Thinking Anglicans

April General Synod – online papers

The Papers for this month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online.

Papers with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration are listed below the fold. Synod meets virtually on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 April. They can be downloaded as two zip files.

GS papers .zip folder
GS Misc papers .zip folder

The Agenda is here and the Report by the Business Committee (Guide to the April 2021 group of sessions) is here.

Timetable

Synod members reading this might like to note that the deadline for the submission of questions is 12 noon on Tuesday 13 April 2021.

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Bishop of Barking to retire

The Rt Revd Peter Hill has announced that he will retire as Bishop of Barking on 4 August 2021. There are more details on the Chelmsford diocesan website.

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Publication of detailed response to IICSA report

Press release from the Church of England

Publication of detailed response to IICSA report
29/03/2021

The Church of England has today published its detailed responses to the recommendations of the IICSA report from October. As the report stated, the Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. While the Church will continue to apologise, the main focus is now recognising the distress caused particularly to victims and survivors and acting to improve its safeguarding structures and to change its culture.

The recommendations made by the Inquiry have been accepted in full. Our response document focuses on response to victims and survivors including redress, structure and independence, information sharing, revision of the Clergy Discipline Measure and external audits.

To successfully deliver these recommendations an IICSA safeguarding programme has been set up, with a governance structure to ensure the work is closely monitored. The Archbishops’ Council, who led the response to IICSA on behalf of the institutional church, will be responsible for ensuring the work is completed (with updates to the House of Bishops and General Synod).

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Scripture Union review of John Smyth case

The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.

Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.

Scripture Union Statement

Executive Summary of  the Scripture Union John Smyth Independent Case Review

John Smyth Independent Case Review FAQs

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Review of Jonathan Fletcher case published

Updated again Wednesday morning

The independent review commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon from thirtyone:eight has been published.

The full report is available here (146 pages).

Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.

Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.

Updates

The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:

“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.

For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”

The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”

Media coverage:

Also:

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Sheffield Cathedral Visitation: Bishop issues his Determination

The Bishop of Sheffield has published his Determination, following upon the Visitation of his cathedral that he announced on 1 November.

The press release is here: Bishop of Sheffield publishes ‘Determination’ following Sheffield Cathedral Visitation or another copy is here.

The text of the determination itself (pdf) can be found either here, or alternatively over here.

The Sheffield Star reported: Sheffield Cathedral’s ‘bullying and blaming’ culture led to ‘fear of speaking out’.

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House of Bishops Meeting – Wednesday 17 March 2021

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops Meeting – Wednesday 17 March 2021
17/03/2021

The House of Bishops met on Wednesday March 17 2021 remotely via Zoom.

The House engaged further with a number of issues including reviewing the work to date of the Governance Review Group and a consideration of the draft report and recommendations of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Task Group.

The Bishop of Manchester, in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating Group of the Emerging Church Groups, updated the House on the revised Terms of Reference of the Committee and the workstreams that are feeding into the work of the Coordinating Group.

This was followed by an update from the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich who updated the House on the ongoing work of the Transforming Effectiveness workstream which is looking at how resources are best deployed across the Church.

The Bishop of Leeds then addressed the House in his capacity as Chair of the Governance Review Group. The Governance Group is reviewing the shape of the national governance structures and functions of the Church of England and is tasked with suggesting possible changes to simplify and improve the functioning and effectiveness of those structures.

The House considered (in regional groups and in plenary) the work the Governance Review Group had done to date. A final report from the Governance Review Group will be presented to the Co-Ordinating Group in the summer and further discussion and implementation planning will follow in the autumn.

The House was then addressed by the Bishop of London in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group who updated the House about the work of the Group and how the Church will respond to the various phases of the planned relaxation of the lockdown. The Bishop of London also spoke to plans for 23rd March and the One Minute Reflection to mark one year of lockdown measures.

The House was then given an update (up to the end of February) by the interim Director of Safeguarding on establishing an independent oversight structure for national safeguarding.

