mandaotry reportin in Australia







There is a supposed  conflict in the standing orders about  the true position on correcting errors within the complaints  system. This paper discusses the interpretation of the relevant standing orders, SO 1126 and SO 1100, with specific reference to the case of Rev Peter Timms.

It further examines the obligations from the participants in a complaint – in particular the complainant and the Church. It concludes that one of the standing orders binds those who are subject to the Church’s disciplinary procedures, whilst the other binds the Church itself to a certain form of behaviour in those procedures.





The application of SO 1126


Clause 2 of this standing order is the rule that the complainant has no right of appeal if the complaint was referred to the connexional Complaints Panel by the complainant, rather than by the local complaints officer. This is the interpretation of standing orders used by the Connexional complaints panel in the Timms complaints case.



This interpretation relies upon the wording:


“1126 (2)

No appeal may be brought against a decision that a complaint should be dismissed if the complaint was referred to the connexional Complaints Panel by the complainant rather than the local complaints officer.”


This is the standing order referred to in Chris Kitchin’s letter of 24th November 2016 to Peter Timms:


“Please note that the complaints team will reach a conclusion on Monday 12 December, whether or not you are present. This means that we will proceed to a final determination of the matter from which you as the complainant have no right of appeal  - SO 1126 (2) applies in this case.”


Louise Wilkins’ letter of 9th June 2017  referred to this and also to SO 1155. She complicated the matter by continuing to assume that Peter Timms was lodging a complaint against the decision of the panel, even though this was not true. 


These two decisions,  and the events which surrounded them,  blocked Peter Timms’ objections. They were unjust in that he has never requested or demanded,  an appeal against the panel of inquiry’s decision. His position has always been that the Church should set aside the findings of the complaints panel under Chris Kitchin from the date when the false confession was issued to him.


His position was that the inquiry should then continue either with the same panel – or with an entirely new one.





The Application of SO 1100(3 vii)



This standing order might seem, on first sight, to be in direct conflict with the above-mentioned 1126 (2).



SO 1100 (3 vii) states: 


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



This clause in SO 1100 has never been mentioned by anyone in the executive, nor by Mr. Kitchin. References to it by Peter Timms have been ignored. It is as if it did not exist.


The above-mentioned 1126 (2) refers, of course, exclusively to the effect on a complainant’s case in a particular defined circumstance.


SO 1100 (3 vii) is more general. It states matters in non-specific  terms. It has been carefully written in order to have broad effect.  


It refers to “any” errors.  There is no qualification of this term.


It states that there “should” be a means of correction – with the implication that, if there is no obvious means of correction, then one should be found.


It states that the standing order is in place for any situation in which “errors may be made”. It does not define the word “error”. It would be reasonable to assume that this means any mistake  in any of the findings, evidence, proceedings -  or any other aspect of any connexional complaints panel’ inquiry.


It would also be reasonable to assume that such a mistake would be  any  decision, procedure,   or reference to, or presentation of,   factual matter which is not in accord with, or in any way aligned with,  the central ethical doctrines of the Methodist Church.


The standing order uses the verb “correct”. We may assume that such correction would be introduced in order to bring the error back into alignment with the standing orders and the ethical doctrines of the Methodist Church.






1126 v 1100


The question is – which of these two standing orders is the more important? Which has priority in any dispute?


It has already been noted that SO 1126 (2) refers to a  specific situation – whereas SO 1100 (3 vii) is non-specific.


SO 1126 (2) has certainty. It states “No appeal may be brought…if..” 

 - whereas SO 1100 (3 vii) uses the words “should” and “may”.


The reason for this difference is explained in the heading of SO 1100. SO1100 states that  this standing order concerns the principles of the standing orders.


SO 1126 (2) comes in a section of the complaints and disciplinary procedures under the general term “Complaints procedure”.


Any  procedure used in a complaints inquiry, no matter its wording, is qualified by the principles in SO 1100. This means that the  manner in which SO 1126 (2)  is used must conform with the terms of SO 1100(3 vii). This is because the principles of the standing orders qualify the text of all other standing orders.


It is not allowable for any member of a connexional panel to  take any unfair action, no matter the wording of the standing order being used at the time. The lesser standing order must give way to the greater.


This demands some kind of assessment. It must be determined whether or not an error has been created. If an error is found to have occurred, then the error discovered  should be corrected.


How this is done may be at the discretion of the Connexional team, but some way must be found to bring the improper situation that has been created back into alignment with the central doctrine of the Methodist Church.


In short, SO 1126 (2)  can only be used after reference to the qualifications written in SO 1100 (3 vii). If this is not done, and particularly if there is any objection to the conduct of the panel,  there must be an investigation into the alignment of the panel’s procedural actions with the principles of the procedures.


The implication of this is clearly that the import of SO 1100 (3 vii) is that there must be some form of scrutiny to ensure that standing orders are aligned with the principle of the system in all complaints inquiries.


