Statement from the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England on the CDM process initiated against the Revd Robert Thompson, Vicar of SS Mary and James, West Hampstead
The Campaign has learned of the launch of a Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM) case against the Revd Robert Thompson with genuine concern. It is understood that the basis of the CDM is the claim that he has been engaged in online bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse of another cleric. The background to the complaint is that Fr Robert was approached by a young woman who had been, in her words, ‘repeatedly traumatised’ by the actions of the vicar of a Holy Trinity Brompton plant in London because of her sexuality. You can read her story in her own words here. Fr Robert has been acting as her support, advocate and guide as she has sought for recognition of the harm done to her. In this process there has been an official investigation by the Diocese of London into the abuse of this young woman, which has made recommendations that have yet to be fully implemented by the parish concerned.
We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.
Fr Robert’s focus has been on supporting the young woman in her struggle for redress and support, and the need for substantial changes in the approach by the Diocese of London, illustrated by the young woman’s experience, into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ people in its churches. The case demonstrates the deep harm that can be done by a lack of transparency and honesty about the position of LGBTQIA+ people in Church of England parishes. There are genuine questions raised by this case about spiritual abuse and the misuse of power.
The reason this is important is that, by allowing this CDM case to be brought, the Diocese of London has brought into question its understanding of the abuse suffered by LGBTQIA+ Christians in parts of the Church of England and its willingness and ability to support and safeguard LGBTQIA+ Christians. It also demonstrates a failure to adequately safeguard a priest involved in whistle-blowing on an abusive situation. The Diocese has no official whistle-blower policy to protect clergy involved in such cases.
There are also significant questions raised about the decision of the Bishop of London to pass the case on to another bishop to be ‘heard’ because of her own admitted ‘conflict of interests’. Bishop Sarah has been repeatedly asked by Fr Robert to understand the extent of safeguarding issues for LGBTQIA+ people in the diocese. Relevant to this is the fact that she is Chair of the Next Steps group that will determine the outcome of ‘Living in Love and Faith’, the current Church of England process of exploration and study about issues of human sexuality. A proper understanding and regard for the consequences of discrimination and abuse against LGBTQIA+ Christians has yet to be shown by Bishop Sarah, and this must bring into question the process over which she will have significant influence.
We also call on the wider network of churches associated with Holy Trinity Brompton, at the heart of this case, to set an example of honesty and openness about their stance on LGBTQIA+ issues and so avoid such a brutally painful and damaging experience for young Christians in the future.
London has many gay and lesbian clergy and the largest population of LGBTQIA+ people in the country. How this young woman has been treated in a Church of England parish, how the Diocese has responded to that abuse, and how the priest offering pastoral support and challenging the safeguarding failures of this case is now being targeted, are all matters of genuine concern.