Thinking Anglicans

Legal issues arising from the suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln

The suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln was reported earlier.

David Lamming has written a detailed analysis of the legal issues arising from this suspension. You can read this document here. (PDF)

He summarises as follows:

Whatever the nature or details of the “information” on which the Archbishop of Canterbury based his decision to suspend Bishop Christopher, in the light of the clear statement that “there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult”, the legal basis for the suspension is at least doubtful. An appeal to the President of Tribunals that would clarify the legal position would seem to be justified and appropriate.

David is a retired barrister, whose professional interests include ecclesiastical law. He is a member of the House of Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England, elected from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

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Bishops meet those who oppose their transgender guidance

Regular readers will recall the petition that was raised urging the bishops to “revise, postpone or withdraw” this guidance. Our previous report is here: Further opposition to the bishops’ guidance on transgender services.

Christian Today now reports: Evangelicals hold talks with Church of England bishops over transgender guidance. The organisers of that letter met with a number of bishops. Subsequently, they have issued a statement, the full text of which is included here: The Church of England’s transgender guidance should be withdrawn  and is copied below the fold.

Update: the headline on the first of those two articles has been amended to read “Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics hold talks…”

The delegation attending the meeting consisted of: Dr Ian Paul, Dr Edward Dowler, Rev Rachel Marszalek, Rev David Baker. The bishops were the bishops of Coventry, Newcastle, and Exeter.

(more…)

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Church announces review into Bishop Whitsey case

The Church of England has today announced an Independent lessons learnt review into Bishop Whitsey case.

His Hon David Pearl has been appointed by the National Safeguarding Team as chair of the independent lessons learnt review into the Whitsey case. The Church supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The allegations dated from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

The review is expected to be carried out in two phases and will include the case of Gordon Dickenson, once other Church processes have concluded. Dickenson, a former chaplain to Bishop Whitsey, was jailed in March after admitting sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.

Commenting on his appointment David Pearl said: “I am committed to ensuring that this Review will be both independent and transparent. The Review will examine all relevant documents and will hear from everyone who wishes to provide evidence to the Review.”…

The Terms of Reference of the Review are also published.

The Diocese of Chester has published this: Victor Whitsey Statement
[Note: this statement is much older and is not in response to today’s announcement.]

Joint statement from Archbishop of York and Bishop of Chester

“We can confirm that we have supported the police on an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey (pictured right). The allegations date from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

“We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority.  We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account. Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust.  We acknowledge that for survivors, the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong.  We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.

We have supported the police investigation Operation Coverage, which has been comprehensive, and they have informed us that “should Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey have been alive today, then the Police would have spoken to him in relation to 10 of the witness allegations.”

Anyone affected by today’s news should call the CCPAS helpline on 0303 003 11 11 who can offer help and signpost to church-related support and information or alternatively call the NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Anyone with further information on the case should go direct to the police on 101.

The Church will consider what lessons can be learnt from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these enquiries have shown.”

 

Page last updated: 17th Oct 2017 11:01 AM
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House of Bishops issues report of meeting and a statement on IICSA report

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued this statement:

Meeting of the House of Bishops

The House of Bishops met at Bishopthorpe Palace from 15th to 17th May 2019.

Brexit was on the agenda as the bishops discussed recent political developments and prayed for the nation.

The bishops discussed mission and ministry in covenant with the Methodist Church, financial priorities in Church funding over the next three years, and the ministry of confession. The bishops also spent time reviewing progress that has been made by the Living in Love and Faith working group.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) recently published report into the Church of England also received attention from the bishops who have additionally made a statement. [see below]

Elsewhere on the agenda the bishops gave time to the subject of women and men in ministry in the Church of England and mutual flourishing. They discussed the process for discerning how people are called to the ordained ministry.

The House of Bishops also took note of the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong and anticipated the Lambeth 2020 meeting in Canterbury next summer.

The additional statement referred to above is as follows:

Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:

“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.

“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July.  The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally

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Bishop of Lincoln suspended from office for alleged safeguarding failure

Updated again Friday evening

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement:

Archbishop of Canterbury statement on Bishop of Lincoln

“Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury). If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people. I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated. I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”

Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said: “I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter. For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”

The Lincolnshire Police have issued this statement, as reported in local newspapers:

A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision today of the Archbishop of Canterbury to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln from office and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that decision.

