Independent report

The Revd Tim Davis

Background

In December 2017, the Revd Tim Davis was found guilty of conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority over a person then aged 15-16.

On 10 March 2018, the Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Oxford prohibited Revd Timothy Davis ‘from the exercise of holy orders for a period of two years’. In addition to the finding of spiritual abuse by Revd Davis, the Tribunal found there was an obvious imbalance in the relationship between him and a victim. Revd Davis had a poor understanding of the vulnerability of young people and the importance of safeguarding. Revd Davis placed his own emotional needs first, and the safeguarding breaches were serious.

The Diocese of Oxford did not respond as quickly or as thoroughly as it should have done when concerns about Revd Davis began to emerge in 2015. As part of our commitment to learning and transparency in safeguarding an independent report upon the causes, conduct and outcome of CDM proceedings was commissioned by the Diocese.

The independent report, a summary briefing, and response to the reviewers recommendations are published here in the hope and expectation that we, and the wider Church, can learn from what happened and further improve our safeguarding and disciplinary practice.

Revd Davis name remains on the Archbishops’ list. Should he wish to return to ministry in future then he will be required to undertake a formal risk assessment.

Redactions and timetable for publication

The full report was received and considered on 24 April 2020 by the Diocesan Independent Safeguarding Panel, chaired by Peter Hay, CBE.  At the request of those concerned, a small number of redactions have been made to the published version of the report in order to protect the privacy of parishioners and church officers in the parish. While originally planned for publication in June, unavoidable delays were incurred due to the COVID-19 crisis.

This page has been shared with all members of the church congregation by email.

Seven-minute briefing

The independent chair of the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Panel has prepared a briefing document outlining seven themes arising from the independent report.

  1. We need to better hear valid concerns about the behaviour of clergy.
  2. It is the responsibility of all to create church environments that are safe for everyone.
  3. Better support is needed for Victims and Parishes during a CDM (Clergy Discipline Measure) process.
  4. Spiritual abuse should be considered as abuse.
  5. We need to raise awareness of the current CDM process.
  6. Support for clergy wellbeing is required throughout the CDM process.
  7. Surviving abuse – victims need long term support.
JPEG image of 7 minute briefing

Full report

‘A Report upon the Causes, Conduct and Outcome of Proceedings under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 against The Reverend Timothy Davis, formerly Vicar of Christ Church Abingdon’, may be downloaded below. Please refer to the note on redactions and timetable for publication in the page introduction. A list of acronyms along with a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to readers is included at the bottom of this web page.

Summary of recommendations
& how the Diocese is responding

In all of our safeguarding and disciplinary processes, it is vital to be constantly mindful of the issues of power and its abuse, which appears to be a common feature of all types of safeguarding cases.

The Bishop’s Staff Group has discussed the phenomenon of Spiritual Abuse at length. Spiritual Abuse can be hard to identify and, currently, it has no legal definition. Two practical definitions are offered under ‘Further Reading’ on this page. The senior clergy and staff of this Diocese accept that Spiritual Abuse exists, that it is no less difficult to endure than other types of abuse, and are committed to responding well wherever such abuse occurs.

The Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor is also considering how tailored local training might be offered in this area. In the meantime, Spiritual Abuse and coercive control are already prompts for discussion during the Leadership module of our safeguarding training.

Challenging questions, curiosity, seeking feedback and speaking truth to power are at times difficult. The Diocese has also begun to consider the skills that accompany the knowledge developed about safeguarding.

The independent report relating to Revd Tim Davis contains several recommendations for the Diocese and wider Church regarding the complaints process and pastoral support for all those involved. The table below summarises these together with the Diocesan response.

ParaRecommendationObservation and/or action
3.3Bishops, Archdeacons and the safeguarding team should be provided with some written explanatory notes that can be given to potential complainants.a) this document includes information about making a complaint

b) The Church of England CDM page provides further information. Further detailed information is also available.

c) the Diocese will summarise information from a) and b) into handout notes to be published in September.

3.4Potential CDM complainants should have access to appropriate assistance in preparing their written complaints, in accordance with the Code of Practice.a) The Bishop of Oxford’s Chaplain takes the lead responsibility for signposting potential complainants to the appropriate pastoral and therapeutic support. The chaplain also provides support to complainants in the preparation of formal complaints under the measure.

b) The Diocese offered a single line of communication to the victims and the family in the case. Once in place, this worked well. The practice will be repeated in the event of future complex cases.

