How to respond to having a false confession

 sent with a demand that you sign it.



What would you do if you, like Rev Peter Timms, had submitted a complaint and been sent a confession to sign – admitting that you had committed some breach of Standing Orders such as a breach of confidentiality? In his case he had no idea what the secret charge was, nor who had made it.


The experience of Peter Timms in handling this problem may help you. When it happened to him, he thought long and hard about it, consulting with a friend. He then set out some rules.


The rules he came up with were:


1. Never sign the document. Never submit to threats.

2. Send a letter to a senior executive in the Methodist Church stating that you have received this document and that you refuse to sign it because the accusation it makes against you is untrue. This is entirely for the record, since the person who made the accusation may well say later on that you made no reply to the “confession letter”.  They may claim that a lack of response indicated guilt.

3. Write to the panel of inquiry which sent the letter and state that from that moment on everything between you and them must be done in writing and on paper. No emails, no phone calls.

4. Open up a filing area, either physically or on your computer, into which all correspondence and such will be kept. Records will be everything in the future.

5.  If you do not have a scanner on your computer, photograph every letter you receive with your mobile phone camera – and keep the photos in your file on the case.

6. Buy a recording device. This may be a small dictation tape recorder or a digital recorder. One such recorder is on mobile phones. Learn how to use it. One useful addition is a device such as the “Olympus tp8 telephone pick up”. You can buy this on Amazon for about £15. You place one end of it ( the earpiece) in your ear, the other plugs into your recorder. You can hear the telephone conversation and record it at the same time. You need this because when you demand that everything should be on paper, the panel may well simply ignore that and ring you. Recordings should be kept on your computer in your complaints file area.

 7.  Send a letter to the inquiry panel, ignoring the wording of the “false confession”, but stating that you will adhere to the Standing Orders on, for example, confidentiality, in the inquiry and whatever else may be applicable.

8. Never reply to threats or attempts to coerce you into signing the false confession – they are simply trying to entice you into  saying something that they can use against you. Reply instead with your confirmation that you are abiding by the rules of the process as laid out in Standing Orders. Never give your own interpretation of the Standing Orders – always quote the actual wording of the Standing Order itself. Never ever lose your temper with them, no matter what the provocation.  

9.  Find a person of impeccable integrity whom you know – preferably inside the Methodist Church – and ask him or her to accept copies of all correspondence to keep in a safe place. Tell them that they may read the material they receive but that you do not wish to hear any response from them about the matter, nor for them to take any action – they are merely a safe place for monitoring the outcome of the complaint procedure. Your word on what you have said and done will never be accepted by the inquiry panel.


10. If you are invited to a meeting with anyone with regard to the complaint, insist on a written agenda for this meeting – and do not allow the meeting to move away from that agenda. Always be prepared to walk away, no matter how distressing things may be  at the time. Always try to record any such meetings either by placing a recorder on a table near you or simply leaving it running in a pocket. This may be so that you can think about the next question, whilst not bothering to remember what is being said – for it may eventually contain important evidence in your favour.


11. When you receive a nasty letter from anyone in the Methodist Church about your complaint – most likely from the panel of inquiry – do not respond directly to the accusations, concentrate instead on asking the sender for the source of the accusation. Always question the facts behind any letter that is sent to you rather than respond. This is difficult to do, so remind yourself about it regularly.  


12. Go to the Methodist Church Website and download a copy of the current Standing Orders. If you do not have a pdf reader on your computer, you should go to the Adobe site and download one – you can get one for free. Then learn how to use the search facility in the pdf reader. Acrobat 10 is a common pdf reader as is Adobe Acrobat 5 onwards. There is also Foxit pdf reader (from Mozilla Firefox) which is easy to use. With this reader you will be easily able to find the relevant material in the Standing Orders that you have downloaded.

Remember that Conference changes Standing Orders almost every year – it may be wise to state in a letter which edition you are using when replying to the Connexional panel. There are also some very helpful people on the desk of the library at Methodist Church House who can help you with Standing Orders.

Standing Orders are always your best defence. Fashion your arguments in accord with them. Learn SO 1100 (2) off by heart – you are going to need it.


13. You might also download “Positive Working Together” from the Church House site – it has some very useful quotes in it. Also useful from the same website is: "With Integrity and Skill, Confidentiality in the Methodist Church".

Remember that your arguments carry more weigh when you quote from others on the matter in hand, rather than merely assert your own views.


14 Never underestimate the contempt in which those at the top of the Methodist Church hold ordinary members and ministers. You think this advice hard on them – you just wait and see.


15 Cross your fingers every day.




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