Comments: General Synod Agenda for July

The timetable for the General Synod group of sessions includes, on the Saturday morning, 7th July, a "Presentation on Safeguarding with questions" at 9.45 am, followed, at 10.30 am, by "Debate on a motion on Safeguarding from the House of Bishops." 1½ hours have been allocated for this debate, but the terms of the motion have not yet been made public. It would be of interest to know now the terms of the motion and who is to propose it. Given the criticism in February that then there was only a presentation (with Q&A) and no debate, it seems likely that whatever the wording of the motion at York, it is likely to attract a number of amendments.

Unfortunately, the report from IICSA on the Diocese of Chichester case study (to be combined with that on the Peter Ball case study, the hearing for which is at the end of July) is not to be published till the autumn, so we shall not have the benefit of any recommendations the panel may make to inform the debate. It is also not clear at the moment whether the investigation into the 'fresh information' about Bishop George Bell ("Bell 2"), announced by the National Safeguarding Team on 31 January 2018, will be completed by July. If not, that, too, is likely to inhibit discussion.

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 10:03pm BST

Not more workshops! We will have to wait and see what they are about, but we are there to debate and legislate. More time could be given to debating safeguarding...

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 12:42am BST

"fresh information" by the time the 7th July comes around this information will be far from fresh but rather stale after a period of over six months delay when no one is any the wiser as to the nature of this mysterious information concerning Bishop George Bell.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 3:38am BST

This Synod agenda shows a total failure of leadership in my opinion, and a desire to "overly manage" Synod with regards to sexuality issues. Indeed there is not one mention of the word ‘sexuality’ despite all the calls there have been for debates. I am sure we will be fobbed off with some form of group work - but that is not what any of the synod members have been asking for, from either side.

One day, the House of Bishops (who are ultimately the power behind the throne in all this) will realise they need to treat their fellow synod members as equals and not children!

Posted by Jayne Ozanne at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 8:17am BST

'Sexuality' covers a wide range of issues, including safeguarding. Sexual abuse is more about power than it is about sex, but nevertheless sex is involved - as it is in cases of sexual harassment and indecent assault.

But it does seem odd, given the furore over the Nye letter, that there is to be no debate or presentation on the issues around same-sex attraction and marriage. The powers that be seem to labour under the erroneous impression that if a contentious issue isn't officially given space for an airing, it will evaporate. They're wrong.

The Persians have a traditional saying, 'You can shut the gates of a city, but you can't shut the mouths of the people.' You can keep a subject off Synod's agenda, but you can't stop Synod members discussing it. And tabling questions, writing to the press, blogging, and Twittering.

Posted by Janet Fife at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 12:33pm BST

One day, the House of Bishops (and Archbishops) will realise they don't always know best.

But in the precious meantime...

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 12:36pm BST

As a member of the business committee, but of course speaking purely privately, I would just like to say a couple of things. Firstly, Charles I agree with you about us being a legislative body. the trouble is that we are lousy at being legislative and there is often little stomach for it. Look at how often the chamber empties when we come to legislation!
As for workshops, group work etc, we had to call what will happen on Saturday something, but please hold comment until you try it. And thirdly, the business committee has no control over the content nor indeed can we initiate it, we can only try our best to find the right room at the right time for it. On the other hand, not even the bishops can tell us when or in what order to put things on the agenda

Hope this helps. Mind you, I bet the debate on the business committee report could be lively!

Graeme Buttery

Posted by Graeme Buttery at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 2:42pm BST

The Nye letter isn't so much about sexuality and marriage. The deeper questions it threw up are about governance and authority within the CoE and how this is exercised.
I hope there are people working to get this on the agenda too.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 2:57pm BST

David Lamming’s 'Bishop Bell' Motion has not reached the required 100 signatures to be considered at General Synod in July.

