Sunday, 12 July 2015

Faith charities must beware the rise of 'dominant individuals', Charity Commission manager warns

Could PBCC leaders Bruce D Hales, John G Gadsden and Garth A Christie fall into this category?

Nick Donaldson, outreach manager at the regulator, tells a public meeting that the boards of religious charities have the same responsibility to make collective decisions as any other charities

Faith charities: spiritual authority 'does not negate collective decision-making'
Faith charities: spiritual authority 'does not negate collective decision-making'

Trustees of faith charities must not allow a perceived spiritual authority to give rise to a dominant individual, a Charity Commission manager has warned.

Nick Donaldson, outreach manager at the regulator, told 90 charity sector attendees at the commission’s public meeting in Birmingham yesterday that the boards of religious charities still had to operate the same collective decision-making processes as any other charity, and this responsibility could not be overruled by the seniority or liturgical role of an individual board member.

He said people could become dominant individuals because they felt they had a spiritual authority, and these people might then "refuse to answer questions, basically saying ‘I won’t be held accountable’".

Donaldson said that if a dominant individual emerged there was a "greater propensity for these charities to be abused".

Earlier in the day, Neal Green, senior policy officer at the commission, also warned attendees about dominant individuals.

He told the meeting to consider these questions: "Who is in charge at your charity? Is there one person who shouts the loudest? Is it okay to disagree with that person?

"As long as it is OK to disagree, that is OK, but it’s something to think about."

Green, who has written the new version of The Essential Trustee(CC3), which has been published today after a consultation processwith the sector, told trustees they should always keep in mind the provisions of the charity’s governing document and seek to be clear who exactly is a trustee.

Green said that an understanding of the difference between a management committee, a membership body, a trustee board and other such structures "is not something that can be fudged".

The commission has previously raised concerns that many people who run charities don’t realise they are trustees. Green has previously warned about "shadow trustees" – people who are not legally trustees but appear to execute trustee powers.

He said yesterday: "I’m always interested if there are people who are on the ultimate decision-making body who say they are not trustees."

Later in the meeting Caroline Cooke, head of policy engagement and research at the commission, talked about the regulator’s CC9 guidance on campaigning. "Because campaigning is often a high-profile activity, the level of risk involved in it is often quite high," she said. "Any interaction with a politician must be very clearly thought out from the outset."

Asked at the end of the meeting whether and why the commission was considering reviewing CC9 – something that has prompted fears of it becoming more restrictive – Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, said: "We keep all of our guidance under review for changes in the ways of the world."


  1. The first paragraph of the Charity Commission's document, CC3A, which was updated last week (10 July 2015) states:

    Trustees’ 6 main duties

    1. Ensure your charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit

    You and your co-trustees must make sure that the charity is carrying out the purposes for which it is set up, and no other purpose. This means you should:

    ensure you understand the charity’s purposes as set out in its governing document

    plan what your charity will do, and what you want it to achieve

    be able to explain how all of the charity’s activities are intended to further or support its purposes

    understand how the charity benefits the public by carrying out its purposes

    Spending charity funds on the wrong purposes is a very serious matter; in some cases trustees may have to reimburse the charity personally.

  2. The article in Third Sector articulates one of my concerns about the Exclusive Brethren trusts, such as those that manage the meeting rooms, the schools, travel, the Bible and Gospel trust, and large trusts like the Grace Trust. UK Charity law assumes that a charitable trust is an autonomous body, free to make its own decisions in accordance with its Trust deed and the law. In fact, it is doubtful that there is such a thing as an autonomous body within the UK Brethren community, bound as they are to obey without question the edicts issued from Sydney.

    Brethren ministry for 55 years has been packed with exhortations to obey the leadership unthinkingly, and Brethren history shows that this is largely what they do.

    More specifically, how can the Meeting room trusts obey their statement of Faith in Practice while also obeying the ministry of the last 55 years? The two are so radically different. But they are committed to both. It is an impossible commitment, and it now seems that some officials at the Charity Commission are aware of the problem.

  3. Me thinks the PBCC have finally been rumbled. Well done to all those who have lobbied the CC and their MPs with the truth of how the PBCC operate.

    When you look at PBCC's website these days, it is very obvious that they have lost their way. Instead of the normal glorification of God we see on most genuine church websites, we see a motley crew of people giving away other people's sausages they have graciously BBQ'd on a camping trailer ( sod the cost of the charcoal!), spraying passers by with different colour dyes, giving heavily logo'd bottles of water to runners and cyclists and bending the public's ears with renditions of pop songs the discriminating 'worldlies' will hardly recognise from the originals.

    Why not step back a little, PBCC and take a good, long. hard look at yourselves in the mirror. You are fooling no-one. You might think your music is amazing, but we don't. I doubt you'd even get a pub booking on a Monday night.

    We continue to await acknowledgement of Gulley, Petrie and Jenson, proven PBCC sex offenders.

  4. 'Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, said: "We keep all of our guidance under review for changes in the ways of the world."

    Which roughly equates to the lord turning corners!

  5. To continue to be a member of the Exclusive Brethren after July 1970 it was necessary to give 100% loyalty to one man, James Taylor Junior who at that time was clearly unfit to exercise any leadership role.
    The Exclusive Brethren cannot deny with any credibility that one dominant individual exercises a controlling influence within their organisation. To disagree with that individual would inevitably result in removal from their organisation.
    The comments about "shadow trustees" are also pertinent and point up the fact that a dominant individual cannot hide behind their minions and thereby avoid their responsibilities.

  6. Aha who gives a flying sausage what that woman says? "Ways of the world" Well, keep them to yourself. We don't compromise.

  7. Anon 16.59 on 20 July
    You won't be so flippant if the Exclusive Brethren lose their charitable status and the financial benefits associated with that status!
    Methinks the Charity Commission has started to realise that charitable exclusive brethren is an oxymoron.

  8. Among other matters in a speech in Birmingham, UK, yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron raised concern about non-violent ideologies whose followers don't integrate in British society or form attachments outside their own group. He expressed anxiety about citizens who don't agree with democracy and who reject generally-held understandings around human rights/equalities legislation.

    In a conversation with a senior member of the PBCC this month, I was told very firmly that brethren in this group only "link" or "associate" with those with whom they break bread (share the Holy Communion). The 'brother' who was speaking to me said that I had to understand and accept the Brethren's position in this.

    1. That is an underlying belief of the brethren - only to "link" or "associate" with those with whom they break bread. Many people do accept this belief, even if they do not agree with it.

      However, that belief is incompatible with being a charity. As the brethren want to keep "separate" from this world, surely their motives for claiming to do any works for "public benefit" should be called into question? The brethren can not have it both ways.

    2. Trouble is, they HAVE had it both ways for decades... being a separatist cult AND receiving charitable religious tax/rates relief. Now that their fraudulence is finally getting some light shone upon it from several different angles, the peebs are resisting change with all their might and main. They will not accept that their self-righteous separatist dogma has always been incompatible with true Christian charity - because it will cost them vast amounts of money to do so. Money and man-worship is their idol, not Christ.
      "For the love of money is [the] root of every evil..." 1Tim6:10(Darby version)

  9. I want to know why the PBCC are bigging themselves up on the back of stuff another charity are doing? RRT was only registered as a charity in May 2015. Where is the public benefit the Charity Commission seek from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church? It isn't there. They are using a different organisation to con them.