Legislation appears to be approaching that could stop the Methodist Church’s practice of covering up crimes, such as the Rev Timms case, that are  committed in its ranks. The fact that Methodist Church executives covered up some two thousand cases in which women and children were sexually abused - with the consequent enduring mental anguish -  has caused a revolution. All cases of abuse in the Church will be affected – including the case of Rev Peter Timms which prompted this website.  He suffered abuse in a simple complaints process. He was sent a false confession, and when he refused to sign it, he was threatened and told to tell no one about it. This article suggests how this system of secrecy and cover-up in the Methodist Church may soon be stopped.




The initial report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) - set up to investigate the Jimmy Savile affair -  was  published in May 2019.  However, its brief was extended when the inquiry  learned of the horrific number of cases of such abuse discovered in the three main churches in England.  The Methodist tally alone was more than 1700.

Significantly, eighty eight percent of people that IICSA researchers interviewed said that they would like to see a system of mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse introduced. That outcome now seems likely.

If mandatory reporting is introduced in the UK it will mean that Methodist ministers – indeed all members of the Methodist Church -  will be required by law to report to a higher authority if they have any reasonable suspicion that someone  is a victim of child abuse. There can be no more cover-ups.

A separate IICSA report,  entitled “Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions”, pointed to changes that are needed in the  system of reporting abuse in our churches:

“There needs to be institutional and societal structural-level changes to collectively prevent abuse in religious institutions”

It added that persons who suspected  that sex abuse was going on should be able to report it “without fear of backlash.”

In particular, IICSA  reported that:

“The secrecy which comes with the sanctity of the church/religious community needs to be addressed.”

The Church of England has already accepted that it will have to introduce mandatory reporting. Archbishops Welby and Sentamu both told the IICSA inquiry that they believe that it is necessary.  Archbishop Welby acknowledged the immense mental anguish the abuse had produced, saying he felt “shame and horror that we have done this to people”. He added: “I hope God will forgive us.”

Concurrent with the IICSA inquiry in the UK, a Royal Commission in Australia into Institutional responses to Child Sex abuse was being published. Mandatory reporting is already the law in some of the states in Australia. 

The Royal Commission recommended that:

There should be no provision in canon law that attempts to prevent, hinder or discourage compliance with mandatory reporting laws by bishops or religious superiors.”

The report also referred to:

“the mistaken view that child sexual abuse was a forgivable moral failing rather than a crime that should be reported to police.”

Six states in Australia already have legislation on mandatory reporting -  with  punishments of  fines and terms of imprisonment.  Fines range from $1408 in Victoria, to $26,000 in the Northern Territories. In the area around Canberra, the fine can be $5,500 or imprisonment for up to six months.

With this experience in the background, the Australian Royal Commission also recommended:

“the introduction of a ‘failure to report’ offence”

This would directly attack any move to cover up any such crime. If “failure to report”  is included in UK legislation, it would mean that, should a case be reported to the police, all those persons in the Church who have come in contact with the alleged victim would be interviewed and possibly prosecuted.

In the USA,  where many states have introduced mandatory reporting, Janet Heimlich, an award-winning journalist has written a book  “Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.

The title is of significance in the Methodist Church of Great Britain.  It identifies the main “cultural change” that the various churches around the world need to make. Janet Heimlich wrote:

 “Part of what has allowed abuses to continue unabated so long in very large religious institutions, such as the Methodist Church and others, is the power they have over congregants. They have the power to convince them they should not report abuses to outside authorities.” 

Such views were included in the Methodist Church’s own review of the situation in England. In her 2015 report Courage Cost and HopeJane Stacey pointed to the need for “deep cultural change” and  “best practice” in handling complaints.

One of the main points in the Stacey  report was the “cover-up” in the Methodist Church -  when  senior ministers resorted to persuading, or coercing, church members  not to report criminal abuse to outside authorities.

Jane Stacey reported a variety of corrupt practices in such “cover-ups”.