“The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted.

“Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.

“We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.

“There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor-focused and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team. Anyone wanting to make contact in complete confidence can do so to the Diocese Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson who can be contacted on 01522 504081.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has published the text of an Ad Clerum about this. I recommend reading this in full.

Media coverage:

BBC Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson suspended from office

Church Times Bishop of Lincoln ‘bewildered’ by his safeguarding suspension

The Lincolnite Bishop of Lincoln suspended

Lincolnshire Live Bishop of Lincoln suspended by Archbishop of Canterbury

Telegraph Bishop of Lincoln suspended over alleged abuse failures as Archbishop warns of ‘significant risk to children’

Guardian Bishop of Lincoln suspended over safeguarding issues

Times (£) Bishop suspended in abuse ‘cover-up’

Daily Mail Bishop of Lincoln is suspended from office by Archbishop of Canterbury over child safeguarding inquiry

UPDATE

The Lincolnite reports that an additional fourth person is implicated in the cathedral matter: The four senior figures embroiled in the safeguarding scandal at Lincoln Cathedral

Anglican Communion News Service has a full report: Bishop of Lincoln suspended after information received by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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ACC-17, Lambeth 2020, and GAFCON: further reports and comment

Continued from here and from here too.

The Church Times has

The Episcopal News Service has

The Anglican Communion News Service has:

From a different perspective, there is:

And more links from the GAFCON viewpoint can be found here.

 

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British Methodists: report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019

The Methodist Church (which covers Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales) has published the report of its Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019, together with a number of ancillary documents.

There is a Media Briefing which is probably the best place to start. Some of this is copied below the fold.

Also there is a Frequently Asked Questions page.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

Links to seven ancillary documents are on this page. And there is this useful timeline.

And an archive from last year’s (2018) Conference (more…)

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George Bell Group issues new statement

The George Bell Group has issued this: Statement May 2019.

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘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.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

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IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball

IICSA has published its report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball investigations.

Full Text of Report: Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Press release: Inquiry publishes report into the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

The Church of England has published this: Publication of IICSA report into Anglican Church 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, has today published its report into the Anglican Church  based on its case studies last year of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.

The 252-page report makes 5 recommendations about a range of issues. These will now be studied in detail and a full response released at a later date. The Inquiry’s third and final hearing in the  Anglican church case study  will start on Monday 1 July 2019 and run for two weeks. This will focus on both the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry notes that further recommendations directly relating to the findings in this report will be made following the hearing in July.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said:

“We thank the Inquiry for the report and note the findings and recommendations which we will now study in full. The report states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors and the Inquiry’s summary recognises that it failed to do this.  It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report.

“Whilst the report acknowledges the progress the Church has made in safeguarding, we recognise that our work must continue at pace in order that we can ensure that the Church is as safe as possible for all. We are committed to working to bring in specific changes that will help us better protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual and all other forms of abuse. If anyone is affected by today’s report I would urge them to come forward. Details of how to do this can be found on the Church of England website.

“We are  immensely  grateful to survivors for their courage in coming forward to IICSA to share their experiences of how they were treated by the Church, knowing how difficult this would have been; their testimonies have made shocking and uncomfortable listening. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the Church of England to be investigated by IICSA as a matter of priority, we have sought to help the Inquiry  in every way that  we can  and  we will now fully consider the report.”

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Church of England report on The Seal of the Confessional

The Church of England has today published two items:

Report of the Seal of the Confessional Working Party

Interim Statement on The Seal of the Confessional

The former is an 84 page report.The working party membership was:

  • Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham (Chair)
  • Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham (Vice-Chair)
  • Fr Andrew Cole Ecumenical (Roman Catholic) representative, Private Secretary to the Bishop of Nottingham and Parish Priest of Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham
  • Revd Dr Michael Lloyd, Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford [June 2015 to November 2015]
  • Professor David McClean CBE QC Emeritus Professor, School of Law, University of Sheffield
  • Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark (& member of General Synod)
  • Fr Thomas Seville CR, Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (a member of Faith and Order Commission and the General Synod)
  • Ven Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale (Prolocutor of the Northern Convocation & General Synod member)
  • Dr Jane Williams, Assistant Dean & Lecture in Systematic Theology, St Mellitus College [February 2016 to January 2017]
  • Graham Wilmer MBE Founder, Lantern Project and member of the National Safeguarding Panel

The latter is a 3 page statement signed by William Nye, as Secretary to the House of Bishops. It says, in part:

…In recent decades, churches around the world have begun to face the many ways in which they have failed to keep people safe from abuse and failed to respond well to those who have suffered abuse. Listening to their voices has raised some significant questions about the ‘seal of the confessional’. This became evident, for instance, in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, and there has been discussion in the UK context as well.

