In January 2020, the Charity Commission opened a regulatory compliance inquiry into safeguarding concerns about the Methodist Church. The Charity Commission requires all Churches registered with it to have an adequate safeguarding policy in place. Oddly, this new investigation  came  only five months after the Methodist Church had submitted  to the Commission a revised reporting process for serious incidents.


The Methodist Church claims that its aim in safeguarding is to create a culture of informed vigilance at all levels in the Church. It maintains that safeguarding cannot rely upon procedures alone – it depends also on people. Safeguarding officers are now told that  it is important to recognise that they do not simply apply procedures. It is people whom they protect.


As for the Church’s responsibilities to report safeguarding failures to the Charity Commission, the Church is committed to:


“making a report to ..the Charity Commission …in respect of serious safeguarding matters." 


These are fine words with lofty aspirations - why then this latest investigation by the Charity Commission?

The action is prompted in part by an open  letter to the  Commission about concerns within the Church of England. This letter was signed by more than fifty persons.


The Commission  received the Church of England complaint on 11th August 2020 - a month after the Methodist Church had made its latest commitment to the Commission on safeguarding.


The Church of England complaint centres on allegations that the Church’s complaints system has no properly constituted appeal or review procedure. It states that there is no remedy to any abuse of person or process, no matter how egregious the failures to abide by the Church’s own rules or basic principles of law and good practice may be. It identifies a "core group" in the safeguarding system which controls everything.


According to the complaint, the Church of England has no comprehensive ‘conflicts of interest’ policy. It claims that there is unwillingness in the Church of England to exercise available discretions in the selection guidance to ensure a fair and unbiased process throughout the deliberations of the central management of the Church. It claims that there has been secrecy and reluctance to acknowledge error when senior managers have breached the rules of the Church.


In summary, the complaint to the Charity Commission is that there is a regime in the Church of England in which partiality, privilege and reputational management have taken precedence over due process and proper standards in the complaints system.


If all this seems familiar to readers of this website, it is because many of the above charges might be demonstrated as being applicable to  Methodist Church - by using the case of Rev Peter Timms. And that may be what the Charity Commission is currently doing.


Even an initial look at the Timms case reveals: 

a) When Rev Timms took his complaint to Methodist Church House, he was sent a false confession to sign. Attempts to coerce him into signing this incriminating document continued for more than two months. His refusal to submit to the threats was classified as “bullying”, "manipulation"  and “harassment”.

b) Local members of the Church in Bexhill were told by Methodist authorities  to report any movements by Rev Timms which might contradict his claim that he was ill and could not attend hearings by a complaints panel. This procedure of covert surveillance breached several standing orders of the Church.

c) When Rev Peter Timms would not stop his objections to the procedures adopted against him by connexional officers in London, the Bexhill[-based Circuit Safeguarding Officer, John Troughton,  unjustly accused Rev Timms of four acts of criminal behaviour, including one of  intimidating a female.

When Rev Timms objected to these allegations, particularly that of intimidating a female, John Troughton immediately withdrew the charges. He wrote a short note of apology. However, as Rev Timms pointed out in his letter to Troughton, the scandalous charge had already been read by others.  John Troughton  had had no evidence whatsoever to support these defamatory  allegations.


d)  Much of the discontent surrounding the Timms case centres upon the selective policy of the Connexional complaints panel, which acted, in response to his complaints, in ways reminiscent of the Star Chamber.

The petition to the Charity Commission with regard to the Church of England stated:

"Much of the discontent centres upon the secretive world of the National Safeguarding Team (NST) core groups, which act in ways reminiscent of the Star Chamber, synonymous with the selective use of arbitrary unaccountable power, concentrating effective control of process in the hands of a very few, who exercise wide-ranging discretions afforded by guidelines devised by Church House"

This only requires the word "Methodist" to be inserted before the words "Church House" for it to also apply to the Timms case.