5.3In substantial CDM cases, where an Archdeacon is a complainant, competent legal advice should be made available to the Archdeacon at the expense of the Diocese.a) this provision is now in place

b) by virtue of this case being one of three to be dealt with concurrently by the Archdeacon, this case also created a significant burden on her. The recent introduction of Associate Archdeacons along with a recognition of the need for pastoral support to Bishops’ staff should mitigate the impact of concurrent complex cases.

c) prior to the anticipated replacement of the Clergy Discipline Measure, further work is required to understand how a CDM process should be implemented when a person is signed off sick and/or not present at the vicarage (both were aspects of this case, which resulted in considerable delays and misunderstanding).

6.2While not a specific recommendation from the independent reviewers, current communications practice in the Diocese is to ensure appropriate communication and transparency with a parish when a member of clergy is absent for an extended period.
6.3A pre-existing plan should be in place at Diocesan level so that key participants may know what is required of them, and the management of the CDM case is properly coordinated.a) the recommendations outlined in para 6.3 are part of current core group practice. Core Groups are particularly helpful when meeting with complex issues across a Parish, and potential criminal or statutory inquires.

b) the Diocese has worked in recent years to implement the Core Group approach, which is now used in all safeguarding matters.

c) the consistent use of a Core Group in today’s practice would have ensured tighter coordination of the issues which faced everyone who was responding in this case.

d) the National Church is reviewing Core Group guidelines with a view to further improvements in policy and approach by 2021.

7.2
7.11
Those dealing with safeguarding issues at both parish and diocesan level need to provide clear judgements and recommendations for further action where necessary. There is a need for decisiveness in these complex matters and, if recommendations are to be made, accountability for actions need to be more visible, and roles and parish level very clear.a) a training and development framework is in place to ensure that all Church officers are trained in aspects of safeguarding relevant to their role.

b) all training modules include ‘how to respond well to safeguarding information, including who to inform’.

c) the Diocese strongly recommends all parishioners to undertake the Safeguarding Basic Awareness (C0) online training module, available here.

d) The Diocese has also begun to consider the training and resource requirements for skills to accompany the knowledge developed about safeguarding.

8.8Where medical evidence is recognised as being of critical importance, funding should be made available so that a wholly independent report from a suitably qualified medical practictioner can be put before the Tribunal.a) the Diocese has included this in a submission to the Bishop at Lambeth (see ‘CDM working group’, below)
8.9
8.10
In accordance with the Code of Practice, appropriate care and support must be made available to a respondent while CDM proceedings are pending. Such support should continue after the imposition of a penalty.a) a Diocesan pastoral care and support protocol is in place. In this case, the Diocese ensured a support person and a link person were in place for Revd Davis, in line with practice guidance: see Responding to, assessing and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers’

b) As indicated in the report, Clergy who are the subject of disciplinary proceedings under the CDM are eligible to apply for financial assistance towards their legal costs from the Legal Aid Fund established under the Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994. Ecclesiastical also offer some legal protection insurance for clergy facing a disciplinary investigation and the Diocese will remind its clergy of this cover during the Autumn.

9.7Arrangements are required at a provincial level for the care and support of witnesses before and after tribunal hearings.a) the Diocese has included this in a submission to the Bishop at Lambeth (see ‘CDM working group’, below)

b) the Diocese accepts that issues about preparation, information and support for all participants are critical. In the event of a further Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Oxford taking place, the Diocese will cover these matters prior to national changes in policy and practice.

10.3Strategies should be developed to reduce the delay between the referral of cases to tribunals and the eventual tribunal hearings.

Consideration should be given to the reduction in the composition of tribunals from five to three members.

a) the Diocese has included this in a submission to the Bishop at Lambeth (see ‘CDM working group’, below).

b) further consideration needs to be given as to how to manage a CDM process while the respondent is signed off long-term sick.