Two situations in particular have been a focus for attention. The first is where the person confesses to sins that include abuse of a child or vulnerable person. Why should the normal duty on a priest to report such information appropriately not apply? The second is where it is claimed that if the person confessing their sins has referred to abuse committed by them or by someone else, that cannot then be repeated in another context, such as a statement to the police. This is simply wrong:the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to the priest who hears the confession, not tothe person who makes it.

In response to these concerns, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops of the Church of England commissioned a Working Party on the Seal of the Confessional. It first met in 2015 and completed its report in 2017. As well as examining legal, historical and theological perspectives, it received evidence from survivors of abuse and from clergy who have extensive experience of the ministry of confession.

At present, the ‘seal of the confessional’ is upheld in the Church of England’secclesiastical law. The Working Party did not reach a consensus as to whether this should change. The diversity of view within the Working Party would be reflected more widely in the Church of England. Some Anglicans feel very strongly that the ministry of confession is an integral part of the church’s life of the church, and that its proper practice is inseparable from the unqualified observance of the seal. Some observe from their experiences that the Seal of the Confessional can offer comfort to survivors of abuse who, trusting in the absolute discretion it promises, may confide in a priest for the first time and by so doing find that they are able to unburden themselves and begin the process of healing. Others feel very strongly that the church cannot continue with any aspect of its practice that stops information being passed on which could prevent future abuse or enable past abusers to be brought to justice. The House of Bishops has been giving these issues very careful consideration

The Working Party was, however, unanimous in its recommendations in a number of key areas. One was for improvements to training on the ministry of confession in relation to safeguarding issues, with training itself becoming obligatory for all those ordained as priests, since any priest might be asked to do this. Another was for the appointment of an adviser on the ministry of reconciliation in each diocese who can be a point of reference for training, supervision and advice.

The House of Bishops is fully supportive of these recommendations. Addressing them has required consultation with a number of different groups and individuals. Further information will be given in due course about how the agreedrecommendations of the Working Party’s report will be taken forward.

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Invitations to bishops: Lambeth 2020 and Kigali

Here’s a roundup of developments on the issuing of invitations to bishops and spouses.

There have been at least two articles responding to the reports of claims made at the ACC-17 meeting that the matter. of the invitations to Lambeth could not be part of the formal agenda for that meeting:

Andrew Goddard has written a lengthy essay analysing the options open to the archbishop: Ethics and policy for invitations to Lambeth 2020.

The Ontario House of Bishops has released this statement of support for their colleague.

GAFCON has issued A Communiqué from the Gafcon Primates Council.
Concerning Lambeth 2020, it says this:

We were reminded of the words of Jeremiah 6:14, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored.  They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility.

We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury.  We note that, as it currently stands, the conference is to include provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10 thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation.

It also announces an alternative event for those disinclined to come to Canterbury:

Gafcon Bishops Conference 2020

On the one hand, we have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020.  On the other hand, we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored. Therefore, we have decided to call together a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June of 2020. The conference will be primarily designed for those who will not be attending Lambeth, but all bishops of the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the Jerusalem Declaration and Lambeth Resolution I.10 are invited to join in this time of teaching, worship, and fellowship. We shall meet June 8-14 in Kigali, Rwanda, and be hosted by Archbishop Laurent Mbanda and the Anglican Church of Rwanda.

Apparently without spouses.

There are also several paragraphs describing GAFCON’s view of the currrent situation in various regions of the world.

Lest it be thought that GAFCON is concerned only about sexuality, the following item confirms this is not the case:

Women in the Episcopate

The Primates received the Interim Report of the Task Force on Women in the Episcopate, the result of a four-year comprehensive study, and affirmed its recommendation that “the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of consecration only of men as bishops until and unless a strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of Scripture among the Gafcon fellowship.” We authorised the Task Force to continue this consultation.

