Thinking Anglicans

Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops

One of the papers just released for next month’s meeting of the General Sunod of the Church of England is this one. As a GS Misc paper it is provided for information and not for debate.

  • Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops (GS Misc 1387)

This is an interim report from the House of Bishops Transparency Group. There are four recommendations, listed below, which the covering page states have been approved by the House.

Recommendation 1:
Minutes of all meetings of the House of Bishops should be published on the relevant section of the Church of England website once they have been approved at the subsequent meeting. These should be minutes rather than transcripts.

Recommendation 2:
The House of Bishops will adopt a “maximum transparency” approach so that the analysis and information that the House has had to make decisions will be made available. In particular formal legal advice from the Legal Office or written advice from the Faith and Order Commission and other such groups should be provided to the General Synod as an annex to the relevant GS paper. The agenda for each House of Bishops meeting will be published with the circulation of papers. Papers to the House of Bishops should continue not to be published.

Recommendation 3:
The House of Bishops should continue to meet without public attendance, and should amend its standing orders to be honest that it is doing so, removing the fiction of public participation in Standing Order 13.

Recommendation 4:
The House of Bishops will propose changes to Canon H 3 and potentially other legislation to provide for acting diocesan bishops to vote at meetings of the House and General Synod. In advance of that chairs might ask acting diocesan bishops informally to indicate how they would have voted were they eligible to vote.

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July 2024 General Synod – Papers

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in York from Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 July. A few of the papers, listed below the fold, are now available online. I will update the list when more papers are released next week.

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Wilkinson-Jay Response Group survey findings

The Church Times reports on a survey commissioned by the Jay Response Group but as yet not published by them.

Survey uncovers reservations about outsourcing church safeguarding work

MOST bishops and safeguarding professionals in the C of E oppose the outsourcing of church safeguarding work to an independent body, according to the results of a survey commissioned this spring.

The Church Times has obtained the unpublished results of a survey on the future of church safeguarding, which was commissioned in March (News, 25 March). The findings from the survey are due to form part of a paper which will be debated at General Synod in July.

The 2003 responses show that — while there is strong support for the creation of a body that would provide independent scrutiny of safeguarding — Professor Alexis Jay’s chief recommendation, outlined in her report (News, 21 February), that day-to-day safeguarding work should be completely handed over to another independent body, has not found widespread support….

The full text of the survey report is available here: Wilkinson-Jay Initial Survey Research Paper.

The following graphs summarise the most important findings, namely that support for the creation of “Charity A” is lower among both bishops and those currently employed in church safeguarding work than it is among either those who are survivors of abuse and their advocates,  or those who are ordinary church members.

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LLF: proposals made for same-sex prayers and marriage

Francis Martin at the Church Times has a report on what happeed last weekend in the LLF group discussions:
Same-sex prayers and marriage: latest Love and Faith proposals considered by the Bishops.

See previous article for the official report on what happened at the House of Bishops meeting on Thursday.

The Church of England Evangelical Council has published two items:

John Dunnett says:

There’s a lot of water going under the Living in Love and Faith Bridge right now, including today, the 16th of May, a discussion at the House of Bishops. Whilst we do not know what they will conclude and what therefore will be brought to General Synod in July, it is clear that two things are going to happen. One, that the so-called ‘standalone services’ for blessings of same-sex relationships will be made possible.

And secondly, that, probably by the removal of ‘so-called’ discipline, that clergy in some dioceses are going to be able to marry their same-sex partners. Maybe as soon as this autumn. These are big changes, and I think it’s fairly clear that they are indeed indicative of a change of doctrine…

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General Synod outline of business for July 2024

The outline of business for the July 2024 meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod was issued today. It is copied below.

