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Bishop of Southwark lifts vicar’s suspension

04 August 2021

A Church Near You

THE Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, has lifted the suspension of the Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden, the Revd Stephen Kuhrt (News, 30 July). But the churchwardens have repeated their accusation that the diocese “weaponised safeguarding to punish Stephen for whistleblowing”.

The diocese confirmed last Friday that the complaint against Mr Kuhrt had been concluded the previous day. He has accepted a rebuke and injunction for having disclosed confidential safeguarding information to those without a need to know — an error that he has acknowledged.

A statement by Christ Church’s churchwardens, David Loffman and Jon Cook, issued on Tuesday, clarified that this entailed a requirement for Mr Kuhrt to attend safeguarding and confidentiality training, and regular meetings with the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The other charge — related to Mr Kuhrt’s handling of a historic safeguarding issue — had been “dismissed entirely”, the statement said.

The diocese, though, has required Christ Church to co-operate in a review of its safeguarding, “on terms that increase our concerns about both its nature and its purpose”, the churchwardens’ statement said. “We continue to believe that the diocese has weaponised safeguarding to punish Stephen for whistleblowing, and that in doing so . . . its response has been wholly disproportionate.”

A review of affairs at Christ Church was begun by Southwark diocese in April last year. The churchwardens’ statement concludes: “We will continue to strive for the resolution that is in everyone’s interest, but believe it will only be within reach if the diocese is prepared to reciprocate our commitment to thorough, open and honest engagement and our determination to speak the truth.”

On Tuesday, Mr Kuhrt said that his long-standing concerns about the handling of safeguarding in the diocese of Southwark remained. A paper that he had written outlining these had been ignored for months, and Christ Church was seeking clarity about the purpose and terms of reference of the safeguarding review.

“We are passionate about creating a church that is accessible to children and newcomers; so safeguarding is essential,” he said. “We have nothing whatsoever to hide; but we have seen how readily safeguarding is weaponised against people raising issues about safeguarding.”

Asked about the purpose of the review of safeguarding at Christ Church, a spokesperson for the diocese said: “The safeguarding review is not yet completed, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on this ongoing matter.”

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