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ACC-17: Excitement on Saturday

UPDATED on 9 May

Continued from here.

Difficulties in the final business session of the meeting are reported by both our regular sources:

Read both accounts to try to understand what happened.

The closing press conference could not be live streamed due to technical difficulties. A recording of it was made, and can be viewed here. However, at present this recording appears to have no sound.

Update

Andrew Atherstone has published his account of the meeting: What really happened at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC 17)?

Do read all of this.

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Graham Usher to be next Bishop of Norwich

10 Downing Street announces:

Bishop of Norwich: 3 May 2019

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Graham Barham Usher for election as Bishop of Norwich.

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Graham Barham Usher, BSc, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Dudley, for election as Bishop of Norwich in succession to The Right Reverend Graham Richard James, BA, following his resignation on 28th February 2019.

Background

The Right Reverend Graham Barham Usher, studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh and theology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his title at St Mary the Virgin, Nunthorpe, in the Diocese of York and was ordained priest in 1997. Following the completion of his curacy in 1999, Graham was appointed Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Ormesby. In 2004 he became Rector of Hexham in the Diocese of Newcastle and had the additional responsibility of Area Dean of Hexham between 2006 and 2011. In 2007 he was also appointed Honorary Canon of St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kumasi, Ghana.

Graham took up his current appointment as Bishop of Dudley in 2014. Graham maintains an interest in ecology as one of the Church of England’s environmental bishops and in medical ethics as a board member of the Human Tissue Authority.

The Diocese of Norwich has more:

Next Bishop of Norwich announced

Downing Street has today announced that the Rt Revd Graham Usher will become the 72nd Bishop of Norwich.

Bishop Graham, 48, is currently the Bishop of Dudley.  Prior to this he was Rector of Hexham in Northumberland, following his time working in Middlesbrough.  He has also spent time living and working in Ghana, Africa.

Following the announcement, Bishop Graham will tour the Diocese this afternoon, including visits to a local housing trust, a primary school garden and outdoor reflective space, a church after-school club run by volunteers, and culminating in a special Evensong at Norwich Cathedral to which everyone is invited…

Later in the same press release, it says:

…As Bishop of Dudley since 2014, Bishop Graham has served the people of the Diocese of Worcester, working particularly in the areas of clergy wellbeing and vocation, parish mission weekends and pilgrimage walks, leading on safeguarding, establishing two resourcing churches, and supporting ministry in schools.  He has chaired the Churches’ Housing Association of Dudley and District which provides the women’s refuge, housing for homeless teenagers, and residential support for elderly people who live with long-term mental ill health. Within the civic life of Dudley he has served as Dudley Council’s Independent Person for standards and led the community strand of the ‘Forging Ahead’ vision for Dudley.

Bishop Graham maintains an interest in ecology as a member of the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group and in medical ethics as a board member of the Human Tissue Authority.  He is a member of the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue.  He is a keen beekeeper and regularly tweets @bishopdudley.  He has written about spirituality and landscape: Places of Enchantment, Meeting God in Landscapes.

You can watch his initial remarks following the announcement on YouTube at https://youtu.be/tycJgGJAqhs, where he talks about the awe-inspiring Christian faith, the Christ-like humility we seek as Christians, and the calling of the Church to offer all that it can in love.  “I’m looking forward to leading a diocese that seeks, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to inspire the imagination of more people, especially the young, about the Christian faith.”

Bishop Graham is married to Rachel, a GP, and they have two teenage children.  He studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh and theology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, before training for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge.  Following his ordination as a deacon in 1996, he began his ministry in Middlesbrough in the Diocese of York, first as curate at St Mary the Virgin, Nunthorpe, and then as Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Ormesby, a parish with severe levels of social need and child poverty.  In 2004 he became Rector of Hexham in the Diocese of Newcastle and had the additional responsibility of being Area Dean of Hexham between 2006 and 2011.  In 2007 he was also appointed Honorary Canon of St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kumasi, Ghana, the place of his early childhood.

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More fallout from the Panorama programme

An open letter has been published by Justin Humphreys, chief executive of the charity now known as thirtyone:eight (formerly Churches Child Protection Advisory Service):
An open letter to the leadership of the Church of England following BBC’s Panorama.

