Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Bristol to take up national safeguarding role

Press release from the Church of England

Bishop of Bristol to take up national safeguarding role
29/07/2020

The Bishop of Bristol, Bishop Viv Faull has been appointed a deputy lead bishop for safeguarding, with a focus on liaison with diocesan bishops on behalf of the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) and with the wider Anglican Communion, and to speak on safeguarding in the House of Lords.

She will work closely with the lead safeguarding bishop, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs and the other deputy lead Bishop Debbie Sellin who took up their roles earlier this year. All three bishops will continue to work closely with Melissa Caslake the Church of England’s national director of Safeguarding to continue to develop the Church’s safeguarding practice.

Speaking about her appointment Bishop Viv said:

“I was a Chester Diocesan ordinand when Victor Whitsey was Bishop, and a Deacon in Gloucester when Peter Ball was Bishop. Though they did me no individual harm I have seen the great harm done to others and the whole Church of God. Safeguarding has therefore been an urgent concern throughout my time as Dean in Leicester and in York where I led changes of process and culture and learnt much. I am aware of how much the Church still has to learn and will do my best to contribute to debates and to enable fellow diocesan bishops to participate fully and be supported in their roles.”

Bishop Jonathan said: “We are delighted that Bishop Viv has agreed to take up this role bringing her long experience of ministry and absolute commitment to good safeguarding. She will play a key role as a link between the NSSG and other bishops, as well as with the wider Anglican Communion.”

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Complaint made into how Welby dealt with a safeguarding complaint

Updated again Thursday morning

Channel 4 News reported on Monday evening: Church launches investigation into how Welby dealt with complaints about an alleged serial abuse

This programme can reveal that the Church of England has launched an investigation into how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, dealt with complaints about a serial abuser of young men.

John Smyth was alleged to have beaten dozens of young men in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of those abused has now written to the Church of England, launching a formal complaint against Mr Welby, saying he failed to act properly when he learnt of the abuse.

More details are in the video (3 minutes).

The Church of England has responded with this statement:

It is in the public domain that when Lambeth was contacted in 2013 about an allegation against Smyth it liaised with the relevant diocese. This was to ensure that the survivor was being supported, police had been informed and that the bishop had contacted the Bishop of Cape Town, where Smyth was then living. However, since a formal complaint has now been received by the National Safeguarding Team, it is reviewing information and will obviously respond on this to the person who brought the complaint and take any further action if needed.

These issues will all be considered by the Makin Review which the Church commissioned last year into the Smyth case and is expected to publish into 2021.

The Telegraph has also reported on this: Church of England investigating complaint over how Archbishop of Canterbury dealt with abuse claims at Christian camps.

The i has this: Justin Welby: Church of England investigating complaint over how Archbishop of Canterbury dealt with child abuse claims

Updates

The Church Times reports: NST considers safeguarding complaint against Welby. This contains a lot of background detail and also mentions that

…The NST has avoided using the term “investigation” in its statement about the allegation against Archbishop Welby. The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, complained recently to the NST that it had caused confusion by using the same word for the both initial consideration of whether there is a case to be answered and the subsequent formal investigation instigated by a core group.

The NST talks instead of “reviewing information”…

It concludes thus:

…On Tuesday, Graham took issue with the C of E statement, saying that he had not been supported, beyond the offer of £100 for counselling; nor had the police ever been in touch with him.

On the matter of correspondence with Cape Town, he writes: “I have in front of me a copy of the letter the Church is referring to. On the simple matter of facts, it was not addressed to the Archbishop of Cape Town but to Bishop Garth Counsell, the Bishop of Table Bay. There is no evidence that this letter was in fact sent or received.

“What is undisputed is that John Smyth continued in his role as Director of the Justice Alliance of South Africa for a further three years, and that during that time he continued to meet and groom young men in Cape Town.”

A further detailed statement from the complainant can be found in two of the comments below.

On 2 February 2017, LBC’s Nick Ferrari interviewed Justin Welby about physical abuse at holiday camps: Archbishop Of Canterbury Responds To Child Abuse Reports

The Archbishop of Canterbury has told LBC he was “completely unaware” of physical abuse at a Christian holiday camp he worked at in the 1970s.

