Thinking Anglicans

Safeguarding and the Seal of the Confessional

Updated see below the fold

Following on from a Facebook discussion initiated yesterday by Robin Ward and a blog article at Archbishop Cranmer there have been several mainstream media reports of the guidance issued by the Diocese of Canterbury relating to this topic.

The original guidance which was published in 2015, so not a new development, can be found here. The relevant section is on page 33.

The contentious wording is this:

Any priest hearing a confession, regularly or otherwise, must say prior to hearing that confession the following statement of confidentiality and safeguarding:

“If you touch on any matter in your confession that raises a concern about the wellbeing or safeguarding of another person or yourself, I am duty bound to pass that information on to the relevant agencies, which means that I am unable to keep such information confidential.”

The diocese issued a clarification yesterday in response to media queries: Confession & safeguarding.

“Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults must be our highest priority and is at the heart of all our responsibilities,” said Julian Hills, Diocesan Secretary. “While there have been only a tiny number of criminal cases in which the seal of the confession has been in issue, it is unclear whether a criminal court would favour the responsibility to protect someone from abuse or the requirement of a priest to maintain confidentiality. The decision to issue this guidance arose out of a genuine situation where, during confession, a penitent shared with a priest information about ongoing abuse. In this case, the legal and moral position of the priest was called into question. It was therefore felt by the Diocesan Safeguarding Management Group that clergy must have clear guidance on how to manage situations where the seal of confession may be brought into conflict with their safeguarding responsibilities.

“This guidance has not – as some have claimed – ‘abolished the Seal of the Confessional.’ Rather, it is intended to advise the penitent not to divulge in confession something which would legally compromise the position of the priest – and therefore require that priest to choose between their responsibility to protect someone from harm and the usual requirement of confidentiality.

“The guidance was drafted in early 2015, after seeking independent legal advice and in consultation with the then Acting Head of Delivery for the National Safeguarding Team. We understand that this issue is being considered nationally and that it is due to be discussed by the House of Bishops in December.”

Media reports:

Archbishop Cranmer CofE: ‘Come and confess your sins, but we might have to report you to the police’

Church Times Our confessional guidance is not uncanonical, Canterbury diocese says

Christian Today Church accused of breaking canon law by ordering priests to report abuse heard in confession box

Telegraph Christians told not to confess sex abuse secrets to Church of England clergy because they will tell the police

The Times (£) Don’t report abuse during confession, Church warns

This topic has been discussed extensively on Thinking Anglicans in recent years. Here are links to our previous articles:

  • Tuesday, 28 October 2014 Seal of the Confessional. Note that links to CofE documents in that post are broken, because of the way in which that website was rebuilt last year. The key document, GS Misc 1085 has now moved to here.



Truro diocese publishes Jeremy Dowling case review

The Diocese of Truro has published this report:

A case review concerning Jeremy Dowling, his selection and employment within the Diocese of Truro

…The key findings of the review are:

  • The diocese failed to instigate an independent investigation upon people within the diocese becoming aware of allegations of child abuse made against Jeremy Dowling.
  • There was an unacceptable reliance within the diocese on, and probably misunderstanding of, the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed with a prosecution.
  • There was ongoing knowledge of the situation among senior figures in the diocese well into the 1980s.
  • In line with national policy and requirements the diocese has developed child protection and safeguarding policies. This has progressed and developed through the decades to the current situation overseen by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel which has significant external membership.
  • Current processes are robust and well thought-out but need continual monitoring and promotion. Senior post-holders in the diocese understand their roles and responsibilities and know how to respond to any allegation of abuse they receive.

The report makes six recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel. The panel also made a further recommendation of its own which has been accepted by the Bishop’s Diocesan Council (See Appendix 3 of the report).

The full text of the report is available here.

There has been some media coverage:

BBC Bishops ‘ignored’ Jeremy Dowling child sex abuse

Guardian Four bishops failed to act over abuse by synod member, review finds

Cornwall Live Church knew about allegations before Cornish preacher went on to abuse boys, investigation reveals

There has also been a critical analysis by a survivor of sexual abuse: A review of the Dowling Review by Gilo which includes this:

…But there is another much more glaring omission. There is no mention of any survivors. They are invisible. Presumably they experienced the cover-ups and failure of appropriate response. Some may have tried to raise awareness as they watched Dowling rise up the diocesan ladder. But their experience and any insights on how the diocese responded to them – is totally absent. This omission is disturbing. It suggests a remit very purposefully constructed to withhold information whilst giving out carefully selected information. I imagine Dr Thompson cannot be blamed. But perhaps he should have asked Nigel Druce of the Diocesan Safeguarding Panel why such a wafer-thin remit. Why are the primary voices, the voices of survivors, not being invited to offer any insights to this diocese? Dr Andy Thompson is a leading lay figure in the diocese and on the Bishop’s Council in the diocese. I can’t help thinking a more independent and experienced reviewer would have spotted this obvious hole immediately…

1 Comment

Opinion – 30 May 2018

Ian Gomersall has written about what he, the rector of St Chrysostom’s Church, Manchester, does.