The House then held its first discussion on the draft report of the Archbishops’ Anti -Racism Task Force which will be publishing its report on 22nd April. The House was invited to consider the working draft of the Report and to give its views about the suggested implementation timetable and details of the Racial Justice Commission. The House was addressed by Revd. Arun Arora and Revd. Sonia Barron, authors of the draft report.

The House broke out into groups to discuss the draft with Archbishop of Canterbury speaking to the report in the final plenary session and suggesting some ways forward on the draft recommendations. The House noted the draft report and agreed to relay feedback from the meeting to the report’s authors.

The meeting concluded with a blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Latest developments in Christ Church Oxford saga

Updated 23 March and again 24 March

Two separate news reports have been published today:

Much of this article reports an online AGM meeting last Saturday of the Christ Church Association which represents 9,000 past and present members of the college, and which spent 50 minutes scrutinising Christ Church’s treatment of its head, Dean Martyn Percy, which was strongly defended by Canon Sarah Foot, who referred to the recently published report by Sir Wyn Williams.

It also reports on a legal opinion commissioned by friends of the Dean, Edward Fitzgerald QC, a specialist in human rights law and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, and his colleague Paul Harris. They  conclude that it would be “unlawful and improper to convene a second tribunal”. They go on to say that if the complaints were proven,  “… it seems very doubtful whether those facts could be regarded by any reasonable tribunal as sufficient to merit the severe sanction of dismissal…The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”

This news report describes the safeguarding risk assessment measures taken by the College and Chapter, that were approved by Richard Woodley,the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who said:

“…because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.

Also, it was an error for the name of the consultant who conducted an investigation into the alleged incident, to have appeared on the risk assessment document.  Kate Wood said:

“I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral. My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .

“…I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”.

The Church Times also reports on the progress of the CDM action against the Dean: the Bishop of Birmingham, to whom the responsibility has been delegated by the Bishop of Oxford,  has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage, despite the Dean being unable to respond to the complaint due to illness.

Updates  (items published on 21 March)

Archbishop Cranmer If Martyn Percy kills himself, the Church of England will have blood on its hands

Surviving Church Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late

Oxford Diocese has published this (24 March): The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy which links to a letter from the Sub Dean. The same material is on the Christ Church website: Response from Christ Church Cathedral to public speculation.

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Bishop of Willesden to retire

News from the Diocese of London

Bishop of Willesden to retire

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has announced his intention to resign as from 30th September 2021. Bishop Pete has volunteered to stand down a year before his normal retirement date.

The Bishop of London is exploring with him another role, which would see him facilitating some of the transition and implementation work for the Diocese of London’s 2030 Vision. This will enable the potential appointment of a new Bishop of Willesden and provide an opportunity for the Diocese’s senior team in London to become more diverse.

Bishop Pete has been Bishop of Willesden since 2001. Before that, he served as Archdeacon of Northolt, as a Vicar in Harrow and as a Polytechnic Chaplain in Islington.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said:

“It’s been a joy and a privilege to serve the churches and people of North West London this past twenty years. I look forward to the next stage, helping the Diocese of London with our 2030 Vision – making it possible for every Londoner to encounter the love of God in Christ.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, said:

“Pete has shown extraordinary, untiring commitment to the Church in London for over 40 years. Half of those have been as Bishop, where he returned to serve the part of the capital he grew up in. Pete will leave the see of Willesden with a legacy that will live on. I’ve been particularly grateful personally for his support since I came to London, and I look forward to continuing our work together as we deliver our Diocesan 2030 Vision.”

A consultation has begun to help guide the appointment to the See of Willesden, ending on 12th April. Click here to view the consultation paper.

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Bishop of Bath & Wells to take early retirement

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, is to take early retirement on medical grounds as he continues his recovery from treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia.

More details are on the diocesan wesbite.

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Christ Church Publishes Independent Review

press release from Christ Church Oxford website

Christ Church Publishes Independent Review
Link to independent report (pdf)

Christ Church has published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, reviewing the handling of a sexual harassment complaint made by a junior member of staff against a senior member. Last month, Governing Body commissioned the review to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it has followed, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes.

