The Monmouth Enquiry and Review Report
The Monmouth Report: An Overview
‘This is not a story of great and deliberate wickedness, but nonetheless it is a tragedy. Long ministries of service to the Church were curtailed, careers damaged, and reputations left ruinous’. These are the opening words of the review commissioned in May 2020 by the Representative Body and the Bench of Bishops to consider the events surrounding the retirement of the Bishop of Monmouth, the Right Reverend Richard Pain.
The Commissioners, the Right Reverend Andrew John, Senior Bishop and Mr James Turner, Chair of the RB invited the Right Reverend Graham James, Mrs Patricia Russell and Ms Lucinda Herklots (‘the panel’) to investigate the circumstances which led to the bishop’s retirement and what followed as a consequence. This narrative accompanies the publication in full of the recommendations from the report resulting from the review and seeks to achieve a number of things. We are conscious that, in its final form, the report did not prevent identification of some of those most closely involved and we have no wish either to disclose their identity or the nature of their role. The report we are publishing has therefore been partially redacted in order to abide by commitments previously made by the Church in Wales and to provide, where necessary, some anonymity to certain participants. However, the recommendations require a narrative, not only to provide a context but, most importantly, to make clear how and why this unhappy situation occurred so that lessons might be properly learned. We are committed to seeing all the recommendations in the report implemented quickly and comprehensively. Our hope is that the following summary narrative, read alongside the redacted report, will offer some explanation of what took place and bring at least a degree of closure for those involved.
On the 23rd July 2018 the Bishop of Monmouth, the Right Reverend Richard Pain, agreed to step back from his duties following concerns about his ministry and conduct which had been noticed over a period of time by colleagues in the diocese and in the province.
The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Reverend John Davies, accompanied by the Provincial Secretary, Mr Simon Lloyd met with Bishop Richard following receipt of these concerns and instigated two parallel investigations. These investigations were both overseen by the Human Resources department of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales, the Legal Department and with reference to the Representative Body’s Safeguarding Team. The investigations took the form of interviews with recorded notes, the conclusions described on the basis of what had been learned.
Although these were undertaken with appropriate actions, speed and efficiency, the Reviewers expressed concern that several things were absent throughout these investigations. Firstly, the lack of specialist legal advice on the way the two processes related to each other, with differing and distinct protocols, meant there was an inconsistency between standards adopted and disconnect from the outset which made the situation both more complex and potentially harder to manage. Some aspects of the first investigation were also highly relevant to the second investigation, but these aspects were never considered as a coherent whole.
Secondly the conclusions and recommendations of these reports were never revisited and scrutinized as they should have been. Key witnesses were interviewed only once, which meant that witnesses did not have opportunity to comment upon what others had said. Heavy reliance on the findings of each report meant key decisions about the way this situation would be managed were set from an early stage. The Reviewers consider the confidence placed in the adequacy of the report’s findings to have been a mistake, which meant that alternative routes were never considered.
Thirdly, participants were not given sufficient clarity on what sort of process was being established and what they could expect to happen as a consequence. The lack of clarity around the processes being adopted and subsequent lack of communication meant participants were often treated inconsistently. Later, some would discover critical pieces of information which would have significantly affected their responses had these been fully disclosed to them at the time.
The investigations produced reports which were duly submitted to the Archbishop and Provincial Secretary. In both cases the conclusions reached were that the evidentiary threshold for further action had not been met. Significantly the Reviewers found that the way these parallel investigations were arranged added to the time taken to complete them but also created confusion about the nature of the presenting issue and how one should relate to the other. In addition, the manner in which the investigations’ conclusions were subsequently managed, led to legitimate concerns by those who had initially approached the Archbishop, that they were perceived to be motivated by ill will. They deny this completely. At this point, what might have been a challenging and difficult situation to resolve became far more complex and, sadly, damaged some relationships beyond repair.