The Church of England has apologised after it emerged police hadn’t been informed of allegations about John Smyth until 2013.

Archbishop Justin Welby says he wasn’t aware of any claims of wrongdoing at the time they were colleagues…

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Sheffield Cathedral to rebuild its music department

Earlier this week, Sheffield Cathedral issued this statement: Sheffield Cathedral Choir.

This prompted a large number of media reports, including:

Today the cathedral has published the full text of  The Dean’s Choir Address delivered at this morning’s Eucharist. It’s quite lengthy but I recommend reading it right through.

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Lord Carlile questions lawfulness of Percy safeguarding investigation

LORD CARLILE, a leading QC, has suggested that the safeguarding investigation into the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, is potentially unlawful…

The Church Times reports:  QC has doubts over Percy investigation.

Lord Carlile is quoted as follows:

Speaking on Monday, he said: “I do not believe that the Church has got to grips with the fundamental principles of adversary justice, one of which is that you must disclose the evidence that you have against someone, and give them an equal opportunity to be heard as those making the accusation.

“And you cannot give them an equal opportunity if there are conflicts of interest involved. Anyone with a conflict of interest must leave the deliberations and take no further part. This is what lawyers understand as the law of apparent bias. It’s not to say that such people are biased: that’s often misunderstood. It is the appearance of bias that matters.

“Having people on a core group with a conflict of interest is simply not sustainable and is, on the face of it, unlawful.

“And to fail to allow the person accused to represent themselves, or be represented, in the full knowledge of the accusation, is not sustainable, and is, on the face of it, unlawful.”

The report also includes this:

…In the mean time, senior figures at Christ Church are continuing, in the words of some observers, to “weaponise” the investigation. At a recent meeting, members of the Governing Body were reportedly told by senior figures in the dispute that, with “new students potentially arriving in the autumn, the Dean is a safeguarding risk”, and that they were “constantly monitoring the risks the Dean poses”.

As a consequence, the Dean asked the NST for an unequivocal statement that he was not a safeguarding risk. The NST has complied: a statement has been posted this week on the C of E website: “The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.”

That statement can be found here:

Statement on Christ Church, Oxford

23/07/2020
The lead bishop for safeguarding, Jonathan Gibbs, has previously written a letter stating that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.  The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.

Along with this statement, the letter to the Church Times, was also published on the Church of England website  – this is the only place where updates on the independent investigation will appear. There have been no other briefings.

As Bishop Jonathan said in his letter there is no agenda behind this and we would like to thank all parties for their cooperation and hope that this safeguarding matter can be concluded quickly.

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House of Bishops Meeting – 22 July 2020

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops Meeting – 22 July 2020
22/07/2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today on Wednesday 22 of July 2020 (by Zoom)

Updates were given to House on a range of matters including an update by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally in her capacity as the Chair of the Recovery Group, on the Church’s activities relating to Covid. This was followed by an update from the Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, the Chair of the Vision and Strategy Group, and an update from the Bishop of Leeds on the emerging work plan for the Governance Review Group,

The House then turned its attention to Legislative Reform and Simplification. The House endorsed a proposal for a green paper to be issued on clergy terms of service. The House agreed that a report with recommendations for fresh legislation for pastoral reorganisation should be presented to Synod with a view to a draft Measure on pastoral reorganisation being brought to the synod.

The House endorsed the direction of travel relating to the planning for and establishment of an Archbishops’ Commission on Racism.

The House then turned its attention to the report from the Implementation and Dialogue Group, agreeing to publish the report and request that it go on the agenda of a future General Synod.

Further matters discussed at the meeting included Budgets, the Anglican Communion and an update on Safeguarding.

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Some updates on safeguarding matters

Updated Wednesday afternoon

Several developments relating to safeguarding in the Church of England.

The Insurance Post reports that Ecclesiastical Insurance had an apologetically-worded statement in its annual report, published not long after its appearance at the IICSA hearings: Briefing: Ecclesiastical’s child abuse claims shame – CEO Hews’ admission too little too late? Scroll down in the article for the full text of the EIO statement.