1. Prison Visiting
2. Munamato
3. Baptism Preparation
4. Listens to pastoral concerns
5. Prays at 5pm

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church What is Safeguarding? Questions for the July Synod.

Wealands Bell Alexa, what did you think of the sermon? (On Alexa, Anglicans and Alabama.)
[with reference to this press release]

1 Comment

Opinion – 26 May 2018

Paul Bayes Bishop of Liverpool A rule of life

Theo Hobson The Spectator Will the Church’s division over women clergy re-ignite?

Ruth Wilde Inclusive Church Race, class and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon
James Woodward ViaMedia.News Royal Wedding – Finding a Voice
[There is a transcipt of Bishop Curry’s sermon here and a video here.]

Emma Ash Church Times The cost of discerning a call is too high for some
“Working-class candidates need more financial help during the discernment process”


Bishop of Norwich to retire

The Bishop on Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, has announced that he will be retiring early next year.

Bishop of Norwich announces retirement

Как получить кэшбэк в казино Vavada Ответ прост: зарегистрироваться и отыграть вейджер.


General Synod Agenda for July

The Business Committee of General Synod has today published the agenda for the July Group of Sessions in York.

The published information can be read here and is copied in full below the fold.



Report from May House of Bishops

The Report from the May meeting of the House of Bishops of the Church of England was released today. The text is copied belw the fold.



Opinion – 23 May 2018

Jeremy Morris ViaMedia.News From Windrush to Windsor: Who Do We Think We Are?

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau New directions for the Church 2: kingdom of God or cult of Christ?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Safeguarding, IICSA and the Care of Survivors


TEC proposals for same-sex marriage


Following up on the letter from William Nye to TEC, the actual proposals to come before the General Convention in July were the subject of analysis by Andrew Goddard, earlier this month (I had missed his article until today).

“Communion Partners” and Marriage Doctrine and Liturgy in The Episcopal Church (USA)

An article, written from the perspective of one of the TEC bishops opposed to these changes, can be found here: Reconstructive Surgery on the Prayer Book? by Bishop Dan Martins.

And yesterday, there was This Source of Doctrine and Unity Requires Our Care by Bishop John Bauerschmidt.


Scott Gunn has also written about this proposal: Study of Marriage.

Bishop George Sumner has issued a pastoral letter on the same subject.


Church of England opposes end to civil partnerships

The British government has reported that previous consultations on the future of civil partnerships were inconclusive. It has therefore issued this: The Future Operation of Civil Partnership: Gathering Further Information.

This raises the possibility of opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples or of abolishing civil partnerships for the future. Here’s how the document begins:

  1. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 enabled same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by registering a civil partnership at a time when marriage for same-sex couples was not available. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowed same-sex couples to enter a marriage from 29 March 2014, or convert their civil partnership into a marriage from 10 December 2014.
  2. The Government has consulted twice on the continued operation of civil partnerships: in 2012 during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and again in 2014. In those consultations, we invited views on three possible options; whether civil partnerships should be:
    – abolished
    – closed to new registrations
    – extended to allow opposite-sex couples to register a civil partnership
  3. Taken together, there was no consensus about how civil partnerships should change. Due to the lack of available evidence in support of any of the above options, and the lack of consensus on a particular change, the Government decided not to make any changes to civil partnerships at the time.
  4. This policy paper sets out how the Government will gather additional information. When this work is completed, the Government should have the information it needs to bring forward proposals for the future of civil partnerships.

The Church Times reports (scroll down) that:

Support for civil partnerships. Civil partnerships should not be abolished, the Church’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown said this week, after the Government’s Equalities Office suggested that their future was uncertain.

In a paper published last week, the Office says that, if demand for civil partnerships remains low, “this might suggest that same-sex couples no longer see this as a relevant way of recognising their relationships, and that the Government should consider abolishing or phasing out civil partnerships entirely.”

There were 890 civil partnerships registered in 2016 in England and Wales, down from an average of 6305 from 2007 to 2013. The paper says that, by September 2019, a “proportionate amount of evidence” will have been gathered to enable the Office “to be confident in the ongoing level of demand”.

