Letters of support

Here are a few of the letters that were sent to the Bishop of Norwich starting 3 years ago. The Bishop never acknowledged them.

Response to Bishop of Norwich All Saint’s Day Directions

17th January 2022

The Wymondham PCC and the worshipping community have been surprised and disappointed in the Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher, Bishop of Thetford Alan Winton, the registrar Stuart Jones , the Norwich DBF and Archdeacon Steven Betts in relation to their behaviour relating to Wymondham.

We have quietly and through the proper channels sought honesty, transparency and justice in the matter of our vicarage which was taken from us for a Bishop without consultation or agreement and in breach of the law. There was never any intention on the part of the PCC to be confrontational or in any way embarrass Bishop Alan Winton and his wife who moved into the property that was taken illegally. We hoped by agreement, with kindness and propriety all round to quietly have our vicarage restored to the town.

This natural reticence may have been a mistake as it provided an opportunity for the Diocese to launch various sorts of attacks on the vicar, wardens and PCC. There have been false allegations, delays and threats and unremitting criticism of a church community doing it’s best in very difficult times and widely appreciated by other groups.

We have been harassed. For three years the pressure here has been unrelenting. We believe the intention has been to break the vicar, break the PCC people and to break the worshipping community: all this for the preferences of Bishop Graham Usher and Bishop Alan Winton to the detriment of the whole of the parish and indeed to the whole of the town.

Recent letters to the Bishop

Dear Bishop Graham,

We had hoped that a new bishop would arrive unprejudiced and prepared to deal openly with the increasingly disturbing issues in the Diocese of Norwich ie the dishonesty in property transactions, lying and cover-ups. We were disappointed. Your prejudice against Mother Catherine and the churchwardens and all who supported them was obvious from the start.

You say in the preamble to your directions that you are grateful to those who have written to you, either with complaints or concerns as well as to some who have written in support of the vicar. However, you may have responded to complainants but it has been clear that you have not welcomed emails or letters written in support of Mother Catherine.

Read the full letter

Your uniform response to those who have written in support has been to point out that not everyone is of their opinion. You refer to the complainants, who include people who have written hate mail, poison pen letters, and who have slashed the vicar’s tyres and threatened to kill her, as “ good and Godly”. May I point out that there were many more people who support our vicar than there were complainants, asking for interviews with the conciliator in September 2020. He listened but, mysteriously, the process was concluded suddenly with no report made available to us. These people had also written letters in support of Mother Catherine to the previous Bishop, Graham James. There were more than 50 such letters which were never acknowledged by either him or by you.

We had hoped the Visitation, involving a Bishop from outside the Diocese of \Norwich, would be a means of achieving transparency and allowing every voice to be heard. However, appointed by you, Bishop Graeme Knowles clearly came from a position of bias from the very start. A large number of parishioners spoke in support of Mother Catherine to Bishop Graeme Knowles during the Visitation process. Their appreciative comments were clearly ignored as, unsurprisingly, they don’t appear in the Visitation report. Instead, you resurrect trivial matters, based on misinformation and gossip, which had already been dealt with. I had personal experience of my supportive comments being brushed aside by Bishop Knowles in his very obvious attempt to look, instead, for something he could criticise. He made me feel as if on trial for expressing appreciation of our vicar.

A group of complainants with a reputation locally of ‘seeing off’ vicars, and some of whom had vowed to make our Vicar’s life uncomfortable here, proved very useful tools to the diocese. Mother Catherine had asked a question about the misappropriation of the vicarage of Wymondham ( an asset of over £1million belonging to the people of Wymondham). She needed to be silenced. What better solution than to encourage complainants to keep complaining. One accosted a member of the abbey staff in the street and boasted to him that the Archdeacon Steven Betts had told them to ‘keep the letters of complaint coming in’. I have witnessed your unremitting harassment of our Vicar, Bishop Graham, You have tried everything – CDMs, false safeguarding allegations, the Visitation and, most recently the publication of your directions.