The Church Times reports: Two members are removed from core group in Percy case, owing to conflict of interest

TWO members of the core group set up to examine accusations of safeguarding breaches by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, have been removed after they were deemed to have a conflict of interest in the case, the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has confirmed…
…In May, Private Eye reported that the core group established by the NST of the Church of England earlier this year included two members of the college who had supported complaints against Dean Percy, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson (News 29 May). The Dean is not represented on the core group, although one of the two college members was reportedly asked to represent him and declined. It is assumed that these are the two members removed from the core group…

The article goes on to report the question asked by Martin Sewell (and answered by the Bishop of Huddersfield) at the General Synod meeting on 11 July about whether, by including complainants in the core group, the Church had “embraced the concept of ‘unconscious bias'”.

Martin Sewell also had a letter in the Church Times last week Anonymity and representation in safeguarding (scroll down)

Sir, — The inauguration of the ministry of the new Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, was a great joy to many in the Church who know his writings and enthusiasm for spreading the gospel. It is a shame that, for reasons outside his control, it occurred under the shadow of the suspicion that he enjoyed the privilege of anonymity while a safeguarding complaint was considered against him, whereas Lord Carey found the fact of his investigation in the hands of the press within three hours of his being notified.
This was wholly unnecessary. Had the recommendations of the C­­­arlile report been accepted and implemented in full, everyone under inquiry would have enjoyed anonymity pending investigation and there would have been a level playing field for both men.
Furthermore, Lord Carlile recommended that the respondent be given representation at the core group table: a recommendation that, had it been implemented, would have avoided the current débâcle over Dean Percy. In his report on Bishop Bell, Lord Carlile wrote: “There was no discussion whatsoever of the need to ensure the justice of the case by examining the facts from Bishop Bell’s standpoint. This issue seems to have been totally abandoned.”
One suspects that this is equally true in the Percy case, but we cannot know, as the Dean is refused access to the minutes.
Finally, the House Bishops Guidelines have not been updated over two years after they accepted the Carlile recommendations — except the one about anonymity –though they have applied that one in favour of someone they wish to advance.
I hope and believe that Archbishop Cottrell has the commitment to justice to drive forward the necessary change, by implementing all review recommendations, from the office to which he has now been called.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has a detailed further analysis of the NST’s Core Groups and the Carlisle recommendations in Revisiting the Carlile Review: A Critique of Church Core Groups? This deserves reading in full, but he concludes thus:

…Can we detect in any way that the Core Group was being ‘managed’ to satisfy the needs of the Church communications department and its desire for good PR?  Were the Archbishop and Bishop of Chichester making statements suggested to them by their highly remunerated reputation managers?  If Carlile’s critical Review is pointing us in this direction, then it follows that similar pressures will also be at work in the 2020 Percy Group.  Are Core Groups, in other words, subject to being managed to suit the purposes of the reputation launderers working for the Church? In the comments I made about Bishop Jonathan’s responses to questions at the recent Synod, I suggested that the management of safeguarding issues was being handed over to a team of lawyers.  Such lawyers would be the ones seeking to defend the Church and protect its good name.  Now, after reading the Carlile report again, I am left wondering whether it is in fact the power of reputation managers and communication departments that we see operating behind the scenes and making the decisions for our Church.  If that is the case, then our Church will not be taking too seriously the cause of transparency, justice and truth.  These and other Christian values like honesty and right dealing may only ever be paraded in public when they can serve the purposes of good PR!

This rereading of the Carlile report and the way that it revealed rampant ‘unconscious bias’, to quote from Martin Sewell’s question at last Synod, allows us to point once again to our ongoing concerns over the Percy Core Group. Conflicts of interest still abound there. Quite apart from the inappropriate placing of two complainants in the Group, there are the collusions we have pointed to before between firms of lawyers, reputation managers and those at Christ Church who have manipulated the Church and the NST to operate in their interests. If the incompetence of the Bell Core Group was a scandal, the sheer apparent malevolence at work in this present Percy Group is one which is driving out all pretensions to ethical behaviour and Christian values. We seem to be witnessing evil and corruption on a grand scale. Will the Church at the national level be able to rescue this situation and allow it to come through this appalling crisis?

Update

There is a further article today, by Martin Sewell at Archbishop Cranmer:
Martyn Percy is challenging an entire cultural mindset of establishment privilege.

