Updated again Friday
Update: the Church Times has a news article today, Dean Percy faces further challenges at Christ Church, Oxford. This omits reference to the letter to the Charity Commission copied below. Concerning the National Safeguarding Team aspect of this story, it says this:
…In 2018, the Dean cited past safeguarding concerns reported to him as evidence that the college’s procedures were inadequate. Earlier this year, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team set up a core group to examine the Dean’s handling of those concerns.
The latest issue of Private Eye reports that two members of that core group are complainants from the college, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson. A C of E spokesperson said on Wednesday: “As at any core group, safeguarding leads from relevant bodies or institutions were invited to share information to work out a way forward; in this case from the Cathedral, the College, the Cathedral school, and the diocese.”
The Dean is not formally represented on the core group, though he has been sent its terms of reference.
The spokesperson emphasised: “The core group has never asked the Dean to stand down — he was asked to abide by certain conditions.”
Archbishop Cranmer has a comprehensive report on the latest horrific developments at Christ Church, Oxford here:
The article above links to many of the sources quoted, particularly those likely to be behind a paywall of some kind. Nevertheless here for completeness are some more:
Private Eye Christ Church at war
Two letters in the Telegraph (scroll down to “Row over Oxford dean”) from Brian Martin and Jimmy James
Another letter in The Times which you can read here.
A letter to Baroness Stowell, Chair of the Charity Commission, signed by 60 persons, has been released. See the PDF copy for the list of signatories (full disclosure: I am one). The text of the letter is copied below.
Dear Lady Stowell
You recently received a letter from some individual trustees of Christ Church Oxford making a series of allegations against their Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy.
We wish to express our confidence in Martyn Percy. We know him in our various capacities, as a man of consistently good character, an exceptional scholar, a respected public servant, and an outstanding Christian leader.
We do not speculate on the reasons why some members of the Governing Body of Christ Church wish to go to such extreme lengths to destroy the reputation of their Dean and to break his spirit. But we do know that :
- The recent letter is the latest episode in a sustained campaign against the Dean led by senior members of the college Governing Body since his appointment.
- The specific allegations against Martyn Percy have changed over time, but each allegation has been disproved. In August of last year Dean Percy was wholly exonerated after an extensive investigation by Sir Andrew Smith, a retired High Court judge.
- The signatories of the letter are far from objective. Several of them were revealed by Sir Andrew to have employed devious methods and offensive language in their efforts to break his resolve, and some will be parties to an Employment Tribunal tobe heard next year.
- The grievances in the letter are a set of untested and gratuitous assertions for which no evidence is provided.
- The insinuation that Dean Percy personally represents a safeguarding risk is abhorrent and wholly unjustified.
- The suggestion that he “lacks a moral compass” is so far from the truth as to be laughable, were it not so insulting.
We believe that Martyn Percy is a victim of gross injustice and malice. We wish to see this damaging business resolved justly, and with the minimum delay, so that he can continue to exercise his gifts in leading Christ Church.
Updated again Thursday afternoon
There has been widespread media coverage of the interventions made by numerous Church of England bishops in the story about Dominic Cummings. Here is a sample:
And there have been several blog articles discussing them:
Mark Strange, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has published the letter he sent to the Prime Minister. You can read that here.31 Comments
Press release from the Church of England
House of Bishops
A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today on Thursday, the 21st of May 2020 (by Zoom).
The meeting was a resumption of the previous meeting of the House of 19 May which was adjourned by the Chair due to technical issues.
Amongst the issues discussed by the House:
The Archbishop of Canterbury led a Vote of Thanks on behalf of the House, to the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu for his dedicated ministry and service.
The next meeting will be held on 9 June 2020.4 Comments
As I reported earlier this month the July meeting of General Synod has been cancelled. In addition the Archbishops said they would ask the Privy Council to postpose the election of a new Synod, due this summer, by twelve months. The Council met yesterday, and accepted the Archbishops’ request. The current Synod will now be dissolved on 31 July 2021.
The details are in Statutory Instrument 2020 No 526: The General Synod of the Church of England (Postponement of Elections) Order 2020.4 Comments
The Church of England has announced that Stephen Cottrell will be confirmed as the next Archbishop of York on 9 July 2020. The proceedings will be via video conference. Details are in today’s press release which is copied below.
Confirmation of Election of Bishop Stephen Cottrell as the 98th Archbishop of York, Thursday 9 July 2020
Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell will be confirmed as the 98th Archbishop of York at 11am on Thursday 9 July 2020, in a service broadcast entirely via video conference due to the Coronavirus restrictions. As Presiding Judge, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has granted permission for the virtual service to take place.
