The Methodist Way


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


The case of Rev Peter Timms has raised many questions about the responsibilities of the executives in Methodist Church and in particular the manner in which it conducts its disciplinary and complaints inquiries. But where can victims of a corrupt complaints  system complain? Peter Hill explores one possibility.

Some in the Methodist Church believe that its internal workings are not subject to civil law as other large institutions are. The famous Preston case  of 2013 was something of a turning point in this.  It concerned  the institutional status of ministers in all the churches, but the Methodist Church in particular.  It decided that ministers of the Church are not employees. Their correct legal standing is as office-holders in a voluntary organisation. This was interpreted by many as meaning that the Church is  more akin to a club than to a company or other such body


The true situation is that the Methodist Church is on record as being a supporter of the principles of the UN Convention on universal human rights and the European convention linked to it.  The Church is, as a matter of principle, subject always to the law of the land.  So the Church obeys the law - except in any cases where legislation explicitly exempts them.  But in relation to each piece of legislation, it is down to the specifics of the law as to how and to what extent they apply to the church.

Nevertheless , comments such as the Human Rights Act does not apply” are heard – as if Human Rights law does not apply to anything done by the Methodist Church to its ministers – particularly during a complaints inquiry.  

Clubs, of course, can have their own rules about membership. But consider if a club had a policy of not admitting black persons – it would surely be in breach of anti-discrimination laws. So who controls the Methodist Church and makes sure it “does the right thing”?

Anyone who browses the damning articles and films on this website will realise that there is no real safe and consistent means of redress for abused members of the Methodist Church. Covert discrimination against persons such as ninety-year old Rev Peter Timms is quite possible, but is it lawful? 

Jane Stacey’s 2015 report ,“Courage, Cost and Hope”, exposed procedures which may not have been lawful. These were procedures which had allowed some two thousand sex abuse cases to be covered up because of inadequate safeguarding. She remarked that:  

“For some ministers there has been anger and hurt when they tried to raise doubts and concerns but were not listened to or not believed.” 

Rev Peter Timms, a minister for some forty years,  has regularly “not been listened to.”  He has been denied any discussion about the false confession that was sent to him by  a complaints panel leader, Chris Kitchin. Office holders in the Church will not listen to their aged minister. They place his letters in a file – unanswered, perhaps even unread.

Administrative decisions about difficult procedures in the complaints process are supposed to be taken within the Connexional Team, and by the Conference Office in particular. However, in the Timms case, the consultation and decision-making appears to be influenced by senior members of the Church who have influence over  the Connexional team.

Considering the strange actions taken by some officials in Methodist  Church  House, it seems that that Rev Timms may be facing a “core group” of senior members within the Methodist Church which defends its members and is deaf to the objections of aged ministers such as Peter Timms.   

After four years of argument, the “core group” in Methodist Church House still refuses to justify the false confession that was sent to Peter Timms. Instead  it simply ignores it.  

There is a total lack of transparency about this  in Church House.  The people responsible for the irresponsible policy of intimidation against Rev Peter Timms simply refuse to say why they take this stand.  When asked, they deflect.  

Throughout the last five years Peter Timms has been shown that, although he is accountable to the Church, the Church, in reality,  is not accountable to him.  

The consistency of the approach from Methodist Church House hints at the influence of such a  “core group”. Officials change, but the policy remains the same.


Clearly Mr. Chris Kitchin is someone favoured by this core group. In spite of his outrageous acts, he is immune to criticism and stoutly protected.   It is likely that a member of the Law and Polity Committee,  Mr. Graham Danbury, has, at least, some sympathy with Mr. Kitchin, for they have served together on the Church Council in St Albans. A friend of Mr. Danbury, Mrs Louise Wilkins, was,  until recently,  another member of  the Law and Polity Committee who did what she could to protect Mr. Kitchin. When she was senior legal adviser in Methodist Church House she played a major part in the attempt to silence Peter Timms.