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Tony Blair And The Bishopric Of Liverpool

In 1997 Prime Minister Tony Blair vetoed the Church of England’s nominee for the Bishopric of Liverpool. The incident has largely faded from the public consciousness, but thanks to documents inadvertently released by the Cabinet Office Jason Loch can now show us some of the behind-the-scenes drama of this remarkable event. Read it here: Tony Blair And The Bishopric Of Liverpool.

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Statement about Episcopal Consecrations

From Lambeth Palace website

A statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Together with the Archbishop of York, in consultation with the Bishop of London, and after conversation with the House of Bishops, I have put forward new arrangements for the consecration of bishops.

These new arrangements are made in the light of the pandemic and in awareness of the sad reality that not all in the Church of England agree on issues of ordination, and yet all are committed to upholding the Five Guiding Principles.

We have agreed that the Metropolitan will normally ask another bishop to be the chief consecrator. Three bishops are required to consecrate a person as bishop. From now on the Archbishops will ask three bishops to lay on hands with other bishops present and associating with the ordination but not in fact laying on their hands.

St Swithun’s Day (15th July 2020) will see two consecration services happening under the new arrangements in Lambeth Palace Chapel. They will be held under careful guidelines because of the Coronavirus pandemic, with strict limits on the numbers attending.

I will be at both consecrations. As Metropolitan, I will receive the oaths from all three people to be ordained bishop showing jurisdiction over them. Having received the oaths I will then lead all present in a prayer of penitence given our divisions and the sadness that we go on being divided as a church.

I will preach at both services and the Bishop of London (Sarah Mullally), as Dean of the Province of Canterbury, will welcome the new bishops at both services.

I will also give each bishop their symbols of office – a ring, cross and staff and pronounce the blessing at the end of both services.

We are not stepping back under these new arrangements, rather we are stepping forward to work within the Five Guiding Principles and we invite all to walk with us to embrace those principles and pray for an end to the divisions which remain in our church, for which we grieves and are repentant.

Hugh Nelson and Ruth Bushyager will be consecrated by the Bishop of London assisted by the Bishop of Guildford and the Bishop of Dover.

Will Hazlewood will be consecrated by the Bishop of Richborough assisted by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet and The Bishop of Fulham.

It is unfortunate that during the pandemic it is not possible to hold the services in a Cathedral as normal so many friends and family will not be able to be present. The services are both going to be live streamed.

I am delighted to be with all three bishops as they begin their ministry. Please pray for them and for the dioceses in which they will serve.

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Confirmation of Election of the next Bishop of Chester

News from the Archbishop of York

The Confirmation of Election of the Rt Revd Mark Tanner as the next Bishop of Chester
14/07/2020

Bishop Mark Tanner will be confirmed as the Bishop of Chester at 11am on Wednesday 15 July 2020, in a service broadcast entirely online due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The service will be broadcast on YouTube and on the diocesan website.

The service will include music from Chester Cathedral’s Nave Choir, a reading and prayers from young people in the diocese, and the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell will give the address. Prayers will be offered for Bishop Mark, the Diocese of Chester, the Northern Province of the Church of England, and for our country, as well as for the wider world.

Commenting on the service, Bishop Mark said: “I am so grateful that we can gather in prayer and worship as we begin this next phase in the life of Chester Diocese. During the lockdown, as so much has been stripped away, we have glimpsed some of the ways Christ holds out hope and love and invites each of us. This is the hope and peace in which we meet and it will be lovely if you can join us.”

Archbishop Stephen said: “I am pleased to be confirming Bishop Mark as Bishop of Chester, made even more special as it will be the first Confirmation of Election that I have undertaken as Archbishop of York. My prayer is that Mark will take time to discern where God is leading the Diocese of Chester and that together Christians can be of one heart and mind as they seek to share the Good News of the love of Jesus Christ with the people in the North West of England.”

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Episcopal Consecrations: Lewes, Horsham, St Germans

Updated on Monday and again on Tuesday

Three suffragan bishops will be consecrated in Lambeth Palace chapel on 15 July: Will Hazlewood as Bishop of Lewes, Ruth Bushyager as Bishop of Horsham, both in the Diocese of Chichester, and Hugh Nelson as Bishop of St Germans in the Diocese of Truro.