12.3There are still some uncertainties and anxieties in the parish which will require some help and intervention from the Diocese, including clarity about the long term outcome of the Tribunal. There needs to be evidence of learning from this unhappy situation which will go some way to reassuring people that some good has come from it all and will reflect on the need for accountability for people in powerful positions in the Church.a) the Bishop of Oxford has met with the congregation on two previous occasions and will host a virtual meeting for members of the congregation to discuss questions and next steps arising from publication of this report.

b) the Diocese has considered how to work better with Parishes where the incumbent is subject to a safeguarding investigation. This has led to a much more considered and deliberate use of support plans.

c) the Diocese will continue to support congregation in Abingdon following the release of this report.

Our safeguarding journey

Safeguarding is part of the mission of the church, and part of who we are. During the last four years the Diocese of Oxford has…

  • Grown the safeguarding team to 4.5 full time equivalent staff.
  • Ensured the independent chair of the safeguarding panel can, and does, hold the Diocese to account.
  • Systematically trained clergy and church officers in safeguarding, including C4 training for the senior team. In 2019, the team delivered 5,000 training modules (including online training), supported 23 volunteer trainers and provided guidance to 481 parish safeguarding officers.
  • Delivered a culture change in the handling of safeguarding disclosures.
  • Increased our corporate understanding of the nature of abuse and increased awareness of spiritual abuse.

There is more to be done and we have learned valuable lessons from this case.

On behalf of the Diocese of Oxford, I am very sorry indeed for the shortcomings identified in this case review. They have contributed to the distress of the survivors and the many people affected in Christ Church Abingdon. Though they had no bearing on the penalty, I also recognise the additional emotional toll that these shortcomings placed on Revd Tim Davis.

As a Diocese, we are deeply committed to learning from these events and to the safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults. During the last four years, we have invested heavily in our safeguarding team, in training and safer processes of support, review and oversight.

This report also contains lessons for the whole Church of England that are already being considered through greater awareness of spiritual abuse, the development of better safeguarding processes and the planned revision of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM).

CDM working group

On 8 July, the House of Bishops reviewed a confidential interim report by the CDM working group chaired by the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton. The Bishops committed themselves unanimously to “working towards replacing the Measure and to making interim procedural changes to ensure the current system is more workable until new legislation is enforced”.

The CDM has also been the subject of much debate within the Diocese of Oxford and is felt to be not fit for purpose. The recommendations of this report have been fed into the national review of the CDM.

The Bishop at Lambeth will bring proposals forward to General Synod in February 2021; it is likely these will include a ‘triage process’ in each diocese to handle complaints better and at a more local level. “We need to completely replace the clergy disciplinary measure rather than just tinker with it,” the Bishop told Radio 4’s Sunday programme recently.

Further reading

Defining Spiritual Abuse

“Key characteristics of spiritual abuse identified were coercion and control, manipulation and pressuring of individuals, control through the misuse of religious texts and scripture and providing a ‘divine’ rationale for behaviour” – Oakley & Humphreys (2018) Understanding Spiritual Abuse in Christian Communities.

“A new and deeper understanding of spiritual abuse is crucial for the Church to get the rest of its response system right. The people who have been abused have not simply experienced a physical or emotional attack. They have had the core of their identity, their whole understanding of what life is about, their firmest commitment to God, manipulated and exploited.” –  To Heal and Not To Hurt A fresh approach to safeguarding in the Church – Rosie Harper, Alan Wilson

Recommended publications

  • Escaping the Maze of Spiritual abuse published by SPCK explores how spiritual abuse can be prevented, what leaders must do to create safer places, and creating opportunities for spiritual and emotional flourishing.

Documents related to this case

Acronyms

  • CDM – Clergy Discipline Measure
  • DSA – Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor
  • MDR – Ministerial Development Review

