We have published several news reports recently, that relate to the Independent Safeguarding Board, here, and also here, and earlier over here. These provide some context for a letter from David Lamming published in the Church Times this week under the heading Church Interference with the ISBthat summarises the current difficulties:
Sir, — The Annual Report 2022-23 of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), written by the two members, Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves, and published on 24 April, blows away any remaining claim that the ISB is independent, stating on page 19 that it “currently exists within the structure of the National Church Institutions with oversight from the Archbishops’ Council”.
That servile relationship with the Archbishops’ Council is highlighted by the fact that Meg Munn has been imposed on the ISB as acting chair, in clear breach of the ISB’s terms of reference, which state that the Archbishops’ Council “ratifies” board appointments and that each member is appointed following a process that includes “public advertisement of vacancies” and “the use of expert recruiters to ensure a wide field”. Added to this is the obvious conflict of interest in appointing a person who also chairs the National Safeguarding Panel.
It is especially disturbing to note, according to the report in the Sunday Telegraph on 23 April, that neither board members nor abuse victims were consulted over the appointment of Ms Munn, and that the members were “instructed not to engage with victims on matters of ‘independence and the arrival of the chair'”. Given, too, the expressed lack of confidence in her by many survivors of abuse, Ms Munn must surely now state that she will not take up the role of acting chair, and the Secretary-General, William Nye, must give a full account of how her appointment came to be made.
In February, General Synod members were denied the opportunity to debate the ISB (News, 2 February; 6 February). Patently, such a debate must take place at York in July, when those responsible for the current débâcle can be held to account.
Update Tuesday 2 May As commenters have noted these documents have been taken down from the website. New versions and a press release were issued today and are linked in my post above. Please take subsequent comments there.
The following two documents have appeared on the Church of England website in the last few days. They are internally dated 27 and 29 April 2023 respectively. I cannot find any reference to them on the Living in Love and Faith section of the website.
The Independent Safeguarding Board has today issued the following statement.
Statement: Percy -v- Independent Safeguarding Board Case Resolved
The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) is pleased to announce a settlement in the case brought against it by Professor Martyn Percy, the former Dean of Christ Church Oxford.
Professor Percy brought the claim following his request to the Archbishops’ Council and Diocese of Oxford that there should be an independent review of the alleged weaponization of safeguarding by individuals and agencies within Church of England perpetrated against him. The Archbishops’ Council and Oxford Diocese decided to commission the ISB to conduct this review. However, Professor Percy challenged the restricted terms of the draft terms of reference set out by those commissioning the review and the previous Chair of the ISB. In the event, the court dismissed the claim brought by Dr Percy against the ISB, in part because all parties agreed that the ISB was not a legal entity against which such a claim could be brought.
At the heart of the case is the need for a rigorous review of the processes and practices of the Church of England alongside other developments at Christ Church. The ISB consider that the original review’s published terms of reference would have needed significant amendment to ensure that any independent ISB review had sufficient scope and depth.
While the ISB’s review could have made progress, the absence of an Information Sharing Agreement with the Church of England significantly hampered the continuation of the work. The review was initially paused and then discontinued by the Archbishops’ Council which decided that it should be conducted by some other person. That individual has yet to be agreed. The ISB urges the Archbishops’ Council to act with urgency to ensure that an independent review is commissioned. Professor Percy’s assertion that such a review should be led by a KC or Judge has significant merit and is one with which the ISB concurs. (more…)
We reported here in November 2021 that the Bishop of Ely, Stephen Conway, was to be Acting Bishop in the Diocese of Lincoln, following the retirement of Bishop Christopher Lowson in December 2021. That arrangement will now come to an end with the announcement today that the Bishop of Grimsby will be the acting bishop from 1 May 2023 until the the new Bishop of Lincoln takes up the role.
The Crown Nominations Commission has held its two meetings to consider Lincoln (the second on 28/29 March 2023), so an announcement of who is to be the new bishop may not be too far away. But as usual it will probbaly be some months after that before he or she takes up the role.
Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Ripon: 27 April 2023
The King has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Anna Eltringham to the Suffragan See of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds.
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 27 April 2023
The King has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Anna Eltringham, KHC, Team Rector of Oxted Team Ministry, in the Diocese of Southwark, to the Suffragan See of Ripon, in the Diocese of Leeds, in succession to The Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley following her appointment as Bishop of Newcastle.
