“Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?” How will the Church of England rid itself of its bullying crisis?
How do you rescue the reputation of an institution that cannot hold those who abuse their power to account?
The two most serious challenges in the Church of England’s contemporary lexicon are safeguarding and money.
It faces a growing crisis in the rebellion of clergy and laity in the diocese of Winchester against their bishop, as they allege bullying and financial profligacy. But as yet, it appears to be unable to resolve it.
The origin of the problem is rooted in history. When the Anglican Church declared its schism from the Pope in Rome, it unilaterally transferred from Rome to Canterbury the power to appoint bishops, but seems to have forgotten to provide the Archbishop of Canterbury with the power to fire them.
And so in response to the deep discontent of the community he was appointed to lead and care for, The Rt. Rev’d Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester has ‘stepped back for six weeks’.
It is not known if he is ‘considering his position’, but whether he is or not, others certainly are. That period is about to come to an end. However, the period of reflection has strengthened many observers within and without the diocese in their concern that he may lacks the self-knowledge to understand that losing the confidence of his diocese to this degree is not a position anyone can return from.
His psychological profile suggests that he may have trouble understanding that, and be unwilling to relinquish the levers of power.
But the damage he has caused is deep and troubling.
One of wives of his clergy-victims lamented “my husband is too fearful to leave the house and I struggle with my sanity each and every day.”
The Church Times described Winchester as the “North Korean Diocese of the C of E.”
The (Hampshire) Southern Echo has reported people complaining
“Anyone who challenged the direction of travel was told to grin and bear it or leave.”
“Dakin’s behaviour looks like unfettered arrogance… There is little realistic prospect of him being able to lead a functioning diocese after this. There is too much disaffection.”
In a previous blog I raised the questions of how this situation was allowed to happen.
How could a clergyman with a reputation for the heavy-handed leadership which so clearly marked his tenure firstly in the Church Army College he presided over in Nairobi, and then at the Church Missionary Society, be appointed to run a diocese without ever having run a parish, and with a paper trail that indicated he might not be of sufficient psychological and intellectual calibre to be ordained?
The consequences of this failure of safeguarding has led to the unique and tragic situation of the misery of a full-scale rebellion by both his elected clergy and laity, threatening a motion of no confidence unless he ‘stepped back.’
Perhaps such blame as there is should be shared.
Much responsibility appears also to lie with the Church of England whose institutional checks and balances failed to identity someone who slipped into the institution through a side entrance. In so doing he has come to constitute a full-scale safeguarding problem. He has exercised such power as he accumulated in a debilitating, and for many of the people around him, a destructive way, while at the same time leading his diocese to the edge of bankruptcy.
An investigation by journalists at the Daily Mail has established many of the facts that the Church of England seems not to have taken sufficient trouble to ascertain.
The warning signals were set off at the beginning of the process when Tim Dakin applied to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a priest in the Church of England. Following a selection conference it appears that the selection committee declined to recommend him for full-time training and put him instead on a probationary part -time route called the Aston scheme.
This was a programme for those who had applied for ordained and were considered unready in some way to undertake full time training at a residential theological college..
They were invited to earn their secular living in local communities and attached to local parishes where they could be further observed.
It appears that Dakin did not complete the programme .
This should have acted as flashing amber warning light in later years to those who were asked to consider Dakin’s suitability for high ordained office within the Church. But it did not.
What route did Tim Dakin take that brought him to the summit of the Church of England? By whom was he selected? How was he trained?
Stanley Dakin, the father, had been the vicar of a parish in Ealing. The parish was very generous in its missionary giving to the Church Army in East Africa. No one is suggesting, of course, that there was any link between that generosity and the consequent appointment of Dakin senior to be General Secretary of the Church Army in Nairobi. However, that became his next post.
In Nairobi the Church Army Training College when the Dakins arrived was being run by a highly regarded local African called Jeremiah Kashoboroozi. However, to the surprise of the Kenyans, he was side-lined and then replaced by Stanley Dakin’s son. The incongruity of this change, made more problematic by the discovery that the younger Dakin had no experience of running an institution and was not even a member of the Church Army, caused no little distress in Nairobi.
Friends of Joel Waweru, the Assistant General Secretary of the Church Army, reported that the Dakins were accused of nepotism and colonialism by both disturbed members of the Church Army in Nairobi and in the local press.
Jeremiah Kashoboroozi was given a number of reassuring undertakings by father and son as new management when he was replaced by the younger Dakin. However, Tim Dakin’s rather primitive management technique, simplistic and heavy handed, emerged rapidly. Kashoboroozi was gone shortly afterwards.
The Dakins faced a difficulty that the younger Dakin had not been selected or trained for any kind of office.
Stanley appeared to find ways around this. Eye witnesses report that towards the end of the annual Commissioning Service in 1992, Stanley Dakin called Joel Waweru, the Assistant General Secretary out to the front and asked him to commission Tim Dakin as a Church Army Evangelist that night and that moment.