A secret session of the connexional complaints panel found Rev Timms (the complainant!) guilty of a breach of confidentiality. There is no record of the considerations of the connexional complaints panel, nor was any evidence presented when they sent him the false confession.  Rev Timms did not even have any prior notification that such a charge had been made against him, never mind that it had been processed. Such are the procedures of a "Star Chamber".

This highly questionable behaviour has been supported by senior members of the Church. Nothing in the system of management placed any curb on the Star Chamber proceedings.  It was  as if senior management accepted that such obvious failings in management were quite acceptable. The Church's safeguarding system found no fault in the process.

One can safely conclude  that such abject failures in safeguarding were not mentioned in the Methodist Church's report to the Charity Commission in January 2021. 


The Timms case also demonstrates that the Methodist Church has no real means of challenging irregular procedures during a complaints inquiry. This is the consequence, as mentioned in the Church of England petition, of all power lying in the hands of a few people and a lack of a "conflicts of interest" policy. 

Any objection to procedure will necessarily involve the  Connexional Complaints Officer, the Legal Adviser and the Secretary of Conference. These two latter individuals occupy the posts of Chair and the Secretary of the influential Law and Polity Committee which writes and interprets the rules of procedure in the Church. There is a clear conflict of interest in this arrangement.




The Charity Commission has already been told by the Methodist Church that safeguarding cannot rely upon procedures alone – it depends also on people. It did not add that good management also  depends on the professionalism of the people who operate the procedures.

The inquiry team will discover that the haphazard lines of responsibility in the management of the Methodist Church are clearly shown in a  letter to Rev Timms dated 9th June 2017. It was written by Louise Wilkins, the Conference officer for Legal and Constitutional practice, and a member of the influential Law and Polity Committee.

The first three paragraphs of this letter illustrate the complexities of the safeguarding system when a complainant wishes to object to procedures being used by a connexional complaints panel of inquiry.

Ms Wilkins is an extremely competent solicitor, but even she has trouble in explaining the complications of the Church's standing orders.

The letter shows that there is no clear line of responsibility or control in the Executive.  It mentions the impossibility of appealing a decision - and the fact that Standing Order 1155 (Complaints about the Process)  is not applicable to Rev Timms' particular complaints about the process.  She can find no system of due process to deal with the irregular behaviour of the Connexional panel of inquiry. All she can find to offer Rev Timms is some form of reconciliation - a procedure which would not entail any decision on the justice or merits of the connexional team's actions - and which would leave their damning report in place, accepted by the Church.

No doubt professionally embarrassed by all this, Ms Wilkins significantly fails to mention a key clause in the standing orders -  SO 1100 (3 vii):

"There should be a means of correcting any errors which may be made."

The Charity Commission team  might wonder how this omission came about.

One surprising aspect of the lack of professionalism in the Methodist executive is revealed when Ms Wilkins'  letter explains how the Head of the Complaints Section, who chooses the members of any complaint inquiry, has no means of controlling or even dismissing any member of the team he has chosen. He may "hire", but not he may not "fire". As Louise Wilkins puts it - he may simply "administer the process and offer guidance on procedure." 

Once again, the Charity Commission will note the similarity of the Methodist Church's unprofessional procedures with those outlined in the petition against the Church of England.

Anyone complaining of procedure at connexional level in the Methodist Church may  come up against a selective use of arbitrary, unaccountable, power. The Methodist Church, which is supposed to be the most democratic of English Churches, has a  system which  concentrates effective control of process in the hands of a very few people. And those few people may find themselves on both sides in any dispute about procedure or the interpretation of standing orders.

The discretions used by the senior executives  in Methodist Church House during the Timms case were all used to favour the arguments of the senior managers and agents of the Connexion. They used their own interpretation of procedures in order to counter  objections by Rev Timms. His rights as an individual were sacrificed on the altar of the reputation of the Church  executive.