The highly questionable '2nd Allegation’ against the wartime Bishop of Chichester has been a major factor in not reaching the 100 signature at Synod in July.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 3:10pm BST

The absence of Hereford on the Synod agenda is a decision of the Business Committee, not the House of Bishops. In fact only one bishop sits on the BC. So, rather than the bishops being behind the throne, the absence of Hereford is the decision of an elected body who serve the whole Synod. Sometimes you win an argument at BC, sometimes you don’t, but you have to respect the decision made by elected bodies even when it disappoints. What will have weighed on plenty of minds is whether a vote on a Hereford motion now is the right time for a win. I would rather have a vote when we can have a real chance of winning and July is, in my judgement, not it.

Posted by Simon at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 3:45pm BST

Excuse my ignorance, but what's the Hereford motion? And what's the significance of its not being on the agenda?

Posted by Janet Fife at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 5:59pm BST

This is the second Group of Sessions of the General Synod in succession at which no Private Member’s Motion has been scheduled for debate, despite a number being eligible on the basis of support (there is a PMM scheduled as contingency business). I declare an interest in that my motion on Same Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations, which has topped the list, has been sidelined again. Indeed there is nothing on the agenda on this or any related issue. I do not know the thinking of the Business Committee on this, not having been consulted or informed. The House of Bishops seems to be taking the view that the whole issue is being dealt with through the machinery of the myriad groups supporting the preparation of the Teaching Document, to be published in 2020 (conveniently not in time for debate before the Lambeth Conference). The one body which will have a determinative view on the Teaching Document is the General Synod itself. If the House of Bishops is going to press ahead with that work without any further input from the floor of the Synod in the interim, then it runs the extreme risk that the Teaching Document will face the same fate as GS2055. The whole issue is a missional priority for the Church of England and both the church and the nation are observing it keenly, including both Houses of Parliament. Kicking it into the long grass may seem attractive. In reality, this will only unnecessarily raise the temperature on all sides of the debate. As noted above, the debate on the Report on the Agenda will expose this, when business managers and the House of Bishops will be called to account.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 25 May 2018 at 11:24pm BST

Janet and others, the Hereford motion is explained here http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/007693.html

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 7:00am BST

I would urge people to consider the Bishop Bell Motion as important for urgent General Synod debate as the Hereford Motion.

There is much at stake here. As things stand at present, any of us can be accused of sexual abuse, and we will be presumed guilty by the Church - not innocent. Presumption of Innocence - one of the foundation stones of British justice - is seriously under threat. If anyone reading this thinks that is over-dramatising the issue, you do not understand the Bishop Bell Motion.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 8:04am BST

Thanks Simon. That really shouldn't be controversial. (Sigh)

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 12:23pm BST

Anthony, you had me worried there. I thought you were referring to sisters, mothers and aunts. But your wording was ‘relationships’, I see on https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/np4-amendments-and-motions.pdf
More seriously, surely the point is that the Teaching Document has successfully kicked everything else in this subject into the very long grass of the C of E.

Posted by Cassandra at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 12:37pm BST

The Bell issue is clearly important but the motion tabled is the worst, most verbose, one in my 15 years on Synod. Simply too many paragraphs dilute the effect. A simple motion would have garnered much more support. There are plenty who would welcome debate but who won’t sign up to what is a dogs dinner of a motion. Too many paragraphs mean too many reasons to object.

Posted by Simon Butler at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 3:37pm BST

The Bishop Bell Motion is not a "dog's dinner" - see excerpts below - it is clear and concise. There are other reasons why this Motion has not gained enough support - some of those reasons are obvious...some are not pretty.

That this Synod,

(a) express its appreciation to Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC
for his thorough review of the way the Church of England
dealt with a complaint of sexual abuse made by a woman
known as ‘Carol’ against the late Bishop George Bell...

(g) regret that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his public
statement on 15 December 2017 following the publication
of the Carlile report,

(i) failed to acknowledge expressly that the process was
so fundamentally flawed....

(iii) stated that “a significant cloud” was left over Bishop
Bell’s name, when the only basis for such statement
was a single uncorroborated allegation, first made over
40 years after the alleged events...

(h) accordingly, call upon the Archbishop to retract that
particular statement....

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 8:19pm BST

"More seriously, surely the point is that the Teaching Document has successfully kicked everything else in this subject into the very long grass of the C of E."

