House of Bishops meet to discuss Covid-19, clergy discipline and the Lambeth Conference
The House of Bishops met via Zoom this afternoon, as it has done regularly throughout the current pandemic.
The Bishop of Manchester updated the House on the overall work of the Church in responding to the crisis. The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally, Chair of the Church’s COVID-19 Recovery Group updated the House regarding how churches are experiencing the gradual lifting of restrictions to enable the re-opening of churches for physical services.
The Bishops also discussed the interim findings of the working group which is reviewing the current Clergy Discipline Measure. This was followed by an update from the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the postponed Lambeth 2020 conference and future planning.
The Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton commenting on the Clergy Discipline Measure said: ‘We are now actively seeking to improve processes, minimise delays and identify other improvements needed to make the system more effective. I am personally committed to replacing the CDM with a new system and hope to bring proposals forward as soon as practicable.’
The House concluded with a forward look to the informal meeting of Synod on 11 July.
In March it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global restrictions on travel and mass gatherings, the Lambeth Conference of 2020 would need to be rescheduled to the British summer of 2021.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has now taken the important decision to reschedule the Lambeth Conference by a further year to the British summer of 2022. The conference will meet in 2022 in Canterbury. In the above filmed message to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop has also announced that a wider programme will be developed before and after the event delivered virtually and through other meetings.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury and conference planning teams have been monitoring the situation, following relevant advice from public and global health authorities as it becomes available. They have also undertaken ongoing consultation with Primates, bishops and spouses – about the impact of COVID-19 in their countries.
As with most large scale events and conferences of this nature – planning for events in such an unstable climate is difficult. As an international gathering (the Lambeth Conference invites bishops and spouses from over 165 countries) there are a significant number of uncertainties that make preparations for a 2021 meeting challenging.
Whilst some lock down measures are starting to ease in some countries, social distancing measures, travel restrictions and quarantine measures could impede logistics and delegates’ travel planning for the foreseeable future. There are also the risks of a potential second wave of the virus and the reality that there are different phases in how the pandemic is spreading around the world – with no vaccine yet available….
The Questions paper for Saturday’s virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been published today. This contains the 131 submitted questions and their answers. A total of two hours has been allocated on Saturday for supplementary questions and answers.
“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.
“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.
“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.
Statement from Archbishop Justin
“I have been fully briefed on this matter and have read the independent legal advice. I have also spoken at length with Stephen. He clearly should have informed the authorities and made fuller notes of what he did in this case. He has shown humility in immediately admitting he failed to act as he should have done in this case, when the matter was raised with him by the NST this year. He has also said so publicly. I am also reassured that he did refer it on and saw the significance of offering support and contacting the survivor who must always be the priority. While I cannot comment further on this case, our IICSA hearings have shown the journey the Church is still on to be a safer place for all and I pray that this experience will strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry as the Archbishop of York.
“I am looking forward to working with Stephen and we commit ourselves to continue to learn lessons and to recognise and accept we all need to be open and forthright in striving to make the church a safe place for all. This means listening to survivors and constantly examining our own actions and recognising our vulnerability as well as calling on all to demonstrate our commitment to care for all.”
Statement from National Safeguarding Team
“Concerns were referred to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, earlier this year about the handling of a case by Bishop Stephen 10 years ago after information came to light from a clergy file. The concerns raised were about the action taken following allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by a parish priest. At the time Bishop Stephen responded to the survivor, offered support and subsequently referred the allegation within the diocese, but did not ensure the matter was referred to the statutory authorities or directly to the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The NST has now investigated the matter, taken independent advice and interviewed Bishop Stephen.
“He has shown insight and humility in accepting that he failed to act as he should have done in relation to a serious matter and acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a lack of training and understanding, which he has subsequently sought to address.
“The NST investigation concluded that he posed no current risk of not responding appropriately to safeguarding disclosures and that informal action was a reasonable and proportionate response to the case.”
The Charity Commission has told both sides in the dispute at Christ Church, Oxford, to enter into a mediation process.
The Commission is concerned that the very protracted and public dispute between the College’s governing body and its Dean is damaging to the reputation of the charity, and affecting its ability to govern itself.
The situation risks harming the reputation of charity more generally, in the eyes of the public.