Further, no matter where Rev Timms took his objections to the procedures used against him,  he was taking his complaint to an officer whose own reputation depended on the outcome.  His objections included charges that the standing orders  were demonstrably inadequate, confusing, and were not being applied consistently, fairly, or impartially. These allegations were sometimes made to people who had had a hand in drafting the standing orders which were being criticised.  They were unlikely to criticise their own work and that of their friends. It is no surprise that none of Peter Timms' criticisms of the standing orders were ever investigated.

A further prime cause of disquiet in the Methodist Church, which the Charity Commission may quickly pick up on, is the fact that the connexional complaints panels are bodies that function as quasi-judicial adversarial proceedings  - but without the requisite checks and balances of due process. They may easily fail all tests of natural justice, particularly because they tend to prioritise, without scrutiny or opposition,  the reputation of the Church above all - including generally accepted standards of fairness.

This is not a professional approach. It results from the way in which the Methodist Church is run by ministers who may have no professional qualifications for the post that they hold. The Charity Commission may require further assurances about the professionalism of managers in the Methodist Church and commitments that they will operate wholly within the law. 

The  question of professional management in English Churches and the law was recently raised at a hearing conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse.  This is the same inquiry to which the Methodist Church submitted evidence, confessing to major breaches of the law - including  covering up  crimes.

The Chair at one seminar, the distinguished lawyer Riel Karmy-Jones, quoted the opinion of a man who had just been awarded the "Canterbury Cross for Services to the Church of England".  He had been a major whistle-blower of Church of England secrets.

His general summary of the current situation was that:

"Institutions like the church can't be relied on to police themselves."

To which Ms Karmy-Jones remarked: 

"the question remains as to where they fit into the idea of professionals”

The Timms case will give the Charity Commission a good example of how injustice is the consequence of such unprofessional behaviour.

The connexional panel which inquired into his original complaints claimed to be using the system of the balance of probabilities - yet they had their own idiosyncratic, even amateurish,  version of what that system of judgement required.

What was particularly disturbing about this was that the leader of the panel, the magistrate,  Mr. Chris Kitchin,  should have been well aware of the system of the balance of probabilities. His actions suggested that he did not.

But then - the person who chose him for the post, Rev Alan Bolton had no legal or judicial qualifications either. He was in no position to assess Mr. Kitchin's interpretation of the rules of the system.

The complainant, Rev Timms, was a former Prison Governor. He seemed to know more about the system than the leader of the connexional panel. He had often used it in his professional career.

The reality of the systems of safeguarding and complaints in such circumstances is shown  by  what occurred in this matter of the balance of probabilities.  Ignorance in management was covered up.

This was bad enough, but the matter became worse when the officers in the Connexion who dealt with the Timms case actually, because of their ignorance,  committed breaches of the Church’s own standing orders  - which were designed to ensure procedural fairness.

Nevertheless, despite this,  the reality of the system meant that these officers escaped criticism. Their unprofessional actions were covered up by secrecy; they hid behind the prevailing reluctance in Methodist Church House to acknowledge error.

This imposition of secrecy and a reluctance to admit to errors is at the heart of the Timms case.  For the past two years, Rev Timms has faced serious disciplinary charges because, it is claimed, he breached the confidentiality of the complaints procedures. He was, it is alleged, a “whistle blower”. The disciplinary panel should look to their rules and definitions.

The Methodist Church actually has its own policy with regard to whistleblowers. It is contained in the Church's response to the “Compliance with the Public Interest Act" of 1998. It states: 

Staff members should feel confident about taking the steps to disclose information.”

“ The Methodist Council is committed to creating a climate of trust and openness, so that a person who has a genuine concern or suspicion can raise the matter with full confidence that it will be appropriately considered and resolved.”

The Methodist Council established its own code of practice to  provide, it claimed,  a framework:

“to allow concerns to be raised in confidence and, to allow for a thorough and appropriate investigation of the matter.”

The reality of this whistle-blowing procedure is that the entire policy is framed in order to keep information from “whistle blowers” inside the Church , and under the control of,  the Church authorities.

In short, it is designed to shut the whistle blower up!

Where is the element of “Public Interest” in such a  system? Does the British public not have an interest in the moral integrity of the Methodist Church?

