Following the publication of the recent IICSA report on certain aspects of the Church of England (Chichester diocese and Peter Ball), there was very little immediate public response from senior people in the Church of England. This led Andrew Graystone to write a letter a week later to various bishops and some members of the Archbishops’ Council, calling for an entirely different approach to dealing with abuse survivors. The Bishop of London invited Andrew to spell out what such an approach might entail.
This document is his answer: The Church of England and survivors.16 Comments
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We linked recently to reports of a meeting between three Church of England bishops and a delegation representing those who signed a petition some time ago asking the house of bishops to withdraw their guidance on using the existing Affirmation of Baptismal Faith liturgy to affirm trans people in their Christian faith after transition.
The website LGBTQ Faith UK has published a detailed critique of the most recent statement, which you can read here: Episcopally led, synodically governed.
The same website had earlier published a lengthy and detailed critique of the original petition. That can be found here: Why the bishops are right.
Both these analyses by Ann Reddecliffe are commended for reading in full.18 Comments
Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Bishops and conservatives meet in secret to reinforce the abuse of LGBTI+ people
[see below for the background to this]
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Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Wittgenstein’s ideas and the Bible. Some reflections
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The suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln was reported earlier.
David Lamming has written a detailed analysis of the legal issues arising from this suspension. You can read this document here. (PDF)
He summarises as follows:
Whatever the nature or details of the “information” on which the Archbishop of Canterbury based his decision to suspend Bishop Christopher, in the light of the clear statement that “there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult”, the legal basis for the suspension is at least doubtful. An appeal to the President of Tribunals that would clarify the legal position would seem to be justified and appropriate.
David is a retired barrister, whose professional interests include ecclesiastical law. He is a member of the House of Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England, elected from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
Another article has been published on this topic.
Philip Jones has written: Safeguarding and Suspension: The Case of the Bishop of Lincoln.
Do read both articles.
Regular readers will recall the petition that was raised urging the bishops to “revise, postpone or withdraw” this guidance. Our previous report is here: Further opposition to the bishops’ guidance on transgender services.
Christian Today now reports: Evangelicals hold talks with Church of England bishops over transgender guidance. The organisers of that letter met with a number of bishops. Subsequently, they have issued a statement, the full text of which is included here: The Church of England’s transgender guidance should be withdrawn and is copied below the fold.
Update: the headline on the first of those two articles has been amended to read “Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics hold talks…”
The delegation attending the meeting consisted of: Dr Ian Paul, Dr Edward Dowler, Rev Rachel Marszalek, Rev David Baker. The bishops were the bishops of Coventry, Newcastle, and Exeter.35 Comments
The Church of England has today announced an Independent lessons learnt review into Bishop Whitsey case.
His Hon David Pearl has been appointed by the National Safeguarding Team as chair of the independent lessons learnt review into the Whitsey case. The Church supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The allegations dated from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.
The review is expected to be carried out in two phases and will include the case of Gordon Dickenson, once other Church processes have concluded. Dickenson, a former chaplain to Bishop Whitsey, was jailed in March after admitting sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.
Commenting on his appointment David Pearl said: “I am committed to ensuring that this Review will be both independent and transparent. The Review will examine all relevant documents and will hear from everyone who wishes to provide evidence to the Review.”…
The Terms of Reference of the Review are also published.
The Diocese of Chester has published this: Victor Whitsey Statement
[Note: this statement is much older and is not in response to today’s announcement.]
Joint statement from Archbishop of York and Bishop of Chester
“We can confirm that we have supported the police on an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey (pictured right). The allegations date from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.
“We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority. We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account. Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust. We acknowledge that for survivors, the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong. We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.
We have supported the police investigation Operation Coverage, which has been comprehensive, and they have informed us that “should Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey have been alive today, then the Police would have spoken to him in relation to 10 of the witness allegations.”
Anyone affected by today’s news should call the CCPAS helpline on 0303 003 11 11 who can offer help and signpost to church-related support and information or alternatively call the NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Anyone with further information on the case should go direct to the police on 101.