The role of the Senior Diocesan Team
The Reviewers describe in detail the role played by three senior colleagues of the bishop. They conclude that throughout the investigatory period and immediate aftermath, they acted in good faith and responded properly to their concerns about and for the bishop. Their concerns were considered to have been well founded and they acted professionally in the way they reported these concerns. Moreover, throughout difficult investigations they maintained the confidentiality required of them and participated in good faith in the processes established, trusting that these processes were adequate and appropriate. This was particularly commendable when their reputations were being traduced and rumours circulated that the bishop’s absence was due to a breakdown in relationships between him and his senior team. These rumours included the belief that the senior team were looking for a way to oust him. The Reviewers do not believe that this was the case and were impressed that they have said so little publicly and have stoically borne false accusations.
The operational complexities
The conclusions of the two investigations left the Archbishop with a situation which he believed could only be resolved with recourse to mediation. Legal advice had been commissioned from a respectable law firm to manage this but the firm appeared to know little of the culture and operational work of clergy and appeared to regard some senior colleagues as parties to a dispute rather than participants in a process. This adversarial approach clearly made a complex situation much harder to resolve. In addition, legal advice appeared at times to be coercive, requiring compliance from the senior team. At this stage, no offer had been made to the senior colleagues to support them in accessing their own legal advice.
The senior colleagues were initially unwilling to participate in mediation because they did not consider the difficulty to be one in which their relationship with the bishop was at stake. Moreover, any perception that a breakdown in relationships was at the root of their concerns might lead to the suggestion that they, at least in part, were responsible for this or worse, entirely responsible. It is noteworthy that the Archbishop took a different view believing not only that mediation was appropriate and did not imply equal fault but that strained relationships between senior colleagues and the bishop were real and had at least contributed to the way senior colleagues had approached him with their concerns.
The role of the Archbishop
The Reviewers describe in detail the role played by the Archbishop. They believe that the investigations he instigated were handled within the timeframes normally associated with difficulties of similar character. They also describe his evident concern that matters of confidentiality were preserved throughout so that any further action would not be prejudiced by leaks. They regard his attempts to resolve this matter to be genuine and that at times he displayed leadership and pastoral care.
Nonetheless the Reviewers believe the Archbishop was hampered by several significant matters. In the first place, as we have noted, the decision to run parallel investigations was likely to (and they believe actually did) make a complex matter much harder to resolve. They further believe that the decision not to reassess the strength and cogency of the investigation conclusions was an error and circumvented further investigatory work and other possible avenues for action.
Recourse to legal redress is sometimes the only available option but it ought not to remove responsibility for overseeing the entire process and, if necessary, challenging the advice given and suggested direction of travel. As the process became enmired by issues of legal probity, the Archbishop found himself overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation without a clear plan or strategy in place with which to resolve it. When matched to the length of time involved in managing this difficult situation, it is easy to understand why this added to the anxiety of some participants and heightened suspicions that the process was neither transparent not being managed with the necessary leadership. The hostility of the Monmouth senior colleagues towards the actions of the Archbishop is illustrative of the frustrations they felt and how a breakdown in relationships was almost an inevitable consequence of this. The Reviewers express some considerable surprise, in addition, at the length of time it took to set up the Review leading some to suppose this was in an effort to move the problem into the ‘long grass’.
There are, however, reasons why a lack of clarity in the adopted processes caused some the difficulties we have described and this relates to the powers of the Archbishop. The lacunae in the Constitution on the legitimate powers and responsibilities of the Archbishop in matters involving another episcopal colleague inhibit lines of accountability. But they also place the Archbishop in an invidious position being perceived to have the responsibility of resolving difficulties whereas the powers at his disposal are limited. The Reviewers make recommendations about bringing clarity to this area.
The role of the Bench of Bishops
The bishops, with one notable exception (the inclusion of the Senior Bishop to relate to the senior team on day to day matters) had been largely absent from the process and investigations. As the period following the investigations lengthened, the Monmouth senior colleagues became increasingly frustrated by and suspicious of the process the Archbishop had put in place. They remained sure that a mediated settlement, in which the bishop would return to work and their own relationships with him reset, would give rise inevitably to the perception that their concerns were personal and relational. When they responded to the Archbishop’s overtures concerning mediation (which were conducted by email since he had refused to meet with them) by including the bench in their response, matters became more complex. The decision not to include the bishops in the detail of the processes was correct at least until the senior colleagues made contact with the bishops directly and upon one significant event involving the press.
