Thinking Anglicans

An entirely different approach to survivors of abuse

Following the publication of the recent IICSA report on certain aspects of the Church of England (Chichester diocese and Peter Ball), there was very little immediate public response from senior people in the Church of England. This led Andrew Graystone to write a letter a week later to various bishops and some members of the Archbishops’ Council, calling for an entirely different approach to dealing with abuse survivors.  The Bishop of London invited Andrew to spell out what such an approach might entail.

This document is his answer: The Church of England and survivors.

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Richard W. SymondsSusannah ClarkJanet FifeStanley MonkhouseMark Bennet Recent comment authors
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Eric Bonetti
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An excellent piece, and one that recognizes the true nature of abuse, which is to suppress the identity of the victim. A worthy read for all church leaders, especially as it is, indeed, an entirely different approach than that followed by most denominations and churches.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Andrew Graystone’s open letter is absolutely spot on. Bishops, please read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

Erika Baker
Guest

This is excellent, a really new and creative approach. I hope the bishops will seriously consider it and implement as much as possible.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

I have read, closely, what Andrew Graystone has written – and appreciate that he has done so.

I write the following in the hope readers will not think I am devaluing the victim of abuse, nor diluting his – or her – message.

Andrew’s “entirely different approach” can apply not only to victims of abuse by the Church, but also to victims of false accusation of abuse by the Church.

Andrew Graystone
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Andrew Graystone

Thank you Richard. I agree that we should be concerned about those who are accused of abuse, and I think there may be helpful read-across between the two situations. To be falsely accused is also a form of abuse.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

If I may follow-on from that…if an Archbishop insists there is still a “significant cloud” hanging over a deceased Bishop accused of sexual abuse, even though the accusations have been proved to be unfounded, then that Archbishop is falsely accusing the deceased Bishop and thus is a form of abuse on his part – as well as breaking the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor”.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

“the accusations have been proved to be unfounded” Once again Richard, with respect to you because I acknowledge your decency of intent, that statement is an insult to ‘Carol’ and a factual inaccuracy. Carol’s claims have not been *PROVED* to be unfounded. That’s simply not true. I agree the case is ‘not proven’ and therefore in legal terms George Bell remains innocent in law. But that legal technicality does not “prove” that Carol’s heartfelt claims are “unfounded”. We simply don’t know. I’m afraid, though with no ill intent I am sure, you are demonstrating the hostile climate that actual abused… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“We warmly welcome the Report written by Timothy Briden and congratulate him on his thorough examination of the evidence which led him to the explicit conclusion that the new allegations (by ‘Alison’) against Bishop Bell were unfounded”.

~ George Bell Group – Statement – May 2019

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

“I hope that this event [‘Rebuilding Bridges’ in Chichester] will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell (by ‘Carol’ and ‘Alison’). His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”.

~ Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC – Statement – February 2019

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

Susannah, Bishop Bell’s innocence is not because of a “legal technicality”. Both Lord Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have looked at the evidence – especially that of ‘Carol’ – and found that evidence simply doesn’t stand up to any form of scrutiny. ‘Carol’ has been extended a high degree of “courtesy” by all concerned, but the simple truth is that she has been a highly unreliable witness from ‘Day 1’. There is little to no doubt she was abused as a child by someone closely linked to Chichester Cathedral – that is very clear – but it clearly was not… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I can’t help but think occasionally that the response of the Church to situations of abuse might be connected to the way in which we almost entirely eliminate the scriptural “texts of terror” from our corporate discourse. These are things of which we are not allowed to speak – even though God’s people have been victims and perpetrators again and again in the narrative. here texts certainly barely touch even our Sunday lectionary, let alone our preaching. The myth that it isn’t happening, it won’t happen to us, it won’t happen again, we’ve solved it – well it just isn’t… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

‘I would note also, for some others, the ritualised and powerful rites of reconciliation and healing have been co-opted to support abuse’ @Mark Bennett. Can you provide evidence to support this claim in the Church of England? I ask because you are not the first (and won’t be the last) to infer that sacramental confession, in particular, has ‘support[ed] abuse.’ There has been no independent, objective research into whether the use of sacramental confession has either supported, or covered-up, abuse in the Church of England. Those with considerable experience of this ministry (as confessors and confessees) have strongly suggested to… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Read the Gibb report and you will find a description involving anointing the penis, for example. In other cases more generally there are reports of the use of sacramental ideas of confession as being adapted to coerce silence. Quite simply power is capable of abuse, and abusers in positions of power may well use all the tools at their disposal. But that is not my point – the point is that if scripture or sacramental confession have been adapted by abusers in this kind of way, it may be hugely problematic to use these tools in a routine way to… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

You’re right. When the new lectionary came out I commented in our Diocesan Liturgy Committee that the rapes of Dinah and Tamar; the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19; and the sacrifice of Jephtha’s daughter had all been omitted. The committee chair said, ‘We don’t want to hear about those things in church!’ It’s no wonder people think the Church has nothing useful to say to victims of such crimes. No wonder either that our theology around violence is so undeveloped, if we think we can’t even read the scriptures depicting it. When I was vicar… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Profound and discerning remarks from Mr Bennet. Thank you. A refusal to accept reality, in this case the reality of human nature, prevails in the church. This is odd when you consider that all Jesus’ healings began by helping the sick to accept the reality of their situation, often by asking them what they wanted. We see it in the constant flow of “smiling” spin; we see it in job adverts and parish profiles where everything is “exciting” and “successful” (so why are the jobs unfilled and readvertised?). We see it in breathless gimmicky services that treat people as infants.… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Andrew has given a theological underpinning to the kind of radical expression of concern and repentance I advocated in my blog last year, following the first set of Chichester IICSA hearings. http://survivingchurch.org/2018/03/25/survivors-reply-to-archbishops-pastoral-letter/