The Church will consider what lessons can be learnt from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these enquiries have shown.”
Update: An updated version of this timetable was issued on 14 June 2019.
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.0 Comments
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ViaMedia.News starts a new series of posts (one a week) on “Does the Bible Really Say….?” with this:
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and Interior reflections of a priest
The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued this statement:
Meeting of the House of Bishops
The House of Bishops met at Bishopthorpe Palace from 15th to 17th May 2019.
Brexit was on the agenda as the bishops discussed recent political developments and prayed for the nation.
The bishops discussed mission and ministry in covenant with the Methodist Church, financial priorities in Church funding over the next three years, and the ministry of confession. The bishops also spent time reviewing progress that has been made by the Living in Love and Faith working group.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) recently published report into the Church of England also received attention from the bishops who have additionally made a statement. [see below]
Elsewhere on the agenda the bishops gave time to the subject of women and men in ministry in the Church of England and mutual flourishing. They discussed the process for discerning how people are called to the ordained ministry.
The House of Bishops also took note of the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong and anticipated the Lambeth 2020 meeting in Canterbury next summer.
The additional statement referred to above is as follows:
Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops
A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:
“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.
“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.
“We welcome the recommendations.
“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.
“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”
Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally
Updated again Friday evening
The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement:
“Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury). If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people. I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated. I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”
Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said: “I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter. For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”
The Lincolnshire Police have issued this statement, as reported in local newspapers:
A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision today of the Archbishop of Canterbury to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln from office and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that decision.
“The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted.
“Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.
“We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.
“There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor-focused and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team. Anyone wanting to make contact in complete confidence can do so to the Diocese Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson who can be contacted on 01522 504081.”
The Diocese of Lincoln has published the text of an Ad Clerum about this. I recommend reading this in full.
The Lincolnite Bishop of Lincoln suspended
Lincolnshire Live Bishop of Lincoln suspended by Archbishop of Canterbury
Times (£) Bishop suspended in abuse ‘cover-up’
The Lincolnite reports that an additional fourth person is implicated in the cathedral matter: The four senior figures embroiled in the safeguarding scandal at Lincoln Cathedral
Anglican Communion News Service has a full report: Bishop of Lincoln suspended after information received by the Archbishop of Canterbury.68 Comments
The Church Times has
The Episcopal News Service has
The Anglican Communion News Service has:
From a different perspective, there is:
And more links from the GAFCON viewpoint can be found here.
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The Methodist Church (which covers Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales) has published the report of its Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019, together with a number of ancillary documents.
There is a Media Briefing which is probably the best place to start. Some of this is copied below the fold.
Also there is a Frequently Asked Questions page.
The full report is available as a PDF here.24 Comments
Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence. Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.
THE CARLILE REVIEW
The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.
The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.
Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.
The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.
THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS
The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries. Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.
Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.
Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.
THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW
The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.
We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.
We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.
The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.
Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.
As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.
It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’
We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.
There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.
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Stephen Parsons Surviving Church IICSA on Chichester – some comments
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IICSA has published its report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball investigations.
Full Text of Report: Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report
The Church of England has published this: Publication of IICSA report into Anglican Church
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, has today published its report into the Anglican Church based on its case studies last year of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.
The 252-page report makes 5 recommendations about a range of issues. These will now be studied in detail and a full response released at a later date. The Inquiry’s third and final hearing in the Anglican church case study will start on Monday 1 July 2019 and run for two weeks. This will focus on both the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry notes that further recommendations directly relating to the findings in this report will be made following the hearing in July.
The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said:
“We thank the Inquiry for the report and note the findings and recommendations which we will now study in full. The report states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors and the Inquiry’s summary recognises that it failed to do this. It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report.
“Whilst the report acknowledges the progress the Church has made in safeguarding, we recognise that our work must continue at pace in order that we can ensure that the Church is as safe as possible for all. We are committed to working to bring in specific changes that will help us better protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual and all other forms of abuse. If anyone is affected by today’s report I would urge them to come forward. Details of how to do this can be found on the Church of England website.