GENERAL SYNOD: JULY 2024 OUTLINE OF BUSINESS

Full details of each item will be on the agenda

Friday 5 July
House of Laity to meet 12.15 pm -1.30 pm
2.30 pm – 7.00 pm
Opening worship
Introductions
Presidential Address
Address from Archbishop of Finland and presentation by Finnish confirmands
Business Committee Report
Report from the Wisdom of Trust Working Group
*5.45 pm Questions

Saturday 6 July
8.45 am – 12.45 pm
Opening worship
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Church Funds Investment – Revision Stage
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Chancel Repair Liability – Revision Stage
Standing Orders Committee report
Archbishops’ Council Budget 2025 and Apportionment
Questions
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm

Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Clergy Conduct Measure – Revision Stage
Sports and Wellbeing Ministry
Living in Love and Faith: presentation with questions

Sunday 7 July
2.30 pm – 6.00 pm
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Human Dignity of Disabled Children: Liverpool
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business National Church Governance Measure – First consideration
Special Agenda III: Private Members’ Motions Inquiry into allegations of abuse within the Soul Survivor Network
8.15 pm – 9.45 pm
Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners’ Annual Report

Monday 8 July
8.45 am – 12.45 pm
Opening Worship
Update on Safeguarding Independence
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Foodbanks and Inadequacies in Social Security: Sheffield
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Living in Love and Faith
8.30 pm – 10.00 pm
Reserved for deemed items and contingency business

Tuesday 9 July
8.45 am – 1.45 pm
Opening Worship
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Abuse (Redress) Measure – Revision Stage
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Chancel Repair Liability Final Approval
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Church Funds Investment Final Approval
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Day of Prayer and Action for the Persecuted Church: London
*12.35pm Hearing and Responding to the Voices of Young People
*1.35pm Farewells
*1.45pm Prorogation

Deemed business
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2024
Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2024
Learning & Development Framework (Safeguarding)
AC Audit Annual Report

* not later than

Contingency Business
Rest Periods for Office Holders (Winchester)

Please note that all timings are indicative unless marked with an asterisk

Deadline for receipt of questions: 1200 hrs Tuesday 25 June 2024

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The Jay Files

Updated 17 May – episode 2 added; and again 24 May – episode 3 added

Regular readers will recall the publication last February of The Wilkinson Files.

Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness have now produced a further video series: The Jay Files which explain very clearly what is in Alexis Jay’s report on The Future of Church Safeguarding.

The first of three videos was published this morning, and two further episodes will be published on successive Fridays. I will link all three of them in this article as they become available. These are strongly recommended viewing, particularly for General Synod members.

The Jay Files episode 1 The Background

The Jay Files episode 2 Fully or Semi-Detached

The Jay Files episode 3 Safeguarding the Jay Way

A press release says

…The Jay Files are a series of 3 short documentary-style films which highlight the key findings of Professor Jay’s Report and are a sequel to The Wilkinson Files which examined the report by barrister Dr Sarah Wilkinson into the investigation of the closure of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board. Each film will be no longer than 15 minutes in duration. The Wilkinson Files have been viewed thousands of times by people both inside and outside of the Church.

These films are presented by Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness, both Members of the House of Laity of the General Synod and both very active in matters relating to Safeguarding. Martin is a retired solicitor specialising in Child Protection. Clive is a Certified Auditor who is still in practice and is also an elected member of the Audit Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Clive said “Like the Wilkinson Report, Professor Jay’s Report is packed with detail, including the results of a substantial survey that included abuse survivors as well as members of Safeguarding Schemes. She spoke with over 180 people in multiple dioceses, and it is clear that her recommendations were based on the evidence from her work and were not confined to any one parcular group of interviewees.”

“Members of the General Synod are given very little time to discuss in depth the details of these complex reports which lie at the heart of creating a Church which is safe for all before being asked to make critical decisions on how we will move forward. We are all in agreement that there must be proper measures to prevent a repetition of the abuse scandals of the past, as well as the means to care for existing survivors of past abuse. Martin and I hope that these films will help Members to better understand the issues before making decisions.”

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National Redress Scheme: financial award proposals published

The National Redress Scheme is for survivors and victims of Church-related abuse. See here for links to earlier press releases about this.

Details of the proposed financial award framework for the Church of England’s national Redress Scheme have now been published. If approved, the framework would be used to calculate offers of financial redress to survivors and victims of Church-related abuse. Details of the proposed approach to funding the Redress Scheme have also been announced.

