Stop an abusive priest from resuming his ministry
Stop an abusive priest from resuming his ministry
We call upon the Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford, to refrain from granting Permission to Officiate to Revd William Bulloch until all of the evidence of his abuse of AB has been fully and properly considered.
This petition arises from the case of a woman who for legal reasons we have to call AB. AB was abused in the most extreme ways over a period of months by a priest in the Church of England. The priest was the Reverend William Bulloch, the vicar of St James, Leigh on Sea in the Diocese of Chelmsford. Nevertheless, the Diocese of Chelmsford intends to grant him Permission to Officiate, effectively allowing him to continue to minister as if nothing has happened.
The allegations against Revd Bulloch have been managed under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), which is the Church of England’s internal justice system. It is widely recognised within the church that the CDM is not fit for purpose; that it produces perverse and unjust outcomes and causes great harm in the process to both complainants and respondents. The maltreatment of AB within the process has been the worst that we have ever seen. This brief summary can’t do justice to the extreme cruelty and gross injustice to which she has been subjected at the hands of the church.
AB reported Bulloch’s mistreatment of her to the Diocese of Chelmsford in 2017. Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, then the Bishop of Chelmsford, investigated the claims, and as a result he banned Revd Bulloch from ministry for two years. However, under the church’s extraordinary disciplinary system, Revd Bulloch was not obliged to accept the penalty, so the matter was referred to the national church. Revd Bulloch was then “tried” by a church tribunal at which both he and the Diocese were legally represented, whilst AB, who was both the victim and the primary witness, was treated as nothing more than a piece of evidence. Significant aspects of AB’s account of Bulloch’s abuse, including DNA evidence, recordings and photographs were simply not considered. Witnesses to whom AB disclosed her abuse were not called; medical evidence that she offered was not heard. This resulted in many untruths and inaccuracies being published. The tribunal barely consider AB’s allegation that Bulloch had sexually exploited her. It was only interested in considering Bulloch’s fitness to be a minister. The tribunal ruled by a majority, with three in favour and two dissenting. A charge that Bulloch had had what it referred to as “a sexual relationship” with AB was dismissed. He was found guilty only of using “foul and obscene language” and of failing to report his concerns to diocesan officers, and on the basis of those complaints, he was barred from returning to ministry in his parish.
Once again Revd Bulloch refused to accept this penalty, but appealed to The Court of Arches, which is the highest and final court in the Church of England. On 9th April 2021, the tribunal judgement banning him from ministering in his parish was overturned. The Court required him only to complete an anger management course within six months, and to have further safeguarding training within 2 years. He can now go back to work as a parish priest in the same parish. This is an outrage.
AB’s allegations represent the third formal complaint that Revd Bulloch has survived in the course of his ministry.
The Archbishop of York, who was Bishop of Chelmsford at the time of the tribunal ruling, has said that he believes that AB has told the truth about her experience at the hands of Rev Bulloch. He knows that this outcome is both unjust and dangerous. He has tried and failed to ban Revd Bulloch from ministry. The Archdeacon of Southend, who has managed this case on behalf of the Diocese, has consistently supported AB and says that he believes her account of Bulloch’s abuse. The Bishop of Barking, who is acting Bishop of Chelmsford, told the Court of Arches that he believes that Bulloch’s credibility as a parish priest is lost beyond recovery, and that his going back to work at St James’ Church will have a serious impact on AB’s mental wellbeing. Immediately after the appeal was granted, he announced his retirement from the church. Nevertheless, the Court decided to restore Bulloch to ministry on the basis of a letter of commendation from the Bishop of Richborough. He is a long-term friend of Bulloch, and they are both members of an exclusive group within the Church of England known as The Society.
The tribunal judgement stated that “the problem in a case such as this is that no one is appointed to investigate the case in a professional manner.” It also acknowledged that “the issues raised in these concluding remarks go to the structure of CDM proceedings and no doubt also to the question of resources provided by the Church to investigate matters of this kind.” Those are understatements. The real problem is that a woman’s life has been devastated twice over; first by gross abuse by a priest in the Church of England, and then by a system that had no interest in her spiritual, mental or physical wellbeing. Meanwhile the priest who abused her is free to go back to his work as if nothing had happened.
The appeal court opens its judgement with the words “This is an extraordinary case which is troubling for many reasons.” It is far more than that. The end result is that a man who the church has acknowledged acted in an abusive and unprofessional fashion, and who still faces such serious un-investigated allegations, remains at large, dressing and working as a parish priest, whilst the church’s only sanction is that he should complete a course in anger management.
A gross injustice has been perpetrated in this case. It is our intention to ensure that the evidence of abuse of AB by Revd William Bulloch shall be made public. In the meantime, a church in which he is allowed to minister cannot be regarded as a safe place. AB and those supporting her are determined that the truth is known, and the injustice put right.
It is within the absolute gift and discretion of the new Bishop of Chelmsford to grant or withhold Permission to Officiate to any minister. We call upon the Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford, to refrain from granting Permission to Officiate to Revd William Bulloch until all of the evidence of his abuse of AB has been fully and properly considered.
Andrew Graystone firstname.lastname@example.org
Joanne Kind (MACSAS) email@example.com
Reminder to editors: The judgement of the court provides that AB shall have a permanent anonymity.