The service, which had been due to take place in York Minster, will be in two parts: a legal ceremony with readings, prayers and music; and a film marking the start of Bishop Stephen’s ministry as Archbishop of York.
The service will include music from York Minster Choir and Manor Church of England Academy School (York). Young people from across the North of England, will read a letter written by the medieval religious scholar Alcuin of York. Bishop Stephen will offer his first address as Archbishop of York. Prayers will be offered for the Archbishop, the Diocese of York and the Northern Province of the Church of England as well as for the wider world in these difficult times. (more…)34 Comments
Updated yet again Thursday evening
The Church of England has issued this:
Statement on latest Government guidance on coronavirus
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We note from the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings.
“We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued this:
The timing and the manner of the opening of churches touches profound sensitivities and spiritual needs. The Government’s document and statements fail to recognise this.
The Government’s position, established today, includes these steps aimed at opening churches as soon as possible: the establishment of a task force for places of worship, to work closely with ‘stakeholders’ in ensuring that premises are COVID-19 secure; and heeding the experience of other countries in which churches are already open for worship.
In dialogue with the Government, the Catholic Church will continue its engagement in this process and has already submitted a detailed plan, in full accordance with public health guidelines, for churches to be opened for private prayer.
The Church is ready to play its full part in the task force, understanding that this includes the possible earlier use of churches for private prayer, as a first safe step towards their use for public worship.
Will these two organisations now consult each other? The Catholic bishops took full advantage from the outset of the government regulations, to maintain livestreamed worship from inside their church buildings.
Update 1 Wednesday evening
The Government has announced that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, will chair a taskforce to develop plans for the re-opening of “places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings”. For more detail see Reopening of places of worship in England: breaking news and the government announcement is here.
Update 2 Thursday morning
The Church of England had issued this press release:
Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishop met by Zoom today. The bishops prayed together and continued to discuss all matters relating to the COVID 19 pandemic and how they affect the church.
Several hours later, this was replaced by a revised version:
Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishops met today (on Zoom) where the various impacts of Covid-19 on a wide range of church matters and national issues were discussed. The Bishops continued in prayer for the victims and families of those most affected.
Update 3 Thursday afternoon
The Church Times has published this report: Churches wary, as task force meets to plan reopening. This includes a full report on the views of Cardinal Nichols.16 Comments
Yesterday Bishop Stephen Cottrell had a letter published in The Times. Text available here.
The following letter from Bishop Richard Llewellin appears in The Times today, in response.
SHIFTING THE BLAME
Sir, Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s letter (May 11) misses the point. The decision to close buildings for public worship was indeed made by the government, but the instruction (and it was an instruction, not advice) that even our clergy should not enter their own churches for prayer was given by our bishops. That instruction went well beyond what the government required of its citizens, and sent a signal that the C of E was closing down completely. Resourceful clergy have been making the best of it by streaming prayer and worship from their own homes and have, of course, offered ministry alongside their parishioners in many other ways. But kitchen table is not an altar, and living room not a church. These latter are not dispensable things of convenience, but symbols of God’s presence with us and His care for us in these dangerous and difficult times.
The Right Rev Richard Llewellin
Bishop at Lambeth 1999-2004; Canterbury
Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, Stephen Cottrell has written an article: The Church will emerge from the coronavirus crisis even stronger. For those unable to view directly, the Church of England has reproduced it in full on its Facebook page (albeit with a different headline: God is at work, even when our church buildings are closed) and also on the CofE website.
This is reported in a Telegraph news article: Clergy to start streaming services from churches this week, Archbishop designate confirms
…The guidance that churches must close completely was given on March 23 in response to the outbreak and has been reviewed “on an ongoing basis”, with the Bishops acting “within Government advice and in line with best public health practice”.
The policy attracted protests, including a letter published in The Times and signed by more than 600 clergy and laity.
Last month, The Telegraph reported that some vicars were rebelling against guidance issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of the Easter weekend, warning clergy that they could not enter churches for solo prayer nor to film a service, despite provisions for this in the Government’s lockdown rules.
The Most Rev Justin Welby used a YouTube message to echo the first Government slogan repeated during the daily ministerial press conferences on coronavirus, saying it was vital that the church “set an example” in following the guidance to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
“By closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message,” he said. Some vicars responded by saying: “Now is the time to revolt.”
Yesterday’s post links to a detailed analysis of the various previous statements from the House of Bishops, which explains why the original “advice” of the House of Bishops, which was more stringent than the government regulations require, provoked criticism.10 Comments
Bishop of Chester: 12 May 2020
Queen approves nomination of Reverend Mark Simon Austin Tanner as Bishop of Chester.