…It has been clear for some time that the past cases review conducted between 2007 and 2010 was flawed in a number of respects. For there to be any confusion or uncertainty about what happened to those cases that were identified, often referred to as the ‘Known Cases Lists’ is also inexcusable. The Panorama program did well to uncover what were clearly points of discomfort for the church hierarchy. For key representatives of the Church to either not be able to respond clearly to questions about the number of cases or be unprepared to do so, calls the management of these cases into serious question and makes one wonder who exactly is in control? The need for transparency and true accountability has never been as needed as it is today.

What is needed within the Church of England (and frankly elsewhere across the wider Church and beyond) is authentic leadership. Leadership that is prepared to lead by example in a proactive exercise of self-reflection that leads to open and honest dialogue (particularly with survivors). Leadership that is not governed, coerced or muzzled by either insurers, lawyers or any other stakeholder that may stand to lose from just exposure and open remorse and repentance. This would be the right thing to do!

We may ask, what (or who) is being served by this ongoing catalogue of failures, missed opportunities and resistance to effective change concerning past, present and future safeguarding matters? It certainly cannot be said that survivors are being well-served. It is also of great concern that the Church itself is being further damaged by a continual denial of the truth and avoidance of any tangible reparation.

If the public at large is ever again to say of the Church that it is a safe place, a haven or even a sanctuary for those who are suffering, the Church must be prepared to be laid bare and be held accountable for those things it has failed to do well. This humility would be the greatest strength of the Church in seeking to deal with this sad catalogue of shame. The time has come for those that stand in the way of what Jesus would so clearly have done to be challenged, held accountable and where needed placed elsewhere – where they have less opportunity to exert their negative influence and to stand in the way of the restoration that is desperately needed…

Do read the whole letter.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has written a second blog, this one is titled: Panorama on C/E. Further reflections. Again it’s worth reading in full, but the concluding paragraph says:

…Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities.  The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things.   Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews.    The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived.  The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could not disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves.  The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.  The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church.  The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain.  They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them.  In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.

The Church Times has published a letter from Andrew Graystone which can be found here (scroll down)

Panorama programme won’t be the last scandal

Sir, — Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows. Is it the job of the Archbishops’ Council? or the General Synod? or the National Safeguarding Steering Group? or Lambeth Palace? or the House of Bishops? Or is it, perhaps, a matter for each individual diocese?

Everybody points to someone else. Nobody steps forward. After a decade or more of crisis, which continues to eat away at the Church’s standing in society, there has been a complete failure from those in authority to grasp the issue. One reason that some survivors of church abuse are so painfully vocal is that they are filling a vacuum of leadership on this most crucial of issues for the Church.

Monday’s Panorama, with its focus on the shameful mismanagement of abuse in Lincoln diocese, was entitled Scandal in the Church of England. It could have been made at any point in the past decade, and it could have focused on almost any diocese. Stories will continue to emerge, and the scandal of abuse past and present will continue to undermine the Church’s wider mission, until some individual or body takes responsibility and institutes decisive action.

In the mean time, it is victims of abuse, past and present, who bear the cruelty and pain of the Church’s failure.

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More from ACC-17 in Hong Kong

Continued from here.

Updated again Friday noon

Further reports by Paul Handley in the Church Times

And more from Mary Frances Schjonberg at Episcopal News Service

EFAC has responded to Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon’s earlier comments in this press release.

Anglican Communion News Service

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BBC Panorama documentary about Safeguarding in the CofE

Updated again Tuesday afternoon

The BBC is due to broadcast a documentary this evening, titled Scandal in the Church of England.
The 30 minute programme is now available to view at the above link.

Somewhat unusually, the Church of England issued a statement about this programme last Friday:

BBC Panorama this Monday (April 29) will feature interviews with survivors of church-related abuse in a programme entitled ‘Scandal in the Church of England’. We have worked with the producers to provide information and a response to the range of issues raised, particularly around the Past Cases Review. There will be a personal response from Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, once the programme has been aired. Bishop Peter has also been interviewed for the programme.