Why should anyone take offence when  a whistle blower reveals such  egregious details as we find in  Timms case? Are members of the Methodist Church not interested in the truth?

Do they not care to know when one of their own, Rev Peter Timms,  was dealt with so outrageously – with false charges made against him - simply because he complained about the actions of three ministers in his area?

Do they not care to know that threats were used to force him to submit  to the will of the malefactors who opposed him? Do they not care that he was accused of criminality when all such defamatory allegations were actually false?  Should the Church not take action against persons who make wild accusations of criminal activity when conducting a campaign of harassment  against one of its ministers?

Does no one care that those who support Peter Timms and have examined his case in detail have come to the conclusion that the true source of this vilification was that his complaints threatened to lead to the exposure of a vile  sex abuse case which had been hushed up?

A part of the Methodist Church’s whistle blowing policy that some prefer to forget is:

“The Government encourages whistleblowers to contact external groups where appropriate.”


The present author and webmaster of this site, Peter Hill, acted as secretary to Rev Timms when he was seriously ill, during the period when the connexional panel considered his complaints. He has since publicised the treatment that Rev Timms  received at the hands of the officials in Methodist Church House. He has done so because he considers such treatment unjust and not worthy of the Methodist ChurchHe is the whistle-blower in this case -  not Rev Timms. Indeed, no member of the Methodist Church could do what he, as a non-member, has been able to do.

Although the Government encourages whistleblowers to contact external groups, the Methodist Church does not. It has resorted to laying criminal charges against Peter Hill in an attempt to close the website down.

The chances of any member of the Church achieving anything by using the whistle-blowing policy can be judged by looking at what Rev Timms experienced when he actually used that policy.




LORAINE MELLOR former President of Methodist Conference

In 2017, Rev Timms wrote, in accordance with the “whistle blower" policy, to the President of Conference, Loraine Mellor. He informed her of the many misdemeanours committed by various executives in the Church. He ended with a heartfelt plea:

“The Church cannot survive if false confessions can be sent to ministers with threats designed to persuade them to sign them. The Church cannot survive if panels of inquiry can lie to complainants. The church cannot survive if anyone who complains is immediately investigated, even spied upon,  without being even able to defend themselves before being found guilty.


The Church cannot survive if such things are hushed up.”


This plea was ignored. He asked to meet the President - she refused the request.

It was of course Rev Loraine Mellor who, as President, told Peter Timms:

"It is clear to me that the process which you initiated was followed within the parameters set down by Conference."

The Timms case may be  the exception rather than the rule. It may be the consequence of a clash of personalities. However, the safeguarding system in the Methodist Church should be flexible enough to consider even the exceptional cases.  With Peter Timms this is clearly not the case.


The current investigation by the Charity Commission comes after intensive work by the Church following the “Review of Past Cases” of sex abuse in the Church. This report by Jane Stacey, published in 2015, exposed almost  2,000 cases of abuse that had surfaced during its inquiries. The areas for the necessary reform of the Church’s safeguarding policies were deduced from the conclusions of that report.




Jane Stacey revealed institutional weakness in the complaints system which should have been corrected. Although her review was regarded as being primarily concerning sex abuse, its remit included  “any other abuse of a vulnerable adult - financial, institutional"  Subsequent reforms in the light of the review should have solved the problems with the abuse of process which Rev Timms suffered.

In general, Jane Stacey was  concerned with poor professional practices which resulted from the institutional structure of the Church, its  policies - and the processes and practices within it.  The conclusions therefore applied to all cases of abuse in the Church.


The objective was:

to review the Church’s historical response in each identified safeguarding case in order to ensure that responses across the Connexion have been safe, compliant with legislation and policy (both state and church) pastorally appropriate.”


In her report, Jane Stacey called for  a:

 “culture change in the Church and more robust accountability structures"].

A key question for Jane Stacey's team was - how far does the practice of the Methodist Church match its intentions and public statements?

