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William Campbell-Taylor, the Bishop Peter Ball Report and Clergy Abuse of Power

William Campbell-Taylor, the Bishop Peter Ball Report and Clergy Abuse of Power

By Alan Jacobs
July 11, 2017

It could be argued that, in essence, the story of the Church of England and of the wider Anglican Communion is the eternal Great Dilemma of two utterly opposed gospels (Galatians 1:6-10). On the one hand stands a rude faithfulness to Christ's truth, whatever the cost to earthly religious institutions and, on the other, the Clericalism of the Church for whose dog collar-wearing bureaucrats it is the politics of protecting ecclesiastical power which matters more than the Cross.

No more vividly is this demonstrated than in the Dame Moira Gibb's Report, "Abuse of Faith", concerning the multiple wrongdoing by the Church of England in its willful covering up and silencing of vulnerable adults and teenage victims of homosexual abuse at the hand of Bishop Peter Ball. Recommendation 4 of Gibb's damning report focuses on the consistent failures by the Church of England to protect vulnerable adults, such as those preyed upon in the multiple continuing cases of gay clergy abuse: "The Church, recognizing that it still has further to travel in relation to adult victims of abuse, should make a particular effort to secure a fuller understanding and more consistent good practice in that area". In fact, of concern to many campaigners is that while there has been very public horror at abuse cases involving small children, the prevailing sexualized culture both in society and in the Anglican establishment itself means cases of homosexual abuse by priests against young men and vulnerable adults (as opposed to minors) are, in fact, ever less likely to be treated as criminal offenses or even "conduct unbecoming of a clergyman" under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

One particularly shocking parallel case to Bishop Ball concerns Rev. William Campbell-Taylor, a vicar in Hackney in the Diocese of London who also held public office as a Labour Party Common Councilman in the City of London Corporation. In 2014, Campbell-Taylor attempted unsuccessfully to prosecute a vulnerable male who had revealed publicly in the British Parliament that the priest had groomed the vulnerable adult and asked him for oral sex.

To the astonishment of those of us who might think that in the land of Magna Carta and the Mother of Parliaments a whistle blower's freedom of speech would be protected in relation to speaking out about church abuse, in fact, Campbell-Taylor was able to make use of an obscure English legal provision which claimed that by reason of his victim publishing this true documented evidence of abuse at a parliamentary meeting in front of legal experts, clergy, and survivors groups, such a public humiliation had allegedly caused the said vicar emotional "distress and alarm".

Campbell-Taylor's role as a Hackney police chaplain in pressing the case, and his exercise of power as a privileged City official to silence his victim from "making any [public] allegation of personal wrongdoing" led to an international outcry by survivors campaign groups, various of whom raised concerns directly with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Diocese of London also admits at the time it paid a private scandal management company, Luther Pendragon Limited, to attempt to intervene in relation to the survivors meeting in the House of Commons. Luther Pendragon is also heavily implicated in allegations of sex abuse cover-up in the Diocese of Winchester.

After I published my original article a year ago concerning this case, William Campbell-Taylor complained and applied pressure to try and have it removed. He has now attempted to do so again following the publication of the Gibb Report, and has threatened to "escalate" this matter. It since transpires that William Campbell-Taylor has allegedly expressed some recent interest in standing for public office as a Labour Party candidate in forthcoming elections to become a City of London Alderman in the Portsoken ward.

My journalist colleagues and I have therefore examined and referenced the original witness statements and William Campbell-Taylor's email correspondence with his victim which are on the public legal record of the Court, and were reported on at the time by journalists present themselves at the hearings.

A written witness statement from Ian Burleigh, a church administrator and former City of London Councilman in the same ward of Portsoken as Campbell-Taylor states that he had similarly been "betrayed" by the vicar, and while both were serving officials in the City of London "William Campbell-Taylor by his own admission threatened me" and "was in a position to blackmail me."

Another Christian witness, Tanya Dempsey nee Paton, testified in writing on the Court record about her experience of the cleric's "secretive" and deceitful behavior with her. She testifies how deliberately "William sought [the victim] out alone and they left together." Another Christian witness, Marianne Aston, testifies in her written witness statement to the Court concerning Campbell-Taylor's prior sexual history that "William was known to have had a non-platonic relationship with a man in the past."

The legal bundles on the Court record show extensive intimate written correspondence from William Campbell-Taylor to the vulnerable male in which Campbell-Taylor signs off messages with kisses and "love, William" and "W x" or "yr brother Muffin". The victim writes to Campbell-Taylor challenging him about "your sexuality and past experience that has wreaked havoc in our personal relationship" and asks about the time "you said [to me] 'How about a b**w job then?'". In response, the priest evades the question and strangely writes back later the same day "you have been on my mind today because I know it is your birthday" and "I would like to be in a position to stand in solidarity in public with you as a friend" and again signs off "love William".

The exhibits on the record of the Court show inscribed gifts given by Campbell-Taylor to the vulnerable male, and emails sent by the priest to the victim which announce "I actually see you as a permanent feature of my life" and "I have various of the objects you have given me which I treasure", while the survivor's witness statement describes the incidents which took place at the vicar's apartment, as well as characteristic phrases used by the clergyman including about his having "a stirring in the loins".

Sam Stein QC, legal counsel for the Whiteflowers Campaign and Forde Park Survivors in the UK government's independent abuse inquiry, speaks to the government investigation about "abuse in plain sight". District Judge Warner in the case is recorded to have described William Campbell-Taylor's behavior as "at the very least, in bad taste", and it is further notable that over decades a number of those raising concerns about Campbell-Taylor's blackmail, bullying and other behavior towards different people have included other Christian clergy. Just a cursory bit of online research on the man brings up examples of some unscrupulous vicar-politician behavior in multiple contexts and yet, much as with the Church in the Peter Ball case, the Diocese of London has repeatedly looked the other way in favor of that Clericalism which privileges institutional religious power over the counter-institutional Gospel. And is the British Labour Party likely to follow its own Rule Book and insist all its candidates "uphold the highest standards of probity and integrity in public life?". If recent evidence is anything to go by, we shouldn't be holding our breath there either.

A key recommendation 10 of the Gibb Report is that more visible and better use be made of the "Archbishops' Caution List", which puts on record concerns that have been raised about the suitability for ministry of particular Church of England clergy, and is linked to other Gibb recommendations about greater transparency and consultation with survivors about the quality of safeguarding procedures.

At the same time, while the sexualization of the clerical life of the Church moves forward at pace, one can only wonder how in heaven it is to be expected that mere bureaucratic procedures are supposed to keep vulnerable children and adults safe from a carnal Church which in its heart seems more engaged in the pursuit of worldly power and political influence, than upholding unpalatable biblical truths and unappealing standards of ethics and Christian living.

Alan Jacobs is a frequent commentator on various religious blogs and sites. A retired American Petro-Chemical Engineer from Dallas, Alan is focusing his attention on the Church and its future in both the US and UK.

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