Eeva John's interview

in the ongoing information gradually coming out regarding the departure of Elaine, Andrew and Lis from Wycliffe Hall, one of the previous departing staff has given an interview last Sunday on Radio 4, it can be listened to here (move forward to about 30minutes), but there has also been much debate here regarding what it is Eeva has actually said, so just for complete clarity, I have transcribed the interview:

Presenter: 'I asked her why she had left....

Eeva: 'well, I think it was really a culmination of events over the past two years and their consequences that very sadly forced me to the conclusion that I could no longer have confidence in, or respect for, the leadership of the Principal or the whole council of Wycliffe Hall.'

Presenter: 'and why couldn't you have that confidence?'

Eeva: 'I guess I feel that there was an unacceptable mismatch between the way that change was managed and the Christian values of the Hall. I perfectly accept that a new leader inevitably brings change to an organisation, and that's to be welcomed as part of the dynamic of a healthy growing community or institution like Wycliffe, but I would expect such change to build on the strengths of the past and to harness the experience, skills and insights of the staff team, but sadly the leadership failed to engage with and respect the views of the staff, leaving staff gradually feeling devalued and disenfranchised and, as ultimately the turnover figures show....'

Presenter: 'can I ask you about some of those people who're also leaving for one reason or another, do you wonder...what is your understanding of the circumstances in which Elaine Storkey is leaving? Is it your understanding that she has been dismissed?'

Eeva: 'Yes it is, I know that she had absolutely no intention of leaving, she had in fact been preparing teaching material for the coming academic year.'

Presenter: 'and so she knew she was in some sort of dispute, but she didn't think that the process had finished?'

Eeva: 'that's correct, she had had…there was a….she was under a disciplinary process and she herself had filed a grievance procedure against the Principal and that was ongoing.'

Presenter: 'now do you know what she's planning, presumably in these situations, the usual thing is your offered some money if you don't say anything...the alternative is to go to an industrial tribunal. Do you know what she's planning to do?'

Eeva: 'I wouldn't want to discuss that.'

Presenter: 'but you would agree that's the choice?'

Eeva: ‘I would agree that that’s the choice.’

Presenter: ‘but you see the trouble is we also hear from other sources that there’s been an extensive listening process in the college which took some admissions from, I think 18 members of staff, so that sounds as if there is widespread consultation.’

Eeva: ‘what actually happened was that over a period of 6 to 8 months, a group of staff appealed repeatedly to the Hall council to help us resolve our issues, possibly with the help of outside mediation, with face to face meetings with the Hall council. These pleas were ignored, and there was indeed a listening process but it involved individuals having access for 30 minutes with two members of council, not a meeting of staff and council. And indeed the council did respond but very briefly and didn’t actually respond to any of the substantive issues that had been raised by members of staff.’

Presenter: ‘now we understand that bishop James Jones did attend a meeting of the full college to answer some of the concerns, did that not reassure people?’

Eeva: ‘James Jones did come to the college, and he gave an address to the whole community, staff and students, the address actually touched…did not touch at all on any of the issues that were, as it were ‘live’ in the community. When he finished his address a number of…he…we were given 10 minutes or so for questions and I would say 5 or 6 people were able to ask questions which they did about the various conflicts that there were in the community.’

Presenter: ‘and finally how damaging do you think this is for the church of England? There are only as I understand it, 6 such colleges like Wycliffe Hall, so if one of them is having this sort of dispute….so do you think it reflects well on the church of England?’

Eeva: ‘no, it is extremely sad, I would say that it is tragic that this kind of misunderstanding and lack of communication happens in a Christian institution like Wycliffe, and that it is described….really misrepresented, inevitably, in the press as theological, different management styles and so on. And that’s probably one of the reasons that I’ve decided as it were, to talk to you, because there hasn’t been an insiders view so far in the press.’

Presenter: ‘and what about you? What’s your future?’

Eeva: ‘I resigned very much on the grounds of principle and so I didn’t have another job to go to and so for the moment I’m actually pursuing some further study until things become clearer for me.

Presenter: ‘Eeva John. We invited bishop James Jones, the chairman of Wycliffe’s council, and Richard Turnbull, the Principal, to appear on this program, but they declined. However, they did issue the following statement:

Wycliffe Hall has started the new academic year with a full complement of teaching and support staff and with the maximum number of ordinands permitted. The Hall has undergone changes in structure, courses and staffing in the last year, as the recommendations of the inspectors and moderators, together with the agreed vision of the council have been implemented. Not all staff have been content with the process, the Principal and the council have engaged with extensive processes of consultation. The outcomes are incorporated in the Hall’s strategic plan being laid before the council this week. We are unable to comment on the circumstances of individuals.’

it appears to me the press have been under a misapprehension that this was regarding theological differences, when actually, it's about the correct way to behave when we are followers of Jesus Christ.

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