Jane Stacey concluded that a key objective must be "follow-up"  - a need to ensure that lessons were learned about the changes that were necessary.

Such an assessment could only be done some years after changes were introduced.  And that is perhaps why the current inquiry has  begun. 

So the key question for the Charity Commission might now be "How far does the practice of the Methodist Church now match its intentions and public statements?"

The Stacey review began in 2013 and reported in 2015. The Timms case began locally in 2014, but went to the national level in 2016. And those arguments are still going on. 

It would therefore seem that examination of the Timms case might well provide a  good test of how far the Church’s practices match its intentions and public statements in the light of the review’s findings.

One of the key faults that Jane Stacey noted  was that the culture inside the Church was made unsafe not only by those who broke the rules, but by the subsequent actions of those in authority. In other words, malefactors were defended by their superiors and their mistakes and misdemeanours covered-up. Inadequate procedure was followed by inadequate response.

Considering that such appears to have occurred in the Timms case, the Charity  Commission may be able to assess just how much  the review’s findings influenced the culture inside the Church. Did systems for dealing with abuse improve?

Readers of this website may conclude that  such a culture had a devastating  effect on the Timms case -  and that it is still occurring. .

The Stacey report also raised questions about the issue of visible leadership. It concluded that in far too many cases Superintendents, and District Chairs, did not take seriously enough those people who were raising concerns. They did not listen and did not take robust enough action. Has that changed since 2015?

Not in the Timms case.  For a long period, Peter Timms'  District Chair, Rev John Hellyer, would not even speak to him. When they finally met, John Hellyer did not take seriously Timms' allegations about the  false confession. In fact, when Peter Timms tried to show John Hellyer the incriminating document, Hellyer pushed it away. He said that he was not prepared to answer questions about it.  He took no action to help Rev Timms - instead, he suspended him from all church activities.

This is exactly the type of situation that Jane Stacey noted in her report.

The Stacey report also stated that, because of such weaknesses in structure and accountability,  a significant number of situations were not picked up and dealt with at an early stage. Instead, they were allowed to progress to formal complaints and discipline processes.

It was when the Timms case went to national level that it really began to go wrong;  but it had gone to that level because Rev Timms was unable to persuade any of the ministers he complained about to enter any process of reconciliation. They effectively forced him to go to the connexional level.

Jane Stacey also wrote:

 “potential bullying behaviour, non compliance with policies, etc would be expected to be dealt with through the normal supervisory process.”

This kind of hectoring is the type of institutional abuse mentioned in the Stacey report as being behind the recommendation that:  

“work (should) be undertaken to develop further best practice guidance including, but not limited to, guidance on appropriate communication with complainants and respondents; guidance on the choice of venues for meetings and hearings; and guidance on questioning of  complainants and respondents.”

This is a clear expression of the hope that more professional procedures would be introduced. The lesson does not appear to have been learned in time to save Peter Timms. Let us now consider the role of Mr. Chris Kitchin, the leader of the Connexional panel of inquiry that dealt with Peter Timms' case.





Chris Kitchin was chosen to lead the complaints panel on the Timms case in August 2016. Considering the responsibility of the role, he must have already read a copy of the Stacey report. What did he make of the call for:

 "appropriate communication with complainants"

Not much, it would seem, for within weeks of the report coming out, he sent a complainant a false confession to sign.  Was this an 'appropriate communication' with a complainant?

Considering such evidence, the current inquiry by the Charity Commission may conclude that the very same errors of  institutional abuse that Jane Stacey found in the first half of the decade are being replicated in the second half - for the Timms case has now spanned that period.

The question for the Charity Commission may come down to whether the Church has adhered to the commitments it made -  both at registration and after the Stacey review.

The Church committed itself to  address the cultural changes  that Jane Stacey noted as necessary - and to introduce more robust accountability structures that the Stacey report mentioned.  It is difficult to see any sign of this in the case of Peter Timms.

Ultimately, the Charity Commission will need to look at the “public benefit” that the Methodist Church claimed for itself on its registration as a charity. The Timms case may provide a “litmus test” in such a consideration.