There have been several media reports ahead of broadcast:

BBC Jane Corbin Two former Bishops of Lincoln failed to act on abuse allegations

Rutland and Stamford Mercury Bishop of Grantham ‘very sorry’ over reports Diocese of Lincoln failed to properly handle historic abuse allegations and Prepare for “difficult and shocking things” warns Bishop of Grantham over Panorama historic abuse programme.

The latter helpfully included a link to the lengthy Ad Clerum notice from the Bishop of Grantham issued before the programme was shown, which is also available as a PDF over here. This is quite detailed and worth a careful read.

Following transmission the Church of England has issued this press release:

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “It has been harrowing to hear survivors’ accounts of their abuse – shared on BBC Panorama – and we issue an unreserved apology for how we have failed them.  We acknowledge that the Past Cases Review, PCR, from 2008-10, however well-intentioned was in hindsight clearly flawed, as shown in the independent scrutiny report by Sir Roger Singleton published last summer.  The ‘stringent criticisms’ of the PCR, shared with IICSA, are being acted upon and all dioceses are now carrying out a second past cases review, PCR2. We fully acknowledge that it was a serious mistake not to work with and hear from survivors during the original PCR. The new review will ensure survivors voices are heard. We are aware of the courage it takes for survivors to come forward knowing that the effects of their abuse are with them for life.

I would urge anyone affected by the Panorama programme to call the NSPCC helpline number 0808 800 5000.”

Operation Redstone survivor information

Other updates

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has this commentary on the programme: Panorama on Scandal in the C/E. Some thoughts. His final conclusions are:

…The programme concluded with a number of story-lines unfinished.  There was Matt’s story which still has many unanswered questions to be faced, particularly in respect of his official complaints against named individuals.  These remain unresolved.   There was also mention of a newly uncovered file in the York diocese mentioning a number of abuse cases that have not been examined.  We still were left with the feeling that for whatever reason, the Church remains defensive and highly secretive.  Any control of information, which still appears to be happening, is a power tactic.  If there is still secrecy and an attempt to bury the past, all such attempts to do this will likely fail.  Truth, as I have said before, has a habit of spilling out to the embarrassment of those who want to suppress it.  The secrets that are held in order to protect reputations have the capacity to wreak enormous damage on institutions.  The Church of England has much to lose if it does not get its house in order over safeguarding.

Christian Today has a detailed report on the programme which usefully includes the text of the media response made by the Bishop of Grantham, The Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain:

Whilst some matters remain under investigation it is not possible to comment specifically on the questions that have been posed to the diocese by the BBC.

The Diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well. The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served.

The past abuse that our safeguarding team brought to light, through our revisiting and review of past cases, is all the more appalling given what the public deserve and are fully entitled to expect, which is the highest level of conduct from clergy and all those involved in leadership in the church. All people are made in the image of God and abuse of any kind is contrary to that belief.

It is as a result of our commitment to ensuring justice is served, that our safeguarding team have developed an effective partnership with Lincolnshire Police, working together on Operation Redstone. Together they have worked tirelessly to ensure that convictions were secured where possible and where this was not an option, that risk was managed appropriately. Throughout all recent processes our hope is that victims and survivors have felt heard, and been well supported and cared for, although we acknowledge we may not have always got this right.

Every effort is being made to ensure that safeguarding is part of the DNA of the Diocese of Lincoln. There are high levels of confidence in our safeguarding practitioners from Lincolnshire Police and statutory authorities. There is mandatory safeguarding training that is externally audited and independently validated with support from Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children and Adult partnership boards. Our safeguarding team have delivered face to face training to 3296 people in the past five years.

As a diocese we promise to offer support to anyone who contacts us about issues of harm or abuse and are committed to ensure that churches are a safe place for all.

Church Times Hattie Williams Bishop apologises for mistakes after Lincoln abuse featured on Panorama

Press Association via Premier Church of England officials ‘turned blind eye’ to child abuse claims

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ACNA bishops invited to Lambeth Conference as “observers”

The Anglican Communion News Service has published a news article titled: Archbishop of Canterbury invites ecumenical observers to the Lambeth Conference. This reports that such invitations have gone to a much wider group of churches than at previous conferences.

It also says that:

In addition to leaders of Churches in Communion and ecumenical partners, representatives from Churches formed by people who left the Anglican Communion are also being invited to send observers. These churches – the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the Anglican Church of Brazil and the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) – are not formally part of the Anglican Communion but are recognised to different extents by some of the Communion’s provinces.