Forward in Faith has issued this press release: Statement regarding the Consecration of The Revd Prebendary Will Hazlewood. In this they say that Prebendary Hazlewood will be consecrated in a separate service from the other new bishops. In his case the Bishop of Richborough will act as the Archbishop’s delegate as chief consecrator, and the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and of Fulham will act as co-consecrators. This is because “all candidates must experience the sacramental assurance and joy of full communion with the bishops who ordain them”.

I assume that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be the chief consecrator for the other two new bishops, but I can find nothing online to confirm this. [But see the comments.]

Update 1

The Diocese of Chichester has published links for the livestreaming of the two consecration services

MORNING SERVICE: Consecration of the Bishop of St Germans and the Bishop of Horsham at 11.30 am

https://youtu.be/r7zIK5ojkgI

AFTERNOON SERVICE: Consecration of the Bishop of Lewes at 2.30 pm

https://youtu.be/NUpxLoJCCWc

Update 2

The Diocese of Chichester has issued this statement from the bishops-designate of Horsham and Lewes: A daunting and exciting venture of faith. In part it says

It is untrue to say [as some are reporting] that Prebendary Will Hazlewood declined to be consecrated as bishop of Lewes by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The arrangements for consecrations are the sole responsibility of the Archbishop: we are thankful for the distinctive arrangement he has made for a traditionalist provision.

but do read it all.

For another view read this statement from WATCH.

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General Synod reports

Updated Sunday (twice)

Reports on today’s virtual meeting of General Synod

Video of the whole day’s proceedings

The presidential address was given by the Archbishop of York, but with contributions from others.
Video of the address
Full text of the presidential address
Official press release: Church must ‘learn afresh how to share the gospel’, Archbishop of York tells Synod

Church Times reports Archbishop of York: God wants a Church of ‘glorious and profligate diversity’
Welby browned off after grilling on church closures
Commissioners are trying to help cathedrals to weather financial crisis, Dr Poole tells Synod

The Guardian ‘Tribal and divided’: Church of England faces turbulent times

Yorkshire Post Newly confirmed Archbishop of York speaks of ‘devastating impact’ of pandemic in first public address

Glasgow Times Bishop of Manchester defends tweets criticising Dominic Cummings

Update

Andrew Nunn Unprecedented

Stephen Lynas Oh Zoom! You chased the day away

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General Synod – preview and comment

General Synod meets tomorrow and the Church of England has put out this press release today: General Synod members to meet remotely.

A further paper has been added to the Church of England website.

GS Misc 1251 – Covid-19 General Synod Update

Two Synod members preview tomorrow’s meeting.

Stephen Lynas I’ve just seen a face
Andrew Nunn Zooming into Synod

Some bloggers have been looking at the questions and answers.

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church  General Synod and the Questions around Safeguarding
Richard Bastable All Things Lawful And Honest Archiepiscopal Contradictions II

My favourite is the breath of fresh air in the answer given by Rogers Govender, the Dean of Manchester, to question 121, which I have copied below the fold.

(more…)

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Confirmation of Election of Stephen Cottrell as the Archbishop of York

Updated Thursday morning

As was announced in May Stephen Cottrell will be confirmed as the next Archbishop of York tomorrow, Thursday 9 July 2020, at 11am. The proceedings will be via video conference.

You will be able to watch the live stream of the service from this page.

Update

Download the Order of Service in PDF

Second update

Bishop Stephen’s election as Archbishop of York was duly confirmed. A recording of the confirmation service is available on YouTube.

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House of Bishops meeting

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops meet to discuss Covid-19, clergy discipline and the Lambeth Conference
08/07/2020

The House of Bishops met via Zoom this afternoon, as it has done regularly throughout the current pandemic.

The Bishop of Manchester updated the House on the overall work of the Church in responding to the crisis. The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally, Chair of the Church’s COVID-19 Recovery Group updated the House regarding how churches are experiencing the gradual lifting of restrictions to enable the re-opening of churches for physical services.

The Bishops also discussed the interim findings of the working group which is reviewing the current Clergy Discipline Measure. This was followed by an update from the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the postponed Lambeth 2020 conference and future planning.

The Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton commenting on the Clergy Discipline Measure said: ‘We are now actively seeking to improve processes, minimise delays and identify other improvements needed to make the system more effective. I am personally committed to replacing the CDM with a new system and hope to bring proposals forward as soon as practicable.’