I don't believe that has ever been accepted by Synod and, if put to a vote, I don't think Synod would vote for it as the way forwards.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 8:31pm BST

Kate, I'd be very interested to see what would happen - indeed, what would the motion be? Anthony seems to be asking for the promised Teaching Document to be debated at Synod before Lambeth. But is there anything in the plans for this Document which suggests that it will go through the synodical process rather than being delivered straight from the Bishops?

This raises the question: what's up to Synod and what's up to the Bishops? Going a little further back, for example, did Synod get to approve the 5 Guiding Principles?

Posted by Cassandra at Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 10:35pm BST

Re: 2nd Allegation against Bishop Bell (already thrown out by Sussex Police) and the critical need for the Archbishop to retract his injudicious "significant cloud" comment before July's General Synod

The Church hierarchy - and General Synod - would do well to heed the words of Guardian's Harriet Sherwood (Archbishop Interview - May 18 2018):

"Lord Carlile, who last year carried out an independent review of the church’s handling of the claims, concluded that Bell had been “hung out to dry” and the church had “rushed to judgment”. Welby refused to back down, however, saying a “significant cloud” was left over Bell’s name. The poisonous row shows no sign of going away, and may yet cause Welby real difficulty"

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 8:38am BST

Just to add...

Freedom of Information [FoI] requests both to Sussex Police and the Church, regarding the 2nd Allegation against Bishop Bell sent by the Church to the Police, have been turned down.

The Police have judged release of the 'evidence' as not in the public interest, and the Church appears to be somehow exempt from the FoI Act.

There seems to be a 'Billingsgate aroma' surrounding this issue.

The source of that 'aroma' needs to be dealt with quickly, especially before July's General Synod.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 4:47pm BST

What is a 'billingsgate aroma'?

Posted by peter kettle at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 7:51pm BST

https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/wholesale-food-markets/billingsgate/Pages/history-of-billingsgate.aspx

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 10:29pm BST

Richard, I note you have pasted only paragraphs a and g of David Lamming’s PMM. With so many paragraphs and sub-clauses, it doesn’t really surprise me that Synod members have found the motion unattractive. A more concise attempt at raising the issue would have been wiser. The alternative explanation- that those who have made so much of this issue do not command as much support as they might wish - should also be considered.

Posted by Simon Butler at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 5:31pm BST

Anyone who is interested can read the full text of all the pending Private Members Motions (PMMs) and see the current tally of signatures here:
https://www.churchofengland.org/more/policy-and-thinking/work-general-synod/private-members-motions

The one selected as contingency business for July, from Mr Gray, has 124 signatures, 2 more than Mr Archer's.
Others which have also crossed the 100-signature threshold are the motions from Mr Shaw and from Canon Russell.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:35pm BST

Similarly the list of Diocesan Synod Motions can be found here.
https://www.churchofengland.org/more/policy-and-thinking/work-general-synod/diocesan-synod-motions#na

The motions selected for debate would appear, at least to me, to have waited at least as long as the Hereford motion. So I don't think the agenda action, in this respect, is unreasonable.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:44pm BST

Richard, as a GS member I agree with Simon Butler's assessment of David Lamming's PMM. I certainly have concerns about the George Bell case, as do many at GS, and would be open to support a PMM if I felt it might help bring light, suitable accountability or perhaps help a healing process...but the length and detail of David's PMM means that any debate would inevitably get bogged down in minutiae and multiple amendments. I can't see a debate on those lines helping anyone in this painful case.

Posted by PeterK+ at Monday, 28 May 2018 at 10:12pm BST

Re: Bishop Bell

This "painful case" has been made unnecessarily more painful by a lack of moral wisdom at very high levels.

The 'Wisdom of Solomon' is required, but that appears to be sadly lacking at every level.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:35am BST

Peter Kettle,

Billingsgate is historically a fish market. So, "something fishy."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 10:05am BST

"Something fishy"

Could we run with that thought for a moment...

Quite rightly, I should be asked to back up my "something fishy" general statement with specific evidence. It's simply not good enough for me to say "I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think there's something fishy going on here", or "This just doesn't seem to add up, I think there's something fishy going on". It's dangerous talk because it can create - among other damaging consequences - suspicion, malicious gossip, false accusations and injustice.

