press release 11 September 2023
Leading public law barrister to head review into Independent Safeguarding Board
A leading public law barrister is to head the independent review into the first phase of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), it was announced today.
The Archbishops’ Council has instructed Sarah Wilkinson, a barrister from Blackstone Chambers, to undertake a review of the ISB Phase 1. She is an experienced public law practitioner who has represented the Government both as sole and junior counsel in a wide range of high-profile judicial review cases.
The Archbishops’ Council has asked Ms Wilkinson to establish a clear account of the events from the conception, design and establishment of the ISB until the announcement of the termination of contracts of members, establish and identify the reasons for the action to terminate, and identify lessons to be learned based on the findings.
She will complete her review by the end of November and the Council will aim to publish this report as soon as possible following the end of November. This review will also inform the work of Professor Alexis Jay on the future of safeguarding.
The review was announced at the General Synod in July by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and follows the statement issued by the Council on the future of the ISB.
If you or anyone you are in contact with wish to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or visit www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk
Alternatively, you may wish to contact the diocesan safeguarding team in your area or the National Safeguarding Team – email firstname.lastname@example.org
There are also a range of other support services available.
Today’s Church Times contains two news reports which relate to the continuing discussions leading up to the November General Synod meeting.
Reference is made in the above to an article by Helen King, which we first linked to on 19 August: The autumn of Living in Love and Faith. This contains a list of meeting dates for many groups in the forthcoming weeks.1 Comment
Ruth Peacock writes about Roger Bolton’s video interview of Sir David Lidington which is available on YouTube under the headline Lidington: I was used to acrimony in politics, but I hadn’t expected to find it in the church.
Sir David Lidington, a former de facto deputy prime minister, and long-standing member of the Church of England, has spoken of his shock at discovering a total breakdown of trust within the church.
In an interview with Roger Bolton for the Religion Media Centre, he said the flaws in the governance of the church were not by themselves the sole cause of the culture of distrust within the church, but he was convinced they had aggravated the mistrust…
The interview itself is here: RMC Big Interview: Sir David Lidington shocked at total breakdown of trust in the CofE
Strongly recommended.25 Comments
Updated 31 July to add the originally missing results.
The electronic voting results from this month’s General Synod are now available online and are linked below. The texts of the motion can be found in the official record of Business Done for each session of Synod. For convenience I have made a note of what each item was about and given a link to the relevant item of Business Done.
The texts of the motion can be found in the official record of Business Done for each session of Synod. For convenience I have made a note of what each item was about and given a link to the relevant item of Business Done.
In addition to the votes above there were two other counted votes
the lists for which have not been made available.
Update The lists for the two votes above are now available.8 Comments
This letter was recently published on the websites of several inclusive organisations, see list of signatories at the end.
A Public Letter on behalf of Inclusive Organisations to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London and Truro as co-chairs of the LLF implementation process 11th July 2023
Dear Archbishops and Bishops,
We write in response to the growing campaign by some leaders and bishops in the Church of England to delay and obstruct the progress of the Living in Love & Faith journey by asking for the Prayers of Love and Faith to be approved under Canon B2, requiring two-thirds majorities in all three houses of the General Synod.
Resistance to LLF
We are saddened that this campaign indicates, above all, the failure of many in the Church to engage fully in the LLF journey in which we have participated together for the last six years, and into which so much valuable theological and pastoral reflection has been poured. This is not, of course, an accidental failure, when groups like the Church of England Evangelical Council have actively discouraged churches from making use of the LLF resources. However, it appears clear to us (and some have been told directly by conservative colleagues) that the conservative view of marriage and sex was very fully represented throughout the LLF process, and we have sought to engage with it in good faith…
Read the full text of the Letter here.
Andrew Goddard subsequently published this response.32 Comments
Continued from episode 10 Updated 24 July
1. The Church Times has a detailed account of the Sunday afternoon session: General Synod digest: Survivor and Archbishops’ Council present on safeguarding chaos.
2. Premier Christianity Newscast: Tim Wyatt has a whole podcast (1 hour) devoted to the ISB story: Safeguarding in crisis in the Church of England. He includes interviews with Andrew Graystone, Gavin Drake, Jasvinder Sanghera, Jamie Harrison, Ian Paul.
