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Church in Wales Governing Body: Monmouth Review

26 April 2024

Church in Wales

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann

THE final report of the Monmouth Review implementation group came to the Governing Body on Wednesday for commendation. Published in December 2021 (News, 17/24 December 2021), the review investigated the circumstances surrounding the long absence and subsequent retirement, in 2019, of the former Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Richard Pain.

The events were described in the report as “not a story of great and deliberate wickedness, but . . . a tragedy” and a “shock to the system”, in which careers were “damaged and reputations left ruinous”. It triggered a reshaping of the culture in both the diocese and on the Bench of Bishops (News, 6 May 2022).

The review set out 28 recommendations for the implementation group. Tim Llewelyn, who chaired the group, said that its members had brought “insight, honesty, and wisdom” to the discussions, “never seeking to veer away from the difficult questions”. The group concluded at its tenth meeting, on 26 February, that, as all 28 recommendations had either been implemented or were clearly in train for implementation, its work was done.

Five of the recommendations related to the bishops, including ensuring their access to properly resourced health and well-being support. A new induction process and training timetable was now in place, together with a scheme for ministerial development review. More high-quality staff support was in place for the Archbishop. Monthly triage meetings of senior staff now consider people-related casework, including safeguarding-related referrals and any complaints received.

Investigations of complaints brought under the Representative Body’s (RB’s) bullying and harassment policy against an officeholder will now be jointly commissioned by the RB and the Archbishop, with investigations led by an experienced independent person who knows the Church. A guidance document on the workings of the tribunal system makes clear who may invoke the process, and does not rely on the receipt of a formal written complaint.

The review made recommendations about the position, responsibilities, and authority of the Archbishop of Wales, notably, provision for him to make arrangements for appropriate episcopal leadership in a diocese if the bishop is away from their duties for prolonged periods owing to sickness or some other cause but is not suspended.

Three recommendations related to safeguarding. The emphasis is that safeguarding-practice guidance should emphasise the importance of safeguarding culture and boundary awareness in all aspects of church life, “not only in matters relating to children and adults at risk, in order to create a safe Church for all”.

Terms of reference for the Bench of Bishops were endorsed by the GB in September 2022 (News, 16 September 2022). The recommendation that the Bench reflect collectively on the report, and consider the cultural challenges to its life, values, and ethos, and that of the wider Church in Wales, is acknowledged in this final report to be “a complex and, by nature, a long-term area of work for which ongoing discussions and reflections will be necessary.”

Implementation of other recommendations will contribute to a culture change, it says. “The style and nature of Bench meetings has changed, with much more time dedicated to retreat-style discussion and reflection where matters such as culture can be explored.”

A Dignity Charter is now in place, with an accompanying training package. The Bench has agreed terms of reference for a small group of archdeacons to consider in detail the further embedding of the charter in the life and training in the Church in Wales

Two final recommendations come under the heading of Miscellaneous, and are recorded as having been completed. The first was a recommendation that the Senior Bishop, in consultation with colleagues, “should consider ways in which the events described in this report have impacted on some of the individuals mentioned in [it] and whether the Church in Wales may be able to ameliorate the damage done”.

The final one is that the former Dean of Newport, the former Archdeacon of Monmouth, and the Archdeacon of Newport see the report in its entirety.

There was no motion on which to vote, but the meeting was invited to make observations. The Archdeacon of the Gwent Valleys, the Ven. Stella Bailey (Monmouth), said that the diocese had worked diligently to change its own culture: “The diocese of Monmouth in the review is not the diocese of Monmouth today. We have genuine faith in the future of God’s Church here, though we live with the symptoms of our difficult past.” She hoped that the recruitment process for future leaders would encourage transparency.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, described the final report as a significant piece of work that would go a long way towards addressing institutional failings. “It is a well-known fact that the culture in any organisation is set at the top,” she said. “The Bench is very different from the one I joined four years ago, particularly over the last 12 to 18 months.

“We have set aside time to pray together, study scripture, and share openly and honestly with one another. . . We have learned to challenge each other appropriately.” The report recognised that ongoing oversight was still needed: “A need for all of us to hold one another to account and be held to account ourselves.

“Are we now in a place where what happened in the diocese of Monmouth six years ago could not happen again? Are we prepared to challenge one another when we see something that might put us at risk?”

She reflected that only three of the archdeacons in Monmouth were women, there was only one woman dean, and only two out of the seven bishops were women. “We are not doing enough for either women or men. At provincial level, we are not doing anything,” she said. “Bishops are largely responsible for the appointment process. While we will always be looking for the right person, we would all agree that openness and transparency are an important part of the process.”

She commended the report.

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