The former  Secretary of Conference, Rev Gareth Powell seems to be another favoured person – as is his successor Rev Jonathan Hustler. Rev John Hellyer, who is closely involved with all aspects of the Timms case, would appear to have special protected status in the eyes of the “core group”. People such as these act without any real scrutiny.

Their text for guidance seems to be John 20:17 -  “Noli me tangere”. 

For it seems that no one can touch them. They are inviolate.  

Should anyone doubt this, they should look at the central facts of the Timms case. The leader of the complaints panel which dealt with Peter Timms,  the man who sent the false confession and used   evidence from covert surveillance against him, Chris Kitchin, has been consistently defended by the officials in Church House.


He in turn, when approached, sees no need to justify his actions – he simply refers the matter to Methodist Church House. They then say that the matter is closed.


As Mr. Kitchin has said with the confidence of someone who cannot be gainsaid,  “It is  water under the bridge.” His stock response is “I am not in a position to discuss what we did, or why we did it.” Approaches with suggestions  of “peace talks” are categorised by him as “harassment”.


A brick wall might move more than Mr. Kitchin. Such is the modern Methodist Church.


As a consequence of this, it is clear that the “core group” inside the Methodist Church condones the use of false confessions accompanied by coercion. According to past – president, Rev Loraine Mellor, such behaviour is “within the parameters set by the Conference”. Can she really believe this – or is she too at the mercy of the special interests of the  “core group”? 

The core group seems to care nothing for the connexional team members in Methodist Church House. The Timms case revealed an example of the Church being lied to by one of its own connexional complaints panels to cover up breaches of the standing orders. Rev Val Reid and Rev Chris Jones were behind the document that tricked the Church. These are eminent senior ministers - but no action was taken.    

In the Timms case, in order to hide its despicable actions, a protected member, Rev John Hellyer,  suspended Rev Timms and determined that the suspension would remain until he ceased his objections and accepted the complaints panel's report. 

Peter Timms has been subject to a gagging order for two years now. Such is the power of the “core group”.

In dealing with Peter Timms, the officials at a lower level (even inside Church House) seemed afraid to take decisive action. Peter Timms’  complaints might have been settled at local level - if there had been firmer insistence on reconciliation talks. However, the ministers he complained about, simply refused to enter such talks. Strangely, considering SO 1100, no one in London found fault in that. 

One minister actually told him to take the matter to Church House. No doubt, that person knew  what would happen. For the  “core group” seems to want all complaints to go to Methodist Church. It produces a centralisation of decisions and punishments inside the Church  - and, of course, this increases their power.  

This pattern of not settling matters at local level is not unusual. In the 2015 report, “Courage Cost and Hope”  Jane Stacey noted:

 “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. This was further evidence of weak accountability.”

Jane Stacey had not considered the other side of this coin. The allegations of sex abuse were stifled once they reached Church House. That was the real problem.

The centralisation of power that this system produces leads to a failure of responsibility to the Church. The officials in Church House  are supposed to manage the reputation of the Church in accordance with the central doctrines of the Church.

Instead, because of the existence of the “core group”, they manage the reputations of certain individuals whom they will defend no matter what they do.  

Partiality and privilege protect this inner circle from all the standards and due processes that have been framed to guide the Church and control any excesses. The reality is that they are not accountable to the Church and its doctrines.

With their control over the committees of the Council, their control over the Methodist Recorder, and particularly their control over the interpretation of the Standing Orders and the system of handling complaints,  the protected inner circle  has formed a new, modern, centralised and authoritarian Methodist Church. It is one that John Wesley would not recognise.

What can stop this relentless self-centred chauvinism?

There is news of a possible remedy. In August 2020 the Charity Commission was asked to intervene in the Church of England’s investigations of senior figures embroiled in abuse complaints that had been covered up over many years.

