Suspension of whistle-blower priest lifted

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On 29th July, Stephen Kuhrt was informed by the Bishop of Southwark that his suspension was lifted and that he was free to return to ministry with immediate effect. The first charge he had faced, relating to his handling of historic safeguarding issues, was dismissed entirely. The second concerned his sharing of a safeguarding report, long ignored by the diocese, with a small group of advisors – an error Stephen had acknowledged from the start. This was resolved by a rebuke from the Bishop which Stephen has accepted, which consists of requirements that he attends safeguarding and confidentiality training as well as regular meetings with the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor.

However, a demand that we re-start a review of safeguarding in our parish on terms that increase our concerns about both its nature and its purpose was received within minutes of the lifting of the suspension. We continue to believe that the Diocese has weaponised safeguarding to punish Stephen for whistleblowing and that in doing so, as our previous statement asserts, its response has been wholly disproportionate.

It was wonderful to welcome Stephen back into the life of our church at each of the three very different services on 1st August. Equally welcome is the opportunity his return gives us to fulfil our aim of reconciliation with Southwark Diocese. Since the review was launched in May of last year, we have been frustrated in our attempts to establish the necessary clarity and transparency that we believe the process has required. We will continue to strive for the resolution that is in everyone’s interest, but believe it will only be within reach if the Diocese is prepared to reciprocate our commitment to thorough, open and honest engagement and our determination to speak the truth.

David Loffman and Jon Cook, 3rd August, 2021