All of this came as a significant surprise to Joel Waweru and everyone else present. There had been no discussion of this matter prior to the commissioning service.
Thus Tim Dakin became a Church Army captain alongside all those who had been selected and trained, but without the encumbrance of either attending a selection conference or experiencing any training.
When questions were put to Tim Dakin’s PR agency, Luther Pendragon about this (and other issues of fact) by the Daily Mail recently, he replied he had only been made an ‘honorary’ Church Army Captain. This does not appear to be an office the Church Army holds however. But it’s not obvious that this changes very much. Certainly not the optics of the only two white men at this commissioning event acting out the worst modelling of questionable colonialism and what for once might justifiably be called ‘white privilege.’
1993 saw the next step in the process.
There remained the issue that the Church of England had thus far declined to recommend him for full time training at a residential theological college. However, once Dakin junior had been commissioned, Stanley Dakin asked the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Manasses Kuria, if he would be willing to ordain Tim to the priesthood? Kuria agreed. This is one of those moments where significant cultural differences appear.
In England any episcopal employee seeking ordination would have to go through the normal channels. But as it happened, not so in East Africa. Archbishop Kuria was known for ‘laying hands on people suddenly’. On one occasion, having begun to feel the lack of an episcopal chaplain, he decided to find a solution in spontaneously ordaining his driver. Selection and training were dispensed with; as they were to be also with Tim Dakin, at his father’s request.
What is surprising here is that there was no consistent paper trail for the Church of England authorities to look at. No one asked the question as to by what means the would-be ordinand- who had been paused and placed in the remedial Aston scheme was able to re-present himself as a validly ordained Anglican clergyman. It was not known that it was courtesy of his father’s professional network in Nairobi. The courtesies of mutual recognition of orders throughout the Anglican Communion led to immediate recognition, quite rightly. But it was wrongly assumed that the Church in Kenya had examined his vocation and tested his fitness for clerical office.
The next breakthrough appears to have been achieved by means of some close family friends.
The narrative at this point reads like something of out of a soap opera. The Dakins were close friends of a well-placed Nairobi family big in coffee exports, the Schluters. Mrs Schluter, coffee magnate, wealthy ex-pat, was one of the churchwardens at Nairobi cathedral, where Tim Dakin’s hasty ordination had taken place. She was good at leveraging her connections. People in Nairobi at the time are said to have reported that her first aim was to get Stanley Dakin appointed as Provost (or Dean) of Nairobi cathedral. The authorities declined to appoint him.
It was alleged that she next to persuade Bishop Crispus Nzano, the then Bishop of Mombasa to appoint Stanley Dakin as his Coadjutor/Assistant Bishop with the plan for Stanley to succeed Nzano. Stanley Dakin and Crispus Nzano knew each other as Nzano had been General Secretary of Church Army in East Africa prior to his consecration as Coadjutor Bishop of Mombasa in 1980. But having thought about it carefully, he resisted pressure from Mrs Schluter.
As it happened, Mrs Schluter’s daughter Gillian had married into the British aristocracy becoming Lady Brentford.
The Brentfords were exceptionally well placed to offer help to Tim Dakin. Viscount Brentford was chairman of the Church Army UK from 1995-2000. At the same time Lady Gill became president of the Church Missionary Society during the same period.
What influence did the Brentfords bring to bear on behalf of Dakin junior? One insight might come from the perspective of some of the members of the Church Army board. At one of their meetings without any prior warning on the agenda, the Brentfords flew Tim Dakin over from Nairobi, and invited him into the board meeting. There he made a pitch for a grant of £500,000. He came with no supporting paper work, just the support the chairman and his wife. The board, not a little astonished, declined to give Captain Dakin half a million pounds and he returned to Nairobi empty handed.
But he was back soon, only this time for an interview at the Church Missionary Society where they had advertised for a General Secretary. This time it was Lady Brentford’s outfit, where she presided as president. This foray was more successful. Tim Dakin got the job.
Sadly Tim Dakin’s time at CMS was not a happy one. The trustees found themselves with something of a headache. The new General Secretary soon reduced morale amongst the employees to low levels. Tim Dakin appeared to have a limited repertoire in his management skills. Colleagues report that you were either signed up to non-critical support of Team-Tim- or he got rid of you.
But the position of General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society was as very prestigious one. It was the norm for them to become bishops. John Taylor became bishop of Winchester; Simon Barrington Ward of Coventry; Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester, and Philip Mountstephen of Truro. There was a serious difference however between the other General Secretaries and Dakin. They had all earned degrees at Oxford or Cambridge, were genuinely highly educated, and had transparently reputable track records of performance.
Less so with Dakin. As Private Eye memorably put it, he had initially managed to get a place at Plymouth’s second best university for his undergraduate degree. He did indeed commendably earn a Masters from King’s College London, which appears to be the climax of his intellectual achievement. But there was the complication of his claiming problematically in his biographical details, that he trained for the priesthood there. In fact it is well-know that KCL, which used to send accredited ordinands to St Augustine’s in Canterbury, stopped this long before Dakin arrived. He was neither an ordinand nor did he undergo any pastoral training at a residential theological College.