“We believe that Civil Partnerships still have a place, including for some Christian LGBTI couples who see them as a way of gaining legal recognition of their relationship,” Dr Brown said. “We hope [they] will remain an option.”

We recently published an article reporting on how civil partnerships had been viewed in 2007: Civil Partnerships: a look back at 2007.

Michael Sadgrove has drawn attention to an even earlier article we published, in 2006: civil partnerships: another bishop’s view.


Opinion – 19 May 2018

Hayley Matthews ViaMedia.News Royal Weddings & Lady Bishops – Time for Change?

Harry Farley Christian Today Michael Curry: Who is the Royal wedding preacher who backs gay marriage and opposes Trump?

Lucy Winkett Church Times What is the significance of Pentecost? A test of spirit, and the challenge of bearing witness

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Institutions defend themselves – Barrow Hospital and C/E compared

Harriet Sherwood interviews the Archbishop of Canterbury for The Guardian Justin Welby: ‘I’m nervous about dropping the rings at the royal wedding’


Bishops and Safeguarding

There are two items in today’s Church Times that relate to this subject.

Letter to the editor (scroll down)
The House of Bishops and abuse survivors

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — At the General Synod in February, the House of Bishops once again promised a “new culture” in the way that the Church relates to victims of its abuse (News, 16 February). Since then, there has been no indication of what that new culture might look like, or how or when it will be realised. Indeed, since February there has been minimal contact between the bishops and victims.

The suggestion in a private letter that the National Safeguarding Team is “in the process of developing the terms of reference for a Working Group on Cultural Change” caused hearty laughter among weary victims.

When pressed, individual bishops have dropped hints that “something is being worked out” and will be revealed in due course. This is inadequate for at least two reasons.

The first is that it fails to recognise that the climate of nods and winks, secrecy, and fixing things up in private, is precisely the environment in which abuse thrives. Bishops working things out behind closed doors is the problem; it cannot also be the solution.

The second is that the bishops have yet to face the fact that they are neither qualified nor equipped to fix the Church’s problems in this area. By definition, many have risen to the top through abusive cultures. They are unable to recognise their own privilege and are unwilling to admit their own victimhood. They are horses trying to muck out their own stable.

Until the Bishops admit their inadequacy in this area and call on victims and independent experts to advise, all they will succeed in doing is spreading the muck around.

17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG

And there is a brief news item headed Welby ‘will take no further action’ against Croft over abuse case (scroll down)

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has declined to discipline the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, over alleged failings to handle properly a disclosure of abuse. The Revd Matthew Ineson, who says that he was raped while a child by another cleric, the late Trevor Devamanikkam (News, 16 March), made a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure against Dr Croft. Mr Ineson said that Dr Croft did not take any action after being told about the alleged abuse. Mr Ineson said that he had received a letter from Archbishop Welby which said that he “will take no further action”. The Archbishop said, however, that he would ensure that Dr Croft undertook further safeguarding training and understood his responsibilities as a diocesan bishop. Mr Ineson said that he was prepar­ing to appeal against Archbishop Welby’s decision not to discipline Dr Croft.


Bishop of Huntingdon to retire

David Thomson, the suffragan Bishop of Huntingdon in the Diocese of Ely, has announced that he will retire in autumn 2018.

Retirement Announcement: The Rt Revd Dr David Thomson, Bishop of Huntingdon


Opinion – 16 May 2018

Craig D’Alton humane catholic An alternate statement on marriage equality, which could have been made by the Anglican bishops of Australia, but wasn’t …

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau New directions for the church 1: whose kingdom come?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Bishops as Managers – Empathy begins to die

David Walker ViaMedia.News Lost in Translation – Speaking in Differing Tongues


Lichfield diocese seeks to welcome LGBT+ people

The four bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield have issued an ad clerum letter on this subject.

Here is the press release: Welcoming and honouring LGBT+ people

The bishops of Lichfield Diocese are calling for a Church where LGBT+ people feel welcomed and honoured.

In a letter sent to all clergy and lay ministers in the diocese, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave; the Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Geoff Annas; the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory; and the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, emphasise that “everyone has a place at the table.”

The letter updates clergy on discussions underway in the national Church on the ‘radical Christian inclusion’ called for by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and draws attention to the work being done on a major new Teaching Document…

Here is the full text of the letter: To all clergy and licensed lay ministers in the Diocese of Lichfield. Part of this is copied below the fold. But do read the entire letter.

There was also an earlier press release: ‘Safe Space’ for LGBT Christians

OneBodyOneFaith has issued a statement: OneBody welcomes letter from Lichfield bishops.