The Redress Project Board has agreed the recommended financial award framework for the national Redress Scheme. If approved through the Church of England’s legislative processes, the framework would result in individual awards of between £5000 and £660,000 in rare and exceptional circumstances. For more details read the latest press release: National Redress Scheme: Proposed financial award framework and approach to funding.

Church Times report: Survivors could be paid £660,000 in C of E’s four-stage redress scheme

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LLF Programme Board members announced

The Church of England has published this: LLF Programme Board update.

Details of LLF Programme Board membership confirmed

Following an update last month on the new Programme Board to steer the next steps of Living in Love and Faith (LLF), progress has been made in forming this Board, together with the three working groups.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, has agreed to Chair the Programme Board, supporting the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, in his ongoing work as the lead bishop of LLF.

Additionally, the Bishop of Stockport, Sam Corley, the Acting Bishop of Coventry, Ruth Worlsey and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich will also serve on the Programme Board, with a further member to be appointed.

Ex Officio members will be Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, Alison Coulter, Vice-chair of the House of Laity, Luke Miller, Prolocutor of the House of Clergy and Kate Wharton, Prolocutor of the House of Clergy. They will be supported by staff from the National Church Institutions (NCIs).

Full details of the membership of the three working groups – Pastoral Guidance, Pastoral Provision and Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) – will be shared once all members have been appointed.

Together for the Church of England has published this Public Statement on LLF from Together (April 2024)   (This organisation is an amalgamation of GSGSG (General Synod Gender and Sexuality Group and MOSAIC (The Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church).

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LLF: re-formation of working groups

press release

New programme board to help steer LLF next steps
08/03/2024

Lead Bishop gives update to Synod members

Following discussion at the February meeting of General Synod, further details of plans for a new Programme Board to oversee the ongoing work of Living in Love and Faith (LLF) have been shared with General Synod members.

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, the lead bishop for LLF, has written to Synod members to outline plans for a new oversight board and the re-formation of three working groups: the Pastoral Guidance Working Group, the Pastoral Reassurance Working Group and the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) Working Group.

Synod members have been invited to express their interest in joining the groups which will be formed of bishops, other clergy and laity.

In addition to these working groups, meetings with stakeholders will be organised to help enable progress ahead of a meeting of The House of Bishops’ meeting May.

Two formal groups will also be formed, as agreed following the commendation of the PLF:

  • A Pastoral Consultative Group – to aid bishops, diocesan staff and others with answers to the broad questions that arise from the implementation of PLF and other LLF work. This group will comprise a small number of bishops, supported by consultants.
  • An Independent Review Panel – to consider concerns about the implementation of the PLF and application of the Pastoral Guidance, and make recommendations for addressing justifiable concerns.

A timeline is being finalised to allow these groups to make progress ahead of the House of Bishops’ meeting later in May, which will feed into the General Synod sessions in July.

Read the full letter to Synod members from the Bishop of Leicester.

Church Times report on this: Synod members invited to apply to join LLF working groups

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February General Synod – electronic voting results

Updated 7 March to add item 13 and 14

The electronic voting results from this month’s General Synod are now available online and are linked below, with links to the order papers containing the relevant texts.

Electronic voting results

Archbishops’ Commission of Families and Households (Order Paper IV)

Safeguarding Independence (Order Paper II)

Living in Love and Faith (Order Paper VI)

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General Synod – 23-27 February 2024

This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.

The Church of England’s General Synod is meeting this weekend. The timetable is here, the agenda is here and the papers are here.

House of Laity meeting

In addition the House of Laity will meet on Sunday evening.

Live video etc

All sessions are streamed live on YouTube and remain available to view afterwards. Links have been provided in advance.

There is an official Twitter account.

Order papers

Business done

Official press releases

Press reports and comment

Church Times

The Guardian

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Safeguarding – pre-Synod news and comment

Updated Friday to add a second Church Times article

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Future of Church Safeguarding – A look at the Jay Report
also online at Modern Church

Ruth Peacock Religion Media Centre Celebration but concern at proposed new CofE independent safeguarding

Francis Martin Church Times Jay calls for root-and-branch reform of church safeguarding

Simon Walsh Church Times Varied responses to Jay report on Church of England safeguarding

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General Synod Questions

The Questions (and answers) for this weekend’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod were issued today. They can be found online here: Questions Notice Paper February 2024.