“We are immensely grateful to survivors for their courage in coming forward to IICSA to share their experiences of how they were treated by the Church, knowing how difficult this would have been; their testimonies have made shocking and uncomfortable listening. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the Church of England to be investigated by IICSA as a matter of priority, we have sought to help the Inquiry in every way that we can and we will now fully consider the report.”
The Church of England has today published two items:
The former is an 84 page report.The working party membership was:
The latter is a 3 page statement signed by William Nye, as Secretary to the House of Bishops. It says, in part:
…In recent decades, churches around the world have begun to face the many ways in which they have failed to keep people safe from abuse and failed to respond well to those who have suffered abuse. Listening to their voices has raised some significant questions about the ‘seal of the confessional’. This became evident, for instance, in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, and there has been discussion in the UK context as well.
Two situations in particular have been a focus for attention. The first is where the person confesses to sins that include abuse of a child or vulnerable person. Why should the normal duty on a priest to report such information appropriately not apply? The second is where it is claimed that if the person confessing their sins has referred to abuse committed by them or by someone else, that cannot then be repeated in another context, such as a statement to the police. This is simply wrong:the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to the priest who hears the confession, not tothe person who makes it.
In response to these concerns, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops of the Church of England commissioned a Working Party on the Seal of the Confessional. It first met in 2015 and completed its report in 2017. As well as examining legal, historical and theological perspectives, it received evidence from survivors of abuse and from clergy who have extensive experience of the ministry of confession.
At present, the ‘seal of the confessional’ is upheld in the Church of England’secclesiastical law. The Working Party did not reach a consensus as to whether this should change. The diversity of view within the Working Party would be reflected more widely in the Church of England. Some Anglicans feel very strongly that the ministry of confession is an integral part of the church’s life of the church, and that its proper practice is inseparable from the unqualified observance of the seal. Some observe from their experiences that the Seal of the Confessional can offer comfort to survivors of abuse who, trusting in the absolute discretion it promises, may confide in a priest for the first time and by so doing find that they are able to unburden themselves and begin the process of healing. Others feel very strongly that the church cannot continue with any aspect of its practice that stops information being passed on which could prevent future abuse or enable past abusers to be brought to justice. The House of Bishops has been giving these issues very careful consideration
The Working Party was, however, unanimous in its recommendations in a number of key areas. One was for improvements to training on the ministry of confession in relation to safeguarding issues, with training itself becoming obligatory for all those ordained as priests, since any priest might be asked to do this. Another was for the appointment of an adviser on the ministry of reconciliation in each diocese who can be a point of reference for training, supervision and advice.
The House of Bishops is fully supportive of these recommendations. Addressing them has required consultation with a number of different groups and individuals. Further information will be given in due course about how the agreedrecommendations of the Working Party’s report will be taken forward.
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10 Downing Street has announced that Sarah Bullock, Archdeacon of York in the Diocese of York, is to be the next Bishop of Shrewsbury in the diocese of Lichfield.
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Venerable Sarah Ruth Bullock, BA, Archdeacon of York in the Diocese of York, to the Suffragan See of Shrewsbury, in the Diocese of Lichfield, in succession to the Right Reverend Mark Rylands, MA who resigned on 31st July 2018.
Sarah was educated at Surrey University and she trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham. She served her title at St Paul, Kersal Moor in the Diocese of Manchester and was ordained Priest in 1994.
Sarah was appointed Priest-in-Charge of St Edmund, Whalley Range in 1998 and later additionally became Priest-in-Charge of St James with St Clement, Moss Side in 1999, before becoming Rector of the joint benefice in 2004. She also held the role of Diocesan Vocations Adviser from 1998 until 2005. Sarah was made an Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral in 2007, and took on the additional roles of Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry in 2009, Borough Dean for the City and Borough of Manchester in 2010 and Area Dean of Hulme in 2012. In 2013, Sarah was appointed Archdeacon of York.
The diocese of Lichfield website carries this story here.8 Comments