Published 12 May 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Mark Simon Austin Tanner MA BA MTh, Suffragan Bishop of Berwick, for election as Bishop of Chester in succession to The Right Reverend Doctor Peter Forster, following his resignation on 30th September 2019.21 Comments
We reported the action of the CofE House of Bishops earlier this week here: Bishops discuss access to church buildings.
Before that announcement was made, Angela Tilby had written this for the Church Times: The C of E has become member-only.
…As Bishop Peter Selby suggested in an article in The Tablet last week, the result, in effect, has been to “privatise” the Church of England — achieving what the National Secular Society has failed to do in years of earnest campaigning.
How trite has been the little trope that “The Church is people, not buildings,” which totally misses the point about the public and institutional nature of the Church. We are now a domestic, members-only Church, with nothing to say to the nation about death, sacrifice, or charity, and nothing to plead before God on behalf of us all.
What we are left with is what the narrator in E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India describes as “poor little talkative Christianity”, delighted with itself for having mastered Zoom meetings, and talking excitedly about new mission opportunities, while refusing, in some cases, “for safety reasons”, even to put the church notices through the doors of those who have no access to the internet. There are many priests, of course, who have battled their way through this, still finding ways to connect with the needy and vulnerable — even, sometimes, and with a bad conscience, creeping into their churches to pray…
And Meg Warner had written: Re-visiting Aberfan: The Church of England and Covid-19
…Such a concession – the apparent lack of conviction that the Church of England has anything to offer the situation – is deeply disheartening. The Church of England’s experience of the disasters of 2017 shows it also to be wrong.
Why is it that the Church of England now appears to be content to throw away the green shoots of its new life that everybody else seems to have noticed in 2017?
The parallels between the Queen and Aberfan and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Covid-19 are not, I suggest, superficial and they are not coincidental. As valid and cogent as the five reasons articulated by the Archbishop may be, they do not paint the full picture. The Bishops’ decision, the Aberfan story suggests, is motivated, at least in part, by fear. The fear is that the Church of England has little to offer to Covid-19 society, and that if offered, it would likely be judged irrelevant, and therefore self-indulgent and dangerous.
Ironically, the Archbishop’s decision to withdraw to his palace, away from public consciousness, and to direct his bishops and priests to do likewise, just as in the case of the withdrawal of the Queen after Aberfan and the death of Diana, raises the spectre of precisely the outcome the Archbishop and the Church of England are keen to avoid. Like Oedipus and the Queen, the Archbishop, in his attempt to ‘do the right thing’, risks bringing about the very disaster of which he himself has often warned – that the churches might be empty by the end of his unexpectedly long tenure at Canterbury….
Afterwards, Richard Burridge wrote this detailed analysis of the bishops’ statements.
…However, this means that the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what is happening is denied [the bishops] – and therefore perhaps the responsibility for this falls on those of us who are retired and on the sidelines in this situation, locked down with nothing else to do but think and write (the excellent article by +Peter Selby in the Tablet last week was a superb example of this). In that spirit I offer these reflections in an attempt to “speak the truth in love” to my episcopal friends and former colleagues – and pray that they might be able to receive it, although I say hard things, in that same spirit. And I also apologise for any offence or hurt caused by the previous circulation of these reflections – that was not my intent, sorry.
This is because I find the Statement profoundly worrying in its use of language. It would have been a golden opportunity, in an admittedly extremely complex and fast-moving situation to give the nation an example of how Christians can admit to having made a mistake, change their minds (which is what ‘repentance’, metanoia, means in Greek), apologise, and seek forgiveness and a new way forward in life – as indeed I am trying to do in this amended version. Instead, I fear that its use of language, with its ‘doublethink’, is regrettably typical more of the approach being taken by leading politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, than that of teachers of the faith and shepherds of Christ’s flock…
I do recommend that you read the whole of his article, carefully.51 Comments
House of Bishops backs phased approach to revising access to church buildings
The House of Bishops met via Zoom this afternoon, as it has done regularly throughout the current pandemic, and continued to review advice to clergy on the Church’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, to protect the vulnerable and health services.
In a discussion led by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who chairs a group examining how the Church of England might proceed once the current restrictions for COVID-19 are relaxed or lifted, the House of Bishops recognised that there have been some welcome signs of improvement in the current situation, including a reduction in new cases and hospital admissions giving evidence for hope.
While church buildings remain closed for public worship, in line with Government advice, the Bishops agreed in principle to a phased approach to lifting restrictions, in time and in parallel with the Government’s approach, with three broad stages as infection levels improve:
The Bishops agreed that the decision on the timing of when to implement the revised advice on ministers or worship leaders praying and streaming from their church buildings should be made by individual Diocesan Bishops, depending on their local situation.
The Bishops were clear once again that this is guidance – not an instruction or law – and that it will be constantly reviewed depending on the national situation.
