Thinking Anglicans

Barnardo’s report on Network Church Sheffield

From the Diocese of Sheffield:

With the agreement of the survivor, the Yorkshire Baptist Association and the trustees of Network Church Sheffield, in 2022 the Diocese of Sheffield commissioned Barnardo’s to conduct an independent investigation following a complaint made about an experience of conversion therapy and exorcism in 2014-15. This investigation took place in two parts, with part one looking at the individual’s complaint and part two looking at the current practice of St Thomas Philadelphia, part of Network Church Sheffield and the church in which the abuse had taken place.

Part one, investigating the incident itself, upheld all four areas of the complaint made. Part two explored the current ministry in the church and, while noting the significant improvement in policy and practice since 2014, made a number of recommendations. The trustees of Network Church Sheffield have accepted both parts of the report in full, and have developed and put into effect a comprehensive action plan to implement the report’s recommendations. The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, reviewed the report and issued his own recommendations which fully align with the part two Barnados recommendations and the action plan created by the church. Progress on this action plan will be monitored by the Bishop of Sheffield.

With the agreement of all parties involved (the complainant, the Yorkshire Baptist Association and the Trustees of Network Church Sheffield), we have been working urgently for the past month towards the publication of a lightly redacted version of both stages of the report, and have been able to publish it on our website today.

We deeply regret that the process has taken so long and understand the frustrations of those who have been affected. We apologise unreservedly to the survivor for the distress this has caused and to anyone else similarly affected by such practices in the past. The Diocese of Sheffield believes, along with the wider Church of England, that conversion therapy is unethical, potentially harmful and has no place in the modern world.  The Church of England takes all allegations of misconduct and abuse seriously. There are circumstances in which an individual or group of people’s conduct within a church setting might not be illegal but might still be inappropriate. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about misconduct in church or church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence. We recognise how difficult it is for victims and survivors to come forward and urge anyone affected by this to contact our Safeguarding Team (https://www.sheffield.anglican.org/support/safeguarding/) where concerns will be heard in confidence.

 

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Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
22 days ago

Readers might be interested in this Via Media posting on this Sheffield case.

https://viamedia.news/2024/07/02/exorcism-conversion-therapy-and-safeguarding-the-barnados-independent-investigation/

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
22 days ago

And this is interesting as well.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c4ngprp5xdvo

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Judith Maltby
21 days ago

“ungodly soul- ties”. That’s a new one on me.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Perry Butler
20 days ago

The concept has been around a long time in charismatic circles. I’m not sure where it came from, but I think I first heard of it in the late 1980s, via Ellel Grange. I think it’s very unhelpful, and I can’t see biblical warrant for it.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Janet Fife
20 days ago

The expression is also used sometimes by people seeking the ministry of deliverance, many if not most of whom don’t have a Christian background.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Mary Hancock
18 days ago

Yes, it’s usually used in the context of deliverance ministry. But I think that unhealthy relationships with other people, living or dead, are best dealt with by therapists.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
18 days ago

That is generally very true. Attributing homosexual orientation to ‘evil spirits’ is a blatant form of spiritual abuse and should be completely banned in any Church of England ministry. It’s appalling.

Alwyn Hall
Alwyn Hall
Reply to  Perry Butler
18 days ago

It has also been used to explain what happens when one person has a sexual relationship or encounter with another. I was led to understand that the “soul-tie” that has been created needs to be broken if the encounter took place outside of marriage.

John Davies
John Davies
22 days ago

Having read both the BBC news report of the case this morning, and the subsequent Via Media story, may I, as a lay man concerned for the church’s integrity and image, ask a few questions? Mrs Cates was the official safeguarding officer for a period during which time the allegations were raised, but she was unaware of it? Shouldn’t she have been the first person to be approached about it? It appears these prayers etc were openly part of the church culture during her 15/16 years there, but the lady seems unaware of them. Did she not witness them in… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  John Davies
22 days ago

Recommendation 22 of stage 2
Please read this- the issue of contact with the LADO should be clarified ….
So presumably the churches have been doing their own thing up to this point and ignoring anyone else beyond the church? Where has Sheffield Diocese been all these years ?
I’m tempted to end with a line of screaming emojis

Stephen Hippisley-Cox
Stephen Hippisley-Cox
22 days ago

What exactly is the relationship between the CofE and Network Church Sheffield?

