Martyn Percy quits the Church of England after long-running dispute

Martyn Percy.(Photo: Eleanor Sanger)

Former Christ Church Dean, Martyn Percy, has announced his decision to leave the Church of England, calling it an "unsafe place to work".

Percy was dean of both the Oxford University college and cathedral until last month.

He agreed to step down from his position after a settlement was reached in February, ending a long-running displute with the governing body following a safeguarding complaint.

Speaking to The Times at the weekend, Percy said that the dispute had pushed him to the brink of suicide and caused him to have a "pretty serious breakdown", which he said was "largely triggered by" the Bishop of Oxford. 

He has now announced in the June edition of Prospect magazine that he is to leave the Church of England altogether. 

In his article, he said the Bishop of Oxford "has no accountability, save only to God", and described a "culture of bullying and harassment afflicting many clergy".

"In the face of... partisanship, failure to neutrally manage conflicts of interest, double standards and incompetence in the CoE's safeguarding, I finally took a decision: to leave the Church," he wrote.

"Though I have been ordained for more than 30 years, and continue with my faith in God, the Church of England has destroyed any trust I might have had in it. It is an unsafe place to work."

He said that safeguarding in the Church of England was in a "parlous state" and that millions were being wasted on procedures that "lack the professional standards one would find in other spheres".

He decried the "catastrophic errors" made in the handling of other cases, including London priest, Alan Griffin, who took his own life after unsubstantiated claims of child abuse. The Church of England later admitted that its failings in the handling of this case "led to unreasonable pressures" on Griffin. 

Percy, 59, condemned the current system for dealing with complaints and said "that the Church of England lacks transparency, accountability, external scrutiny and, as far as I am concerned, integrity".

"Victims of abuse often wait years for investigation or due process; somebody accused of unspecified abuse might never work again," he said.

"There are no corrective measures in place and there is no mechanism for appeal. The CoE sets and marks its own homework—and awards itself top grades."

The Diocese of Oxford said in a statement, "The Bishop of Oxford and many others have gone to considerable lengths to care for Martyn in his four year dispute with Christ Church and to ensure fair treatment of all involved.

"This has included the offer of conversations about future ministry and a way of marking his departure.

"Much of what has happened has been inaccurately played out by supporters of Martyn in the media and online. Many people have been left damaged and hurt by their campaigns."

In a statement, the Church of England's lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs, said: "We recognise and acknowledge that the situation at Christ Church Oxford has had a significant impact on many people including the former Dean, Dr Martyn Percy.

"We are committed to ensuring the Church is a safe place for all through professional safeguarding both nationally and in every diocese.

"The safeguarding processes in the Church of England have improved out of all recognition in the last 10 years but we cannot be complacent.

"The Church now has an Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, chaired by a former Children's' Commissioner for England.

"Along with Oxford Diocese, we have referred Martyn's safeguarding concerns to the ISB for review which will be both rigorous and independent.

"Its finding will be public save only for protection of vulnerable people.

"As the internal questions at Christ Church are a matter for the college and the university, we will not comment on them.

"Martyn Percy has had a long and very distinguished service to God through his work in the Church of England in many roles.

"We are grateful for what he has done and wish him well in the future."