Tim Dakin Bishop of Winchester
Church of England

Was Tim Dakin made Bishop of Winchester without being validly ordained priest?

There is something very peculiar going on in the Diocese of Winchester (which may or may not have spent £500,000 on NDAs). Not only has its Bishop ‘stepped back‘ or ‘stepped down‘ “for six weeks” after being threatened with a vote of no confidence, but there is some grave doubt about whether he should ever have been enthroned as the 97th Bishop of Winchester at all. If so, that temporary stepping back or stepping down may become rather more permanent.

Setting aside whether Tim Dakin was ever suited by temperament for the office of bishop (he has variously been called a ‘bully’, a ‘megalomaniac’, and a ‘sociopath’ by people who worked with him or crossed him [sometimes couched as an “abrupt management style” in public]), there are some very serious questions raised by ‘gaps’ in the CV, and unanswered questions about his education and ordination. Stephen Parsons observes at his Surviving Church blog:

Whenever a public figure is questioned over their ability to do a job, there will always be someone who goes back to look at the appointment process to see if all protocols were followed. It has been widely commented on that +Dakin had no parish experience in the Church of England and that has come to be a important issue in the discussion about his suitability to be appointed as the bishop of a diocese in 2011. A second area of query is his formation and training for the priesthood and his other academic qualifications. There are various breaks in +Dakin’s published CVs which have not been accounted for. His first BA degree is from a University in Plymouth followed by a MTh in 1987. The MTh was obtained from King’s College London and, according to Wikipedia, this was linked to ‘ordination training’. As far as I know the days of ordination training at Kings were long over by 1987. Students who studied at Kings went on elsewhere to complete training. Even if that year in London was counted for full time training, it was a very short period. Most ordination candidates were then required to do at least two years. The missing period between 1987 and 1993 also needs clarification. What was the young Dakin doing at that time? The published account on the Diocesan website refers to him being in Oxford doing doctoral research with no dates given. Did this time of study in any way link with ordination training or formation?

The circumstances of his ordination, already discussed on Thinking Anglicans, need to be explained further. The account that is given suggests that the ordination was in 1993 when he took up the job of Principal of Carlile College in Nairobi. Was this ordination authorised by an English bishop issuing what I believe are called ‘letters dismissary’? Had he passed through an English selection conference which could then be activated in Africa? Was anyone in England involved with his ordination in Africa? The Crockford entry we have, also seems to suggest that the curacy at Nairobi only came into operation the year after he was made Deacon – in 1994. In short, the ‘title parish’ seems only to have been added to the process of his ordination as a kind of afterthought.

Tim Dakin has not apparently passed through any Anglican selection conference. He applied to the Advisory Board for Ministry (now the Bishop’s Advisory Panel) and was reportedly turned down for ordination in England. He did not train formally for the priesthood. King’s College London used to send graduates to St Augustine’s Canterbury for a pastoral year, but this ended before Tim Dakin was there. His Wikipedia page says he was ordained deacon in 1993 and priest in 1994, but there is no evidence that he was canonically ordained in Nairobi. It would not be hard to produce such certification (or even photographs with the presiding bishop), but it has not happened (yet).

There is a widespread suspicion that if he was ordained at all, it was not by an Anglican bishop in a public service in the Cathedral. If that is true, his episcopal orders are canonically in question, and so are those of anyone he ordained (should he have done so without the company of two other bishops). He would also be sitting in the House of Lords under false pretences.

Tim Dakin bishop winchester

He claimed membership of Christ Church Oxford in this yearbook entry, but there is no formal evidence of this. He certainly didn’t graduate with any higher Oxford degree, which is a little odd after studying (if that is what he was doing) for so many years. There is a discussion thread on the Thinking Anglicans website which raises some important questions:

FAITH: The 1987-1993 years in Tim’s CV now need to be clarified. At present there seems to be no record of his ordination as a deacon or as a priest. There should be certificates or a record of the ordination such as an Order of Service. I cannot think of any ordination I’ve attended where the newly ordained are not pictured with the ordaining bishop, and other photos of proud parents, children etc. If none of this evidence can be produced the CofE has a major crisis on its hands. It would raise fundamental questions about due diligence and the role of Lambeth Palace, and what scrutiny goes on at the Wash House. And that would just be for starters. I really do think the Diocese needs to be reassured that their Bishop was a fit and proper person to assume the See of Winchester. At present I have very grave doubts. I really do hope my fears are unfounded. But we need evidence of his ordinations as deacon and priest to allay our concerns.