The House concluded with a forward look to the informal meeting of Synod on 11 July.

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General Synod – Questions

The Questions paper for Saturday’s virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been published today. This contains the 131 submitted questions and their answers. A total of two hours has been allocated on Saturday for supplementary questions and answers.

Other papers are here.

The meeting will be streamed online here.

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Christ Church vs Martyn Percy

Updated Tuesday

Martin Sewell and David Lamming issued a letter to fellow members of the CofE General Synod, which was published by Archbishop Cranmer on 19 June: Martyn Percy: Synod challenges Christ Church abuse of CofE safeguarding process.

Peter Adams, another General Synod member, responded to that letter on reconciliationtalk.org on 28 June: When a safeguarding referral is made no amount of special pleading should change that.

Today, Archbishop Cranmer has published a further article, which contains a very detailed response from Martin Sewell to Peter Adams: Christ Church vs Martyn Percy: a conspiracy of lawyers, divine PR, and the purgatory of CofE Safeguarding. That letter will also be sent to all General Synod members ahead of the online “meeting” planned for next Saturday. As “Archbishop Cranmer” writes:

Members of Synod should read both letters and ask themselves three questions:

1) Am I prepared to publicly defend the Church of England’s conduct in this ?
2) Would I wish myself or someone I care for to be subject to such processes?
3) What exactly am I going to do about this?

TA readers are encouraged to read all these letters in full.

Update

Surviving Church has published A guide to the situation at Christ Church Oxford. Which is subtitled Trying to make sense of what is going on.

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Restarting Public Worship in England

Updated again Thursday

On 29 June, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July

On 30 June, the Church of England House of Bishops Recovery Group published COVID-19 Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship.

The legal annex to the preceding document, which deals with what parishes are supposed to do if they do not plan to re-start public worship  on 4 July is also available separately.

Update: other documents have now been revised:

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General Synod papers for 11 July

Updated 10 July to add extra papers

A number of papers for the informal and virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod on 11 July are now available online. Links to them are below.

If any more appear I will add them to the list.

Timetable
Handling of Questions in the Meeting of Synod Members
Members’ Guide to Virtual Synod Proceedings
Note from the Chair of the Business Committee to Synod Members

GS 2171 – Audit Committee Annual Report
GS 2172 – Archbishops’ Council Annual Report (2019)
GS 2173 – Financial Update and AC Original Budget

GS Misc 1249 – Covid-19 Response
GS Misc 1250 – The Emerging Church of England
GS Misc 1251 – Covid-19 General Synod Update

Notice of Delay – Corporation of Church House AGM

Questions paper

5 Comments

Bishop Stephen Cottrell: safeguarding statements

A set of three related statements have been published today, and are copied in full below.

There is some additional detail in this Church Times report: Bishop Cottrell owns up to safeguarding lapse.

Statement from Bishop Stephen

“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.

“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.

“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Statement from Archbishop Justin

“I have been fully briefed on this matter and have read the independent legal advice.  I have also spoken at length with Stephen. He clearly should have informed the authorities and made fuller notes of what he did in this case. He has shown humility in immediately admitting he failed to act as he should have done in this case, when the matter was raised with him by the NST this year.  He has also said so publicly. I am also reassured that he did refer it on and saw the significance of offering support and contacting the survivor who must always be the priority. While I cannot comment further on this case, our IICSA hearings have shown the journey the Church is still on to be a safer place for all and I pray that this experience will strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry as the Archbishop of York.

“I am looking forward to working with Stephen and we commit ourselves to continue to learn lessons and to recognise and accept we all need to be open and forthright in striving to make the church a safe place for all.  This means listening to survivors and constantly examining our own actions and recognising our vulnerability as well as calling on all to demonstrate our commitment to care for all.”

Statement from National Safeguarding Team

“Concerns were referred to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, earlier this year about the handling of a case by Bishop Stephen 10 years ago after information came to light from a clergy file. The concerns raised were about the action taken following allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by a parish priest. At the time Bishop Stephen responded to the survivor, offered support and subsequently referred the allegation within the diocese, but did not ensure the matter was referred to the statutory authorities or directly to the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The NST has now investigated the matter, taken independent advice and interviewed Bishop Stephen.