On 22 December an article appeared in the Western Mail concerning the absence of the Bishop of Monmouth. In it there appeared a statement from the Church in Wales which read: ‘’In recent weeks there has been speculation regarding the Bishop of Monmouth and about relationships in his senior team. The Archbishop of Wales is aware of these issues and remains actively engaged, with all parties, in a formal process of mediation which seeks to resolve them.’’
It is clear that this statement, although it did not say anything that was untrue, was misleading and inappropriate. In addition, the process of mediation which the senior team understood to be a confidential matter was now announced to the wider public and gave substance to the rumour now embedded in the diocese that the Bishop’s absence was entirely a matter of broken relationships. The reprinting of the statement on numerous occasions in both local and national publications compounded the issue.
When the Archbishop met with the senior colleagues following this press release (along with the Senior Bishop and Provincial Secretary) it was an attempt to address the most recent difficulties which had arisen including the drafting of a retraction of the Church in Wales statement. Although the Archbishop would visit Newport Cathedral and address the clergy on this very topic, the statement has never been formally retracted.
One of the outcomes of this meeting was that the Bench, now fully apprised of the circumstances surrounding the bishop, would be included in the mediated conversations. It was believed that the bishops would be able to assist repairing damaged relationships. This purpose is not recognized by some of the bishops who understood the reason for the meeting to be a means of explaining to the Bishop of Monmouth how serious was his situation. Bishop Richard had been persuaded through a sustained campaign to return to work and had regained some energy and resolve to do precisely this.
The mediated conversations appear to have been a step too far for Bishop Richard and they ended quickly without sufficient progress being made. When the news was announced that the bishop was to retire on the grounds of ill health, many questions, disagreements and hurts remained unresolved.
The Reviewers describe the complexity of communicating well when dealing with difficult matters. They describe how the communication pipeline was at times one sided and participants to the investigations were often left outside the loop. This became problematic when legal advice was sought by the Archbishop without parallel arrangements being put in place for the senior colleagues but was also an issue in relation to the diocese and press. The Reviewers describe the way rumour and counter rumour was allowed to go on in the diocese unchallenged by a narrative that would go some way to putting right the gossip now circulating widely.
The Director of Communications found that the press, on occasions appeared to know more about the Monmouth ‘problem’ than she did and it was no surprise that the statement of 22nd December was released without any understanding of its consequences in the light of the distance at which she was kept from the process.
When the Archbishop attended Newport Cathedral to address the clergy following Bishop Richard’s resignation, the request to keep matters confidential added to the belief among some of the laity that the truth was being subverted. A subsequent rift between the PCC of Newport Cathedral and the Archbishop illustrates the hazards of ensuring communication is clear and enables a narrative, even if limited, to be told which prevents rumour and counter rumour from standing centre stage and, in effect, controlling the process.
Conclusions and summary from the Commissioners
An organization must have processes which are fit for purpose. Legitimate concerns must be treated seriously and expedited quickly and in a way that does not damage those who raise such concerns. The report with its recommendations that we are publishing today will, if acted upon, go some way towards improving our processes. They require changes not only to the regulations with which we operate but also to the quality of training provided. Changing a culture requires a concerted effort, combining preventative interventions and setting aspirational goals which foster new expectations in the ministerial workplace. These must have secure boundaries and require high levels of accountability. There are implications, too, for the way senior clergy are supported within a tighter framework of mentoring and review. We are also conscious that we must ensure that, even where investigations are not led by the safeguarding team, the team are enabled to contribute to ongoing processes and be kept up-to-date.
Finally, we wish to express our sorrow and regret that what could have been an opportunity to attend well to a challenging situation became ruinous and distressing and left numerous people vulnerable and damaged. This has not reflected well on the Church in Wales and for that we apologize unreservedly to all those wounded by our failures.
The Most Revd Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales
Mr James Turner, Chair of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales January 2013-November 2021
13 December 2021