Questions will be taken in two groups; on Friday from 5.30pm to 7.00pm, and for about an hour on Saturday morning. There are 225 questions.

Update

There is a correction to the answer to Question 62 in Notice Paper 7.

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Jay report on Church of England safeguarding published

UPDATED

This report was commissioned by the Church of England and first announced on 20 July 2023. Details followed in August: see Future of Church Safeguarding.

The report is now published: The Future of Church Safeguarding (55 pages)

There is also a press release: Report into the future of safeguarding in the Church of England

And there is a video.

There is also this Legal Advice note (35 pages)

——–

The Church of England has issued a press release.

And there is this: Terms of Reference for the Jay and Wilkinson Reports Response Group

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Bishop of Leicester writes to General Synod members

The Bishop of Leicester has written to all members of the General Synod this morning, ahead of the LLF debate at Synod this coming weekend. The original is here and I haved copied the body of the letter below the fold.

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The Wilkinson Files

Sarah Wilkinson’s report into the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was published in December. A debate on Safeguarding Independence (GS 2336) is scheduled to take place on Saturday 24 February at General Synod.

In advance of this debate six short documentary-style films (“The Wilkinson Files”) which highlight the key findings of Dr Wilkinson’s Report are being released by two Synod members. They explain these findings while displaying their precise location within the report. Each film is between 8 and about 15 minutes in duration.

The films are being released daily. So far two are available, but links are available for all six.

The films are presented by Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness, both Members of the House of Laity of the General Synod and both very active in matters relating to Safeguarding. Martin is a retired solicitor specialising in Child Protection. Clive is a Certified Auditor who is still in pracce and is also an elected member of the Audit Commiee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Clive said “When the Wilkinson Report is considered at the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod, speakers will probably only have 2 or 3 minutes each to speak about it. The Report itself reflects the legal background of its author and is packed with painstaking detail. We wanted to help Synod members to be as fully-informed as possible before Synod considers this. We have approached this like a forensic examinaon and have only included in the films any information contained in Dr Wilkinson’s Report, information of which she was aware or information in the Public Domain at the time she wrote her report.

“We have not invited anyone else to comment in our films or to appear on them in the interests of strict imparality. We leave it instead to our viewers to draw their own conclusions about how these sad events came to pass and how we can avoid a repetition. Dr Wilkinson’s report makes it clear that some fundamental changes are needed to the way the Church of England and the Archbishops’ Council conducts itself when dealing with Safeguarding.”

The films detail how the ISB was created, how it struggled to achieve the proper independence which abuse survivors and others expected, how it was closed down, followed by an detailed examinaon of the failures in governance which Dr Wilkinson highlights, a summary of the voices of the survivors who spoke to her and, finally, a short analysis of the “Magic Moments” where serious mistakes occurred which led to the failure and closure of the ISB.

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Correspondence re Secretary General

On 18 January, we published a letter addressed to the archbishops calling for the suspension and investigation of the Secretary General, William Nye. This letter was written by Martin Sewell and signed by 20 members of General Synod. The full text of the letter is here.

A reply to this letter was sent on 6 February from Carl Hughes, Chair of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Martin Sewell replied to this on 8 February. The formal response is here, and there is also a covering note and an addendum.

Carl Hughes replied to this on 11 February.

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February 2024 General Synod – Agenda and Papers

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London from Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 February. The agenda (GS 2332) and papers were released today. The report of the Business Committee (GS 2333) includes a guide to the group of sessions.

The papers can be downloaded as two zipped files, and there are links to individual papers below the fold.

(more…)

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Pre-General Synod Press Release – February 2024

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London later this month, and the usual pre-Synod press release, copied below, was issued today.

Synod to address biodiversity, safeguarding, racial justice and Prayers of Love and Faith
09/02/2024

General Synod papers published for February 2024 Group of Sessions

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet later this month in London to discuss the biodiversity agenda of the Church’s overall Environment Programme, racial justice, and Prayers of Love and Faith which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples. General Synod will meet at Church House on February 23 to 27.