Many participants claimed that when they reported sex abuse their evidence of abuse was minimized and little or no action was taken.  Many such victims claimed that this was done  in order to  protect the reputation of the Church and individual perpetrators at all costs.  

Many participants claimed, even worse, that they were simply disbelieved.  Their evidence of mental and physical abuse was dismissed and little or no action was taken.  Again, the victims claimed, this was done in order to  protect the reputation of the Church and individual perpetrators.

Such complainants were not just lay members of the Church. Ministers  who reported claims of sex abuse told Jane Stacey’s researchers that they were not listened to -  nor were they believed. In effect they were told that they were telling lies.  They were left angry and hurt. The Methodist Church had let them down.

The Stacey report also considered the institutional structure of the Church and  criticized its safeguarding systems: 

a significant number of situations appeared not to have been picked up and dealt with at an early stage, but were allowed to progress to formal complaints and discipline processes.”

The inquiry also noted that the system had weak accountability. Alleged perpetrators were often simply moved elsewhere within the Church, where, no doubt, the abuse could continue.

All of these faults left victims of abuse  - and of those who tried to report it - feeling very angry and hurt.

The Stacey report emphasized the central message that emerged from all this – that the truth had been  suppressed in order to maintain the reputation of the Church. There was a concerted effort by those who ran the Methodist Church to conceal the ugly facts. The Church had been  acting illegally, for there can be no public benefit in covering up such apparent breaches of the law.

The Methodist Church, as a group charity, is responsible to the Charity Commission and must show that it exists "to the benefit of the public." Such had not been the case when children were sexually abused within its walls - and their cries for help ignored.

Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, who, as general secretary of the Methodist Conference, strongly supported the Stacey review, said it was “deeply regrettable” that the Church had “not always listened properly to those abused”.

The consequence of this is that members of the Church have suffered mental anguish which will stay with them throughout their lives. The victims are children - but their parents have suffered their anguish with them.

The statistics collected by the Stacey review revealed the “cover-up” policy.  The Methodist Safeguarding Team had contacted the police or local authorities  in connection with just 125 of the 503 cases that the IICSA chose to analyze. Of these, only 61 cases were reported to the police.

Under mandatory reporting, there could be no such “cover up”. Trying to keep things secret to uphold the reputation of the Church, might result in heavy fines or even a term in prison.

The outcome of this terrible record of criminal sex abuse of our children is that mandatory reporting now seems inevitable.  The “covering up” of the cases that Jane Stacey discovered does not provide the public benefit that the Church, by law, must provide.

It follows that mandatory reporting might yet seriously affect the way in which the Methodist Church is run - for there is little sign that the Church has yet mended its ways. The cover up of abuse goes on.

Rev Peter Timms  was quoted in the petition about his case which is currently before the Charity Commission.  In a letter dated 24th October 2017 he wrote to the President of the Methodist Church, Rev Loraine Mellor, about the “public benefit” which is a legal requirement of the Church:

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

It is the system of complaints and the legal requirement of a  “public benefit” which will come under scrutiny if mandatory reporting is introduced.   If the law is changed,  these words from the 90 year old minister may prove to be all too prophetic. Mandatory reporting  requires systems that promote transparency. The changes it will bring will inevitably extend such transparency over the entire complaints system. This is part of the “deep cultural  change” which the Stacey report considered necessary

All mental and physical abuse will need to be reported and dealt with openly. Of course, protecting children is important – but so is protecting adults – and not just against sex abuse, but all forms of abuse.

As with child sex abuse, such matters will need to be processed with transparency. There can be no more cover-ups. No one has yet researched the amount of mental abuse that exists inside the Methodist Church, but one case illustrates the possibilities.

As readers of other articles on this website will know, in 2015 Rev Peter Timms, a 90 year old supernumerary minister in Bexhill, a distinguished former prison governor and an M.B.E.,  submitted a complaint about a suspected minor irregularity in his circuit. Since then he has been subjected to constant harassment and coercion by the executives of the Methodist Church.

