Ahead of a high-profile Employment Tribunal hearing, a Christian chaplain who was forced out of his job and reported to a terrorist watchdog for giving a sermon on issues around human identity, has revealed how he was also then blacklisted as a safeguarding risk to children by the Church of England (CofE).
Rev. Dr Bernard Randall, 49, from Derbyshire, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, was told that he was a ‘moderate risk to children’ and vulnerable adults in a risk assessment undertaken by the Church of England’s safeguarding team in the Diocese of Derby.
Dr Randall, who is ordained by the CofE, experienced what he describes as Stalinesque interrogations where he was told that refusing to capitulate to the allegation and to deny his beliefs made him a risk.
The diocese safeguarding team even concluded that not only were the expression of his beliefs a safeguarding risk but ‘the Church itself is a risk-factor.’
This followed Dr Randall being disciplined and ultimately losing his job as a chaplain at Trent College, Derbyshire, a CofE school, after preaching a sermon that carefully presented the Christian viewpoint on identity questions.
The school even reported Dr Randall to Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog.
Dr Randall, a former Cambridge University college chaplain, had previously raised concerns at the school about an external LGBT group, Educate and Celebrate, that had encouraged school staff to chant “smash heteronormativity” at a training session.
Dr Randall had repeatedly raised during investigations by the school and the diocese that his beliefs on marriage and human sexuality, were based on the CofE’s public liturgy, especially the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon law which states that marriage is “in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman.”
Following the report to Prevent, which found Dr Randall had done nothing wrong, internal emails, revealed cooperation between Trent College and the Diocese of Derby to ensure Dr Randall could not officiate again in the region.
Later in the safeguarding process, the Archdeacon of Derby the Revd. Christopher Cunliffe indicated to the school that “there are a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to schools via the Church who have “this way of thinking”, suggesting that those having Dr Randall’s views were subsequently also a risk to children.
When the diocese’s safeguarding team were notified that Dr Randall had been dismissed for gross misconduct for preaching about the Church’s own teaching, a member of the team described the news as a ‘game-changer’.
Lawyers for Dr Randall will argue that the events that followed revealed a campaign of harassment against him involving stereotypical assumptions that a Clergyman holding his beliefs was a safeguarding risk.
Even being part of such a safeguarding process would be disclosed in any future job applications, and Dr Randall has not been employed in ministry since his dismissal by Trent College.
Concerned that Dr Randall’s sermon and beliefs were a ‘reputational risk to the organisation’, the safeguarding team contacted the Charity Commission. Filling out the form to report the ‘incident’, they were asked if a crime had been committed to which they responded: ‘don’t know’, despite never having any indication of unlawful conduct.
Furthermore, in July 2021, Dr Randall was told that he had to undergo an independent safeguarding assessment by a psychologist. The psychologist chosen specialised in assessing sex-offenders.
He declined to do so because the process would require him to accept wrongdoing.
The Bishop of Derby, the Rt. Rev’d Libby Lane, has refused to allow him to officiate in Church services, which lawyers will argue is an act of discrimination, harassment and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.
A Data Subject Access request has revealed the sinister suggestion from a senior member of Derby Cathedral that there would be ‘implications’ for anyone associated with the Cathedral if they publicly supported Dr Randall in his legal action.
Throughout the investigation by the Diocese of Derby, there has been an absence of any evidence that Dr Randall had behaved inappropriately in his dealings with anyone.
The local authority (LADO) indicated that there was no cause for concern and there was no evidence of inappropriate behaviour in relation to his pastoral ministry during his time at Trent College or previously.
Despite there being no evidence, the Diocese continue to insist that Dr Randall is a safeguarding risk.
Commenting on his treatment by the Church of England, Dr Randall said: “It has been a hostile, traumatic and deeply stressful experience.
“I had always wanted to give the Diocese a chance to see sense and to sort this situation out properly internally. I have always been so loyal to the Church, but sadly that has not been reciprocated.
“I have been marked as a ‘risk to children’ by Church officials for expressing, moderately, the C of E’s own teaching on human sexuality in a C of E chapel.
“I do not believe delivering a sermon can be a safeguarding issue. I did not think anything I said was wrong. I certainly didn’t make personal attacks.
“I was told by the safeguarding team at Derby diocese that my sermon and my views, based on C of E teaching, could potentially cause someone anxiety, as if that is abuse.
“If the Church of England believes that its own teaching based on the Bible is a safeguarding risk then what does this say about what state it’s in?
“’Safeguarding’ has been weaponised against what they believe to be a difficult voice. The Bishop of Derby has shown moral cowardice in refusing to stand up for the goodness of the Church’s own teaching, and totally failed to support and vindicate me. Sadly, the C of E seems to care more about its reputation in the secular world than showing spiritual leadership – it has become managerialised.
“The woke activists who have captured much of the C of E cannot tolerate any opposition to their agenda, even moderate and considered opposition which encourages debate.
“This has been a huge test of my faith. What has happened has never made me think about not being a Christian, but it has made me profoundly question the CofE and my place in it.
“How can I think the CofE loves God when it is walking so far away from where it should be? Woke activists are eating away at the CofE’s guts. Instead of following Jesus, who calls us to radical change, it becomes just about ‘being nice’ to people.
“If you hack away at one section of teaching, where does it stop?
“Jesus did not promise an easy life. But the modern world says anything that gets in the way of the easy life is a risk.
“The human cost on me has been immense. The lows have been very low indeed, and I have no idea what the future holds.
“People ask me why I have not left the Church of England, and I can only say because it is a deep part of who I am.
“The behaviour of the school is wrong, but the Church should have known better and done better. How I have been treated by the CofE has hurt me more than anything.
“I have had no protection at all and have faced no choice but to pursue justice. The day comes when you have to stand up to bullies. I am appalled that it is the Church that has forced me to do so.
“I have never had any wish to leave the CofE, I believe it has turned its back on me.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The Church of England’s wholesale misuse of safeguarding to suggest that Bernard is a risk to children is one of the most distasteful and objectionable elements of this extraordinary case.
“I would love to have seen the Church of England defend Bernard Randall after his moderate and thoughtful sermon upholding the Church’s teaching. I would love to have seen them say that he was a faithful minister doing the job he loved and serving the children at Trent College. If they had done that and helped him to keep his position we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“Instead, the Church of England capitulated to the pressure and washed their hands of him. Astonishingly, they cooperated with Trent College to ensure he was blacklisted from his vocation for expressing the CofE’s own teaching on marriage and human sexuality.
“Out of loyalty to the Church he has refused to expose how badly he has been treated by them until now. He has hoped against hope that they might come and help him.
“Bernard Randall is a good man who loves Jesus and biblical truth and is passionate about the hope that is found in the gospel for school communities.
“He is kind, intelligent and is not a safeguarding risk to anyone. It is the rise of LGBT ideology and activism within the Church of England that is the ‘risk’ to good and faithful clergy such as Bernard and to children who are badly failed by its misleading guidance on transgenderism in schools.
“It is untenable for the CofE to allow its safeguarding teams to say that the CofE and the Bible is a risk-factor to itself.
“This is a profoundly upsetting and perverse situation which the Derby diocese and senior figures within the Church of England have refused to confront and resolve.
“We continue to stand with Bernard as he prepares for the hearing against his sacking by Trent College this week. The outcome will have huge ramifications for Christian freedoms and freedom of speech in this country.”