Thinking Anglicans

Archbishops will refuse debate on Blackburn letter

The Church Times carried a report recently: Synod should welcome bishops’ safeguarding letter.

A LETTER from the bishops of the diocese of Blackburn, which warned that the Church’s mission was “fatally undermined” by the abuse crisis (News, 21 June), should be formally welcomed by the General Synod, two lay members have suggested.

A motion commending its “victim-centred approach” as a “suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission” has been proposed by Martin Sewell, of the diocese of Rochester, and David Lamming, of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich.

They are seeking the permission of the Archbishops to introduce this motion at the meeting in York next month, when the Business Committee submits report on the first day.

This week, they noted that the letter from Blackburn had been welcomed by a number of survivors, including Jo Kind, who addressed the Synod last year (News, 7 July 2018).

“In recent times, we have sought a general debate on a safeguarding theme. Presentations and questions are not the same thing,” they said.

Their suggested motion offered “an opportunity to enable the Church to embrace the important themes of repentance, listening with humility, and pastoral care”.

The archbishops have today rejected this proposal. Below you will find the text of the proposed motion and the text of the reply sent by the Bishop at Lambeth. Note that the proposal was not to debate the IICSA report at all but only the four page pastoral letter from the Blackburn senior clergy.

“This Synod welcome the terms of the Diocese of Blackburn ‘Ad Clerum’ letter dated  17th June 2019, reflecting
on the IICSA report, dated May 2019, on Chichester Diocese and Peter Ball, and commend its victim-centred approach to all in authority within the Church as a suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission.”

From: Tim Thornton
Date: 2 July 2019
To: Martin Sewell, David Lamming
Subject: Proposal to ask permission to introduce a motion

Dear Martin and David

Thank you for the e mail you have sent to both the Presidents letting them know about your intention to ask permission to introduce a motion at the Synod in York.

I am writing to let you know that both the Presidents have considered your idea carefully and both feel it is not appropriate at this time and so will refuse you the permission you seek.

Of course your motion is an important one and the matters you raise are crucial for our life as a Church.  However as you both know the IICSA hearing is taking place at the same time as the York session and many of the key people in the NST and others (including the Bishop of Bath and Wells) are focussed on responding to the inquiry and listening carefully to the survivors and all who are giving evidence over this fortnight.

It is also the case that the Interim Report has only recently been published and the NSSG has even more recently sent in its response to the recommendations.  The Presidents do think it is right to allow some more time for people to read those reports and consider their views and reactions to the important and difficult material contained in the report. It is also important to allow the present hearing to take its course before we have a debate on these matters on the floor of Synod.

There are of course questions and space being given to Safeguarding on the Sunday of this session so there will be opportunity for voices to be heard.

I understand this will not be the answer you would like but I hope you can understand the Presidents have given your question thought and do not think that this particular session is the right time to allow for the proper preparation and the availability for all who would and should be there to take part in any such debate.



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Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 years ago

It never is the right time, is it? The reasons given are spurious, because the proposed motion was not to debate IICSA or the NSSG recommendations. The archbishops have blown yet another raspberry in the face of survivors, who are longing for the Church finally to take a more pastoral approach. Clearly it’s not going to happen. Spring has been cancelled, and Aslan’s been shooed away.

Matthew Ineson
Matthew Ineson
4 years ago

This decision just doesn’t make rational sense. The Blackburn letter was a good step towards helping victims of church abuse and helping the church towards a better day. The motion proposed to commend the letter as  “victim-centred approach” and as a “suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission”. This is both positive for victims and perfectly encapsulates the Christian practice of repentance and reconciliation. Huge steps forward in the abuse issue. So why would the archbishops want to stifle this? Unless they dont agree with the contents of the… Read more »

Jane Chevous
4 years ago

This reads like a “we’re frightened of opening a can of worms” response. Which begs the question….

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Jane Chevous
4 years ago

“I hope you can see the frustration of survivors about the pace of change and the fear, most of all, that progress will simply stall when this Inquiry comes to an end”

~ Richard Scorer – IICSA – Ist Day (July 1 2019)

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
4 years ago

If what I have been told by several people (who, so far as i know, have no connection), i.e. that there is a huge can of worms waiting to be opened, which will comprehensively prove the point of the Blackburn ad clerum, after the See of York falls vacant (hence all the speculation about Dame Mullally heading northwards at high speed in the Autumn of next year) may have something to do with the reluctance to allow this debate. What Tim Thornton doesn’t say, of course, is that this decision by ‘the Presidents’ will have been taken after high octane… Read more »

Matthew Ineson
Matthew Ineson
Reply to  Bill Broadhead
4 years ago

Bill, many of us victims KNOW that there is more than one can of worms about to be opened things coming from which go right to the top. Synod and the cofe is being hoodwinked. We know more than they think we do.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Matthew Ineson
4 years ago

Yes, there’s a whole lot more to come.And the Church shows no signs of dealing with any of it well. W need some good Christian leadership, and we’re not getting it.

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