“He has shown insight and humility in accepting that he failed to act as he should have done in relation to a serious matter and acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a lack of training and understanding, which he has subsequently sought to address.

“The NST investigation concluded that he posed no current risk of not responding appropriately to safeguarding disclosures and that informal action was a reasonable and proportionate response to the case.”

36 Comments

Charity Commission calls for urgent mediation at Christ Church

Updated again Sunday (scroll down)

The Charity Commission has issued this press release: Christ Church Oxford – mediation required by charity regulator.

The Charity Commission has told both sides in the dispute at Christ Church, Oxford, to enter into a mediation process.

The Commission is concerned that the very protracted and public dispute between the College’s governing body and its Dean is damaging to the reputation of the charity, and affecting its ability to govern itself.

The situation risks harming the reputation of charity more generally, in the eyes of the public.

Both parties in this dispute have called on the Charity Commission to intervene further. However, any regulatory intervention can be effective only if relationships between all parties are stable. The Commission has therefore today told the parties to the dispute that it expects them to enter into formal mediation within a limited time frame, with a mediator selected by the Commission, and without delay.

Helen Stephenson, Charity Commission Chief Executive, said:

It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes. Our role is, instead, to ensure that charities are governed effectively, charitable funds are properly accounted for, and trust in charity is maintained. In these exceptional circumstances, we have told the parties to the dispute to enter mediation, without which it is difficult to resolve issues in the charity in any reasonable timescale.

The Commission will not comment further on the case until the mediation has been completed.

It has also asked both sides to refrain from public, or private, commentary whilst the mediation process takes place.

Notwithstanding the clear request in the last sentence above, Christ Church promptly issued this Statement about mediation:

25 June 2020
The ongoing dispute between Christ Church and the Dean has undoubtedly gone on for far too long. Its impact on Christ Church’s daily life, its staff, students, teaching and research, all risk being affected without the prospect of a resolution. We were therefore delighted to learn at our meeting with the Charity Commission today that it has now agreed to intervene. For some time, we have sought to address the impasse through independent mediation, but that process was unfortunately put on hold earlier this year. We hope that the Dean responds quickly and positively to the Commission’s announcement and we look forward to attending the mediation it is facilitating as soon as possible.

In other shenanigans, the Regius Professor of Hebrew has been convicted in France (where he lives) of sex offences, see this in the Guardian Oxford professor sentenced to jail in France over child abuse images and also this in the student newspaper Christ Church professor sentenced to jail over child abuse images.

Christ Church has published a statement on its website, now changed from the version published on 22 June.
It appears from this that the French authorities had made no contact with anyone in Oxford prior to the court’s decision.  However, it has today been admitted by the college that Professor Joosten was one of the 41 signatories of the letter to the Charity Commission which the Church Times described as accusing Dr Percy of “sacrificing the best interests of Christ Church to his own”.

And the Financial Times carries this: Oxford college rocked by allegations of leaks and blackmail.

Updates

The Bishop of Huddersfield has written a letter to the Church Times which has also been published on the CofE website:

Sir, — In response to your report “C of E is ‘being used’ in campaign against Dean of Christ Church” (News, 19 June), I would like to point out that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean.

When a referral is made alleging that a senior member of the clergy has not fulfilled his or her safeguarding responsibilities, the NST has a duty to consider the management of any safeguarding risk. In this case, an independent safeguarding person has been asked to investigate and report back.

As I am sure your readers would agree, the Church must take all safeguarding issues very seriously, and all this is being done in accordance with the House of Bishops guidelines. For reference, the Dean of Christ Church is a “Church officer” within the definition contained in the House of Bishops practice guidance.

There is no agenda behind this and we hope that with the cooperation of all concerned this matter can be concluded quickly.

Further media coverage:

Guardian Bitter row ruining Oxford college reputation, says watchdog

Telegraph Christ Church row is ‘affecting its ability to govern itself’, charity watchdog warns

Sunday update

Archbishop Cranmer has Christ Church’s PR agency colludes with FT journalist (and alumnus) to defame Dean. This is a long and detailed discussion focusing initially on the Financial Times article linked above, but do read all the way through, and in particular note the letter from the Senior Censor which replies to questions from an abuse survivor.

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