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Respected SNU minister resigns
 
 
SNU LogoIn a move which is unlikely to bring much comfort to the upper echelons of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU), one of its ordained ministers has resigned, writes Susan Farrow.

Margaret Preece has been closely associated with the popular and successful Paignton Spiritualist Church and Centre for some twenty-five years. She has served the SNU in various capacities at both local and national levels and was ordained a minister in 2008.

She has also fostered strong links with other local faith groups via the Torbay Inter-Faith Forum, one of the oldest such groups in England.

Margaret’s resignation has come as a shock to many who know and respect her, but when asked to reconsider, she decided that she must stand by her decision.

She told Psychic News: “I now feel threatened by being a minister of the SNU. I cannot do the work of the spirit impeded by internal politics.”

So what has caused someone with decades of service to Spiritualism to walk away not only from her role as a minister, but from the presidency of Paignton church and other official duties?   

In an open letter to members of Paignton Spiritualist Church and Centre, Margaret explains:

“I have sufficient evidence to support the notion that one of your elected committee fulfilled his intention to remove from the committee and the church those he considered the ‘elite’, severely undermining what had hitherto been a harmonious hard-working committee whose tireless efforts are self-evident for those with eyes to see.

   

Margaret Preece

Margaret Preece: “What
about
the rights of the members
of
Paignton 
Church? If their
opinion counts for nothing,
why bother being a member?”
 

“A motion before the committee to remove this member stood with a ten to one vote in favour of their removal to try and prevent this mischief.  At appeal, the Spiritualists’ National Union overruled this church committee motion and reinstated this committee member. This I feel was a totally irresponsible decision on the part of the appeal board of the Union. It has proven to be disastrous for the church which has now lost many dedicated Spiritualists as a result.”

One of Margaret’s greatest concerns is that it has not been possible to explain to church members what has caused such upheaval within a usually harmonious church community. She feels strongly that church members, whom the committee was elected to serve, are entitled to know what has been going on. The SNU, however, takes an al-together different view.

A letter to the church committee from SNU general secretary Charles Coulston, and passed to Psychic News by another church member, reads:

“I have to stress that this matter cannot be discussed or touched upon at the AGM or any other general meeting and the Chairman must immediately stop any attempt to raise the matter at the AGM. All such matters involves [sic] sensitive and confidential statements and decisions made which refer to matters affecting private individuals, who are entitled to expect complete privacy in the Church’s dealings with their issues. It would not do for third parties at large to know about these matters because, quite simply, it is none of their business.”

“At all times the perpetrator of this disastrous disruption has been protected by natural justice and confidentiality,” says Margaret Preece’s open letter. “What about the rights 
of the members of Paignton Church? If their opinion counts for nothing, why bother being a member?”

“It is my ardent wish that our beloved church could ‘forgive and forget’ and move on, however with no malice or malicious intent I feel the members have the right to be informed. Indeed they were promised this information and the church cannot move on without this gross injustice being addressed.”

charles coulston-NEW     
Charles Coulston: “The
Chairman must
immediately
stop any
attempt to raise
the matter
at the AGM.”

Psychic News decided to seek an independent legal opinion concerning the right of members to know what is going on within their own church.

Barrister Alan Murdie told us: “It is always best that matters such as this are ventilated rather than supressed. The right of individuals to follow their conscience, particularly in a matter of religious faith, is enshrined in law.”

Margaret Preece is not the first person to feel frustration and disquiet at the SNU’s handling of contentious matters, and is unlikely to be the last. Psychic News is aware of four other churches currently experiencing similar problems which the Union has so far failed to resolve. In each case the lack of resolution has led to a significant defection of members who are disillusioned by the apparent inability of their parent body to respond in a sensitive and open manner.

The SNU’s instruction to deny members of Paignton church key information relating to their community is all the more disappointing when seen against the words of president David Bruton, who said in his 2011 address to delegates at the Union’s AGM:

“I am well aware that concern exists within the Union about our complaints procedure and the effect it has on many of our members.

“We clearly need an effective and fair process to deal with complaints and resolve disputes but I feel all too often the system is failing to address the needs of all parties involved. In saying this I am not in any way criticising the dedicated team of volunteers who invest considerable time and effort into dealing with the complaints procedure.

“I also don’t wish to advocate yet another rewrite of Byelaws F. I would like with the support of the NEC to establish a panel or working party to look at the actual process of complaints, not how it should work if we follow the book but how it actually works in practice.

    david-bruton-colour
David Bruton: “We need to
foster a culture
of openness
and accountability.”

“I would like this body to report after a wide ranging consultation on how we can seek to improve things, how we can streamline the process so that we can effectively resolve our differences and get on practising our religion instead of spending weeks and months in dispute, argument and counter-argument.

“If we are to find a consensus that works for all parties quickly, effectively finding resolution and a shared point of view again that will make the organisation as a whole stronger and more effective.

“...Let’s put behind us suspicion, rumour, misinformation and instead concentrate our time and energy on moving forward together...We need to foster a culture of openness and accountability.”

David Bruton is now well into the second year of his presidency, yet it seems that folk around the country are still “spending weeks and months in dispute, argument and counter-argument” without effective leadership and conciliation from those who ought to be delivering it.

Surely, the time for “openness and accountability” is long overdue.



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