In his report, Sir Wyn states the complainant “described events which, objectively, could amount to sexual harassment,” that “there was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way that information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint,” and then that “a decision to the effect that the evidence was not sufficient would have been unreasonable.” He confirms “the processes followed were entirely consistent with the Statute and By-Laws” and concludes “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”

Sir Wyn Williams was asked in his terms of reference to examine whether Governing Body members saw sufficient information about the allegation of sexual harassment to make properly informed decisions. He ruled that “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision.” Sir Wyn also looked for evidence of conflicts of interest in the decision-making process, and found that trustees acted “reasonably and objectively.”

The full report has been provided to the Charity Commission. Sir Wyn concludes his report stating that “there is no basis upon which the Charity Commission should be concerned about either (a) the decision to appoint a tribunal to hear and determine the complaint made against the Dean or (b) the process by which that decision was reached.”

Christ Church has previously expressed its condemnation of attempts by some through the media, social media, and a number of blogs, to undermine its disciplinary processes and in particular to intimidate the complainant. It is now hoped that these individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment, for the sakes of both the complainant and the respondent.

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General Synod – April 2021

The draft timetable for April’s virtual meeting of the Church of England General Synod was published today, and is copied below.

GENERAL SYNOD: APRIL 2021
DRAFT TIMETABLE

Friday 23 April
12.30 pm – 7.00 pm
12.30 pm – 12.45 pm Opening worship
Introductions and welcomes
12.45 pm – 1.15 pm Business Committee Report
Legislative Business – Special Agenda I
1.15 pm – 2.45 pm Draft Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure – Revision Stage
2.45 pm – 3.05 pm Adjournment/screen break
3.05 pm – 4.05 pm International Religious Freedom
4.05 pm – 4.45 pm Report of the Standing Orders Committee
4.45 pm – 5.00 pm Adjournment/screen break
Legislative Business – Special Agenda I
5.00 pm – 5.45 pm Draft Legislative Reform (Church of England Pensions) Order
*5.45 pm – 7.00 pm Question Time

Saturday 24 April
9.15 am – 12.30 pm
9.15 am – 9.30 am Opening worship
Legislative Business – Special Agenda I
9.30 am – 10.30 am Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Rules 2021
10.30 am – 10.55 am Appointment of the Chair of the Pensions Board
Appointment of the Chair of the Dioceses Commission
10.55 am – 11.15am Adjournment/screen break
Legislative Business – Special Agenda I
11.15 am – 12.30 pm Draft Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure – Final Drafting and Final Approval

1.30 pm – 5.00 pm
1.30 pm – 2.45 pm Responsible Representation: Crown Nominations Commission Elections Review Group Report
2.45 pm – 3.00 pm General Synod elections 2020: allocation of seats Amendment Resolution
3.00 pm – 3.20 pm Adjournment/screen break
3.20 pm – 4.05 pm Safeguarding
4.05 pm – 4.30 pm Farewells
4.30pm – 5.00pm Deemed business
*5.00 pm Prorogation

Deemed Business:
Code of Practice under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003
Payments to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2020
some of the proposed amendments of the Standing Orders

* not later than
Please note that all timings are indicative unless marked with an asterisk
Deadline for receipt of questions: 1200 hrs Tuesday 13 April

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Chair of the Business Committee

Robert Hammond has been elected as chair of the General Synod Business Committee. The count was on Friday last week and the voting figures are available here.

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Report on the Developments in Women’s Ministry in 2020

WATCH has published its 2020 annual Report on Developments in Women’s Ministry. It is available as a webpage and a pdf file. There is also a press release which is copied below the fold.

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Dean of Bradford to retire

The Dean of Bradford, the Very Rev Jerry Lepine, has announced that he will retire from the role this summer.

Diocese of Leeds Dean Jerry retires from role at Bradford Cathedral after 8 years service
Telegraph & Argus Dean of Bradford Cathedral, Very Rev Jerry Lepine, to retire

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Update from the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce

The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, set up last autumn to recommend changes to ensure greater racial equality in the Church of England, has issued an update on its work. The full text is here. The Taskforce aims to publish its final report on 22nd April 2021 – Stephen Lawrence Day.

More information on the group and its work is available here.

