Thinking Anglicans

9 July General Synod discussion on the ISB

David Lamming has written the following article about the synod discussion that occurred on 9 July concerning the Independent Safeguarding Board.
Question 204 from the November General Synod sessions refers (text included below).

RE-WRITING HISTORY: OMITTING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF FORMER ISB MEMBERS STEVE REEVES AND JASVINDER SANGHERA FROM THE FORMAL RECORD OF THE PROCEEDINGS AT THE YORK SYNOD IN JULY 2023

General Synod members, and those watching the proceedings on the livestream, will recall the débâcle at York on the Sunday afternoon, 9 July, when, after several attempts to use the standing orders to enable Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves to respond to the ‘Presentation on developments relating to the Independent Safeguarding Board’ were thwarted, the formal sitting was adjourned so that they could address Synod members, with Robert Hammond (chair of the Business Committee) taking over as chair of the informal session.

One of the thwarted attempts to use Standing Orders to allow Steve and Jasvinder to address Synod concerned SO 120(1), which provides: “The Presidents may invite such persons as they think fit to address the Synod.”  The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said that he was “happy to do that”, though he thought that Meg Munn, who was also present, “ought to be invited to say something as well.”  That said, he added: “I think if people [i.e. Jasvinder and Steve] were able to make a short statement and then perhaps a final response from the panel, I will leave that in your hands, Chair.  I think then we should include this item.” (emphasis added).  He was thwarted, though, as the legal advice given to the Chair (who reported it to Synod with ‘a regret‘) was that it was “unlawful for one of the Presidents and not both to suspend the Standing Orders.”  Leaving aside that Debbie Buggs’s request was to “ask the Archbishop of York in his capacity as President to ask Steve and Jasvinder to address Synod, please,” not to suspend the SOs, it is to be noted that the reason the Archbishop of Canterbury was not present was that he had left Synod to be with his dying mother.

Further, as Gavin Drake pointed out in his speech the following day when moving his motion (Item 63) following the presentation of the Archbishops’ Council Annual Report: “I think such a ruling contravenes the standard English legal precedent that the singular should be construed to include the plural and the plural should be construed to include the singular. But the Synod prevailed and we did hear from Jasvinder and Steve.” See Report of Proceedings, July 2023, page 349.  Gavin’s reference should have been not to precedent but to the principle contained in section 6 of the Interpretation Act 1978 that “In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears,– (c) words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular.”

A reasonable expectation, however, was that a transcript of what Jasvinder and Steve said would be included in or with the official Report of Proceedings of the July group of sessions – at least in an appendix.  Indeed, Simon Friend from Exeter Diocese, raising a point of order at the start of the next item of Synod business, specifically asked “that a record of the informal meeting we have just had is attached, perhaps as an annex, to the formal report of this Synod.”  In her reply, the Chair, the Bishop of Dover, said: “I am advised that that is not really a point of order, however, I am sure the Business Committee have heard and will consider it.”

Whether the Business Committee considered the matter is not clear as their report for the November group of sessions, GS 2323, contains no reference to the request.  However, the fact is that the Report of Proceedings, as published on the C of E website in October, currently does not include such a transcript.  This led the Ven Sally Gaze (St Eds & Ips) to ask this question of the Clerk to the Synod:

Q204 In Synod at York on Sunday afternoon, 9 July 2023, and following a number of points of order, the session on Item 11, “Presentation on developments relating to the Independent Safeguarding Board”, was suspended for about 15 minutes to enable Synod members to hear speeches from former ISB members Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves in response to a presentation by four members of the Archbishops’ Council on those developments, including the decision of the Council to terminate the contracts of the Board’s members. In adjourning the sitting, the Chair (the Revd Zoe Heming) said that she did so “for the better conduct of Synod business to allow those to be heard who need to be.” [See Report of Proceedings, July 2023, page 294].

Currently, the Report of Proceedings, while containing a verbatim report of the presentation, does not include the speeches in reply by Ms Sanghera and Mr Reeves. Will the Clerk to the Synod please undertake to ensure that a verbatim record of their speeches is added as a second Appendix to the Report (and posted on the C of E website) so that there is a complete and accurate public record of what was said in response to the presentation?  

And this is the answer, to be found on page 79 of the Questions Notice Paper, circulated to Synod members on Friday 10 November:

“The sitting of the Synod was adjourned by the Chair; anything that occurred during this time was not recorded as the Synod was not sitting. What was said by Ms Sanghera and Mr Reeves will not be added to the verbatim report as they did not form part of the Synod’s proceedings.”

Two comments:

First, it is not correct to say that what occurred while the Synod was adjourned was not recorded This ‘excuse’ will not wash. The livestream and the YouTube recording continued running during the short adjournment, and the YouTube video remains available to view and listen to.

Scroll through to 1 hr 41.44.Steve’s speech is from 1.43.42 to 1.49.17, and Jasvinder’s from 1.49.35 to 1.55.43.

Not only is the video still available: a transcript made from the video was posted on this blog on 12 July: https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/isb-controversy-episode-10-meg-munn-quits/ (Scroll down to item 10 for the link to the transcript.)

