Episcopal visitation finds serious concerns over the PCC’s governance at St Faith’s Crosby leading to a culture of bullying.
A report of an episcopal visitation carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe has found serious failings in the PCC and amongst the laity at St Faith’s Crosby. The report outlines major failings in the governance of the parish which has led to what can be described as a culture of bullying towards the Priest in Charge, Father Simon Tibbs.
The Episcopal Visitation was established by Bishop Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool in the wake of reports of difficulties at St Faiths. The Bishop instigated a six month visitation period for Bishop Stephen to thoroughly investigate concerns at the parish and produce a report.
Bishop Stephen report was presented to the PCC at a special meeting on Monday 20th January.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said “This has been a disturbing and distressing experience in the life of St Faith’s. I have found clear weaknesses in the governance structures at the church. Weaknesses that existed before Father Simon’s arrival. Weaknesses that have allowed a culture of bullying towards Father Simon from some elements of the PCC. The Diocese of Liverpool will need to consider its mentoring arrangements for priests in the light of this unhappy episode. However my main recommendation is that the Diocese of Liverpool takes firm action to restore good governance in the parish before considering the long term future of St Faith’s Crosby.”
The report’s conclusions were
• Father Simon Tibbs is without question an able and likeable priest – still in need of help over some of his pastoral and leadership style. He will have a distinguished and fulfilling ministry. His confidence has taken a battering and will need a period of mentoring and support.
• There are some outstanding and devoted Christians at St Faith’s, some of whom have left, who also must be acknowledged and valued.
• Father Simon has been a victim. He was faced with unsupportive churchwardens and a group within the leadership resistant to change and lacking any contemporary vision for the mission of the Church.
• There has been some elements of “bullying” behaviour at ST Faith’s in the attitude and behaviour of some of the laity
• The mentoring of Father Simon was not as good as it may have been.
• Without losing the Anglo-Catholic Eucharistic tradition that is clearly important to many in the life of the Church in Crosby there is a need to recast the nature and practice of Church life in the area.
• there is a need for a very different vision for the future of the Church in Crosby and a recognition that new ministry there is following that new agenda.
Bishop Richard to install temporary measures to improve governance at St Faith’s Crosby
The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, is to act swiftly on the findings of an independent report into the governance at St Faith’s Crosby. The Bishop has announced that he has asked for the visitation process to continue for 18 months to enable stronger governance procedures to be put in place and deal with Bishop Stephen’s recommendations.
Bishop Richard has given licence to Revd Susan Lucas to act as Priest in Charge during this time. She will be strongly supported by Bishop Stephen Lowe. She will be charged to bring in measures that address the weaknesses in governance, reinvigorate the teaching of Christian giving and strengthen the sacred traditions of Anglo-Catholic liturgical worship so they become a meaningful expression of God’s love and mission. Bishop Richard has asked that this process should take no more than 18 months and he will closely monitor progress.
Bishop Richard said “I am greatly saddened by the findings of Bishop Stephen’s report especially his observations of a culture of bullying against a priest in Holy Orders which neither I, or the Diocese of Liverpool, will tolerate.
"I have appointed the Revd Sue Lucas to take over as full-time Priest-in-charge of St Faith’s on an interim basis for the next 18 months. Sue has a great love for the Catholic tradition of the Church of England and possesses the spiritual toughness and intellectual rigour that will help St Faith’s to rediscover its Catholic spirituality in mission and worship. I have arranged that she receives weekly supervision from Bishop Stephen to equip and sustain her for this demanding and challenging task.
This 18 month interim ministry is a massive commitment for her to be making: she will start work on Sunday 25th February.
"I have been extremely grateful to Fr Paul Nener for stepping in at very short notice to provide a ministry of pastoral oversight; this is will end next Sunday – 27th January and the Area Dean will assume responsibility for the provision of ministry in the intervening period of 4 weeks before Sue Lucas starts work.
"It is clear that a new fire needs to be kindled at St Faith’s; no longer is it right that old embers continue to be raked over. A long difficult and painful process lies ahead if the failure of the Spiritual life of this church is to be properly addressed.
“We must rebuild – and we shall rebuild St Faiths so that it becomes a vibrant, beating heart of mission that makes Christ known in its community and which is committed to a generous, caring, outgoing and inclusive ministry.”
Father Simon Tibbs
Bishop Richard accepted Bishop Stephen Lowe’s observations that the mentoring of Father Simon Tibbs could have been stronger and will look at what the Diocese of Liverpool can do in this area.
Bishop Richard said “Father Simon is an extremely able priest and while his confidence has been affected by this unhappy experience I have every belief that he will have a successful, fulfilling ministry. We will support him as he pursues his vocation.”
Father Simon continues to minister at St Mary’s Crosby.
Father Simon Tibbs said “This has been a very difficult period for me. I am grateful for all those who have supported me, particularly the ministerial team at St Faiths. I now wish to devote my energy to my fruitful ministry at St Mary’s as I seek to move forward in my ministry”