Thinking Anglicans

Update on IICSA hearings – 5 March

Updated Tuesday morning

The transcript of the first day’s proceedings is now available here. It contains opening statements by:

Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry
Fiona Scolding, Counsel to the Inquiry,
Richard Scorer, representing survivors
David Greenwood, also representing survivors, and also MACSAS
Nigel Giffin, representing the Archbishops’ Council
Rory Phillips, representing Ecclesiastical Insurance
Richard Smith representing Peter Ball

The Church of England has issued this: Opening statement in IICSA hearing

Media reports:

Witness statements have been published by IICSA from numerous individuals, all listed by name here and accessible (but only by reference number) over here.

They include written statements from these Archbishops’ Council staff:

William Nye
Stephen Slack
Julian Hubbard
Hannah Foster

In a separate development, the BBC’s Yorkshire regional news programme Inside Out has broadcast an interview with Matthew Ineson who says senior clergymen ignored his disclosures of sexual abuse by a parish priest. Link to the TV programme here, is available for 29 days only.

See also BBC news article, Police look at bishops’ ‘failure to act’ over sex abuse claims.

Other media reports on this:
Archbishop of York could face police investigation for failing to act over abuse allegations
Church of England sex abuse victim to tell his story on TV

10 comments

  • Anthony Archer says:

    The Inquiry, with the benefit of some excellent witness statements about what the Church of England is (including that of William Nye), is already getting its mind around an institution that has considerable dispersed authority, with the inevitable consequence that on occasions there is no authority. “The Church of England as a whole has no legal status or personality” [Lord Hope in Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank [2003] UKHL 37]. The consequences of this for safeguarding and other critical regulatory and compliance issue are immense. How is the CofE governed? For example, the Nye statement (paragraph 24) discusses diocesan synods. The clear guidance on the responsibilities of diocesan synods with regard to safeguarding is that the synod will: (i) ensure that there is adequate safeguarding resourcing in the diocese; (ii) adopt and implement the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policy and practice guidance; (iii) develop and implement the Diocesan Safeguarding Strategy; and (iv) review the diocese’s safeguarding progress annually. These are proactive tasks which the CofE has imposed on what are, at best, deliberative bodies, with little or no mechanism to hold the leadership to account, and certainly no resources at the synod’s own disposal. How many diocesan synods do more than receive an annual report? Mr Scorer, appearing for survivors, said today: “ … anyone watching that [general] synod debate [in February 2018] would have been struck by the depth of concern within synod about safeguarding failings, but also the very limited scope that synod seems to have to hold the hierarchy to account.” There will be myriad outcomes from the IICSA so far as concerns the CofE, but going forward a good number will focus on governance. The CofE is episcopally led and synodically governed. For too long the former has completely eclipsed the latter.

  • Kate says:

    The current trend seems to be to increase episcopal oversight. I think Anthony Archer is correct but it seems unlikely that a transfer of resources and responsibilities towards Synod and diocesan synods would gain support from the present House of Bishops.

  • Kate I do not think that the CofE approach to episcopal oversight has actually changed. Nor is Anthony saying this is he? I share his concern about a power imbalance and prioritising of episcopal authority that has always been there – ‘for too long’. But I would agree that current approaches to strategy and policy are making this much more evident and the impact ‘felt’. And nor, in the end, do I think it actually works.

  • Kate says:

    Anthony said that CofE is episcopally led but synodically governed but highlighted that the synodic governance function isn’t properly resourced. The clear inferences of what he said, for me, are a) that the episcopate is, in practice, undertaking governance which should properly be synodic and b) that of necessity that will require a transfer of resources from episcopal support to support the synods.

    Anthony delicately didn’t say it overtly, but I suggest it is hard to read what he wrote and not see those implications.

  • Pete Broadbent says:

    A Diocesan Synod is a pretty unwieldy and unrepresentative bunch of virtually self-selecting people. If Bishops are to be held to account (and they must be), it’s not the right body to do so. What we may need is (1) the Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group to have more teeth and to be able to require a bishop to comply with the duties laid upon them (2) a mechanism for the Trustees of the Diocese (Bishop’s Council) to have greater clout in governance terms (3) an independent scrutiny and appeal body, mandatorily funded (ie you can’t cut its budget) to have power over review, appeals from victims and survivors, and with the capacity to indict bishops and others who are neglectful of their duty. Not sure of the interrelationship of these bodies or how you sort them out so they have all that they need to function properly. Some will argue for a national system and a totally independent safeguarding board. That would involve a massive recasting of legislation and a loss of relationship between safeguarding and (eg) clergy discipline, And we might end up with it being run by Capita or Group 4 (shudder).

  • Kate says:

    I am unsure on the best solution but I do believe that the church should demonstrate both effective safeguarding AND Christian forgiveness. It is hard for the same individuals to do both without at least the appearance of conflict. One of the big challenges of the present imbroglio is that we – particularly at a congregational level – might lose sight of the need to forgive sexual predators because we get so wrapped up in the mechanics of safeguarding. That would be a tragedy. Somehow, we need to be capable of both.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    Kate – I don’t think it is for congregations to forgive, and we need to be very clear that whatever sense of hurt and betrayal a congregation may feel, it is those who have actually been abused who have been most damaged, and the congregation should not presume to speak for them. It also strikes me that those who have been damaged have also a damaged sense of/capacity for agency, and that it is inappropriate for congregations to put pressure on victims to forgive or even to collude in “forgiveness”. God never gives up on anyone, not even on abusers – but there is no cheap repentance, and no cheap grace – our response cannot dodge the reality of what has been done or the damage it has caused.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    WIth reference to Pete Broadbent’s comments, Diocesan Synods are described in the inquiry evidence as essentially ‘deliberative bodies’ and are, I agree, the wrong body in which to vest any effective supervisory function. But I don’t think the Bishops Council meets the bill either it its current form.

    The problem of holding office-holders to account is not unique to the church – look at MPs for example. And office-holders in the church have often jealously guarded their “independence” – by which has often been meant independence from scrutiny and accountability. Many of us have been trained and culturally formed in those various traditions of independence, and there has been general fear of arbitrary or partisan scrutiny and accountability.

    We need a shift of gear. To borrow from school governance, a culture in which both support and challenge are welcomed and received. We need our Archbishops and Bishops (and others) to respond positively to (appropriate) challenge rather than acting defensively. One of the problems we face its that our many office-holders live in a world of limited resources and that challenge can seem an unwelcome intrusion on just getting on with the job as best we can. I think that the appropriate level of challenge is significantly higher than is currently tolerated within our Church culture.

  • Kate says:

    Mark,before we take communion we all pray, as Jesus taught us,

    “Forgive us out trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

    That does not mean only forgiving things we don’t care about, but the really difficult things too. Any suggestion that there should be bounds on the forgiveness is incompatible with communion. And yes, we should be encouraging victims to forgive too because forgiveness is a central aspect of Christian teaching. It might be hard teaching but following Jesus isn’t always easy.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    Kate: but who has been trespassed against, and whose forgiveness are we asking? It is not the church which stands in the place of the victim.

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