The Charity Commission's files list the "public benefit” of the Methodist Church as being:

the advancement of the Christian faith in accordance with the doctrinal standards and the discipline of the Methodist Church’.

This is the standard against which the inquiry will measure, in particular,  the Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church.

And the question will be, no matter how exhaustive the system is, no matter how well-written it is  -  does it deliver?

Or does it perhaps rely on amateurish procedures  – without due consideration for the people involved in the procedures?





This problem has been on the desk of Rev Jonathan Hustler for more than sixty days. That is not long for a Charity Commission inquiry.

However, if Rev Hustler  does not act quickly to settle the Timms case, he could find himself facing difficult questions from the Charity Commission. The Commission rarely looks at individual cases, but the evidence of the institutional cover-up in the Timms case reflects on the entire system of safeguarding.


The way in which the Timms case contrasts so starkly with the fervent promises and commitments made after the sex abuse scandal, may well suggest that the inquiry should take it into account. It reflects failing institutional structures within the Church. The system can easily lead to injustice rather than promoting justice.  And anyone in the Church who complains may become caught up in it.

That there is a suspicion that a cover-up of a sex abuse case is at the heart of the attacks on Rev Timms would only increase  the Commission's  interest.

The problem Jonathan Hustler faces is contained largely in the material published on this website – the abundance of evidence that demonstrates that the Church acted unprofessionally and incorrectly, according to its own rules, in dealing with Rev Timms’ complaints.

Whilst the Charity Commission is looking into complaints about the Methodist Church’s safeguarding system, it is also looking at accusations that the Church of England has similar institutional safeguarding failings.

In particular, as with the Methodist Church, the Church of England is accused of having no  properly constituted appeal or review procedures. Since the systems of the two churches are similar, it is difficult to see that different conclusions will emerge from the two inquiries.

Considering the Timms case, the Methodist Church may find it hard to argue that it has adequate  remedy to any abuse of person or process. If the Timms case cannot be dealt with under Standing Order 1103(7) –

 “there should be a means of correcting any errors which may be made”

 then it is difficult to point to any adequate remedy to abuse of practice in the rules of the Methodist Church.






Perhaps the most serious consideration in both the Charity Commission's inquiries concerns the assumption on the part of many that the rules of the Church can abrogate a person's rights under the Human Rights Act.

The letter of complaint from members of the Church of England states:

"When unfairness and breaches of principles of natural justice and human rights legislation have been brought to the attention of those charged with the responsibility to manage fair and proper process, there has been a refusal to set aside bad process and a prioritisation of “saving face” rather than a willingness to rectify error and restore proper process."


This claim is reflected in the Timms case - with greater clarity of how the Methodist Church thinks.  It may surprise readers to learn that the Methodist Church claims to itself the interpretation of the Human Rights Act

In a letter dated 1st October 2016, Rev Timms was told that the Human Rights Act could not be relied upon in his dispute. The leader of the connexional complaints panel wrote:

"The Act does not therefore apply; nevertheless the principles of Article 6 are reflected in Part 11 Standing Order 1102 (1)."

By claiming that standing order 1102 reflects the Human Rights Act, the Methodist Church seeks to take away from its members some  inalienable rights. The Church considers that the human rights of a member of the Church in internal dealings of the Church are  what the Methodist Council decides that they are. And that applies to the complaints system as much as anywhere else in the Church.

The Church claims that the complaints system is not a judicial process and that such rights as might be a part of a judicial process elsewhere are not a part of the system. 

If this is so - one must ask why  the case of Rev Timms was conducted under the rules of "the balance of probabilities" - a well-established judicial process?  And was there no judicial process in the preparation of the issuance of the false confession? Or do Star Chambers not have a judicial process?

Another argument is that the Human Rights Act does not actually apply, in law,  to the Methodist Church at all. As Mr. Chris Kitchin put in the same letter to Rev Timms:

"The Act relates to public bodies of which the Methodist Church is not one."