Anna was educated at St John’s College, Durham and trained for ministry at the South East Institute of Theological Education. She served her title at Holy Innocents, South Norwood, in the Diocese of Southwark, and was ordained priest in 2009.
Anna was appointed Team Vicar, Oxted Team Ministry, also in the Diocese of Southwark, in 2014 and was appointed to her current role as Team Rector in 2019.
Additionally, Anna has served as Dean of Women’s Ministry since 2017 and has been an Honorary Chaplain to the Monarch and Honorary Canon at Southwark Cathedral since 2020.
The Church of England is obstructing its own safeguarding panel by denying them their own computers, refusing to share data and treating them with “hostility”, whistleblowers have told The Telegraph.
The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was formed in January 2022 and tasked with scrutinising the work of the Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST), as well as holding the Church to account regarding its safeguarding duties.
However, the ISB’s only two board members have come forward to claim that their experience working with Church officials is “an uphill battle and unnecessarily challenging”.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, who founded the Karma Nirvana charity which aims to end honour-based abuse, and Steve Reeves MBE, executive director of Global Safeguarding, raised the alarm.
They claim there has been “clear interference” with their work, a “lack of transparency” and a “reluctance to provide information” meaning that at times they have been “met with hostility”
Their concerns have been echoed by victims who claim that unless the Church revokes its “inappropriate and irresponsible” appointment of the new ISB chair as Meg Munn – the former foreign office minister who already holds posts within the Church of England – they will not only feel “re-abused” but they will also refuse to work with the ISB and share their testimonies…
And there is a great deal more detail, which should be read in full, if possible.
In a statement to Premier, Martin Sewell who is a member of General Synod said :
“These latest revelations confirm the serious concerns that I, survivors, and members of General Synod have repeatedly raised about the lack of independence in the Established Church’s responses to the IICSA enquiry. I thank the two ISB members for bravely aligning themselves with those of us calling for a comprehensive and open debate of this scandal on the floor of Synod.”
In a statement to Premier Bishop Joanne Grenfell, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said:
“The Independent Safeguarding Board was set up to provide important external scrutiny for the Church’s safeguarding work and it is vital that the right structures are in place to do this.
“We look forward to working with them as they begin the next phase of their work to scope out what these structures are and to having conversations about concerns they have raised. An acting chair was put in place until the end of the year to ensure continuity and I look forward to working with all three Board members.
“We welcome their annual report (being published tomorrow) and note their comments around their work to date and desire to continue with this independent scrutiny of the Church’s safeguarding. It is vital that we have independent scrutiny as this informs the core responsibility for all in the Church of ensuring good safeguarding in all our parishes kand settings across the country. This important work goes on every day of the year. “
The response from Joanne Grenfell quoted by Premier can now be found here. It appears that it was not written as a response to the Telegraph article, but in order to link the ISB annual report to the CofE website.
….Given that about 45% of the General Synod has clearly articulated the conviction that the proposals of the bishops are unacceptable, urgent consideration needs to be given to a form of good differentiation involving structural re-organisation without theological compromise. Following this path could prevent the unity of the Church of England being torn apart in the same way that the Communion has been.
The Church of England has this morning published the following statement from the independent reviewer in the Smyth case.
Statement from independent reviewer in Smyth case
“I have made a report to the Police regarding matters that have come to light in recent weeks and in the course of my review, into the abuse perpetrated by John Smyth. I have subsequently passed extensive information to them in relation to this matter. This necessary development is in line with my obligations set out in the terms of reference for the review and in UK law and is therefore unavoidable. This impacts on the planned timescale for completion of the review, and I am aware from my regular contact with victims, of the distress that this is likely to cause them, their families, and others affected by this case. A further update on this will be provided as soon as is possible”. Keith Makin, independent reviewer
The National Safeguarding Team has arranged continued support for victims through Nina Tanner, a specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA). The formerly named Splitz organisation have changed their name to Fear-Less.org.uk Home – Fear Less (fear-less.org.uk) but still provide the same service to victim and survivors. Nina remains the independent lead for support for the victims of John Smyth and fulfils the same role as before. If you need support, she can be contacted on Nina.Tanner@fear-less.org.uk or on 07825 741751. If you have been affected by this latest update and need support, please do contact Nina.