Both parties in this dispute have called on the Charity Commission to intervene further. However, any regulatory intervention can be effective only if relationships between all parties are stable. The Commission has therefore today told the parties to the dispute that it expects them to enter into formal mediation within a limited time frame, with a mediator selected by the Commission, and without delay.
Helen Stephenson, Charity Commission Chief Executive, said:
It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes. Our role is, instead, to ensure that charities are governed effectively, charitable funds are properly accounted for, and trust in charity is maintained. In these exceptional circumstances, we have told the parties to the dispute to enter mediation, without which it is difficult to resolve issues in the charity in any reasonable timescale.
The Commission will not comment further on the case until the mediation has been completed.
It has also asked both sides to refrain from public, or private, commentary whilst the mediation process takes place.
25 June 2020
The ongoing dispute between Christ Church and the Dean has undoubtedly gone on for far too long. Its impact on Christ Church’s daily life, its staff, students, teaching and research, all risk being affected without the prospect of a resolution. We were therefore delighted to learn at our meeting with the Charity Commission today that it has now agreed to intervene. For some time, we have sought to address the impasse through independent mediation, but that process was unfortunately put on hold earlier this year. We hope that the Dean responds quickly and positively to the Commission’s announcement and we look forward to attending the mediation it is facilitating as soon as possible.
Christ Church has published a statement on its website, now changed from the version published on 22 June.
It appears from this that the French authorities had made no contact with anyone in Oxford prior to the court’s decision. However, it has today been admitted by the college that Professor Joosten was one of the 41 signatories of the letter to the Charity Commission which the Church Timesdescribed as accusing Dr Percy of “sacrificing the best interests of Christ Church to his own”.
Sir, — In response to your report “C of E is ‘being used’ in campaign against Dean of Christ Church” (News, 19 June), I would like to point out that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean.
When a referral is made alleging that a senior member of the clergy has not fulfilled his or her safeguarding responsibilities, the NST has a duty to consider the management of any safeguarding risk. In this case, an independent safeguarding person has been asked to investigate and report back.
As I am sure your readers would agree, the Church must take all safeguarding issues very seriously, and all this is being done in accordance with the House of Bishops guidelines. For reference, the Dean of Christ Church is a “Church officer” within the definition contained in the House of Bishops practice guidance.
There is no agenda behind this and we hope that with the cooperation of all concerned this matter can be concluded quickly.
The House of Bishops has confirmed, following a meeting held by Zoom on Wednesday 24 June, that it will proceed with the publication of the Living in Love and Faith teaching and learning resources in early November this year.
The publication of the resources, originally scheduled for July 2020, had been deferred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioned by the House of Bishops and led by the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, the aim of the Living in Love and Faith project is to help the whole Church to learn how relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of a humanity created in the image of God.
Commenting on the decision to proceed in the autumn of 2020, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us and none of us knows what challenges we will face in the months to come.
“The LLF resources are about vital matters which affect the wellbeing of individuals and communities. That is why it is important for the Church to move ahead with publishing the resources as soon as possible.
“They will help the Church to live out its calling to be a people who embody the reconciliation of Christ as together we explore matters of identity, sexuality and marriage.”
The House endorsed the plan to enable bishops, dioceses, deaneries and local church communities to explore the resources together from the beginning of 2021.
The House acknowledged that engagement with the materials will need to be responsive to local contexts and fully recognises the impact of COVID-19 and other challenges on the health, the economy and the wellbeing of the nation. It is envisaged that in 2022 learning and engagement with the materials will move to discernment, decision-making and if necessary, synodical processes. The group that will take this part of the LLF process forward on behalf of the House of Bishops will be led by Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.
THE Church of England is being “dragged into a vendetta” against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, General Synod members have been told.
In a letter circulated last week to other Synod members, David Lamming and Martin Sewell characterise the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) — initiated after a complaint lodged by the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, and others (News, 29 May) — as an abuse of the C of E’s processes by “well-connected persons”…
This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.
The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy…
The following statement was issued in response to requests from the BBC and Channel 4 news on 17 June 2020.
A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information has come to light regarding Lord Carey, which has been passed to the National Safeguarding Team for immediate attention as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.
A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance, and it advised the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, to withdraw Lord Carey’s Permission to Officiate (PTO) while the matter is investigated.