The Taskforce recently (8 February) also issued a statement expressing pastoral concern for Jarel Robinson-Brown (see our earlier article Jarel Robinson-Brown and the Diocese of London).

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General Synod Reports

Updated Monday evening

Church Times
Archbishops’ message: Don’t be unkind to the Church or each other
Church’s vision is for more front-line ministry, not less, Archbishop of York tells Synod members
Synod members hear significant changes planned for church safeguarding
This is the right moment to act, housing commissioners tell Synod

Press release from the Church of England
Report on housing crisis ‘challenge to the soul’ of the Church of England – Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of York General Synod Address on progress of Vision and Strategy – February 2021

Update

Stephen Lynas bathwellschap I can’t see nobody…

There is a recording of the whole day’s session on YouTube here.

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Clergy Discipline Measure Reform

The Ecclesiastical Law Society working group that has been looking at a replacement for the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) produced its final report on Wednesday. This document can be found here.

The Church Times reports on this: New C of E disciplinary process ‘could save £250,000’ and boost legal aid

..The working group, chaired by Peter Collier QC, the Vicar-General of York, calculates that its proposed scheme will cost the Church an average of £652,000 p.a. This includes £294,000 to provide legal aid for all respondents accused of serious misconduct.

The group reckons that the average annual cost of the existing, discredited system under the CDM to be approaching £900,000, with only £104,325 allocated for legal aid (2019 figure).

The working group predicts a saving even if legal aid is offered in minor as well as serious complaints. This would put the annual legal aid bill at £438,000, making the total cost of dealing with complaints £796,000…

Bishop Tim Thornton, who chairs the official working group charged with making proposals to General Synod for CDM reform issued this Response to Ecclesiastical Law Society report on CDM

“As chair of the Clergy Discipline Review Group I welcome the report published by the working group of the ELS.
“It has been very good to work with them and especially good to have two of their group on our group.
“As I have made clear publicly I am committed to finding a replacement for the CDM and I am clear that many of the ideas and detailed work in the ELS report is enormously helpful to us and all who will consider what a replacement Measure will look like.
“I am especially grateful to Peter Collier for the immense amount of time and effort he has put in to chairing the group and bringing this Report to publication.”

His group published a progress report in December, which we reported on here.

The Sheldon Hub has undertaken considerable research on this topic, since 2017, as summarised here. On 21 February they wrote:

Sheldon remains very concerned that detailed proposals are being brought forward for the replacement of CDM without any published document on the Scope and Purpose of such a Measure. As no-one else appeared to have the appetite to produce one, Sheldon offers this document as a starting point : Purpose and scope of proposed replacement of CDM.

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General Synod questions

Updated Saturday morning

The February 2021 General Synod Questions (and answers) have been published. These are written answers only as there will be no opportunity for supplementary questions at the informal meeting of Synod on Saturday.

The papers for the meeting are online here; they include these.

Programme
Why the Church should care about housing
Independence in Safeguarding – with a Cover Note for Synod members, February 2021

We have published articles about the second and third of these here and here.

Update

Church Times Synod Q&A: safeguarding, CDM, and the Church’s future

Stephen Lynas previews today’s meeting on his bathwellschap blog: We don’t talk any more.

You can watch General Synod live here.

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Proposals on NST independent oversight published

See previous report from 15 December.

CofE press release today:

The Archbishops’ Council has approved the next steps in independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team (NST), with the first phase to be implemented by the summer. The paper by Revd Dr Malcolm Brown on the proposed interim arrangements is to be presented to General Synod members on Saturday. The proposals for this new structure were presented to an informal meeting of the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council this week, with Council members then approving the paper. During the meeting members noted the importance of being able to review the structure after a set period and further detail needed on Phase 2 once the Board was in place. Dr Brown noted his thanks to MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) and members of the Survivors’ Reference Group who acted as consultants. Together, they formed a Focus Group and considered an early draft of the proposals and their report offered numerous comments and suggestions, with as many as possible incorporated into this paper.
The Archbishops’ Council originally voted on independent oversight in December.

The paper containing the proposals as issued to General Synod is a page longer than the version linked above.
Here is a link to the copy that includes the cover page (total page count 20).

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