ELY DIOCESAN SYNOD 9.6.2007 - A STATEMENT BY THE BISHOP OF ELY
11th June 2007
The situation in the Parish of St Mary and St Michael, Trumpington, has been the subject of recent publicity. Our first thoughts are for those concerned in this matter, and our prayers are for all who are involved in what is a difficult and sad situation.
In the recent publicity, a significant omission has been any indication of the long process of mediation and reconciliation during the last eight years. It may be helpful for those trying to understand the situation to have a record of the chronology of events in this dispute between the Incumbent and members of the Parochial Church Council.
The Incumbent of St Mary and St Michael, Trumpington, was inducted and instituted on 21st September 1999.
On 25th April 2003, the APCM voted, 58 votes in favour, 7 against (1 abstention, 3 void papers): . . . that the Revd Dr Tom Ambrose has lost their trust and respect and they do not believe that he can heal the pastoral breakdown that he has created.
Following a PCC meeting on 2nd February 2004, a letter was sent to the Bishop recording a motion passed by two thirds of the lay members of the PCC, signifying their intent to request an Inquiry under Part I of the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977 (as amended 1993) into the pastoral situation in the Parish of St Mary and St Michael, Trumpington.
As he is required, the Bishop has followed the Code of Practice, which aims at conciliation and mediation. The three meetings required by the Code of Practice were arranged in early 2004, and a further local attempt at reconciliation between the two parties was made, as per para. 7. Regrettably, no progress was recorded.
Later in that year, Dr James Behrens, assisted by Yvonne Craig of the Mennonite Church, oversaw the formal process of conciliation, and reported to the Bishop, unfortunately, as the breakdown of pastoral relations has been increasing during the last four years, attitudes have become hardened, and despite the warm appreciation shown by all involved for the time and Christian commitment given to them, a path of reconciliation was not taken.
On 4th November 2004, Trumpington PCC sent a formal request to the Bishop to institute an Inquiry under Part I of the Measure, following the Conciliators Report.
In early 2005, following the Code of Practice, the Archdeacon of Ely was asked to make a Report to the Bishop as to whether an Inquiry under the Measure would be in the best interests of the Incumbent and parishioners of Trumpington. The Archdeacon concluded, in view of all these things, it is my judgement that an Inquiry under the Measure would be in the best interests of the Incumbent and parishioners of Trumpington.
On the 9th May 2005, the Bishop of Ely informed the Incumbent and the designated representatives of the PCC: Having received the Archdeacons report, I have had regard to paragraph 14 of the Code of Practice, the Bishop in general should be guided by the recommendations of the Archdeacons report, and I direct that this matter be referred to an Inquiry by a Provincial Tribunal under Part I of the Measure.
This matter is now before the Provincial Tribunal, and it is regrettable that it has taken so long for the Chairman and members of the Tribunal to be appointed and for a timetable to be established.
Whilst the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977 (as amended 1993) has been invoked on occasions, it is extremely rare for a case to reach the point where a Tribunal has been called. Although there were cases under the unamended procedure prior to 1993, this is the first case under the amended procedure to reach a Tribunal.
In the recent press reporting, a number of figures have been quoted as the likely cost of these proceedings to the Diocese. At the present time, these must be regarded as speculation, although it is certain that much of the cost of this Tribunal will fall to the Diocese.
At a time when there is so much for which to give thanks to God in the life and witness of the Diocese of Ely, this remains a sad and difficult situation. Our prayers are for all those who are involved, and for the life of St Mary and St Michael, Trumpington.