Lord Carey’s PTO was revoked by the Bishop of Oxford on Wednesday 17 June. Lord Carey is currently unauthorised to undertake any form of ministry in the Diocese until further notice.
While the investigation and review are ongoing, we will not be commenting further on this matter. However, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to make clear that the new information received relates only to the review currently underway, and that there has not been an allegation of abuse made against Lord Carey.
Notes for editors:
In the wake of Dame Moira Gibb’s review, Lord Carey stood down from the role of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford in June 2017, and withdrew from public ministry for a season. Lord Carey accepted the criticisms made of him at the time and apologised to the victims of Peter Ball.
In February 2018 Lord Carey contacted the Diocese of Oxford to request PTO (permission to officiate). Following senior legal opinion, PTO was granted by the Bishop of Oxford later the same month to allow Lord Carey to undertake his priestly ministry at the church where he worships. The granting of PTO was conditional on no further concerns coming to light.
As with all granting of PTO’s, Lord Carey was subject to a fresh DBS check and appropriate safeguarding training at the time.
“I am bewildered and dismayed to receive the news a short time ago that due to ‘concerns’ being raised during the review of John Smyth QC I have had my PTO revoked. I have been given no information on the nature of these ‘concerns’ and have no memory of meeting Mr Smyth. In 2018 the National Safeguarding Team and the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury invited me to meet with them to arrange safeguarding training and facilitate a meeting with survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse. They have failed to deliver action on either of these matters which were the subject of mutually agreed action. As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation.”
According to Anglican Ink, the statement from Lord Carey as reported above is incomplete. Their report has an additional sentence:
“As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation. I understand from the testimony of victims and survivors of clerical abuse that this lack of confidence is widely shared.”
Women majority of deacons ordained last year, new report shows
Women made up the majority of deacons ordained in the Church of England last year for the first time, according to new statistics published today.
A total of 570 deacons were ordained in 2019, with women making up just over a half, or 51% of the new intake.
Deacons are the first of three orders of ordained ministry. Whilst all clergy continue as deacons throughout, the majority are also ordained as priests at the end of their first year of ministry.
The statistics show that women made up around 32% of the 20,000 active clergy last year, with a growing proportion of senior posts such as Bishops, Archdeacons and Cathedral Deans, occupied by women, from 25% in 2018 to 27% last year.
Women were in the majority starting training for ordained ministry for the third year running, with equal numbers of men and women sponsored to train for ‘incumbent’ posts – such as Rector or Vicar – over the last two years. However currently only 25% of incumbent posts are occupied by women.
The number of stipendiary, or paid clergy, remained stable, at 7,700, between 2018 and 2019, following a period of decline. There were 7,830 Readers or licensed lay ministers compared to just under 10,000 in 2010. Readers and licensed lay ministers are not ordained but can lead worship and preach in churches, among other roles.
The statistics show the number of stipendiary clergy from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds stood at 3.8%, while 7.8% of people entering training for ordained ministry last year were from a BAME background.
Out of a total of 550 people beginning training for ordained ministry last year, nearly a quarter, or 24%, were under 32 years old and more than two fifths, 44%, were aged under 40.
The Rt Revd Chris Goldsmith, Director of Ministry for the Church of England, said: “In recent years there has been an increasing diversity among our clergy, but we will not be content until those in public ministry truly reflect the whole church and the communities which they serve.”
He added: “The contribution of lay ministers to the mission and ministry of the church is hugely valued both in terms of sustaining the ongoing life of parishes and chaplaincies but also in the innovation and spiritual entrepreneurship increasingly characterising frontline expressions of the church as a Christian presence in every community.”
The Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane, who was consecrated as the first female bishop in the Church of England in 2015, said: “Women are now a widely visible presence among clergy in the Church of England – praise God. However there are still other under-represented groups whose vocations to ordination are being missed.
“I pray that the lessons learnt in encouraging women can make a difference for those who are not yet recognised, so Church of England clergy, at every level, better reflect the glorious diversity of our country.”
She added: “Last year marked 25 years since I was ordained priest. For over a quarter of a century women and men together have been selected, trained, ordained and appointed to serve in the Church of England.
“I thank God for the privilege of my ministry, and for the thousands of women and men who have shared this calling in that time.”