National Church of England guidance will be updated in the coming days with further advice on how the staged process could be implemented and with factors and information for dioceses to consider.
Bishop Sarah said: “We are hugely grateful for all that our churches and clergy have been doing to support the Government’s message to stay at home, to support the NHS, and to save lives.
“While it is clear there will be no imminent return to normality, the emphasis is now turning towards how and when aspects of social distancing can be eased, although we remain mindful of the potential risks of a second wave of the virus.
“Nevertheless, it now makes sense for us to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared.”
The planned residential meeting of General Synod due to take place in York in July has been cancelled. In a press release today the officers of Synod also set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely. The Archbishops will also ask the Privy Council to postpose the election of a new Synod, due this summer, by twelve months.
The press release is copied below.
General Synod officers examining possibility of ‘virtual’ meetings amid coronavirus challenge
The Church of England is looking at options including a possible change in the law to enable the General Synod to meet remotely, in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to all members of Synod today, the officers of Synod confirm that they have used their legal powers to cancel the planned residential meeting due to take place York in July in light of the current restrictions.
However, they set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely, potentially in a similar way to the current sittings of Parliament, as well as details of an extension to the term of the current Synod by a year.
Under the current rules, Synod can only pass legislation and transact key business by meeting in person.
In their letter, the officers – the Archbishops, Prolocutors of Canterbury and York of the House of Clergy, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity – say they wish to explore with the Government the possibility of Parliament passing legislation to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person.
If it is not possible to do this in time to arrange a remote sitting in July, they suggest an informal remote meeting of Synod members in July when, although they could not pass legislation or take other decisions, could discuss urgent matters and carry out scrutiny.
Separately, Parliament has already approved a provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020 enabling the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to request an order postponing the elections to General Synod due to take place this summer.
A request to postpone the elections for a year is due to be considered by the Privy Council shortly. It would enable the current Synod to meet in November. If it were still not possible to meet physically by then, it is hoped that Parliament will have passed legislation so that an official sitting of the Synod by “virtual” means would be possible.
Synod members are to be surveyed to gauge support for the idea.
Canon Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said: “The residential York Synod is a time to renew friendships and debate important matters; cancelling it has been a hard, but necessary, decision.
“We must now find ways, together, to ensure that the Synod’s vital work of engaging with legislation and scrutiny can continue.”
The Revd Canon Chris Newlands, Prolocutor of the Convocation of York, said: “The decision to cancel the physical gathering of General Synod was taken only after much prayer and reflection, conscious that we need to listen to the mind of the whole Synod more than ever at this time, though we are constrained by the measures currently in force nationally and the legal requirements that have to be met for a meeting of Synod.
“We very much hope that when we are able to gather physically once again, we will together seek to discern how God is calling us to be His Church in England in the ‘new normal’ of life after the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Revd Canon Sue Booys, Chair of Synod’s Business Committee, said: “It is obviously right in our current circumstances to take steps to minimise risk to Synod members and those who would serve them in York by cancelling the formal sessions in July.
“The Business Committee is ready to fulfil our role in finding ways to generate and enable discussion about issues of importance as well as to explore and make arrangements for a future formally constituted group of sessions.
“We will be working with others to enable the legal framework we need to allow our business to proceed properly and give Synod members the opportunity to scrutinise and comment on business.”
Notes to editors
The Officers of the General Synod are:
Text of letter to The Times
As the Bishops of the Church of England meet to consider their next steps in response to the pandemic, we call on them to change their current policy, which prevents clergy from visiting their churches to pray or broadcast a service. Bishop Peter Selby in The Tablet last week (‘Is Anglicanism going private?’, 30th April 2020), speaks for many laity and clergy about the Church of England’s current approach. We fear, like him, that ‘this may mark a decisive point in the retreat of the Church of England from the public to the private realm’. We regard what has happened to be a failure of the Church’s responsibility to the nation, stifling our prophetic witness and defence of the poor, and ask for open discussion and accountability through the Church’s structures and other forums regarding the processes and thinking which led to these decisions.
It is widely agreed that the temporary closure of churches for public worship is necessary in the current crisis. However, the broadcast of services from a closed church is explicitly permitted by government guidelines, yet unlike almost all other Churches in these isles, the Church of England has gone beyond this advice. Without detracting from the excellent worship offered by many clergy in their homes, domestic settings cannot replace the church buildings whose architecture, symbolism and history represent the consecration of our public life. Moreover, Church of England clergy have also been prevented from ministering in schools educating the children of key workers and to the sick and dying in hospitals.
As the government is talking about the hope of easing the national lockdown could the Church of England now offer similar hope to its people with this first step?
Full list of signatories (names are still being added)
Some related articles:
Update – Helen King writes about the postponement: Stopping: and starting?
