Friday, 30 May 2014

Stinking Bishop and a Wake Up Call

At the end of the Wallace and Gromit film, Wallace lies almost fatally dying after a fall until Gromit revives him with a sniff of "Stinking Bishop" cheese.

There was a degree of upset not unlike sniffing that cheese caused by the Anglican Bishop of Willesden, Greater London, England, putting a comment on Peter Ould's blog. In it, among other matters, Bishop Pete Broadbent commented on the case of HG, and "the dull and witless way that the Dean handled things"

As the BBC reported on the news story

"Bishop Peter Broadbent said there was not much "nice or defensible" about Jersey or its society. The Deputy Bishop of London has claimed Jersey was "in the grip of freemasonry" and that there was a "conspiracy of silence" on the island."

This is not the first occasion that the good Bishop has courted controversy, as at the occasion of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton in November 2010, he said that their marriage would last about seven years, and that he was sickened by the "fawning deferential nonsense" in the media coverage of the event, and wrote "We need a party in Calais for all good republicans who can't stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event. Need to work out what date in the spring or ­summer I should be booking my republican day trip France"

This was grist of course, to the Daily Mail, who while thundering forth in righteous indignation, must have been pleased to have a lurid headline to attract readers. But it was also reported on as far as the New York Daily Times, which reported his that he called Prince Charles and Princess Diana as "Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll"

The Peat Me blog commented that:

"The real problem is that again like many corporations the Church doesn't have a formal Social Media and Blogging policy - many organisations don't get one until something like this happens."

The author is not advocating a "gagging" policy, but notes that

"Swearing allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors, doesn't really sit well with referring to one of them as "Big Ears". When you accept the post of a Bishop you give up some of your freedom to express your own opinions, you become a Bishop of the Church of England, and there is an expectation that you'll toe the line. You have a lot of latitude to express your own opinions, but it's not unlimited."

And very sensibly noted that:

"You need be aware of what is public and what is private. Certainly in any public forum you need to be watching what you say, it's very easy to relax into thinking that you're having a private conversation when in fact anybody in the world can see it - that is precisely the trap Bishop Pete fell into. You can bleat about how unfair it is, but ultimately people know what the British press is like."

That is clearly still a lesson that has not been learnt properly by the Bishop, who also accused lay Jersey people involved in the dispute of being freemasons. As he probably has Sir Philip Bailhache in his sights, it is worth noting that a little research would have shown that Sir Philip is not a freemason, but is friendly towards freemasons, which is quite different. Freemasonry Today noted this in reporting on the official opening of a "garden for residents of Les Amis in St Saviour, Jersey, a charity associated with the local Mencap, has been provided by the island's freemasons from its 1999 and 2000 collections". It said: "Sir Philip Bailhache, Bailiff of Jersey, opened the garden. Although he is not a mason, his father and grandfather were, the latter being Deputy PGM between 1947 and 1959."

Sir Philip, of course, has a large degree of involvement in the dispute between the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean of Jersey, having written a letter to the Dean, and also being seen reviewing notes on the case in open view of a member of the public travelling on  the same flight as him, from which the fellow passenger was able to identify details of both the victim and alleged abuser in the suspension of the Dean's Commission case. Sir Philip responded to concerns expressed by the passenger in an email to Deputy Trevor Pitman that: "Taken in the round, it gives a fictitious and malicious account of my reading habits on aeroplanes and I am not going to be drawn further on this subject".

Bob Hill commented that "The exchanges that ensued could be akin to a playground spat whereby the bully whilst denying any wrongdoing called his accusers nasty names and impugned their integrity"

In the end, when it became apparent that the matter would not rest, Sir Philip eventually was further drawn on the subject and gave a grudging apology to the States: "Having had time to reflect, I am sorry that I used language that was stronger than was necessary or appropriate. I withdraw the phrase "fictitious and malicious" and would like to make it clear that I do not impute dishonesty or malice to Deputy Pitman's constituent or, for the avoidance of any doubt, to the Deputy himself."

When one read the BBC report - "The bishop also claimed Jersey's culture was difficult to change and that those that spoke out were silenced." - it is worth remembering the businessman (who made the complaint about Sir Philip Bailhache) was badly treated by Sir Philip's first reply, perhaps in a hope that this forceful and intemperate language would cause the matter to drop, in other words - to silence him when he had spoken out.

Even in this one case, there can be seen a degree of truth in the Bishop's accusations, although as Tim Nash rightly noted "To simply write off a whole society as one homogenous lump is stupid, unwise and ignorant. Jersey is a diverse place, despite its size."

But clearly those who wield more power have a greater need to cover up their mistakes, just as in the UK, and there is certainly a culture lacking in transparency with regard to the state of play between the Anglican Church in Jersey and the UK. Some people, for example, have called for the Korris report, which began this chain of events, to be removed from the Winchester diocese website.

Related to this, in 2013, as well as the Dame Heather Steel investigation, there was also a Church inquiry (Visitation), carried out by Bishop John Gladwin, to consider the wider implementation of safeguarding in Jersey and across the Diocese. The Winchester website reported that:

"Bishop Gladwin will be publishing his report on the Visitation later this year, providing recommendations for enhancing the Diocese's safeguarding policies and procedures."

"Bishop Gladwin's wide-ranging terms of reference include looking at the 'safeguarding' procedures in place in Jersey and 'clarifying' the Island's relationship with the Diocese of Winchester"(JEP)

This, one would imagine, would tackle the situation where, as the Korris report noted of the churchwarden at the centre of the complaints by HG:

"E.Y.'s behaviour towards women had been a matter of concern at St for some time with comments about it coming from various sources. In a telephone call to the Safeguarding Advisor  J.F. in December 2008 the Dean R.K. says that E.Y. had been spoken to about the fact he is too tactile, stands too close to women, touches too much/inappropriately. His manner was deemed to be inappropriate to such an extent that he was chaperoned within the church when in close proximity to women. This was an informal but explicit policy of the parish and at interview the Dean of Jersey acknowledged that it was known to him."

But the safeguarding issue - the remit of Bishop Gladwin - has been quietly shelved. No one is pressing for the release of the Gladwin report or its recommendations, which would, I hope, have prevented this kind of informal ad hoc practice going on. The Gladwin report was to examine the way the diocese protects members of its congregation. That should have been at the centre, but instead has been left on the margins. The question raised in the leader comment in the Guernsey Press has still not been answered: "Can there be any credible reason why Jersey does not demonstrate complete adherence to the safeguarding procedures put in place by the Diocese of Winchester?"

There has also  been a degree of silence on the Jersey side with the new agreement taking oversight to the Bishop of Dover. I would have expected the formal oversight agreement, which is very short, to be placed on church notice boards for the congregations to read, but this has not been the case.

There appears to have been a marked reluctance for this to be available (outside Peter Ould's), and the Dean only handed out copies to States members after the matter was raised in the States. This is an omission which does not further the cause of greater transparency and respect for Anglican congregations.

It makes me wonder if the Steel Report, if released to the Dean and the Island authorities, will be made available to more than a select coterie of lay people in Jersey. There seems to be too much of a command and control culture, and too little trust placed in the man or woman in the pew. In this respect, the Bishop of Willesden's examination of the Church of England (in far more sober language) on his blog is worth noting: "My concern is that we are still considering centralised solutions to the problems facing us, whereas it is clear that we are no longer living in an era where a command and control approach will work."

For the purpose of giving greater transparency, I have reprinted the wording of the agreement from Peter Ould's blog.

The original blog posting is here:


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