Considering what happened in the Timms case, such scrutiny does not appear to exist at the moment. Although SO 1155 (Complaints about the process) might appear to provide such, it was deemed not to be available to Peter Timms when he raised the possibility of using it. 





Relevance to the Timms case.


Peter Timms’ objections to the actions of the panel of inquiry were confined to the procedure – which he thought unfair. Strictly speaking therefore, the question of the use of SO 1126 (2) against him should not come into this discussion, for that only applies when a complainant objects to the decision of a connexional panel.  


Nevertheless, the consequences of the application of 1126(2)  against Peter Timms colour not only the period of the inquiry, but many many months after the panel had written its report.


As noted above, Mr. Kitchin made specific reference to this standing order when he determined the date of the panel’s final hearing.


“Please note that the complaints team will reach a conclusion on Monday 12 December, whether or not you are present. This means that we will proceed to a final determination of the matter from which you as the complainant have no right of appeal  - SO 1126 (2) applies in this case.”


The true situation was that Mr Kitchin had no good reason to make such a claim. He was hypothesising. SO 1126(2) can only be activated after the panel has reached a decision. Further, it only applies to complaints about that decision, not the procedure which produced that decision.   When Mr Kitchin wrote this remark, the panel had not finished its deliberations, and Peter Timms was still writing his final rebuttals to the responses from the three ministers against whom he was complaining. Timms was, at the same time, writing his objections to Mr. Kitchin's methods in conducting the complaint inquiry. These were two quite separate issues, but Mr Kitchin did not appear to have realised the true situation.

It was quite possible that Peter Timms might have agreed with the panel’s decision, such as it was,  based on the facts that had been presented to it, whilst disagreeing that the procedure used had been proper. 

 In fact, Peter Timms did not have in mind any complaint against the Connexional Panel’s decision.  That decision would refer to his dispute with the three ministers about the behaviour at the circuit meeting in September 2014. In the three months of the inquiry, there had been little thought about that complaint – almost everything had focussed on the issuance of the false confession at the very beginning of the inquiry. 

His objections against the behaviour of the connexional complaints panel in 2016 had taken up most of the time and correspondence – and severely hampered the true issue, his complaints against the ministers in his area.


Mr Kitchin does not appear to have seen the difference. He did not appear to recognise that he had made a error which had severely hampered the proper running of the inquiry.


In this he failed to note that, as a consequence of Peter Timms’ approach, SO 1126 (2) did not apply – because that refers to the decision i.e. the judgement of the panel, not the procedures it employed to reach that decision. The wording of the standing order is:


“No appeal may be brought against a decision that a complaint should be dismissed ..”

 In fact, Peter Timms never did complain about the panel’s decision.

 Mr. Kitchin’s comment, inaccurate as it is, is nevertheless, in line with other comments he made in correspondence. The inclusion of the  reference may well constitute  a threat. It is arguably in line with other such coercive remarks made by Kitchin – coercion which Peter Timms complained about.

If proved, such coercion  might well constitute incorrect procedure  - in that it may be seen as coercion on Rev Timms to sign the false confession.


The later faults in the Executives’ acceptance that SO 1126 (2) did apply in this case is a separate, though important,  issue.


Peter Timms mentioned this aspect of the matter on many occasions before and after the decision was reached by the inquiry panel.


He first mentioned  his interpretation of the standing orders -  using SO 1100 (3 vii) -  it in his original “set aside motion” dated December 14th 2016. This date is well before the panel’s report was written. This document went to Rev Alan Bolton, then in charge of the Connexional complaints.


Peter Timms wrote:



“This motion  is based on the principles of fairness and justice embodied in Standing Order 1102 (General Matters) and in particular S.O. 1100 (3) clauses (iii),(iv),(v), (vi) and (3 vii).”


He added to this a footnote which contained the wording of all of these clauses.


He later mentioned it in his set-aside motion no.2 .



S.O.1100 (3 v) states:


“The process should be fair.”


Coercing a complainant to sign a confession without explaining in the slightest why the confession should be made, is contrary to S.O. 1100(3 vi).


 and to S.O. 1100 (3 vii):


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



He further referred to  CPD vol 2  (Book Seven, Guidance)  which is of some relevance here:


“Whilst it is expected that any response be respectful and welcoming, no local church body, minister or lay person is required to act in any way contrary to the demands of conscience. The Conference trusts that at all times all those responsible will seek to act together with integrity and in good faith.”




In his “set-aside motion” number 5 he stated :


“I refer you to S.O. 1100 (3 vii):


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


Throughout the procedure, my protests about the way the panel was acting were ignored.


The panel did not comply with this Standing Order”.



In  his set-aside motion no 6 he went into the matter in more detail:


I therefore now refer you to S.O. 1100 (3 vii):


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


Since this document concerns the interpretation of Standing Orders, and since I have been told in a letter from Alan Bolton that there is no appeal against the decision of the panel, I refer you also to S.O. 1140:


Appeal to a Connexional Appeal Committee.