The Church of England issued the following press release today.
Living in Love and Faith: update in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
The House of Bishops has agreed that, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the publication of the Living in Love and Faith resources, which had been scheduled to take place in June, should be postponed.
In a statement, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the Bishops of Coventry and London, emphasise that work on the Living in Love and Faith resources continues and that the situation will be monitored to discern the most appropriate time for their publication.
The archbishops and bishops also reiterate that the publication of the resources will initiate a process of whole Church engagement, within a clear timeframe, to enable the Church to discern and decide about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
In recent weeks and months, almost every aspect of our lives – and the life of the whole Church – has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inevitably, that has prompted some serious thought about our plans for the publication of the Living in Love and Faith resources and what we envisaged might come next: a process of church-wide engagement and episcopal discernment and decision making about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
The LLF resources were due to be published at the end of June 2020. However, the Church’s focus is now on ministering to people who are experiencing so many challenges – of bereavement, sickness, isolation, uncertainty about livelihood and fear for what the future holds. That is why we have decided to delay the publication of the resources. We know that there may be real disappointment about this delay, especially for LGBTI+ people, and we are grateful for the continued engagement of so many in the LLF process.
It is important to say, however, that while the publication date has been delayed, Living in Love and Faith has not simply been parked. Far from it: a huge amount of work and prayerful engagement has gone into the resources and we are more hopeful than ever that they will enable the people of God to learn together about human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage in the context of our life together in love and faith.
No one can predict how COVID-19 will affect the life of the Church or society over the coming months and years. That is why we will monitor the situation to discern when might be the earliest appropriate time to publish the long-awaited LLF resources and thereby launch the process of whole-church engagement.
The production of the resources continues to be in hand under the leadership of the Bishop of Coventry. We hope that, when the time is right, they will serve the life of the Church. It is likely that the resources will seek to reflect and give due attention to the context in which they will eventually be launched.
As well as the resources themselves we have also been giving prayerful thought to what would come next following their publication. The House of Bishops has agreed that, when that time comes, there will be a process of engagement right across the Church. This will take place within a clear timeframe under the leadership of the Bishop of London and will enable the Church to discern and decide about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
We will say more on how that might be shaped when our current situation becomes clearer. The Archbishop of York Designate, who will be in post when the resources are published and disseminated, has been consulted about these plans and supports them.
The vision continues to be one of enabling the whole Church to explore the resources together and so to contribute to the Church’s discernment about these matters that affect deeply our life together in love and faith.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of York
The Bishop of Coventry
The Bishop of London48 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office has announced today two new suffragan bishops for the Diocese of Chichester. Ruth Bushyager is to be Bishop of Horsham and William Hazlewood is to Bishop of Lewes. The two press releases are copied below and there is more detail on the Chichester diocesan website
Suffragan See of Horsham: 29 April 2020
Queen approves nomination of the Reverend Ruth Kathleen Frances Bushyager to the Suffragan See of Horsham.
Published 29 April 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Ruth Kathleen Frances Bushyager, BA, MSci, Vicar of St Paul’s Dorking and Area Dean for Dorking in the Diocese of Guildford to the Suffragan See of Horsham, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Mark Sowerby who resigned on 1st September 2019.
Suffragan See of Lewes: 29 April 2020
Queen approves nomination of the Reverend Prebendary William Peter Guy Hazlewood to the Suffragan See of Lewes.
Published 29 April 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Prebendary William Peter Guy Hazlewood, Vicar of the United Benefice of Dartmouth and Dittisham and Honorary Canon at Exeter Cathedral, in the Diocese of Exeter, to the Suffragan See of Lewes, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Richard Jackson following his translation to the See of Hereford.32 Comments
Updated Tuesday afternoon to add response from Andrew Graystone
Updated Wednesday to add report of the resignation of the Titus Trust chairman.
The Church of England issued the following press release today.
John Smyth review – timing of publication
The Learning Lessons Review, commissioned by the Church of England, into its handling of the allegations of abuse committed by the late John Smyth continues to be delivered according to the terms of reference. To ensure the review is as comprehensive as possible and that the large volume of information submitted can be fully studied, completion is now expected into 2021. This timeframe will also allow for any impact the COVID-19 restrictions may have on the review’s day to day workings.
The review, led by Keith Makin and supported by Sarah Lawrence, has to date focussed on engagement with victims and survivors who have bravely provided invaluable and full accounts of the abuse. In addition, the reviewers have continued to receive contact from individuals and organisations wishing to submit accounts and written materials of vital interest. This has been wider than could have been anticipated when the review began.
It should be noted that the reviewers continue to welcome any further submissions from victims and survivors who have yet to come forward along with other individuals or organisations that wish to participate. Contact details below.
