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Oxford diocese urges people not to 'downplay' complaint against Christ Church dean Martyn Percy

by Will Maule

The Oxford Diocese has said that a complaint against the head of Oxford's Christ Church Cathedral will be "properly and thoroughly investigated". On Wednesday, it was announced that the Very Revd Martyn Percy has "voluntarily withdrawn" from his position as the dean of Oxford University's Christ Church College amid a fresh complaint against him.

In a statement, the diocese said that the Bishop of Oxford "has agreed with the Very Revd Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, that Martyn will step back from office, while a complaint is properly considered".

It added that Christ Church was a "complex institution and, uniquely in the Church of England, the Dean of the Cathedral is also Head of an Oxford College".

In a secondary statement released on Thursday, the diocese urged Percy's supporters to refrain from downplaying the seriousness of the latest complaint. 

"We are disappointed that those seeking to support the Dean are reportedly trying to downplay the severity of the complaint," it said. "Such actions belittle the complainant and only add to the distress of anyone else considering a complaint against someone in a senior position. The complaint, which has been brought to the Church under the Clergy Discipline Measure, will be properly and thoroughly investigated." 

In a statement on the matter issued to Christ Church staff and students, the college added:

“The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Martyn Percy, has voluntarily withdrawn with immediate effect from all duties and pastoral responsibilities in his role as Dean of the College and Cathedral. Christ Church will not be commenting further whilst necessary inquiries are under way.

"The Charity Commission and relevant Church of England authorities are being kept fully informed.”

Percy has been engaged in a long-standing dispute with a number of Oxford University dons who opposed his appointment, allegedly because of his reformist agenda for the college. Complaints brought against Percy were dismissed in an employment tribunal which concluded in January 2019. While many of the details remain unknown, a statement from the college indicated that the tribunal was triggered by a pay dispute. The only finding made by the tribunal related to Percy's conduct was one unintentional breach of his fiduciary duties.

In September of this year, the Church of England cleared Percy of allegations relating to a potential safeguarding failure. 

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