The complaint is not about the guilt or otherwise of suspected persons involved in sex abuse within the Anglican Church. It concerns the procedures used by the Anglican Church to investigate such cases.

That may ring bells in the ears of many Methodists.

A letter signed by a number of Anglican church-goers listed serious concerns. They claim  that there is little or no transparency or accountability  in the Church of England when it comes to investigating alleged misdemeanours.  The Church, they claim, has no system of redress at all for alleged victims of abuse. Secret cliques which act like a Star Chamber  are mentioned. The letter claims that the Church of England  acted in a prejudicial manner with no consideration for any due process. 

Readers of this website will recognize most of this in the Timms case.

It seems from this petition to the Charity Commission, that the Church of England may have its own “core group” in which all power without accountability resides.

There is a striking similarity between the case of Peter Timms and the complaints by the members of the Church of England when it comes to dealing with complaints.

Jane Stacey, in her 2015 report, “Courage Cost and Hope”  recommended that: 

“work 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.”

She would no doubt be shocked if she saw the manner of communications,  only a year later, emanating from the complaints panel as it considered Peter Timms’ complaints. One suspects that she would not believe the captious form of questioning used by that panel. It would indicate that her work has been in vain.

Of all the issues in the Timms case, that of inappropriate communication with a complainant and the  inappropriate questioning of a complainant are perhaps the most invidious. It appeared that the leader of the panel, Chris Kitchin, completely lost his temper with Rev Timms when he refused to sign the false confession. How else can one classify the actions he took in the later stages of the panel’s work? He would not consult Rev Timms' doctor, but decided himself that the minister was fit to undergo the procedures of the complaints process. He preyed upon the sickness of an aged man.

And yet, the Church accepted the subsequent report. They insist that it remain on record.

The Stacey report began with the hope that: 

“its findings and subsequent actions will contribute to making the church a safer place for all in the future.”  

The overwhelming evidence that was behind this aspiration was that the Methodist Church had failed to devise a “safe, consistent and fair system of redress”.

This is the same allegation that  Rev Timms has consistently made. He has been told by the senior legal officer in Church House that there is no redress for his objections. 

Ironically, the lack of a fair system of redress is exactly the same allegation contained in the recent petition to the Charity Commission about the Church of England. 

In both cases, the primary charge is about incorrect procedure, not the guilt of the accused. 

In both cases, a secondary charge is that the officials in the Church do not obey their own rules.

The central controversy in the Timms case began in September 2016.  It was at a time when the Stacey report was being read and digested by all senior Methodists. And it was at this time too that Mr. Kitchin, the leader of the complaints panel, held a secret session, a Star Chamber, and then sent a false confession to Rev Timms with a demand that he sign it.   

Had Mr Kitchin not read the Stacey report? Had he not noted that Jane Stacey suggested that:

“work be undertaken to develop further best practice guidance “ 

Was holding a Star Chamber and  sending a false confession “best practice? 

The reality was that Rev Timms was largely being dealt with by an unreformed system of complaints. The “core group” ruled and they still do. 

The unthinking, hasty,  “knee-jerk”  decisions by the “core group” to stand by Mr. Kitchin and his Star Chamber system have  not been affected by any later changes in the system. The Methodist Church remains unreformed in this. So, if the Charity Commission finds against the procedures used within the Church of England, it seems likely that they may take the same view about the system inside the Methodist Church. 

The Methodist Church is not “a club” with its own rules, as some seem to think. There is no liberty in its rules of conduct to “black-ball” members as has happened in the Timms case. The Methodist Church  is subject to Parliament and to the agencies  of Parliament. It can be investigated and reprimanded directly by Parliament or through one of its agencies. Such could happen if the Church strayed from its declared purposes which are listed in the Methodist Act 1976. One such purpose is: 

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

It is difficult to argue that investigating a minister and finding him guilty of a breach of standing orders without even informing him of what is going on is,  in any way,  reconcilable with “the advancement of the Christian faith in accordance with the doctrinal standards and the discipline of the Methodist Church.”