Tracey Byrne said:

“…Much of what the bishops say, shouldn’t really need saying, but sadly it does. Only this week we heard from a gay couple in another part of the country whose vicar has told them they can’t serve on any church committee, and we know too of couples whose vicar has refused to baptise their children. The kind of intrusive and abusive questioning of individuals condemned in the letter really does happen. People feel ashamed, hurt and confused when they encounter this kind of behaviour from people in positions of power and authority. It’s an affront to the gospel, and deeply damaging of individuals.”

Peter Leonard said:

“It’s my hope that the work being undertaken by Lichfield diocese, and this clear statement, will send a very strong signal – to LGBT+ people that they’re welcomed and valued on equal terms with our brothers and sisters. And to those who seek to treat us as a problem, to harm and dismiss us and deny our gifts and callings – that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated. What we need to see now is other bishops issuing similar guidance. But this first step by Lichfield is very much welcomed.”



Vivienne Faull to be next Bishop of Bristol

Press release from Number 10

Queen appoints new Bishop of Bristol
The Queen has approved the appointment of a new Bishop of Bristol.

Published 15 May 2018
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Very Reverend Vivienne Frances Faull, MA, Dean of York, in the diocese of York, for election as Bishop of Bristol in succession to the Right Reverend Michael Arthur Hill, on his resignation on the 30th September 2017.

There are more details on the Bristol diocesan website: Very Revd Vivienne Faull announced as the next Bishop of Bristol.
Her consecration is scheduled for 3 July 2018.


Church Commissioners results for 2017

The Church Commissioners have released their annual report for 2017 this morning, along with this press release:

Church Commissioners for England announce return of 7.1% on investments for 2017 and forecast muted earnings in medium term

The full press release is copied below the fold, but it starts with these highlights:

  • Investable assets increase in 2017 to £8.3bn from £7.9bn in 2016.
  • Financial support by the Commissioners totalled (excluding pensions) £144 million with Commissioners continuing to account for approximately 15% of the Church’s overall mission and ministry costs.
  • Church Commissioners prepare for outlook of higher interest rates, higher volatility and lower returns than recent years.

Hattie Williams has written in detail about the report for Church Times: Church Commissioners remain bountiful despite large drop in investment returns

The full report, and a summary review, are available for download.
Church Commissioners Annual Report 2017
Church Commissioners Annual Review 2017



Bishop Sarah Mullally installed in London

From the website of the diocese:

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE has been installed as the 133rd Bishop of London at St Paul’s Cathedral. The service coincided with International Nurses Day, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, echoing Bishop Sarah’s own former career in the NHS as a nurse, including as Chief Nursing Officer, before her ordination.

Clergy, staff and friends, from across the Diocese of London, the wider capital, and the Church of England, came together as Bishop Sarah followed the tradition of knocking three times on the Cathedral’s Great West Door with her pastoral staff, marking the beginning of the installation. The full-service sheet can be accessed here [below].

Bishop Sarah’s sermon, on the theme of ‘being subversive for Christ’, remarked that 105 years ago this week, suffragettes placed a bomb under the same seat in which she had just been enthroned as the first woman to be Bishop of London. She also spoke of the need to challenge injustice and inequality, and of the pivotal role the Church has to play across London.

Order of Service for the Installation

Sermon by Bishop Sarah at her Installation in St Paul’s Cathedral

Her biography and links to some other news articles


Opinion – 12 May 2018

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of ‘thy kingdom come.’

Meg Warner ViaMedia.News Trauma, Churches & People’s Rites

Richard Kellow Church Times Questions for Fresh Expressions
“The closure of a pioneer ministry prompts searching observations from Richard Kellow”

Malcolm Brown Church Times Society needs us to be Anglican, not sectarian
“The C of E’s ability to hold together different points of view has much to teach politicians, says Malcolm Brown”

Peter Hitchens First Things Latimer and Ridley are forgotten
“A Protestant understanding of England’s Martyrs”


Australia: House of Bishops agreement on same-sex marriage

Updated Saturday

Muriel Porter reports in the Church Times Setback to same-sex weddings in Australia.

BISHOPS in Australia have declared that it is not “appropriate” for same-sex weddings to take place in Anglican churches or halls, or the chapels of Anglican schools or other Anglican organisations, given the Church’s doctrine of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

They will give “further consideration” to the appropriate content of informal prayer for same-sex couples outside a public service, as well as to the difference between blessing and solemnising a marriage, and the issues involved in Anglican officials’ being present at a same-sex marriage or blessing.

The Anglican Church’s response to the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in Australia late last year (News, 15 December) was decided at the Bishops’ annual meeting, held in March, in Canberra…

The full text of the document is now available here.