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Stephen Hippisley-Cox
21 days ago

See one of the links in the Via Media article, which explains that “St Thomas’s Church, which has the biggest Anglican congregation in the north of England” set up its Philadelphia congregation which was renamed Network Church. They have a deacon, Zak, https://ncsheffield.org/about-philly/ who was ordained by the C of E, and senior leader Mike Rutter is an ordained priest, https://www.sthild.org/mike-rutter2

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Helen King
20 days ago

Asserting that St Thomas’s Church set up the Network Church is not an explanation, nor is it an answer to Mr Hippisley-Cox’s Question. They have a “senior leader” who is a C of E priest. So had the Post Office. The mere fact that a priest and a deacon work in a particular organisation does not mean it has a relationship to the CofE per se. It was “set up” by a particular parish church. Well so were several of our professional football clubs. That doesn’t explain their relationship with the CofE. Who appointed the so-called “senior leader”? Is he… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by T Pott
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  T Pott
20 days ago

I notice that the website of Network Church, Sheffield describes itself as “Network Church Sheffield — an operating name of The Philadelphia Network Limited”. If it’s a limited company, then who are its directors? Presumably, it is to them that its leaders are accountable.

Peter Owen
Admin
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
20 days ago

Details of The Philadelphia Network Limited are on the websites of Companies House and the Charity Commission. The details include the names of the directors/trustees.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Peter Owen
20 days ago

Yes, I realise that all that detail is available. My point really was to explore further the question raised by Stephen Hippisley-Cox above: what is the relationship to the Church of England and the Diocese of Sheffield if the Philadelphia Network is a limited company in its own right? In what sense is it under the oversight of anyone else in any denomination? Is it accountable to anyone other than its directors?
And, I have to ask, does it receive C of E money?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
19 days ago

The more I think about this the more peculiar it seems. A parish church “sets up”, or purports to set up, another organisation, claiming to be a “church” itself. Why? With what authority? To what end?

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
22 days ago

The stage 2 report appears to require a vast bureaucracy around safeguarding. A large church like Network Church Sheffield might be able to implement this, but how would a smaller church cope?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
21 days ago

There is one serious issue mentioned in this report, which has also happened elsewhere, but which has not been incorporated into the analysis or recommendations. This is an issue that probably comes under the category of spiritual abuse. Paragraph 61 of stage I says “In conversation with XXX and XXX, views were shared that the Church is orthodox in its teachings and its theological doctrines are clear and would be known by those who came to the Church. It was accepted however that whilst gay individuals were and always would be welcome, there was no document in place at the… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Simon Dawson
Revd Charles Clapham
Revd Charles Clapham
21 days ago

It is the tedious predictability of the findings of Barnardo’s (excellent) investigation that is so depressing. Last year Mike Pilavachi; last month Gerald Coates; this month St Thomas Philadelphia. So, ten quick Q and As: Is it any surprise that an evangelical-charismatic church like St Thomas Philadelphia discriminates against gay people and practices conversion therapy? NO, of course not, it is part of their culture. Is it a surprise that the Diocese of Sheffield only published this report after it was leaked to the BBC? NO. Given his previously expressed resistance to gay relationships, is the Bishop of Sheffield a… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Revd Charles Clapham
Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Revd Charles Clapham
21 days ago

“It is the tedious predictability of the findings of Barnardo’s (excellent) investigation that is so depressing.” That summed up my feelings too, & I fully agree with your follow up points.

As an aside, my Wife has just renewed her safeguarding training in our Dio, & was totally unsurprised to find none of the abuse scenarios that were presented in the course had a priest as culprit. Party line of always going through CofE channels was heavily pushed, & inspired no confidence whatsoever.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Reply to  Revd Charles Clapham
18 days ago

If you any evidence of this then you need to report it. You can be sure it would be headline news in the Church Times if there was!

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
17 days ago

A very disturbing interview on this morning’s Sunday programme.

Pilgrim
Pilgrim
Reply to  Perry Butler
17 days ago

Definitely worth listening to. Matthew’s testimony (I think approx. 15mins. into the programme) is breathtaking.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Pilgrim
16 days ago

Yep ..it seems anything can go on in a church now as long as it is numerically successful.. Meanwhile Parish Church religion..ordered liturgical sacramental rooted in a locality,w hich has nurtured most CofE people for generations is almost wilfully allowed to atrophy. Icabod!

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Perry Butler
17 days ago

It is shocking. Using deliverance ministry or exorcisms (as in this case) to rid people of evil spirits of homosexuality should be banned throughout the Church of England (not to mention other churches) as a form of spiritual abuse. The psychological damage of such practices can be horrifying.

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