Second, while it is correct that Synod was not formally sitting, it is disingenuous to say that what was said by Steve and Jasvinder “did not form part of the Synod’s proceedings.”  It is worth noting what the Chair of the item of business [Item 11], Zoe Heming, said when adjourning the formal sitting:

“Synod, if you could please resume your seats. Synod, in order to give the space for our speakers, I am adjourning this sitting for 10 minutes for the better conduct of Synod business to allow those to be heard who need to be. During this time it will be open to those present in the hall to listen to what Jasvinder and Steve wish to say.” (emphasis added)

And, when the formal sitting was resumed, Zoe said this:

“And so we resume Item 11. Synod, thank you so much for your patience throughout this debate. As you can appreciate, we have taken many twists and turns and quite a bit longer than scheduled, but it was absolutely the right thing to have done and I am grateful for your patience, but we do need to safeguard items coming on later in the rest of the day. I would like to think Jane and Jasvinder and Steve and members of the Archbishops’ Council for their contributions to this item” (again, emphasis added)

Those who sought to prevent Steve and Jasvinder having a voice at Synod must not be allowed to erase history by excluding a report of “the contributions” by Steve and Jasvinder to Item 11 in the official Report of Proceedings.  The transcripts must be added as a second appendix. 

As the Church Times reported on 14 July 2023, “the two sacked members of the Church’s now disbanded Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) told the General Synod that they were ‘silenced’ by the Archbishops’ Council for being ‘too independent’– and warned that survivors would pay the price for their dismissal.”  Maybe this is what those who sought to prevent Jasvinder and Steve from speaking did not want Synod members to hear–a matter on which Sarah Wilkinson may comment in the report of her Review.  But to ensure the integrity of the record, what they said must be added to the Report of Proceedings.

David Lamming

15 November 2023

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Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
6 months ago

I wish I could say I did not believe David Lamming’s article
Following on from the comments on the thread which follows, the only conclusion must be that the AC and those working for them are institutionally dishonest when it comes to Safeguarding. I fear for the outcome of Professor Jay’s report if they are prepared to be so blatant over this.

David G
David G
6 months ago

It is a sad and sobering lesson, but totalitarian regimes that try to eradicate history or have it rewritten with redactions that favour the regime, inevitably get compared to former satellite states of the Soviet Union or something from the pen of George Orwell. But this is the CofE we have today. The church lawyers are there to endorse party policy. The comms department work in league with the lawyers and leadership, and it eventually dawns on us that our church is being run like some kind of one party state. Mr Lamming’s forensic attention to law and process shows… Read more »

PatrickT
PatrickT
Reply to  David G
6 months ago

Yes – I’m afraid it looks like the power is concentrated with those who know how to access and wield it, and have easier contact with the lawyers. There is little accountability, and little interest in listening to varying points of view. “We can, and we will” is the dominant theme – and if anyone challenges the system, we will ignore them or set up a review on our own terms, and then possibly not publish the results and/or not act upon them. And it all comes down to one phrase: “You can’t touch us”. The Church of England is… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
6 months ago

It’s worth stating the precise wording of the power to invite additional speakers: “The Presidents may invite such persons as they think fit to address the Synod.” Frankly I find it hard to construe this as not giving the power to each President individually; however, if it is read to mean “both Presidents acting together” then, based on similar wording elsewhere in the Standing Orders, I think it is impossible to convene a General Synod if there is a vacancy for either archbishopric ie if both Presidents aren’t available to convene the Synod. In short, I think the decision not… Read more »

american piskie
american piskie
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

Fifty-seven mentions of “the Presidents” in the Standing Orders as far as I can see. There are quite a few where they are to act with the chairs of the other two houses, or decide something with them. There is only one other where it explicitly says the Presidents are to act jointly; in the majority of the cases it is just “the Presidents”.

But the lawyers have said they must act jointly so I look forward in future to Tweedledum and Tweedledee reciting their decisions in unison.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
6 months ago

How are people who weren’t able to be there supposed to access material that pretty much everyone who was there considered to be significant?

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
6 months ago

A shocking state of affairs. Is there really no way that Synod members can exert their authority to demand that Jasvinder and Steve’s speeches are included in the report, at least as an appendix?

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 months ago

Which lawyer gave the legal advice, and to whom? In other words, who was the attorney, and who was the client?
If the attorney-client relationship at issue may be ascertained, then it also might be determined who else may be in that relationship, and therefore able to have the substance of the advice disclosed.
Moreover, in some jurisdictions and areas of the law, there is a fiduciary exception to attorney-client confidentiality.
I don’t think the advice given will stand up to scrutiny–or if it does, then the Synod session itself was irregular, on the reasoning of Kate Keates above.

David Lamming
David Lamming
6 months ago

Addendum: I pointed out in my article that Simon Friend, raising a point of order at the start of the next item of Synod business, asked that “a record of the informal meeting we have just had is attached, perhaps as an annex, to the formal report of this Synod.” to which the Bishop of Dover, replied: “I am advised that that is not really a point of order, however, I am sure the Business Committee have heard and will consider it.” On reflection, Q204 (which I had drafted) might have been better put for answer by the Chair of the… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
6 months ago

Addendum continued: The Record of Business Done is a different document from the verbatim transcript: rather it is a concise record of business discussed and motions passed, with voting figures for any counted votes. What Clive referred to is on page 14 of this document, which records: PRESENTATION ON DEVELOPMENTS RELATING TO THE INDEPENDENT SAFEGUARDING BOARD 11 A presentation was given under Standing Order 107. ADJOURNMENT The Chair adjourned the Synod at 4.19 pm for ten minutes for the better conduct of the Synod’s business under Standing Order 15(8)(a). In reply, Robert treated Clive’s speech as a request for a… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  David Lamming
6 months ago

Score -AC and Long Grass 5
GS trying to represent survivors 0

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