This has provoked the following response from Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA:

Yesterday I received a letter from Archbishop Justin just moments before the invitation was reported online. I read the online report first and was disappointed to see that the original “news” source had furthered a partisan, divisive, and false narrative by wrongly asserting that I left the Anglican Communion. I have never left the Anglican Communion, and have no intention of doing so.

I did transfer out of a revisionist body that had left the teaching of the Scriptures and the Anglican Communion and I became canonically resident in another province of the Anglican Communion. I have never left. For the Anglican Church in North America to be treated as mere “observers” is an insult to both our bishops, many of whom have made costly stands for the Gospel, and the majority of Anglicans around the world who have long stood with us as a province of the Anglican Communion.

Once I have had a chance to review this with our College of Bishops and the Primates Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference I will respond more fully.

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Anglican Consultative Council meets in Hong Kong

Updated Monday afternoon

The Anglican Communion News Service is carrying some reports of this event:

Seventeenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council begins on Sunday

This article includes a timetable for live video coverage of events.

The agenda for the conference is over here. And there is this list of council members. More background is here.  And over here.

Yesterday there was an opening press conference, and you can watch a video recording of it here.

The Episcopal News Service has published a report of that event: Welby: British law prevents ACC from debating his decision to exclude same-sex spouses from Lambeth.

The members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting here April 28-May 5, cannot formally discuss Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision to exclude the same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

Welby  told a news conference on April 27, in response to a question from Episcopal News Service, that the ACC is the only one of the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion that is governed by British law. It is incorporated as “an English company with a charitable aim.” Via the ACC constitution, the trustees “very clearly specify what it can and cannot do,” he said.

“Doctrine is not one of the issues that it does,” Welby said of the council…

But do please read the entire report which contains further responses to questions asked.

Coverage of the meeting on Twitter is using the hashtag #ACC17HK.

There is also a video recording of the presidential address.

Further  reports:

Church Times Paul Handley

ACC-17: Sex off the agenda, but still on the mind

ACC-17: Welby bangs the gong for discipleship

ACC-17: Anglicans cannot afford to be disunited, Welby warns

ACC-17: GAFCON are not behaving as Anglicans, says Idowu-Fearon

Episcopal News Service Mary Frances Schjonberg

ACC-17 opens with calls for Christian witness and intentional discipleship for a better, peaceful world

Communion must deal with ‘ignorance’ and possible schism, Secretary General tells ACC

ACNS and Lambeth Palace

Text of Secretary General’s report

Video of Presidential Address

Text of Presidential Address

Video of Secretary General’s report

Video of Opening Eucharist

Text of Sermon at Opening Eucharist

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News from Sri Lanka

The Anglican Communion News Service reports: Bishop’s defiance as terrorists kill more than 200 in Easter Day church bombings

The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Ceylon, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has defiantly expressed his faith in God as terrorists attacked Churches in Sri Lanka. On Sunday afternoon, London time, the death-toll stood at 207, with hundreds more injured. “If God gives me permission to live, I shall live. If he gives me permission to die, I shall die,” he told the Archbishop of Canterbury in a telephone call this morning.

Bishop Dhiloraj was just beginning the Prayer of Consecration during an Easter Eucharist service at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour at Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo, when the police arrived and warned him to leave. “You must come with us, they are about to come and kill you.” But the bishop refused to move until he had finished the Prayer of Consecration.

A total of eight explosions have occurred in Sri Lanka today. Three of them targeted Roman Catholic churches: St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa. Three more targeted hotels in Colombo: the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Kingsbury. Another bomb exploded near Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. An eighth explosion occurred when a suspected detonated a bomb as police raided a house in Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda…

USPG has published this: Joint Statement by the Bishops of Colombo and Kurunugala of the Church of Ceylon

We are terribly shocked and deeply saddened by the barbarous acts of violence brought on innocent worshippers, children, women and men at Easter Sunday services at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade, St. Sebastien’s Church, Negombo and Zion Church, Batticaloa., as well as on several hotels in Colombo targeting visitors to our country.

The Church of Ceylon unreservedly condemns these cowardly and cruel acts of terrorism and we offer our deep condolences to the families and friends of the over one hundred persons who have lost their lives and those who have been hurt. We wish all those who have been injured full recovery. We pray for them and their families that God’s comforting presence will continue to be with them through this tragic experience.