3. Alexis Jay and John O’Brien will develop new proposals for the Independent Safeguarding Board. See press release from Alexis Jay and another press release from the Church of England: Welcome for Professor Alexis Jay.
From the former, Professor Jay said:
“When I was Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, I heard at first hand of the devasting effects of abuse within the Church of England, and of the failures, often repeated, to prevent it from occurring. I was very clear in my recommendations that safeguarding in the Church would require genuine independence in order to be fully effective. I have been just as clear with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the Archbishop of York that this programme of work must be entirely independent of the Church too for it to succeed.
I would like to assure everyone that I mean what I say. My team will not include anyone employed by the church, nor will we hold meetings or conduct any business on church premises. I have explained that if I detect any attempt to interfere with or to hinder my work, I will withdraw from this programme of work immediately.
I also wish to make clear that my work will be fair, impartial, objective and rigorous. One of my first tasks will be to hear the views of victims and survivors of church abuse, and to listen to those involved in safeguarding at all levels of the church across England. I look forward to hearing their experiences and using this process to inform the recommendations I will make to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
4. Media reports on this development:
5. There is a letter (scroll down) in the Church Times today, signed by 14 General Synod members, and titled (by the CT) Synod: safeguarding, procedures, and governance. The letter has also been published on Twitter, see here.
6. The Religion Media Centre held a briefing yesterday, now available on YouTube, titled Is the Church of England ungovernable? About half of this is devoted to Safeguarding/ISB.
7. The Church Times has this report on 24 July: Put us first, survivors tell Archbishops’ Council after Professor Jay’s appointment. It includes this quote from a Church House spokesperson:
“We are aware that the former ISB members had promised to undertake a small number of reviews and look into particular complaints.
“We are proposing to have a package where survivors, if they want to continue in this way, can choose from a variety of possibilities to look at their review or complaint.
“We recognise that the current uncertainty is causing anxiety for survivors, but it is important that proposals are developed that can command their confidence. Conversations are taking place and we expect to make details available later this month.”
Continued from episode 9.
1. The Church Times reports:Archbishop Welby undermined me’ — Meg Munn quits as Church’s safeguarding chair. Hattie Williams writes:
THE acting chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Meg Munn, has accused the Archbishops’ Council of being “slow to listen” to experts — and the Archbishop of Canterbury of “undermining” her work — as she resigns all her safeguarding responsibilities within the Church.
Ms Munn, a safeguarding professional and a former MP, is also the independent chair of the Church’s National Safeguarding Panel (NSP).
After weeks of silence as disputes about the functionality and future of the ISB escalated, Ms Munn released an explosive personal statement to the Church Times on Wednesday morning explaining her decision to cease working for the Church, and finally giving her side of the story of the ISB’s demise.
In it, she speaks of being unsupported by the Archbishops’ Council, which appointed her; says that the other two members of the ISB arbitrarily changed their brief; and calls the ISB “a huge waste of money”. But she also says that safeguarding in the Church of England is not in crisis, praising the professionalism of many diocesan and national safeguarding officers…
2. The Church of England has issued: Statements in response to the resignation of Meg Munn.
3. Here is the full text of the statement from Meg Munn.
4. The Church Times story now also reports on a statement received from Maggie Atkinson.
The full text of that document is over here.
5. I’ve prepared a transcript of the presentations from the four Archbishops’ Council members to General Synod on last Sunday afternoon. It may still contain errors, and I would be glad to receive corrections for inclusion in a revised version.
6. The Church Times reports today New church safeguarding regulator appears on the block, anonymously. The press release mentioned is available here.
7. I’ve now prepared a transcript of the presentation from last Sunday afternoon by Jane Chevous. This immediately preceded the Council presentations. As for item 5, please advise me if you find any errors.
8. Ian Paul has written about the ISB debacle, along with other aspects of the recent York General Synod, here: Fractures and fractiousness at General Synod.
9. There is also discussion of the ISB in the article A ‘Culture of Mistrust’ at General Synod by Rosie Dawson, which is linked in our Saturday Opinion article.
10. The final transcript that I have prepared is of the statements made by Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera, to “an informal meeting of General Synod members” in the course of last Sunday afternoon. As for items 5 and 7 above, this may contain errors, and please do notify me of any corrections for inclusion in a revision.99 Comments
Continued from episode 8.
