‘Gossip and secrecy’ fuel Oxford row over suspended dean

Prominent clergy linked to Oxford’s Christ Church cathedral are in revolt over a complaint against its dean which they say is “surrounded by secrecy and fuelled by gossip”. The Guardian reports.

In a row that has convulsed one of the university’s most venerable institutions, the Very Rev Martyn Percy, head of Christ Church as well as dean of the cathedral, has been accused of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour”. He has been suspended by the college’s governing body pending a tribunal led by a retired High Court judge later this year.

More than 30 honorary canons headed by Sue Booys, the chair of Oxford diocese house of clergy, wrote last week to Sir Andrew Smith, the former judge, to register concern about the handling of the complaint.

Their letter extolled the “dean’s personal integrity”, and criticised a “sad and cruel delay” before the college’s governing body publicly acknowledged that the unspecified charges against Percy did not relate to safeguarding issues. “The issues relating to this charge seem to be surrounded by secrecy and fuelled by gossip,” it said.

A rift between the cathedral and the college’s governing body has significant implications for an academic institution which is uniquely also home to a cathedral. Senior Church of England figures have been supportive of Percy, including the bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, who said the dean was “widely respected” and that allegations he had been bullied should be investigated.

The college’s governing body wrote last month to alumni to say the dispute did not concern safeguarding, gender bias, access issues or the pay of academic staff: “We are not able to discuss the detailed basis of the complaint except to say that it relates to issues surrounding the dean’s own pay and how it is set.”

Father Robin Gibbons, a Catholic priest and ecumenical canon of Christ Church who also signed the letter, said the four-month delay before clarification from the college that the dispute did not relate to safeguarding issues was “tantamount to calumny by omission”. He added: “Innuendo can destroy reputations – and no institution that takes safeguarding and related concerns seriously should let this happen.”

Read more ‘Gossip and secrecy’ fuel Oxford row over suspended dean

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