We call on the government to institute quick action to investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice., to ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group.

We call on all Sri Lankans to be mindful at this time and to act with patience and understanding. We ask for the continued support of all security and emergency services in ensuring public peace and in providing care for the affected the motives of those twisted and warped minds who planned and executed such appalling acts could very well be to destabilize the country and to cause damage to the unity and harmony of our nation.

We pray that these persons, whoever they may be, will be awakened to the awfulness of their crime.

We pray we will be able to journey through this dark phase of our country.  May the Peace of the Risen Christ who on the cross prayed for forgiveness be with you all.

Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Canagasabey
Bishop of Colombo

Rt. Revd. Keerthisiri Fernando
Bishop of Kurunegala

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Safeguarding: some further articles

Updated with more articles on Friday

Meg Munn, chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, has written this: QUESTIONING THE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK. The whole article is worth a read.

On the topic of Victims and Survivors, she wrote this:

The panel was asked to consider a paper on the setting up of an Ombudsman service to adjudicate on the handling of complaints. The view of the panel was that there are currently many concerns among victims and survivors that are not properly handled, that much more needed to be done about the processes at an early stage. I represented this view at the National Safeguarding Steering Group in early April and am pleased that this was understood and consideration to how to proceed is taking place.

The recent report by the Social Care Institute for Excellence which includes a significant section on improving responses provides a lot of important information regarding the experience of a number of survivors of abuse. The findings are detailed and it will take time for the range of issues to be fully considered. What jumps out is the poor ongoing response to survivors. The importance of maintaining contact and keeping survivors up to date with any action is essential.

The recent interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Channel 4 news raised concerns about the glacial progress of a review into the activities of John Smyth. While there may be real difficulties in gaining co-operation of the organisation at the centre of this case, the Church must communicate more regularly and clearly about their actions otherwise it is not surprising that survivors lose heart. I am urging those concerned to consider how they can proceed as soon as possible.

On the latter point, today’s Church Times has a report by Madeleine Davies headlined Smyth abuse-survivors dispute Welby claim.

SURVIVORS of abuse perpetrated by John Smyth have written to Lambeth Palace to correct the Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertion that Smyth was “not actually an Anglican” — a comment made during an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

In total, the letter lists 14 points of dispute about the Archbishop’s comments.

During the interview on Friday, which explored the Church of England’s response to Smyth’s abuse, Archbishop Welby said that Smyth “was not actually an Anglican. The church he went to in South Africa was not Anglican, and Iwerne was not part of the Church of England.”

Smyth was living in South Africa when a disclosure of abuse was made in Ely diocese in 2013, and died there last year. He was a former chairman of the Iwerne Trust, which ran holiday camps for boys at English public schools, and is now part of the Titus Trust. A six-month Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast two years ago, found that both the Iwerne Trust and Winchester College had learned of allegations of abuse by Mr Smyth in the 1980s, but failed to report them to the police (News, 10 February 2017).

One of the survivors who wrote to Lambeth Palace this week, Graham*, described the claim that Smyth was not an Anglican as “farcical”, given that he worshipped in the C of E.. The letter tells the Archbishop that Smyth had in fact been a licensed Reader in the diocese of Winchester…

Do read the entire article for further details.

Update

Law & Religion UK has published two articles recently discussing Mandatory Reporting. The most recent one is IICSA second seminar on mandatory reporting  and the earlier one was IICSA and mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: update. These contain numerous links to the IICSA materials on this subject, which deserve careful study.  L&R UK comments:

An earlier IICSA seminar on mandatory reporting took place on 27 September 2018 and considered existing obligations to report child sexual abuse in England and Wales, as well as international models of mandatory reporting. A report of that seminar has been published on the website and the 11 presentations are also available to read on the mandatory reporting seminar page.

On 17 April we posted an update on mandatory reporting in which we indicated that Bates Wells Braithwaite had reported that the IICSA was actively considering the question of introducing mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse in England and Wales; the Inquiry has consulted with the Victims and Survivors Forum, a self-nominating group of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and has now published a summary of responses: Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: A survey of the Victims and Survivors Forum, in which the great majority of respondents from the Forum (88.6%) were in favour of introducing mandatory reporting.

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