We have tried everything possible to fight this battle privately in order not to bring the Diocese of Norwich and the Church of England into disrepute but no longer. You, Bishop Usher and the Archdeacon Steven Betts have not hesitated to try every trick in the book to humiliate our vicar, to trash her reputation, and to put on her as much pressure as you can to make her resign. You know full well that Mother Catherine is not the only vicar in this diocese to have been threatened for whistle blowing.

Despite you, Bishop, with the help of a few complainants, having done everything possible to put obstacles in Mother Catherine’s way, she has continued to put every effort into serving the people of Wymondham and making the church and churchyard warm, welcoming places for them. The people of this town, about whom she cares, need to know what she has been up against and why.

Dear Bishop Graham,

Please consider this letter as a complaint.

We had hoped that the Visitation process would be an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate openness, fairness and integrity. Everyone includes you.

Instead, our worst fears have been realised. Clearly there never was any intention by you to do anything but defend the indefensible conduct of yourself, The Bishop of Thetford, Archdeacon Betts, Richard Butler and Stuart Jones.

You and the Diocesan Administration has been shown to be at fault, and indeed corrupt in many ways.

Read the full letter

I won’t rehash it all but here are the headings

1.       Fraud.  Stuart Jones said that he had had nothing to do with the Vicarage transactions – but he signed the Land Registry documents. As for the Joint Statement with which they beguiled and misled the Diocesan Synod – that’s nothing but cynical, calculated fraud.

2.       Harassment of the Vicar. You chose to publicise your Directions to the Parish in such a way that you were able to reopen matters which had been thoroughly dealt with. Some of these had been wrongly treated as “safeguarding matters.”  You have treated proven false accusations as if they were proven facts. Your decision to include references to these issues in your Directions and publish them on line is mean spirited, vindictive, absolutely appalling and completely disgraceful. You fail to see that in publishing these matters in this shameful way in fact indicates the depths of poor behaviour which is endemic in your Diocese. Your recent reforms are only skin deep. The mindset has not changed. However, you seem to think that you will get away with it because your brother and sister Bishops will support you. Have you not seen the press recently? Bad behaviour by Bishops is no longer swept under the carpet. People were shocked by the treatment of the Dean of Christchurch, Paul and Sue Overend, Rev Mark Sharpe, and the death of Father Griffin. That many other clergy have been illtreated by the disgraceful misuse of the safeguarding process is evidenced by Sarah Horsman’s independent briefing paper.

Do you want a death on your hands?

3.       You and your senior staff have been complicit in and encouraging of the abuse and harassment of faithful people. I was falsely accused of fraud at an early stage of this process. This was to get rid of me as a Warden because I know and can prove that the Vicarage of Wymondham was deliberately and fraudulently misappropriated.  I know exactly what the Archdeacon said to the Wardens about the Vicarage transactions, glebeland, new houses and all the rest of the tarradiddle. I was there. I know that proper process was not followed, and that the Joint Statement tells only half the story.  I’d call the presentation of such a half-true paper to the Diocesan Synod a complete fraud.  When I would not give up, you fell back on harassment and you and the Archdeacon have positively encouraged complainants keep writing letters.

4.       It’s not our fault that the Diocese has no money. You strongly imply that it is. You have far too many central staff. Mission and worship only work if they are led in parishes by well supported clergy. Jesus was not a man at a desk, nor did He steal things He fancied for His friends and family.

5.       Undermining the Wardens and PCC. This has been unremitting. You have questioned every action we take. You have deprived the Parish of its entitlement to unbiased legal advice and used Birketts’ man for your own unjust ends. I have an email in which the Registrar says that he will no longer write to the Vicar and Wardens, is this with your agreement?

6.       We have bent over backwards to be accommodating and kind in our responses to your unkindness and harassment. Yet you have gone even further now in using social media and the press to trash the reputation of the Vicar and the faithful people of this parish. For purely political purposes, like the very worst of our politicians, you gaslight and smear good people. You have aided and encouraged known vexatious complainants, on top of which you have now brought this Diocese and the Church of England into further disrepute. Your heavy handed behaviour has appalled people. It is so clearly un-Christian. You are supposed to lead by example.

You. sir, and your coterie, are a disgrace.