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The Telegraph

Aide to former Archbishop of Canterbury ‘tried to blackmail minister over racism claims’

An aide to the former Archbishop of Canterbury is accused of trying to blackmail a minister into retracting allegations of racism in order to keep his licence, The Telegraph can reveal. Bishop John Fenwick, 70, leads the Free Church of England (FCE), a splinter group from the Church of England that was forged in the mid 19th century. The former adviser to Lord Carey, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, is already facing questions, as the charity watchdog examines allegations that proceeds from the sale of a £300,000 church “disappeared”. West Midlands Police has also said it was reviewing an allegation of fraud to establish if any offences have been committed by the FCE. However, it has now emerged that Bishop Fenwick is also accused of attempting to “blackmail” another minister, the Rev Arthur Kay, into retracting allegations made against him ranging from racism, doctrinal breaches and an abuse-of-process claim relating to the closure of the church which was later sold for £300,000. The Rev Kay, who has served as a minister for almost 40 years, warned that the FCE’s “culture of secrecy” could lead to the dissolution of the entire Christian denomination. The Rev Kay claims that the bishop told him he had “burnt his bridges” after he had filed charges against him, and gave him three options: “retire gracefully”, have his licence withdrawn, or accept a Permission to Officiate (PTO) but only within his own congregation “conditional on my saying that I happily accept it and will drop the charges filed against him”. ‘It feels like blackmail’ The Rev Kay rejected all options. “It felt like a kind of blackmail,” he told The Telegraph. “Particularly, I feel it’s an abuse of the disciplinary processes of our denomination to require that charges under those processes be dropped in return for keeping a mere shadow of my former ministry.” He added: “It seems that anyone who raises any question about what the bishop is doing is penalised for it. “We don’t really have Archbishops in our denomination, but he is behaving like one in trying to exercise power in every church in England.” Despite its distinction, the FCE maintains a formal relationship with the Church of England and clergy are able to move between the two Churches. It is led by three bishops: Bishop Fenwick, who acts as the Bishop Primus and Bishop of the Northern Diocese. He is supported by Bishop Paul Hunt, Bishop of the Southern Diocese, and Bishop Josep M Rossello, Bishop of the South America Diocese – who is not alleged to be involved in any wrongdoing. Following the claims, Bishop Rossello has since called for his senior, Bishop Fenwick, to stand down. In March, the Rev Kay wrote to the FCE’s second in command, Bishop Hunt, alleging that Bishop Fenwick had made comments of a racist nature about Bishop Rossello, including that he was “the best paid minister and he was not even English”. He also raised concerns about the closure of the £300,000 St Stephen’s Church in Middlesbrough, and the removal of its minister. He claims that it was these complaints which cost him his ministerial position within the FCE. Instead of apologising, he alleged that Bishop Fenwick maintains an atmosphere of “secrecy and intimidation”. ‘Atmosphere of fear’ “There’s a definite atmosphere of fear,” the Rev Kay said. I think people are afraid to say anything against him because he’s a bishop. People see how authoritarian he is, and that he can do nasty things to people, and they feel inferior to him.” Asked why he decided to speak out, the Rev Kay added: “For me it was a matter of conscience. It’s cost me a lot of sleepless nights. The congregation has pleaded with the bishop to restore my licence and he has refused. “I have never spoken to the press about anything like this, and I only do so now agonisingly and with the utmost reluctance. I have been torn in two. Only the advice and urging of people I respect has swayed me. Sadly, the bishop will not listen to anything else. “In such circumstances anyone else would have stepped down to allow an independent investigation. Over and over he has been spoken to by different people in the FCE but he simply ignores every adverse comment and never says he’s sorry about anything he has done. “This is not the kind of thing that any Christian wants to do. I didn’t do this out of malice or because it’s something I wanted to do. It has cost me hugely to do it.” Asked if he thought such allegations of wrongdoing could bring about the downfall of the FCE, he said: “It could – and maybe that is what is needed: a death and resurrection.” In response, Bishop Fenwick said: “In October 2020 I informed my Diocesan Synod of the processes that I intended to be guided by when assessing whether or not to issue a further licence to a presbyter beyond the age of 70: At 70 years of age all clergy with pastoral oversight shall submit their licence to the bishop of the diocese. “However, after consultation with the local congregation and others concerned, the bishop may reissue him a licence on an annual basis… So, a presbyter can be invited to lead worship for as long as he is fit and able, but he would not normally be expected to be in charge of a parish after the age of 70. “The sharing of the guidelines with Synod predated any of the other issues referred to in recent allegations. “As the Rev Arthur Kay’s 70th birthday approached I contacted the churchwardens of the Church where Mr Kay was the assistant minister and asked them to consult the congregation. At the same time I consulted the Diocesan officers and senior clergy and laity of the denomination as ‘others concerned’. “The result of the consultation was that, while the congregation wished Mr Kay to continue to minister to them, the assessment of his wider contribution to Diocese and denomination was substantially negative. My offer to grant Mr Kay PTO at Tottington, was intended as a pastoral way of resolving the polarised outcome of the consultation. “I am deeply sorry that Mr Kay refused the offer and has responded to my olive branch in the way he has.”

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Palestinian woman killed, two Israelis wounded in West Bank violence – Yahoo News

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