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Now Church of England wades into row over Oxford dean

Now Church of England wades into row over Oxford dean as diocese condemns attempts to ‘down-play the severity’ of allegation against him

  • It follows Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy of Christ Church being investigated
  • Prof Percy’s supporters describe the matter as ‘not grave’ and ‘relatively minor’
  • Diocese of Oxford said down-playing the matter would ‘belittle the complainant 

The church of England has condemned attempts to ‘down-play the severity’ of an allegation against the dean of an Oxford college which has led to him stepping down from his duties.

The extraordinary intervention comes as the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy of Christ Church is being investigated over the matter.

The details of the claim against him – the latest chapter in the long-running battle between the dean and the college – have not been publicly confirmed. However, the allegation is understood to be related to the 58-year-old dean’s encounter with a ‘complainant’ at Christ Church Cathedral.

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy (pictured) of Christ Church has stepped down from his duties

Prof Percy’s supporters describe the matter as ‘not grave’ and ‘relatively minor’. One said the investigation was part of a ‘witch-hunt’ against the dean, pictured.

But in an unusual intervention, the Church last night hit back against critics of the investigation. The Diocese of Oxford said down-playing the matter would ‘belittle the complainant and only add to the distress of anyone else considering a complaint against someone in a senior position’. It added that ‘the complaint will be properly and thoroughly investigated’.

When approached for comment earlier this week, Prof Percy’s wife, Emma, chaplain at nearby Trinity College, said: ‘He’s signed off sick so he’s not talking to anybody.’

Although largely without support at the college, Prof Percy, pictured, commands the loyalty of prominent figures including Alan Rusbridger – once Guardian editor and now principal of Oxford college Lady Margaret Hall – and Jonathan Aitken, the former Tory Cabinet minister who was jailed for perjury and has since become an Anglican priest.

The Mail has learnt that inquiries are also being made over money discovered in college accounts originating with an obscure Michigan-based Christian group, of which Rev Aitken is a director. The McDonald Agape Foundation is believed to have made a $250,000 (£189,000) grant to fund – at least, in part – Professor Percy’s research project on ‘leadership in churches’.

The Charity Commission, which is already investigating the wealthy college’s governance, said it ‘had been informed of these recent developments’.

On Tuesday night, the college censors, who administer discipline, told students that due to legal constraints, they were unable to shed further light on the incidents behind Prof Percy’s decision to ‘voluntarily withdraw’ from his duties.

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