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Dean of Llandaff quits after being found not guilty of lying about fellow cleric

31 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Father Richard Peers

Martin Shipton

The Dean of Llandaff has resigned, little more than a week after being cleared at a Church of England tribunal of making malicious comments about a fellow cleric.

Before coming to Wales in 2022, Richard Peers was the Sub-Dean at Christ Church, Oxford, which doubles as the city’s cathedral and one of the colleges at the world-renowned university.

During Canon Peers’ time at Christ Church, a large faction within the diocese was involved in a campaign to remove the then Dean, Martyn Percy. A series of allegations was brought against Dean Percy that resulted in disciplinary charges against him, all of which were disproven.

Dean Peers appeared in March 2024 at a Church of England tribunal that investigated his meetings and correspondence with six individuals in the wake of an allegation of sexual harassment made against Martyn Percy by a cathedral verger called Alannah Jeune. Ms Jeune has waived her right to anonymity.

With the latest allegation raising the temperature of the dispute even higher, the Sub-Dean decided as a senior pastor at Christ Church to meet a number of influential people in a bid to halt the spread of ill-informed gossip and social media commentary. It was the nature of these conversations that formed the basis of the charge he faced.

Formal complaint

A formal complaint was made against him by Karen Gadd, a supporter of Dean Percy’s. Mrs Gadd claimed the then Sub-Dean had made a series of derogatory comments about Dean Percy during a meeting in the cathedral garden aimed at turning her and his other supporters against him.

Dean Peers denied making any of the comments. With one exception, and that considered insignificant, the Tribunal preferred Dean Peers’ account to Mrs Gadd’s.

The adjudication stated: “[All] of the allegations relied upon for this charge have been found not proved or not to amount to conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office of a clerk in Holy Orders. As such the allegation shall stand dismissed.”

At the end of the Easter Day 11am service in Llandaff Cathedral, Bishop Mary Stallard told the congregation: “Before our words of blessing, I have some news to share with you – some sad news that I hope also contains an element of Easter peace.

“Regular cathedral worshippers will be aware that Dean Richard had to face a Church of England tribunal relating to his previous work for the Diocese of Oxford. The process around that complaint was extremely protracted.

“The tribunal finding was that the case against Dean Richard was dismissed in full and he was found to be an impressive and truthful witness, with his honesty and integrity unimpugned. And this brought to the close what has been a really challenging and difficult time.

“Very sadly for us in Llandaff, Dean Richard is left feeling unable to continue in ministry at this time. On the advice of his doctor he is signed off work and he recognises he needs some time and some space to heal. So with regret he’s tendered his resignation.

Richard has written a lovely letter to the cathedral congregations and the Diocese and the Church in Wales, giving his thanks for his welcome and all that he has enjoyed here, and that letter will be published on our website later today. It’s with enormous sadness that I have accepted Dean Richard’s resignation. We are working really hard on a plan for the future leadership here and we hope to be able to make an announcement about this very soon.

“I’m so grateful for the work of everybody here. Our team of volunteers, our hardworking team of stewards, our music department, our clergy – everyone has pulled together so brilliantly during this difficult time.

“I’ve asked Canon Jan to step into the role of Acting Dean in the Cathedral for the next few months. We’re going to talk with Richard about how we can offer an appropriate farewell to him and to Jim [his partner]. Please pray for Richard and Jim, for the cathedral team and my prayer is that the hope and the peace of our Easter celebration will be known in each of our hearts.”

Head teacher

A biographical entry on the Diocese of Llandaff’s website states of Dean Peers: “Father Richard spent eight years as the head teacher of Trinity All Through School, Lewisham, in London, and has served in parishes in the Dioceses of York, Portsmouth, Lichfield and Southwark. In addition, he was a founder and first Superior of the Sodality of Mary, Mother of Priests, a dispersed community of Anglican priests with members around the world. He has advised other new, emerging expressions of community life in the church.

“He has extensive experience as a Spiritual Director, retreat giver and leader of pilgrimages, many in Wales. He has been practising meditation, now commonly known as mindfulness, for the whole of his adult life. He is much influenced by Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and the Russian Philokalia.
“Father Richard … lives with his partner Jim, a garden writer, and their dog Teilo. Gardens and garden design are a significant part of their life together.

A similar note about the Acting Dean, Canon Jan van der Lely, states: “Jan was ordained in 2009 and served in the Diocese of Gloucester before coming to Llandaff as Canon Chancellor in 2019. Prior to ordination she was a secondary school teacher of Religious Studies, Psychology and Sociology, in schools in Cheltenham, Gloucester and in Switzerland. In her last teaching post she was Chaplain to the school.

“She holds a Doctorate in Theology, a Master’s degree in Ministry, and a Master’s degree in Psychotherapy and Counselling. Jan is married to Graham who is half Dutch, and a (mostly) retired horticulturalist. Graham is a long standing former governor of Hartpury College and University, and of the University of the West of England.”


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Charles
Charles
8 days ago

Love to see Christians following their beliefs. You will not bare false witness.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
8 days ago

Hmm. Let me extract the bones from MS’s excellent journalism, with some help from ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Church Times’.  Dean Percy of Christ Church tries to clean up church business in Oxford. Woman verger accuses Dean Percy of sexual harassment. The row goes on for 4 years. Charges are dismissed, Percy gets compensation and has a breakdown. The whole thing costs millions. Sub-Dean of Christ Church Peers makes comments about the false allegations in a cathedral garden. Peers, a gay Englishman, is then made Dean of Llandaff. He is put on trial about his comments thanks to 2 witnesses. One… Read more »

Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
8 days ago

Yes, it’s a very English Church.

Christina Brodie
Christina Brodie
2 days ago

Join me, the last Queen of Wales. Genuine descendant from Owain Glyndwr, and you won’t have to worry about any more imports from England.

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