"Significant cloud"

In the same way, the Archbishop should be asked to back up his "significant cloud" statement against Bishop Bell with specific evidence. It's simply not good enough for him to say this. It's a dangerously ambiguous statement because it can create - among other damaging repercussions - guilt by suspicion, false accusations and injustice.

David Lamming's PMM could be summed up in 14 words:

'The Archbishop should retract his "significant cloud" statement in the absence of specific evidence'

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 2:26pm BST

"The [Church] independent investigator of the second batch of [Bishop] Bell allegations....is Mr Ray Galloway, a Detective Superintendent who retired from the police five years ago. The church has STILL not announced his name, nor terms of reference" [after nearly 6 months of waiting] - 'CH'

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 4:52pm BST

Ray Galloway

http://www.bluelightinvestigations.co.uk/about/

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 5:49pm BST

The church doesn’t announce those who do their safeguarding investigations. There are good reasons for that.

For what it’s worth, in all this defending of Bell’s reputation, one thing can be certain: the person most likely to be unconcerned with matters of reputation would be Bishop Bell himself. Those who seek to defend him might like to ponder that before taking to his defence.

Which is not to exonerate the Church in recent times. Just to ask for some perspective

Posted by Simon Butler at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 7:12pm BST

I have noted, but do not accept, the somewhat ungracious comments (above) critical of my PMM about the Carlile report and the 'significant cloud' statement made by the Archbishop of Canterbury following its publication in December 2017. This blog is not the place to answer those criticisms: that will be for the debate in General Synod, if and when it takes place, though I shall be very willing to discuss the issues with Synod colleagues at York.

Also, I do not accept Richard Symonds's '14 word summary' as an accurate summary of my PMM (comment today timed at 2.26pm): my motion says much more than that.

I do, however, accept that the 'fresh information' the National Safeguarding Team received in December 2017 (shortly after publication of the Carlile report), the fact of the receipt of which was made public by the NST in a press statement on 31 January 2018 (just a week before the General Synod meeting in February), is likely to have been a significant factor causing Synod members to hold back from adding their signatures to the motion. Effectively, I recognised this as being the likely impact of the 'fresh information' in an e-mail I sent to Synod members on 5 February 2018. It is also the case (contrary to what Richard Symonds is seeking) that we cannot expect Justin Welby to retract his 'significant cloud' statement while the outcome of the investigation into the fresh information remains unknown: he said as much in a long interview published in the Guardian/Observer on 1 April 2018.

What does concern me is the utter silence from the NST on the investigative process into 'Bell 2'. We still do not know who has been appointed as the independent investigator (though I note RS's revelation earlier today with 'CH' as his source), what the terms of reference are, and the timescale (if any) set for the investigation to be completed and a report published. Given that Sussex Police were able to carry out a "proportionate investigation", doing so "thoroughly and sensitively" and reporting to the NST on 20 March, i.e. just 7 weeks after the fresh information was referred to them by the NST, the NST's failure to say anything about the progress of their 'independent investigation' is unacceptable. It also defies an answer given in February to a supplementary question that Martin Sewell put to Bishop Peter Hancock (the lead bishop on safeguarding): "After Carlile, shall we see better transparency of process from start to finish in respect of the new Bell allegations than we did with the first?" Bishop Peter's answer was an unqualified "yes".

The NST have now had the 'fresh information' for 5½ months, and it is 4 months since they announced that they were commissioning an independent investigation. At the very least, the NST owe it to Bishop Bell's surviving niece, 94-year-old Barbara Whitley, to announce who is conducting the investigation, on what terms of reference, and when the investigation should be completed and a report published.

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 10:06pm BST

“What does concern me is the utter silence from the NST on the investigative process into 'Bell 2'” - David Lamming

What concerns me more is the “utter silence” of the mainstream media in reporting the facts of this ongoing injustice.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 10:18am BST

"Not enough votes to support David Lamming's motion. Whatever the reasons for its failure in the House of Laity, the House of Bishops
should be actively concerned and press the matter...I can find no reason to excuse the Church's injustice to Bishop Bell. For heaven's sake, it is such a special case that no general condemnation of the Church for going soft on sexual abusers would have any plausibility if the church recognised the plain fact that the case against George Bell is fair rubbish. Even if there were general condemnation, which I doubt, the church should take its stand on the grounds of justice, whatever the consequences"

~ 'G'

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 1:56pm BST

It is a pity there is no PMM at July’s GS seeking the release of the sealed Church-Police documentation on the 2nd Allegation against Bishop Bell. This would enable the problem to be resolved ‘in-house’.