This avoids the argument that the Church is subject to Parliament under the Methodist Act - and any interpretation of the clauses of that Act must be aligned with the Human Rights Act. So the Church must act in accordance with the terms of human rights legislation and practice.

The Human Rights Act applies mainly to trials - but it is also applied  to all types of tribunal. It has precedents in the judgments of the courts which can be referred to in  all such hearings of disputes.

For example, precedent and judges' rulings have established that people have the right to:

·         be presumed innocent until  they are proven guilty

·         be told as early as possible what they are accused of

·         remain silent

·         have enough time to prepare their case

·         legal aid (funding) for a lawyer if they cannot afford one and this is needed for justice to be served

·         attend their trial

·         access all the relevant information

·         put forward their side of the case at trial

·         question the main witness against them and call other witnesses, and

These particular rulings on what constitutes everyone's  human rights are not contained in  Standing Order 1102, nor in any other standing order mentioned in the relevant clause. This is where the danger of a breach of human rights lies.

The Charity Commission may find that the Methodist Church's "reflection" of the Human Rights Act does not adequately grant to its members all the rights in the Human Rights Act. It may "reflect" those rights to some extent, but it is no real substitute.

Several of the above rights contained in our Human Rights legislation were denied to Rev Timms during the Connexional complaints inquiry procedures, and may be denied to others in the future.

The problem in this lies in the unprofessional wording of the standing orders. The word "fairness" is the essential element of the Methodist Church's rules. But who is to decide what is "fair"?

The Church's solution to this question is a small list of arbiters. In the Timms case, the arbiter was the leader of the complaints panel - Mr. Chris Kitchin. He considered that his actions were "fair" - and he was supported by the two ministers on the complaints panel. Later, his view of fairness was supported by the entire executive of the Methodist Church.

This small group, at the most half a dozen people,  held Rev Peter Timms' human rights in their hands. Those six or so people decided that Rev Timms was not to be presumed innocent until proven guilty;  he was not to be told as early as possible what he was accused of;  he was not to be  allowed enough time to prepare his  case;  he was not to have access to all the relevant information.

This is how the Human Rights Act is reflected in Standing Order 1102 (1).  And that, according to a member of the small core group inside the Methodist Church, is "fair". One cannot imagine that any definition of "fairness" in such consideration of a dispute could be acceptable to the Charity Commission.

There is a greater problem with this aspect of the Timms case - what happened to him sets a very dangerous precedent.

Whilst the complaints and discipline procedures continue to be  operated by a small "core group",  the practice of sending out   false confessions will continue to be adjudged to be "fair". It is an extremely dangerous precedent.

The Charity Commission will no doubt discover that the case of Peter Timms is not the only case in which such a false confession has been issued to a complainant.

Will issuing false confessions therefore become standard practice? One might laugh at the idea - but if the Methodist Council thinks that such a practice is "fair" why should executives not continue to use it?

The fact that such power is in the hands of so few also raises the question of whether the Methodist Church has any real ‘conflicts of interest’ policy. The Church of England is accused having no comprehensive policy on conflicts of interest.  The Charity Commission might come to think that the same applies to the Methodist Church.


In the Timms case, there was a potential conflict of interest in the position of the Church's senior legal adviser,  Louise Wilkins, which the system had no answer to. It left Ms Wilkins in an invidious position.

Ms Wilkins was the senior legal adviser to  the then Secretary to Conference, Rev Gareth Powell. Rev Powell rejected all Rev Timms' objections to the procedures employed against him. However, Rev Alan Bolton, the man in charge of the complaints system had told Rev Timms that he might use SO 1155 "Complaints about Process."

Peter Timms hoped that the Legal Adviser to the Conference might give him a clear interpretation of Standing Order 1155. So he approached Louise Wilkins.

Ms. Wilkins considered that Rev Timms could not use  SO  1155 - Complaints about the Process. In a letter dated 9th June 2017, she explained why and suggested he use a reconciliation process. It was a process that Rev Timms had already rejected because it did not offer any means of correcting the many misdemeanours of the connexional complaints panel.

