A senior member of one of Britain’s busiest churches, in Sheffield, resigned after engaging in an ‘inappropriate’ relationship.
Tim Cudmore was the director of ministry and parish safeguarding officer at Christ Church in Fulwood, which before the pandemic would regularly attract more than 1,000 worshippers on a Sunday.
He resigned in 2018 after details of an ‘inappropriate’ relationship with a young female member of the congregation emerged.
Church documents shown to The Star describe how there was a ‘relationship of trust’ and she had looked up to him as a ‘father figure’ but he ‘initiated and pressured her into inappropriate physical contact, including touching her over and under clothes’.
One of the documents states that this ‘left her confused with conflicting emotions, and the sense of acute guilt that came from these feelings’.
It also reveals how in 2015, Mr Cudmore had admitted to the then vicar, Canon Paul Williams, an earlier incident, involving a different female member of the congregation to whom he had sent an image of himself by text message.
Although he was asked to step back temporarily from leading services, no formal action was taken at the time, nor were any records made.
When the second relationship came to light, Mr Cudmore was ‘simply allowed to resign’, without any investigation or disciplinary action at the time.
The church reported back to the congregation last year following two investigations – one a ‘visitation’ by a former bishop and archdeacon, and the other by Christian safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight – but the documents outlining the findings were never published more widely and were only recently shown to The Star.
The church accepts in the documents seen by The Star that ‘serious errors’ were made in how the matter was handled, and it says the young woman had been ‘so badly failed in how we as a church cared for her’.
It describes the steps it has taken to improve safeguarding, including installing two volunteer parish safeguarding officers.
In a statement to The Star, Fulwood Church Parochial Church Council said it was ‘very sorry for the failings’.
“We continue to apologise to all those who we recognise have been deeply hurt by the matters described in these reports, and continue to offer ongoing support,” it added.
“The circumstances described in the thirtyone:eight report should never have happened. They were not properly known, understood or dealt with appropriately at the time due to a culture of secrecy which had been allowed to develop in our church. Both reports identified weaknesses in our leadership and culture.”
It said it was committed to developing a ‘more open, safe, transparent and compassionate environment’ and that ‘all necessary and appropriate referrals have been made to the relevant regulatory bodies’.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, said he was ‘full of gratitude’ to those who ‘courageously’ brought the failings to the church’s attention and he was confident that the two investigations had been ‘thorough and rigorous in identifying the issues and in making recommendations to resolve them’.
“Regrettably, the hurts which have been sustained by particular individuals involved are not easily or quickly healed and we are aware of the continuing distress with which some are living,” he added.
The Star has contacted Mr Cudmore, who declined to comment.
Source: Sheffield Star