There is no day to day, or year to year, direct scrutiny by Parliament of the actions of the Methodist Church. The relevant agency of government to consider this is the Charity Commission. It is a non-ministerial government department, created by statute.  It implements legislation.  It is funded by the Treasury and reports annually to central government. As a government department, it has a high level of independence, being accountable only to Parliament and the Courts.

The petition by members of the Church of England to the Charity Commission demonstrates that the Commission has such a right of intervention in the internal procedures of the Church of England.  The Methodist Church, though not an established Church as  the Church of England, is nevertheless ‘subject to Parliament’ and in a similar position with regard to the Charity Commission.


Given its status as a non-ministerial government department, the Charity Commission may, as an agency of government,  instigate a statutory inquiry when there are allegations that the charity is not acting as it should. The Commission therefore has a legal power which enables it to formally investigate matters of regulatory concern within a charity. It also has powers to protect the charity from those who run it.


The Commission regularly uses these powers. Churches are in no way exempt. The Charity Commission is currently investigating these charges against the Church of England  and hope to bring out a report in Spring 2021.


If the charges are proved against the Church of England, the Commission may issue the Church with an official warning. If the Church of England does not reform itself in line with such a warning, the Commission may then inform the government of this in its annual report. Evidence of misconduct or mismanagement can lead to punishment of those involved – suspension, or removal from office. The Commission will report the findings of its investigations into the Church of England to the government in its annual report.  

Just one of the many issues in the Timms case - the issuance by a Star Chamber of a false confession, with subsequent coercion to persuade the victim to sign it -  is enough to state that the affair was conducted contrary to “the advancement of the Christian faith.”.

 These matters, and other misuses of power used over the past six years against Rev Peter Timms by members of the “core group” in the Methodist Church should be brought to the attention of the Charity Commission. They do not conform to the standard set in the Methodist Church that the purpose of the Church is:

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

 Where does this leave the ninety year old Rev Peter Timms?

His life is in ruins. He is currently suspended from all Church activities – simply because he objected to the practice of issuing a false confession to a complainant. If he drops his objections, the suspension may be lifted – but his original objections will not be considered. 

He complained against incorrect procedure and has suffered punishment for over half a decade.  

He has been spied upon, accused of criminal acts and subjected to “nuisance grievances”. He is “black-balled" and “sent to Coventry". Subject to a two year long disciplinary process, he is “gagged” and cannot object to this gagging without inviting further punishment for his supposed misdemeanours. 

The Methodist Church will not listen to him and will not defend him. They prefer instead to defend the insiders who rule in Church House.  

In the space of an hour, Rev Timms could write a letter to the Charity Commissioner and post it. He has refrained from doing so for some five years. He still hopes that the Church will “do the right thing”. However, he also fears the punishment that the “core group” inside the Methodist Church will devise for him if he will not submit to their will. They seem determined to hound him to his grave.

After eight years of turmoil, devoting his life to trying to persuade the Methodist Church to adhere to its central doctrines, has Peter Timms not sacrificed enough in trying to keep the Church to its commitments? Should the vast number of honest Methodists leave this task to a ninety year old man?

Or should they, as has happened in Bexhill, simply leave the Church? The church where Peter Timms used to be the minister is now closed and will be sold off, possibly to become a car park. He was not even invited to the farewell gathering. 

Peter Timms’ career is wrecked, his reputation ruined, his family life broken.  

Is it not time for ethical and true members of the Methodist Church to make a stand against those who are leading it away from the Wesleyan traditions, the Methodist Way?


The address of the Charity Commission is: 

102 Petty France, Westminster, London SW1H 9AJ


- Peter Hill ( a friend of Peter Timms)





This document is written in line with Standing Order 1100 which demands openness in dealing in the Methodist Church


-Peter Hill



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