However, at that time, Louise Wilkins, was also sitting on the Law  and Polity Committee. Rev Gareth Powell sat on that committee too. They and the other members were responsible for writing the standing orders of the Church and interpreting them.

So Louise Wilkins  was working for, and with, the man who had already told Peter Timms he could not appeal. Could she possibly have opposed his views? As a lawyer, she was employed to defend him -  and the Church - against all such opposition.

It was an ethical position that many lawyers find themselves in. Even if Ms Wilkins had considered that Peter Timms' view might be correct, her professional responsibility was to defend her employer - the Church. 

This may be why the logic of her letter dated 9th June 2017  is so difficult to follow. It may also explain why Rev Alan Bolton, the Head of the Complaints section, had given Rev Timms such contrary advice only a few weeks earlier.  With hindsight, one might conclude that Louise Wilkins  was expertly casting the cloak of a reconciliation procedure over the awkward fact that a complaint about process was not to be advanced.

How else can we explain why SO 1155 is for "Complaints against Process" - unless,  of course, it is that awkward man, Rev Peter Timms, who is complaining against process?

Diverting attention is a common tactic used by lawyers who wish to cover up awkward truths. An expert and competent lawyer such as Louise  Wilkins would surely have encountered the tactic during her distinguished career. The conflict of interest she found herself in may have meant that, in one way or the other, she would need to be less than transparent in her views to one side or the other. As one person, who knows Methodist Church House politics well, remarked  - Louise was having a bad day when she wrote that letter.

Openness or transparency is an issue for the Charity Commission to consider - particularly because it has received the two separate petitions suggesting  that neither the Church of England, nor the Methodist Church has been open about what reforms they have made concerning safeguarding against abuse. 

This is not surprising, when both churches stand accused in the separate petitions of  secrecy  - coupled with a reluctance to acknowledge error when senior managers have breached the rules.

Five years ago, both churches promised to reform their systems. Yet both churches are still accused  of allowing partiality, privilege and reputational management to take precedence over due process and proper standards in the complaints system. 

The Charity Commission is faced with a quandary which may affect its final conclusions.  Two of the nation's major churches have suffered serious loss of followers in recent decades. Neither will wish to be publicly censured for such misdemeanours as are listed above. They will therefore press the Commission to give them more time. They will promise to be more professional in future.

The Methodist Church will no doubt repeat its claims that its aim in safeguarding is to create a culture of informed vigilance at all levels in the Church. Such vigilance would hopefully eliminate all forms of  abuse within the Church.

At the moment, the practicality of this policy appears to be that the vigilance is directed in one direction only.   There is no informed vigilance over of senior management. Those who control and operate the policies of the Church do not come under scrutiny.

Worse, on occasions, the objective of such a policy of vigilance even appears to have been turned onto its head. The powers and discretions it grants  allow it to be used as a means of control. Informed vigilance should lead to openness and justice. Yet at the moment it may lead to secrecy and inequity.

There has, for example, been zero vigilance over the actions taken by members of the connexional team who treated Rev Peter Timms so badly. Persons such as Mr. Chris Kitchin are placed in positions of power where they may exercise those powers and interpret the rules as if on a whim.

The final report of the Connexional complaints panel, which dealt with Peter Timms affair, requested punishment for what what the panel considered to be abuse of procedure by Peter Timms. They wished to force him to submit to the will of the Church, regardless of the truth of the matter. That was the final turn of the screw.

In such circumstances, power lies in the procedures and the powers that they grant to the officials involved -  not in the people that they are designed to protect.

Peter Timms has been objecting for half a decade to the procedures used against him -  such as the coercion that was applied on him to persuade him to sign the false confession.  His words have fallen on deaf ears. There is no right of appeal against such unjust procedures.




If you have evidence which you believe should be drawn to the attention of the Charity Commission, email to:



  addressing your email to Mr. Garry Fraser  in the Regulatory Compliance office.