to justify removal from office, and then you engineer that very mental incapacitation, what does that make you?

If you are signed off work with chronic stress, in what sense are you not indeed suffering a degree of mental incapacitation?

“Everyone in Oxford knows what this is about. A few people on the Christ Church governing body are determined to get rid of their dean at any cost,” one supporter told the Telegraph. “They are frustrated because the Charity Commission is not prepared to let them spend vast amounts on a trumped-up tribunal. So now they are trying to declare that he is mad. I can assure you that Martyn Percy is not mad. Anyone who has been to one of his recent lectures or read his recent book will know that he has one of the sharpest minds in academia.”

We read:

According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.

As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.

Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process.

The Professor does not believe that he is in any sense biased: he has no thought at all for his own finances should the Governing Body be found by the Charity Commission to be individually and severally liable for wasting £3million of charitable funds in vindictive attempts to oust the Dean.

No thought whatsoever.

The Governing Body gets to appoint the two medically-qualified people to act as chairmen of the board, and Martyn Percy may appoint one representative. If he fails to nominate someone “reasonably expeditiously”, Professor Judson will nominate someone for him.

The Dean is signed off sick, suffering severe mental trauma, but is nonetheless expected to respond to this latest bout of academic bullying. He is also supposed to find the £10,000s necessary, having already spent in £100,000s in his own defence, none of which has been reimbursed by the College despite them having lost every round.

A spokesperson for the College added: “You will understand that we have a duty of care to the dean as we do with all staff and students at Christ Church, and so we are unable to make any comment on what is a sensitive HR matter.”

For God’s sake, don’t ever trust Christ Church’s understanding of ‘duty of care’, which seems to extend to such a manipulated plane of evil persecution, spiritual destruction, reputational slander and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice as would drive many a man to drink, if not a longing to go and be with the Lord.

Please remember the Very Rev’d Martyn Percy in your prayers.

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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