CLARE AMOS: I am fairly sure that Tim was ordained as both deacon and priest in Kenya by a bishop in that country linked to his post as Principal of Carlile College (which he had moved to as a layman as far as the C of E was concerned). I am sure I have either heard him talk about, or seen a comment about, him being ordained in Kenya – in effect as a Kenyan ordinand. I expect there is some record of his ordinations in Kenya, although record keeping may be slightly more ad hoc than in the C of E.

Since those days there is now far more scrutiny of those coming to minister in the C of E having been ordained in another Province. Indeed in some circumstances people have to go before a C of E ‘candidates committee’ before they are then allowed to minister in England. But back in the 1990s there weren’t the cross checks there are now.

ROWLAND WATERIDGE: Somewhere, I think actually on this thread which currently has 237 posts, I have read that he was ordained priest in Africa in 1994. I think it was similarly suggested as deacon there in 1993, but I am less sure of that. It is certainly stated that he served his curacy in 1994 at Nairobi Cathedral. I know nothing about C of E ordination records; clearly there must be registers, but I would have thought it unlikely that Lambeth Palace would keep, or have access to, any records of the Anglican Church in Kenya.

JEREMY PEMBERTON: I would have thought the question of Tim Dakin’s ordination was simplicity itself to resolve. Whether he was ordained by letters dimissory, or directly by a Kenyan bishop he must have letters of orders. It would be unusual for him not to be ordained to a particular ministry. But if he wants to quash the speculation that he is not ordained, then he should produce his letters of orders forthwith. If he can’t, then this all looks very concerning indeed.

TIM: Presumably he would have been required to submit evidence of his ordination as deacon and priest when he returned/moved to England in 2000 to become the leader of CMS? He would, I expect, have been subject to the requirements of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967.

FROGHOLE: Indeed. Canon C6 (2) (a) requires anyone wishing to be ordained deacon or priest to exhibit letters of orders to the bishop who is to perform the rite. Canon C1 (on the consecration of bishops) contains no like requirement, presumably because no one who ever had a hand in drafting that canons would ever have thought it possible that a person might become a bishop without first having valid and proven orders as a deacon and priest.

It should be comparatively easy for the bishop of Winchester to produce a certificate of his ordination as deacon and priest, or else some other record. The burden of proof should be upon him, and he ought to be able to produce credible and conclusive evidence without delay. Did the CNC request this of him? Indeed, does the CNC request such evidence as a sine qua non on a routine basis?

Since Mr Wateridge has cited the great Norman Sykes, the Dakin case has taken me back to Sykes’ Birkbeck lectures, ‘Church and State in the XVIIIth Century’ (1934) in which he notes how diligent were some bishops, during the so-called ‘age of negligence’, in ensuring that incumbents had valid letters of orders: for example, William Wake, when bishop of Lincoln (later archbishop and the subject of Sykes’ excellent 2 volume 1957 biography), deprived William Bannester, of Upton, Lindsey, of his living in 1709 – despite the latter’s dubious protestations that be had been ordained by the massively erudite Narcissus Marsh of Dublin, or driving the more creditable Jonas Elwood out of his curacy at Newport Pagnell, Bucks; Elwood then attempted to seek a living in the diocese of Lichfield & Coventry, only to be driven out again in 1719 by its bishop, Edward Chandler, on the advice of Wake, by then archbishop, who had, in turn, been advised of the doubtfulness of Elwood’s ordination by the bishop of Meath, John Evans (at 222-24). If the bishops of the late Stuart and early Georgian period could personally conduct diligent investigations into the status of the lowliest of their clergy, even in dioceses like Lincoln or Lichfield which were vastly larger than they are now, it ought not to be difficult for the CNCs of today, with ample IT at their disposal, to undertake more effective due diligence.

In the early church, and during the Byzantine empire, it was not uncommon for laymen to be elevated direct to bishoprics, or even patriarchates. They would proceed through the stages of ordination and consecration within a few days (think of such luminaries as Tarasios in 784, the great St. Photius in 858, Gregory of Cyprus in 1283 and Glykys in 1315, appointed to the see of Constantinople, despite the tenth canon of the Council of Sardica (343)). However, I cannot think of a single instance where a layman has been consecrated bishop without passing through the lower orders, or of any retrospective ordination to correct any doubt, or to heal the scandal. Others may be better informed, however.

It isn’t possible that the Crown Nominations Commission recommended Tim Dakin to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to become the 97th Bishop of Winchester, who in turn passed the recommendation to the Supreme Governor, who appointed him to the said position on the advice of her Prime Minister (if, now being a postbox, ‘advice’ it was), without having checked that he was validly ordained priest, is it?