During the recent IICSA hearings, much was made of the way personal files of Church of England clergy were handled in the past. But what about the present?
The guidelines for bishops and their staff about the handling of clergy personal files are very clearly set out in a document dated April 2013, Personal Files relating to Clergy – Guidance for bishops and their staff which is available online here.
This document reflects the data protection legislation in force at the time it was written. New legislation on this subject comes into force on 25 May 2018, so the document will need to be updated soon, if it has not already happened. But the current guidelines are quite clearly stated and updating to the latest requirements will not be difficult.
However, it’s not at all clear that they are being consistently implemented across all dioceses. The evidence for this assertion is contained in a recently published article by Colin Coward: Clergy Blue Files and the illegal behaviour of bishops and their chaplains. This reports on recent email exchanges between a small number of chaplains to diocesan bishops.
Emails between four bishops’ chaplains asking questions about whether priests can be shown their Clergy Current Status Letter (CCSL) have been sent to me. Clergy Current Status Letters are sent by the bishop of the diocese from where a priest is moving to the bishop of the diocese to which they are moving. The emails show that some bishops and their chaplains have not read or do not understand the “Guidance for bishops and their staff Approved by the House of Bishops on 13th March 2013” concerning “Personal Files Relating to Clergy”…
Colin has posted a follow-up article: The Church of England’s systemically abusive culture which includes a letter he has written to the archbishops about all this, as well as discussing several other recent events.