(2) The grounds of appeal for the purposes of this Standing Order are that:

(i) there was a material procedural irregularity in the initial hearing;

(ii) the initial committee made a mistake about a relevant point of law or of the constitution or discipline of the Church;

(iii) the initial committee erred in its conclusion on the question whether such of the words, acts or omissions complained of as it found to have been established:

(b) seriously impaired or might seriously have impaired the mission,

witness or integrity of the Church, having regard to the respondent’s

office or standing in relation to the Church;

(iv) the initial committee erred in its interpretation of the doctrines of the



I think it clear that the panel is guilty of infringing all of the clauses in this Standing Order. There is a clear duty on the connexion to consider what to do in this matter. The Connexional Appeal Committee might”



Given the above examples – and there are more in the documentation of the case – the executives in Methodist Church House can hardly claim that they were not aware of Peter Timms’ point about SO 1100 (3 vii).


One noteworthy point in the above is from the last quotation:


“Since this document concerns the interpretation of Standing Orders, and since I have been told in a letter from Alan Bolton that there is no appeal against the decision of the panel,”


Peter Timms made it crystal clear that his ‘document’  concerned the interpretation of standing orders. Note too that he mentions that Rev Alan Bolton is applying SO 1126 (2) against him. These objections by Peter Timms fell on deaf ears. In this the Church, arguably, did not fulfil its obligations to Peter Timms.


It follows that the decisions taken by various officers in Methodist Church House in treating Peter’s objection as a complaint, and therefore as a matter to which SO 1126 (2) can be applied, are additional errors of procedure and obligation.

Since the principle in SO 1100 must overturn or qualify the rule in SO 1126, the executive use of SO 1126 (2) should be in keeping with S.O. 1100 (3 vii). This did not happen.


One might go further and state that, given the use of the word “should” in  SO 1100 (3 vii), Peter Timms had, and has, a right to  have assurance that actions taken against him  under SO 1126 shall be qualified by the principles in SO 1100.


With regard to the application of SO 1126 (2) to Peter Timms, the wording of the standing orders suggests that  a reasonable approach to the situation in late 2016 might have been:

(i) Was the complaint under consideration referred to the Connexional Complaints Panel by the complainant, rather than the local complaints officer?  (Yes)


(ii) Was SO 1126 (2)  used to block Peter Timms’ potential appeal? (Yes, though he never complained against the decision)


(iii) Was any error committed during the complaints process in  reaching a decision in the case,  which might in any way mitigate or otherwise change that decision, with reference to, and in accordance with,  SO 1100 (3 vii)? (Many, but particularly the issuance of a false confession with accompanying coercion.)


(iv) If a reconsideration of the facts and process of the case determined that an error was made, should the  decision that a complaint against the final judgement of the complaints panel be upheld without appeal?


The Standing Order that was not used in the argument between Rev Timms and Mr Kitchin, but which no doubt Mr. Kitchin had very much in mind, was SO 1100 (3) viii. This states:


“there should be a means of ensuring compliance with any decision;”


This clause appears to grant someone in the Connexion - perhaps  the Head of the Complaints Office or the Secretary, the power to ensure compliance with any decision, no matter if the concerned member of the Methodist Church objects.

This is a ruling that ensures there is no appeal against any decision taken by the Connexion.

It is clearly unfair, and not in alignment with the guiding principle earlier in SO 1100. It is what lawyers call "bad law", for one cannot see it ever being used - except perhaps in the case of Rev Peter Timms.









The two standing orders mentioned in this paper demand obligations from two participants involved in the consideration of a Connexional Complaint – the complainant and the Church.


Standing order 1126 (2) binds those who are subject to the discipline  of the Church’s complaints system, to a certain form of procedure.

Standing Order 1100 binds the Church itself to a certain form of procedural behaviour


One deals with the responsibilities of the complainant to the Church.

The other deals with the Church’s responsibilities to the complainant.


SO 1126(2)  concerns procedure during a complaints inquiry with reference to one specific situation.  SO 1100 reflects, and applies to all the complaints procedures, and thereby to the central doctrines of the Methodist Church.


The Church has the right to hold the individual to his or her obligations to the Church.


The complainant has an inalienable right to hold the Church to its obligations under SO 1100.


It follows that if,  in any complaints inquiry, there is  discovered  any faulty or erroneous procedure of a Connexional Complaints panel, or in any error in fact, then  the complainant should not be held accountable by SO 1126 (2).


To determine otherwise is to hold SO 1126 superior to SO 1100.


Since SO 1100 is a principle of the church’s standing orders, and therefore an expression of the central doctrines of the Methodist Church, any determination to change or lessen its power and impact within the standing orders is contrary to the central doctrines of the Church. The Methodist Church has no power to alter or vary in any manner the doctrinal standards that were presented to Parliament at the time of the Methodist Act 1976.


Therefore, there can be no lessening of the Church’s commitment to SO 1100 and the obligations contingent to that commitment. It is absolute.


SO 1126 (2) is not absolute.



- ends.









To return to home page press back button on your browser.