A Land and Nature Motion will seek to give biodiversity equal consideration with net zero carbon, recognising the need to respond urgently to the ecological crisis. The motion also addresses land and property owned by the Church, at parish, diocese and national level. Dioceses would be encouraged to develop a ‘Land’ action plan. A separate net zero carbon routemap was approved by General Synod in July 2022.

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, said: “With this motion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s responsibility to safeguarding God’s creation by adding commitments to be responsible stewards of the land to our existing Net Zero ambitions.

“There are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England – that’s around twice the size of a City like Oxford. I want them to be places for the living as well as the dead.

“With these free programmes, church and local communities can answer this call straight away by counting species, planning mowing regimes, allowing plants to flower and joining the Eco-Church scheme.

“The Church is also setting out clear commitments to be at the forefront of responsible investment and, in partnership with our tenants, responsible land ownership.”

“I hope Synod will vote strongly in favour of this motion, and send a clear signal to those all around the country, and to Government, that responsible land stewardship is good for nature, good for business and good for people.”

Synod will be invited to discuss and endorse the process for engaging with two reports on safeguarding in the Church: firstly a report on lessons learned by the barrister Sarah Wilkinson, published in December, and secondly recommendations from the forthcoming review from Professor Alexis Jay into the Future of Church Safeguarding. The Archbishops’ Council has set up a group to advise it on how to respond to the reviews.

There will also be an update from the Redress Project Board, outlining the significant progress that has been made in designing a National Redress Scheme for survivors of Church-related abuse, since the draft Redress Measure was brought to General Synod for First Consideration in November 2023.

An update will be shared on the work of the Estates Evangelism Task Group, which was set up in 2016 to renew the Church on social housing estates and other low-income communities.

There will be a report on progress on the work on Living in Love and Faith. The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, has produced a paper proposing that the Church work towards adopting a set of commitments for love, faith and reconciliation, to provide a way to implement the decisions that the Synod has previous taken in a way that that encourages reconciliation and unity.

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, said: “Synod has set a clear direction for us to move forward, but there remains profound disagreement across the Church. As we move to implement what has been decided, we must also find ways to unify and reconcile these disagreements, mindful particularly of the narrow majorities in key votes.

“The leadership of the Church of England has apologised to LGBTQI+ people for the lack of welcome and pastoral care they have received, and it is time that all churches show this apology in action.

“At the same time, there is a weariness among many in the Church and a longing to focus on other questions related to our calling to serve the nation.

“The 10 Commitments I have suggested to Synod do not represent words to be agreed upon, but a basis on which we can continue to pursue the implementation of motions previously passed on Living and Love and Faith.”

Synod will also discuss racial justice and the Church Commissioners’ response to its research into historic transatlantic slavery; the war in Ukraine and its wider impact; and the report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households, “Love Matters”. There will also be an update on the Governance Programme.

The Synod will also be invited to consider various items of Church legislation.

More information

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LLF: roundup of recent statements and news reports

Updated

Since we posted the statement of the Bishop of Newcastle on Thursday morning, there have been several further statements. Some of these have been linked in the comments, but I am repeating them all here, as not everyone reads all the comments…

The Church Times has carried several news reports so far:

These include quotes from others, including from Dr Tom Woolford, and the Bishop in Europe.

Monday Updates

Helen King has written: Processing the process: LLF continues which contains much detail concerning these recent events.

A second interim theological advisor has been appointed: Statement: Interim Theology Advisers

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the appointment of a new interim Theology Adviser, the Revd Canon Dr Jessica Martin, currently Canon Residentiary for Learning and Outreach at Ely Cathedral, to work alongside the Revd Dr Tom Woolford. Tom and Jessica will work as Joint Interim Theology Advisers to the House of Bishops and Secretaries to Faith and Order Commission (FAOC), on secondment for a six-month period starting in March 2024. These interim roles are in place while a substantive recruitment process is underway for a permanent successor to the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, who leaves the NCIs at the end of February to take up the role of Principal of Ridley Hall…

Tuesday Updates

Helen King has written a further blog article:One down, one to go: the LLF appointment saga continues

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