The terms of reference suggested a timeline for completion of the review within nine months from commencing in October 2019 (having been announced in August). Progress updates have been held at regular intervals since then between the National Director of Safeguarding and the reviewers.
Work has been taking place to ensure cooperation between parallel reviews being delivered by organisations listed in the terms of reference. This is to ensure appropriate, safe and legal information sharing takes place to protect confidentiality of victims while at the same time ensuring minimal impact on individuals in terms of repeating their traumatic and damaging experiences of abuse.
The Covid-19 crisis will undoubtedly have some impact on the review process and timeline although virtual meetings are being used where possible.
Keith Makin, Independent Lead Reviewer said: “Sarah and I have been privileged to speak to many brave victims and survivors as part of this review process so far and would like to thank those people for their most valuable accounts of the terrible psychological and physical abuse experienced at the hands of John Smyth.
We know the delay in completion will be a great frustration for all those involved but we are absolutely committed to making this review as comprehensive and thorough as possible to ensure lessons are learnt.
To do this properly, I have asked for more time to allow Sarah and I to continue to meet with individuals and analyse the evidence submitted. The Church has agreed that this additional time will be time well spent and vital for the Church’s safeguarding learning.”
In response Andrew Graystone has released the following.
Church of England announces further delay to Smyth Review
The Church of England has announced a further delay to the publication of its review of abuse by John Smyth QC. The church says that the review, which was originally scheduled for publication next month, will now be completed in “early 2021” and published some time later. The postponement, which was announced on the Church of England’s website, is the second time that the date has been put back.
The first announcement of a review was made by the Lead Bishop for Safeguarding Peter Hancock on the day of Smyth’s death in August 2018. It was a further 12 months before a reviewer was appointed, and Terms of Reference were announced in August 2019. At that stage the review was expected to last nine months. The church later revised the Terms of Reference to accommodate the fact that work on the review had not started until October 2019.
In a note to some victims yesterday, the reviewer Keith Makin said that “The response from victims and survivors as well as many other interested parties and organisations to our request for information has been immense. The timescale change reflects this as we continue to receive new lines of enquiry to investigate along with vast amounts of written materials and individual accounts.” He said that the difficulties caused by Covid-19 are not currently a factor in the timing of the review.
Victims’ advocate Andrew Graystone said “This review is the last opportunity for Smyth’s victims to receive some form of justice, so the additional delay will be difficult for them. Hopefully it is a sign that the Church of England is coming to terms with the scale of abuse, and the extent to which it is embedded in the church.”
If the review is completed in 2021 it will be almost a decade since the abuse was first reported to the Church of England, and almost forty years since it was first brought to the attention of the Iwerne Trust. Parallel reviews into John Smyth’s abuse are being conducted by Winchester College and Scripture Union. The experts conducting those reviews were not informed in advance of the decision to extend the Church of England’s review.
Anglican Ink reports that the Rev Simon Austen, the Titus Trust chairman, resigned on 9 April 2020. According to this “A spokeswoman for Mr Austen at the St Leonard’s Church office said the reason for his resignation as chairman of the Titus Trust was that he ‘intended to serve in this capacity for two years and has now come to the end of his term of office’.”
Law and Religion UK bring a lot of useful background links together here.8 Comments
It was announced today that the next Dean of Derby is to be the Venerable Peter Robinson, who is currently the Archdeacon of Lindisfarne in the Diocese of Newcastle.19 Comments
On 4 April, we reported on the connections between the Titus Trust, John Smyth, and Jonathan Fletcher.
Today, a further statement has been issued on behalf of survivors:
There has been some confusion about the statement published by Titus Trust on 3rd April 2020 responding to the settlement of claims by three victims of John Smyth. I hope these facts will clarify the situation.
John Smyth’s known victims currently number in excess of 110. The Titus Trust has settled with just three of them. The three men initiated a civil action because, after several years of being blanked and ignored by the trust, they felt that this was the only way to force the trust to confront its responsibilities.
In response, the Titus Trust has spent well in excess of £100,000 in legal fees defending the civil claim. This is many times the amount that the claimants will receive in settlement. In addition, the trust has retained one of the most expensive secular Public Relations consultancies in the UK to manage their profile. The Titus Trust had an income of £1,934,000 last year, of which £1,078,000 was donations.
The three claimants were given no prior sight of the statement, which was released by the Titus Trust without warning on a Friday evening, 3rd April 2020.