Intriguingly, he got himself some tutorial supervision at Oxford where he was apparently working for a D.Phil. But he failed to either submit any research work that was up to the standard required either for a D.Phil, or even for the consolation prize usually awarded to failed doctoral candidates, the M.Phil. To come away entirely empty handed after 5 years of supposed postgraduate research is quite unusual and problematic.
Since the proceedings of the Crown Nomination Commission which selected him to be bishop of Winchester are confidential, it is not possible to know if Mrs Schluter’s daughter, Lady Brentford, now also become the Second Church Estates Commissioner, a very senior office in the C of E, who had also been living alongside the Careys when George Carey was Archbishop at Lambeth Palace, exercised any influence. One of the weaknesses of the the tribal party system in the C of E is the way that Liberals, Catholics and Evangelicals are often so pleased to have achieved the victory of office for their candidate that there is inadequate scrutiny of competence on some occasions. More often than not this simply results in over-promotion and subsequent failure. But there are occasions greater damage than ineptitude can be caused.
In this case it seems that charm and apparent dynamism disguised the lack of serious intellectual formation and capability. It drew attention away from the lack of real theological and pastoral training, The absence of any paid or working experience at parish level in the Church of England which should only be dispensed with in the most exceptional of circumstances was overlooked. His problematic track record in Nairobi and CMS, which suggested he had minimal management and people skills, was misinterpreted as trail blazing. Angela Tilby’s insightful analysis in the Church Times sums it up well:
“He quickly made his mark as a mission-orientated disturber: one whose instinct is to “move fast and break things”. And he broke quite a lot of things. I remember the shiver that we felt in Oxford diocese when we heard of the sacking of the entire Continuing Ministerial Development team. In Winchester, he broke links with southern-based training schemes and developed a bespoke one; started lay training without selection procedures, and made clear his preference for successful mega-churches over declining rural parishes.”…..Parish clergy found themselves being reprimanded if they failed to achieve targets for growth. A significant proportion of priests in the northern archdeaconry have recently been “persuaded” to accept voluntary redundancy. Then there was the Channel Islands fiasco….”
His tenure as bishop of Winchester has been a disaster. He broke all the crockery, but to no good effect. His handling of the Jersey debacle as he tried to get rid of the Dean, presumably to replace with a more pliant member of ‘Team-Tim’, involved deceit, empty legal threats, costs to the Church Commissioners of over £500,000, personal bullying, and public humiliation both for him and the Archbishop of Canterbury whom he initially misled into giving him public support.
It ended up destroying a 500 year old historic and valued relationship. It contributed to the near bankrupting his diocese. That incident alone displayed levels of incompetence and personal dysfunctionality that in any other walk of life would have had him sacked or let go immediately.
But not in the Church of England where accountability for senior management in general, and bishops in particular, is an optional extra the church has so far decided not to burden itself with.
Directly undermining and contradicting the Archbishop of Canterbury who has claimed the C of E does not do non-disclosure agreements, not only has Dakin done them but done them extravagantly to ensure that anyone not fully on board with ‘Team-Tim’ is both fired and silenced, while apparently ordering his staff to call them something different (confidentiality agreements) and to lie about not using them. These public lies to his Diocesan Synod were the last straw. No other bishop has so disillusioned and angered his clergy and people to the extent that they were reduced to threatening motions of no confidence.
His pursuit of clergy who stood up to him in any way has been ruthless and disturbingly unchristian. I have spoken to clergy wives whose husbands he has set out to steamroll who have suffered something very close to post traumatic stress disorder.
Quis costodiet Ipsos custodes is an old Latin tag asking “who guards the guards?” In this case, who takes responsibility for making sure that those responsible for safeguarding do not damage the people they have undertaken to keep safe?
If the Church of England cannot find a way to safeguard the people and clergy of Winchester from a bishop who has left devastation in his wake, what confidence can anyone have in its competence or integrity? Who is going to protect those clergy who have told the truth about their bishop, chief pastor and holder of the cure of souls, should Dakin return and seek a purified ‘Team-Tim’?
Who is going to care for the wounded clergy and families that have become victims of his inability to manage an organisation? Who is going to offer the healing and helping of those who have been disillusioned and damaged? Who is going to help the Diocese of Winchester to regain its ambition to be part of the Church of Christ rather than what it has become?
This sad episode has left the Church of England on the edge of financial and spiritual bankruptcy in Winchester. Lacking the institutional power to act, some source of external influence, – Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the House of Bishops need to be able to persuade Tim Dakin to recognise the scale fo the crisis, and to hand over responsibility to someone better equipped to exercise it; or else the taint of nepotism, the consequences of the improper use of episcopal power and a growing safeguarding crisis will spread even more widely and deeply throughout the Church of England than it has already.