A DISCIPLINARY committee of the Church in Wales has found a case to answer over allegations of bullying and harassment brought against the Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, by the Dean, the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon.
The Dean took up his post in 2014. The Bishop arrived in 2017, and, in the Dean’s view, subjected him over the next three years to “an atmosphere which has felt increasingly unsafe and threatening”. He has been on sick leave since being diagnosed with work-related clinical depression in April 2020, when he found himself “increasingly and inexplicably isolated by my Chapter colleagues”.
He contends: “It is my firm belief that the Bishop weaponised them to create a narrative of personal failure in my leadership of the cathedral.”
The Bishop visited the Dean in May 2020 and, he says, sought to “threaten me further into resignation”. He invoked the Church in Wales’s complaints procedure, through which an appeal can be made to the Archbishop, and brought an allegation of bullying against the Bishop. The Archbishop referred the matter to the Provincial Disciplinary Tribunal (PDT).
Almost immediately, the Dean received notice that the Bishop had referred him to the PDT, after a complaint that she had received from the cathedral Chapter regarding expenditure: an allegation that he had mis-spent more than £30,000. The Dean appeared before the tribunal on 30 October 2020, was told that there was “absolutely no case to answer”, and was exonerated of all the charges.
The Chapter, however, pursued the complaint and demanded to see the Dean’s report to the tribunal. He told them that he would do that only when he was well again and back at work. The Chapter then engaged a senior QC from Manchester, with whom the Dean also declined to engage while he was on sick leave. The QC’s report was therefore produced without any input from the Dean and contained what he describes as “damning allegations against me”.
The Dean, who has been on half-stipend for the past year, said that he had tithed his stipend back to the cathedral ever since his appointment: between 2016 to 2019, the period in question, he gave to the tune of £19,000. “Painting me, therefore, as a thief, as someone untrustworthy, is so personally wounding and untrue. I can’t let that be a public narrative,” he told the Church Times.
After the verdict of the tribunal committee, he received documentary evidence that the Chapter, disappointed by the result, had written to the Bishop to say: “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”
A preliminary adjudication in May this year confirmed that, on the balance of probability, the Bishop had a case to answer. It recommended that the Bishop and Dean should enter into a mediation process, but the Bishop, the Dean says, “used this process to further undermine and bully me”. Last month, the Dean turned down “an offer to persuade me to drop my complaint against the Bishop”. The Chapter then published on its website the mis-spending claims, and included them in its annual report and financial statement.
The Dean described this as defamation and an attempt to shame him into resignation. “As senior clergy, we are hard-wired not to bring the Church into disrepute,” he said. “That’s always been my intention. But the culture I have come up against is frightening. The cathedral has now become a place of great schism and difficulty. It is my belief that the diocese has become a toxic environment.”
The Church in Wales is not commenting on the matter. The Church Times asked the Bishop on Tuesday for comment on the adjudication that she had a case to answer, and for confirmation of a second reported bullying allegation against her.