The Titus Trust statement, and the settlement itself, contains no admission of liability or involvement in Smyth’s abuse, no reference to the involvement of key members of the Iwerne network in arranging Smyth’s removal to Africa, no acknowledgement of his continuing abuse there over three decades, and no reference to the covering-up of Smyth’s abuse since it was disclosed in 1982. Indeed, the settlement repeats several times their assertion that the Titus Trust was not and is not responsible in any way for Smyth’s abuse. This is in spite of the fact that there is a significant continuity in activities, personnel and culture between Titus Trust and its predecessor. In terms of apology, all that the statement says is, “We are sorry that the Titus Trust’s earlier public statements were inadequate as explanations of the relevant facts and history and that some of the language the Trust has used in public statements about these matters has prompted anger on the part of some survivors and others.” They are sorry for their language.
The Titus Trust continues to maintain that the Iwerne camps network was the responsibility of the Scripture Union.
Reviews and inquiries
The Titus statement describes three “actions” that they say that have taken, or are taking, in response to the revelations of abuse by John Smyth.
i) A full independent review of safeguarding practices
A review was conducted in 2018 by the reputable independent safeguarding consultancy thirtyone:eight. It examined safeguarding on camps and activities currently run by the trust. Titus Trust has not published this review. The trust is within its rights to keep such a review confidential, though in the circumstances it might have helped public confidence if it had been published.
Their statement of April 2020 says that “among other things, [the review] has included receiving training in pastoral care and supporting survivors of abuse.” It is not clear what this means, since I am not aware that any survivor of abuse has received any pastoral care or support from the trust. The three men who brought the civil action against Titus Trust have received no contact from the trust at all since the abuse became public knowledge.
ii) An internal Cultural Review
The statement says that “an internal Cultural Review has been carried out that considered aspects of our traditions and practices.” No information about this review has been published. This review was not conducted by thirtyone:eight. It is not clear what aspects of culture this review covered, who conducted it, what was concluded, or what if anything has changed.
iii) An independent Cultural review
The statement says that “an independent Cultural Review will begin shortly” that will “enable us to look honestly at our culture and its impact on individual behaviour.” This review has not yet taken place, and no information about it has been published. It is not clear what it will cover, what form it will take, who will conduct it, when it will take place, or whether it will be published.
The statement also makes reference to “the Review into John Smyth led by Keith Makin.” This review was announced by the Church of England in August 2018, commissioned in August 2018 and begun in October 2019. The Makin Review was originally due to be completed by April 2020, but this was put back to June 2020. The current best estimate is that it may be complete by early Summer 2021.
The Makin Review is one of three inquiries currently being conducted into the abuse by John Smyth. Clearly the existence of three separate reviews is far from ideal, and causes additional suffering to the victims. It became necessary to conduct separate reviews because The Titus Trust refused to cooperate with one overall review when it was first proposed, insisting that they had no connection with John Smyth. Smyth was the chair of the Iwerne Trust, which was the predecessor of the Titus Trust.
More recently the Titus Trust has agreed to cooperate with the Makin inquiry, the civil claimants having made that a condition of the settlement of their claim. We cannot yet know what the extent of that cooperation will be. The Titus Trust is not conducting its own review into the activities of John Smyth.
In addition to the well-publicised abuse by John Smyth, there have been at least four other corroborated instances of abuse against boys and young men by members of the Iwerne network. Others are under investigation.
Victims of John Smyth continue to believe that the Titus Trust should close.
Also, this recent article, by Matthew Mason, may have some bearing on the matter: Where Did the Holy Spirit Go?29 Comments
The Revd Peter Anthony, Vicar of St Benet’s, Kentish Town in London has recorded a half-hour talk on why what we’re doing now is not a copying of the house churches of the patristic era.
View it here on You Tube. I strongly recommend this video.45 Comments
Updated 6 pm Thursday
With reference to the stories below about hospital chaplaincy, the bishops who signed the previous document, linked below, have published A letter regarding hospital chaplaincy. The content of this new letter is copied here below the fold.
The Church Times today has a comprehensive report: Churches co-ordinate their CV-19 response as figures go on rising.
The Telegraph reports:(£) Archbishop of Canterbury says Jesus is ‘quite up to date’ with technology and urges churches to stay closed. The video mentioned was published here yesterday.
The bishops of the Church in Wales have published this guidance on the matter of livestreaming from church buildings:
…All church buildings remain closed until further notice. This means churches must not be open for public worship or solitary prayer.
Worship has been recorded and broadcast both commendably and effectively from parsonages over recent days. Whilst the Welsh Government Regulations now permit a cleric to record or broadcast a service (without a congregation) from church buildings, the desirability and advisability of doing so will vary between different contexts. Individual Bishops will advise further on this matter within their respective dioceses and any such events should be held only in strict accordance with those diocesan guidelines, or with the explicit permission of the diocesan Bishop.
