RECORD OF A STATEMENT BY SIR LAURENCE NEW, CHAIRMAN OF St AUGUSTINE’S CHURCH MANAGEMENT TEAM TO THE CONGREGATION AFTER SERVICE ON SUNDAY 30 OCTOBER 2016.
There can be no doubt that the attacks and counter attacks between the Diocese and ourselves are being viewed with less and less sympathy by many church-goers on the Island. Accordingly, the Management Team have authorised me to make the following statement and issue the request in the final paragraph below to us all:
When the original announcement was made on 2 September 2015 that The Bishop and the Archdeacon were launching a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) against Dr Gomes, the legal advice which he received from eminent ecclesiastical lawyers, one of whom is a senior clergyman and member of General Synod, was, and has remained, that because Dr Gomes was not ordained by the Church of England (C of E) and that after due notice on 31 December 2015 he had resigned from all his offices within the C of E, the CDM would be “meaningless”.
Before going on to discuss the complaints and the findings of the Tribunal it is relevant to note there have been only four (CDMs) launched in the UK against priests within the C of E in the past thirteen months, one for theft of £30,000 from Church Funds, two for fornication with female members in the priest’s congregation and one for assault and fornication with a male and a female member of that Priest’s congregation. To undertake a CDM against Dr Gomes on the complaints indicated below would be seen by many as a significant misuse of the Clergy Discipline Measure and a clear indication not only of further intimidation and harassment, but that a separate agenda was being pursued notably the suppression of the Tynwald Petition by Dr Gomes.
Because the legal advice has been unequivocal and consistent Dr Gomes decided to have nothing to do with the CDM and not to defend himself or be represented. A Tribunal chaired by an officer of the Diocese paid by the Bishop, and without any defence being heard, was even more “meaningless”. Unsurprisingly, this combination led to a one-sided set of conclusions. An example of this is that the Tribunal found “no evidence whatsoever of bullying by the Bishop or the Archdeacon” (paragraph 88-89 of the Tribunal Report). They claimed that this assertion was borne out by the evidence before them that neither Dr Gomes nor his supporters had ever complained officially. In fact, two CDMs had been launched in protest against the Bishop, one by Mrs Gomes and one by Fr Robert Ferguson on his own account, detailing between them some twenty-seven specific instances of bullying by the Bishop. Both of these CDMs, incidentally, were dismissed by the Archdiocese of York. Nor was the Tribunal made aware that several very specific letters of complaint about the Bishop’s behaviour had been written to the Archbishop of York, and that there was an on-line petition which revealed that more than 129 identifiable Manx residents asserted that there had in fact been extensive bullying by the Bishop. Such omissions by the Tribunal reduced its credibility and any claim to impartiality.
In its early form the CDM contained six complaints against Dr Gomes trawled by the Archdeacon going back in one case over eight years. Two complaints were deleted on the advice of the lawyers employed by the Bishop. The remaining four complaints were:
a. That he had embellished his CV. The Tribunal found him not guilty of misconduct on this complaint.
b. That he had accused a member of the clergy of referring to him as a “darkie”. The evidence was inconsistent, but accepting the word of the clergywoman against Dr Gomes word and that of a witness statement which was not before them, the Tribunal found Dr Gomes guilty of misconduct.
c. That he had lost his temper with a church cleaner and had spoken strongly on several occasions to other individuals. Dr Gomes tried to offer an apology to the cleaner but was told by her that she had been instructed by the Bishop not to accept it unless he was present. Dr Gomes admits and accepts this complaint, apologises for his action and is determined that it will not recur. The Tribunal found him guilty of this misconduct.
d. That at Tynwald in July 2015 he spoke out about the Bishop and the Archdeacon’s bullying. The Tribunal found him guilty of this misconduct. Dr Gomes maintains that his remarks were not only true but were within his democratic rights to free speech, and that a significant number of people agreed with him.
It follows that if the CDM is legally “meaningless so too are the threats by the Bishop to damage or restrict Dr Gomes career as a preacher of the Gospel. The Bishop has no legal jurisdiction over Dr Gomes, neither has the Diocese. He remains the trusted and esteemed minister of St Augustine’s Church, a uniquely gifted preacher and Biblical scholar. In the eight months since our founding he has brought a real joy in the Gospel to our church family.
The Management Team Prayer and Planning Meeting on Friday 28 October decided that once the recording already made by Marion Kenny with Dr Gomes had been broadcast on 31 October’s Mandate the members of the Management Team would decline thereafter to respond in any way, on Manx Radio, in the newspapers or in social media. It would be a complete cease-fire to limit further damage and distress. They have authorised me to request that all of us, as individuals or as a church should commit to the same restraint, whether it be unilateral or not.