Glossary

  • Archdeacon
    There are four Archdeacons in the Diocese of Oxford. Archdeacons are senior priests with responsibility under the bishops for the pastoral care of clergy in the archdeaconry and for ensuring they are performing their duties correctly. Archdeacons are also responsible for making sure that church buildings and their contents are properly looked after, and they have an important role in the appointment of clergy to new posts. The Diocese of Oxford has the largest archdeaconries in the Church of England. For this reason, the Diocese appointed three Associate Archdeacons in 2020.
  • Archdeaconry
    Every diocese is divided into a number of Archdeaconries. In the Diocese of Oxford, these are overseen by the Area Bishop (see below) and the Archdeacon.
  • Bishop
    Each diocese has a Diocesan Bishop. In the Diocese of Oxford, Bishop Steven is assisted by three other area bishops (Dorchester, Reading and Buckingham) who have delegated responsibility for their areas. The areas are coterminous with the four archdeaconries of Oxford Diocese.
  • Bishops Chaplain
    Bishop Steven’s chaplain is the Revd Paul Cowan. He acts as private secretary, attends and assists the bishop at many services, acts as the bishop’s proxy on some bodies and generally ministers to the bishop. The Bishops chaplain liaises with the Registry over legal issues and may be asked by the bishop to support people in distressing situations.
  • Blue File
    All important and enduring information about clergy is kept on or copied to a confidential clergy file, known as a ‘blue file’. This is the main personnel record of any clerical ministry in the Church of England, and the file will follow members of the clergy if they move to another diocese. These records enable bishops to exercise their ministry of oversight and pastoral care as well as their canonical responsibilities, especially that of commending someone for any particular future ministry.
  • Churchwarden
    Churchwardens are elected by the parish. Together with the parish priest, they are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the parish.
  • Clergy Discipline Measure
    The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (CDM) is the current process for dealing with formal complaints of serious misconduct against members of the clergy. It applies to all deacons, priests and bishops in the Church of England, even if they are not in active ministry. If there is sufficient evidence to support the complaint, there are five courses of action open to the bishop. In the case of Revd Davis the matter was formally investigated by the Designated Officer, who determined that the complaint should be sent to the bishop’s disciplinary tribunal for determination and penalty. Tribunal hearings usually are in private and consist of a legally qualified chair sitting with two lay members and two members of clergy appointed from a provincial panel.
  • Deanery
    Archdeaconries are divided into deaneries. A deanery is a small group of parishes, one of whose parish priests serves as the rural, or area, dean. Area Deans and Rural Deans provide an important link between the bishops and the deanery. They must report concerns or important information to the bishop and provide pastoral care for other clergy in the deanery.
  • Designated Officer
    The Designated Officer is a senior lawyer employed by the Church House Legal Office in the event of a complaint made under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) moving to formal investigation.
  • Diocesan Registrar
    See registrar
  • Diocese
    The Church of England is made up of 42 Dioceses. Each of the English dioceses (and the Diocese in Europe) has a structure of boards and councils responsible for different aspects of the Church’s work including ministry, mission and education. The Diocese of Oxford is one of the largest in the Church of England.
  • Ecclesiastical Lawyer
    The Church of England has a system of law drawn from statute, legislation, common law and the canons of the Church. An ecclesiastical lawyer is a specialist in this body of law.
  • House of Bishops
    The House of Bishops consists of the diocesan bishops, seven other bishops and the Bishop of Dover. The House meets several times each year.
  • Ministerial Development Review (MDR)
    The MDR is a guided discussion framed around an office holder’s ministry. The purpose of the review is to look back and reflect on what has happened over the last year or two of ministry and, informed by that, to anticipate and develop a clearer vision for what lies ahead.
  • Office Holder
    Clergy are not employees of the Church of England but office holders. This means that they are not subject to employment law, but they are granted certain legal rights and obligations. All clergy are subject to the same standards as outlined in the Clergy Discipline Measure and Guidelines for the Conduct of Clergy.
  • Province
    Church of England dioceses are grouped into two Provinces, each overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury (the Southern Province) and the Archbishop of York (the Northern Province).
  • Registry
    The Registry is the legal office of the Diocese. Its officers are appointed, and its work is governed by a large number of statutes and measures. The diocesan registry advises parishes and church officers on the variety of legal matters which arise from time to time in parish life. The registry also gives general advice to hundreds of churchwardens, clergy and PCC members about their various roles and duties.
  • Registrar
    The Registrar is the Bishop of Oxford’s legal advisor as well as registrar of the diocesan synod – the governing council of the Diocese. The role also involves being clerk to the Oxford consistory court – the court that makes decisions on issues including the granting of faculties for the use of/works to churches and churchyards.

Elements of this glossary were adapted from ‘A guide to the Church of England’ published by Bloomsbury, and online resources from the Ecclesiastical Law Association together with the Dioceses of Guildford and Essex. In the event of errors or omissions, please contact communications@oxford.anglican.org