The Welsh Government Regulations also permit clergy to visit their churches, and for other church officers and volunteers to visit churches only to undertake a voluntary or charitable duty, where it is not reasonably practicable to undertake that duty from home. It is therefore possible for essential and urgent site inspections to be undertaken by clerics, or by another person nominated by the Incumbent, Ministry/Mission Area Leader, Area Dean or Archdeacon. We ask that such visits are kept to an absolute minimum…
The Times has this report (£): Coronavirus: Bishop bans clergy from bedsides of the sick and dying
Members of the Church of England clergy who have volunteered their services as hospital chaplains during the crisis have been told that they will not be allowed to minister to any sick or dying patients at the bedside, even when wearing protective equipment, because of the risk of spreading the infection.
In a letter sent to all bishops and those involved in chaplaincy provision, the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, under whose authority the new Nightingale Hospital in east London falls, wrote of the need to maintain “extremely strict discipline regarding contact”. He said that volunteer chaplains would be banned from going on wards or near patients, including those not displaying symptoms of Covid-19…
The Church Times also covers this: Volunteers’ help for stretched hospital chaplains to be tightly restricted
CLERICS who have volunteered to become temporary chaplains in emergency field hospitals in London during the coronavirus crisis have been advised not to have any direct contact with patients, even when wearing protective equipment.
The new guidance was issued by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, this week in a letter to diocesan and area bishops and others involved in chaplaincy provision. It has been produced in consultation with the Barts Health NHS Trust, which is hosting the recently opened 4000-bed Nightingale Hospital in Newham (News, 9 April)…
Here is the full text of the letter mentioned above: NHS – Nightingale Hospitals – Barts 2020.
The Church Times report continues:
…In an article in The Times on Thursday, the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, in London, the Revd Marcus Walker, wrote that other denominations had found ways of “safely recruiting and dispatching people to minister to their own faithful — and quite rightly.
“It is only the Established Church which has decided not to allow the upscaling of its presence. The two chaplains, divided (by some miracle) over five different locations, and working all hours of day and night, will have to engage in this desperately important but hugely challenging ministry by themselves.”
Last week, the lead chaplain for chaplaincy and spiritual care with bereavement services at Croydon University Hospital, the Revd Andrew Dovey, said that providing God’s grace in all situations, regardless of the risk, was “the calling that Christ gave [chaplains] and our Christian responsibility” (News, 3 April).
Fr Walker writes that the new advice goes against this calling. “Today we are banned from doing this, not by a hostile government or a suspicious health service but by our own Church.”
The Times opinion article by Marcus Walker quoted above can be found here: (£) Clergy must be free to minister to the sick in this crisis.36 Comments
This video has been published today by the Church of England: A message from Archbishop Justin Welby on the need to keep church buildings closed.
There’s been a lot of comment, both publicly and privately, about the closure of church buildings and all sorts of strange ideas about why the bishops and archbishops felt it was necessary to close the building. They range from conspiracy ideas that we’ve always really wanted to, through to comments about obsession with health and safety and all this sort of thing.
There are actually five very simple reasons, all of them pretty positive. The first is to set an example: the government has said again and again, and every public health official in the country is saying, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. It’s a very simple message and it’s a very ethical message – it’s about looking after those who look after us, and it’s about looking after the most vulnerable. By closing the churches we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. The second reason is that part of the church’s role is to be with people. The church building is a building, the Church is the people of God, and when we don’t go to the church building we go back to what we did in the early centuries of the Church and what churches all around the world do at present, which is we meet in homes, just family and household, we use the wonders of technology to be in touch with each other, but we recover the sense that Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am there with them.” And they don’t even actually to be physically gathered, virtually gathered does very well indeed. Jesus is quite up-to-date on this stuff.
And thirdly, for ministers, for priests and bishops it’s about sharing in the inconveniences, the restrictions, the isolations imposed on us. It’s about being part of the flock rather than some super special category that can go and do its own thing.
Fourthly, we need to remember that the Church of England is the Church for England. There are all kinds of arguments about being an established church but deep within our DNA, deep within our nature, in every parish, for all of us who’ve been parish priests, there is the sense you’re there for everyone. And if you’re there for everyone, it means you have to think about everyone. You have to be available in whatever way is best, and the public health message is, let me say it again, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. So if we’re the Church for England we pay attention to that.
And fifthly, it’s not just about us you know, the believers, it’s about everyone, it’s about being welcoming in every way we can. The online services are being accessed by vast numbers of people – they may not be everything that those of us who are regulars, lifelong churchgoers want, but they are a way of reaching out. It’s a way of saying we don’t depend on the buildings, It’s a way of saying we don’t depend on the buildings, wonderful as they are, and they are treasures. What we depend on is the presence of God,through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, who leads us into his love, into his mission, into following him.
May God bless and keep you in this difficult period.44 Comments