First, he was sent a false confession to sign. It concerned a breach of standing orders that he had no knowledge of. It was a false charge, but it was sent by a man who had friends in high places.

When Rev Timms refused to sign the confession, he was subjected to repeated coercion. He was repeatedly told to sign the document. He was threatened that if he did not sign, he would get none of the cooperation he needed to pursue his complaint. This turned his minor complaint into an objection to the treatment given him by the Methodist Church itself.

The Methodist Church’s response was to find against him and his complaint. He was called a manipulative bully who had harassed the complaints panel. This caused the minister extreme mental anguish, but the Church refused to discuss the matter further.

When Rev Timms objected to this abuse of the system, he was subjected to further coercion and mental abuse.  This time they required him to accept the Church’s totally false report on the matter.  He was suspended from all Church activities until he did so.

His District Chair refused to discuss the false confession, saying, quite blatantly,  he was  not prepared to do so.

A few months later, Rev Timms was subjected to a series of grievances which  added to the coercion and abuse.

Totally false allegations of criminal activity were even included in the dozens of charges laid against him.

When that did not coerce him into accepting the lies that were in the false confession and the subsequent report, the Church  made Rev Timms the subject of a disciplinary inquiry.

This was the ultimate form of coercion and mental abuse, for it meant he could be expelled from the Church  - and lose his home - if he did not "come to heel".

At this point the objective of the Methodist Church became crystal clear – for the demand was simply that he cease all publicity about his case. They wished to cover up their blatant flouting of the standing orders of the Methodist Church. The situation was exactly as Jane Stacey had described the Church's reaction to reports of abuse in her report.

Such behaviour by the Methodist Church is, arguably, criminal harassment of Rev Timms, with subsequent  criminal coercion. His human rights appear to have been breached on several counts. Yet the practical application of the rules of the Church by its officials  allow the Church  to cover all this up. The perpetrators of  the crimes against Rev Timms have remained protected by Methodist Church House. As Jane Stacey reported with regard to many of the cases she reviewed,  the perpetrators of the abuse of Rev Timms have been moved elsewhere, leaving their victims behind them.

This torturing of a ninety year old man, who has devoted his entire life to the Methodist Church, is hardly any form of "public benefit" which the Church, in law, must provide. It is vindictive mental abuse.

Such corrupt practices may well need to change  when mandatory reporting of child sex abuse is introduced into the Methodist Church.

The kind of harassment and mental abuse meted out to Rev Peter Timms will be revealed by the rules of transparency that will need to be introduced. 

Mandatory reporting will not only attack transparency, but it will stop such harassment.  Almost all of the criticisms contained in the Stacey report could come under the general term of “harassment”.

Harassment has no place in the Methodist Church. 

The officers in Methodist Church House appear to believe that they may threaten and mentally torture Peter Timms until he submits to their will and accepts the false confession. He has held out against them for half a decade. His health has suffered and he has been ostracized in his local church community on orders from above. But he will not sign the document, nor accept its validity.

Jane Stacey revealed that  literally thousands of members of the Methodist Church, victims of mental and physical abuse, have been coerced into silence in this way over the past few decades. Vicious crimes have been hushed up.

Ministers and lay members of the Methodist Church have committed sex abuse crimes on the children in the Church.  Their superiors within the Church have attacked not the perpetrators of the crimes, but the victims.

The mental anguish that such crimes have produced in innocent children and adults has been enormous - and it has been made worse by the Church's policy of covering up such activities.

None of this can possibly support or enhance  the reputation of the Methodist Church. Nor can it provide  the necessary “public benefit” of the church in the eyes of the Charity Commission.

Ironically, it was as senior members of the Methodist Church were reading the Stacy report and deciding how to respond to its  many allegations, that Rev Timms was sent the false confession to sign.


-Peter Hill