In the absence of an internal PMM, might take action to force the Church to release the ‘Bell 2’ documentation.

‘Newspaper sues Church’ is not a good headline, especially in the run-up to July’s major Church event.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 7:30pm BST

Charles Moore - The Spectator - June 1 2018

Since its first shocking error of accusing the late George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, of child abuse without proper process nearly three years ago, the Church of England has waded deeper in. Even when the Carlile report it had itself commissioned showed how worthless its processes had been, it refused to back down. On 31 January this year, it suddenly produced ‘fresh’ allegations against Bell. It would not say what they were, but handed them to the police, who eventually admitted, under pressure, that they were not investigating, since Bishop Bell had died in 1958 (a fact widely known since 1958). The church then promised an inquiry into the new claims which would follow Carlile-compliant methods. It tried to insist, however, that the ‘decision-maker’ in the inquiry would be the present Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner. Since Dr Warner had effectively staked his reputation on the proposition that the first accusation against Bell was true, and was himself part of the unjust investigation, there could scarcely be anyone less impartial to preside over round two. At last, defenders of Bell’s cause have forced Dr Warner to step aside. He is to be replaced by Timothy Briden, who has led a quiet life as a church lawyer, and editor, since 1989, of Macmorran’s Handbook for Churchwardens and Parochial Church Councillors. Since Mr Briden is vice-chancellor of the Province of Canterbury, one hopes he will find the courage to be independent of his Archbishop, who made such a bad mistake by rushing to judgment against Bell. On Tuesday, the inquiry’s investigator, a retired North Yorkshire detective superintendent, Ray Galloway, began work. Please can the world be told the inquiry’s terms of reference and whether any of the ‘core group’ that got it so wrong last time will be involved?

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/the-eu-should-go-the-way-of-the-british-empire/ (Scroll down)

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 1 June 2018 at 5:28am BST

I’m not at all sure how PI Galloway is earning his money..."Given that Sussex Police were able to carry out a "proportionate investigation", doing so "thoroughly and sensitively" and reporting to the NST [the Church's National Safeguarding Team] on 20 March, i.e. just 7 weeks after the fresh information was referred to them by the NST" ~ David Lamming

Nor am I sure the NST understands the meaning of 'independent' or 'transparency'. As David Lamming also says: 'NST's failure to say anything about the progress of their "independent investigation" is unacceptable. It also defies an answer given in February to a supplementary question that Martin Sewell put to Bishop Peter Hancock (the lead bishop on safeguarding): "After Carlile, shall we see better transparency of process from start to finish in respect of the new Bell allegations than we did with the first?" Bishop Peter's answer was an unqualified 'yes'".

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 1 June 2018 at 2:52pm BST

"The Church [primarily the NST & Archbishop Welby] has created the unseemly impression that it is [desperately] looking for evidence against Bishop Bell.

"An apt comparison is to see the Church as a man living hand-to-mouth and picking up whatever scraps he can from the pavement.

"The original appointment of the Bishop of Chichester was so crass as to be barely believable"

~ 'G'

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 1 June 2018 at 3:03pm BST

Archbishop Welby might be well advised to re-read Matt 7 1-5.

If he points a finger - eg at certain members of the House of Bishops (and/or Laity) at July’s General Synod - he is likely to be reminded, very strongly, of the 3 fingers pointing back at him.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Friday, 1 June 2018 at 3:11pm BST

The Church of England hierarchy is creating the unseemly impression of pursuing an unhealthy 'witch-hunt' against Bishop Bell - an impression it needs to correct before the General Synod early next month.

Posted by Richard W. Symonds at Saturday, 2 June 2018 at 4:05pm BST
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