1. The Sunday afternoon session of General Synod was largely devoted to the ISB fiasco, and it did not go as planned. The video recording is available here. There is no substitute for watching it.
2. Church Times Hattie Williams Extraordinary scenes at Synod as sacked ISB members are given a hearing
3. Guardian Harriet Sherwood Safeguarding in ‘crisis’ in Church of England, says archbishop of York
4. Religion Media Centre Rosie Dawson Sacked safeguarding board members address synod in “watershed moment”
5. The Times Kaya Burgess Church abuse watchdog ‘went wrong’
7. The order paper for this morning’s General Synod session is online here. It contains the text of Gavin Drake’s following motion. His background briefing paper is available here. As expected, there was only just time for him to present his motion, followed by one speech opposing it before time ran out. Although it was agreed to adjourn the debate until later in the morning, when that time came, a vote was then needed to suspend standing orders to actually allow more time than previous allocated, and this required a 75% vote of the whole synod in favour, which it did not receive: 175 voting in favour, 69 voting against, 17 abstentions. The agenda item therefore lapsed.
8. Gavin Drake has announced his immediate resignation from General Synod. His full statement is here: Church of England officialdom determined to block proper safeguarding reform. Another, more legible copy (PDF) is here.
11. Anglican Futures has this: Something’s Not Right at Synod
12. Giles Fraser at UnHerd writes Why is the Church silencing victims?
13. At the start of Tuesday’s session, the livestream failed to record the first few minutes, but apparently Martin Sewell sought to move an adjournment of the debate that was about to commence on approval of GS 2295, but was allowed only 2 minutes to speak. The adjournment request was then lost.
The speech which he was therefore unable to deliver is now available here.
14. Surviving Church Archbishops’ Council faces Challenge
15. Christian Today Susie Leafe Gavin Drake’s resignation from the Church of England General Synod147 Comments
1. Today at General Synod, very many supplementary questions about the ISB have been asked, and many of the answers were unsatisfactory. We’ll publish more on them in due course.
2. A specific problem was raised concerning two questions, 40 and 41, attributed to Martin Sewell concerning the safeguarding investigation relating to the treatment of Martyn Percy by the Diocese of Oxford and the staff of the Archbishops’ Council. This was originally assigned to the ISB but was later removed from them by the Archbishops’ Council. However, it turned out that the published questions were not the ones that he had asked.
The published questions and printed answers are here together with the original versions of Martin’s questions. The supplementary questions Martin Sewell asked are here.
UPDATE I now have a transcript of Answers by ABY to supplementary Qs re Q40 & Q41 7.7.2023.
3. Janet Fife has written about the ISB for the Church of England Newspaper, reproduced at Surviving Church, the title is Wrestling with Jellyfish.
4. Anglican Futures has published General Synod: A case of ‘shuffling the pack’?
5. Susie Leafe has written at Christian Today Will the Archbishops allow General Synod to speak.
6. The Church Times has a report by Francis Martin, Archbishops agreed to ‘unanimous decision’ to disband ISB, spokesperson confirms.
7. The final action taken by the ISB on 5 July was to send this letter about the case of Mr X to both archbishops.
8. Christian Today publishes another Susie Leafe article: Trust falls over CofE safeguarding debacle. That includes a link to a video clip of the Archbishop of Canterbury responding to a question about how he had voted.
9. Steve Reeves has commented on Twitter about the request from the Archbishops’ Council to share details of those survivors involved in ISB review
75 CommentsFor reassurance – we were asked by AC to share details of those involved in ISB reviews (only after we flagged the risk), but when we said that we would need consent and the timescale was too tight to do that, the public announcement went ahead. No data was shared without consent.
See also our ISB controversy posts.
This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.
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.
Official press releases
Press reports and comment
The Questions (and answers) for this weekend’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod were sent to Synod members today. They can be found online here: Questions NP1.
The Business Committee has scheduled two hours for Questions at the July 2023 Group of Sessions of the General Synod. This is divided between 75 minutes on Friday 7 July and 60 minutes on Saturday 8 July.
The answers to several questions referred to supplementary information on the noticeboard. This is now available online: Questions NP1 (Annex).21 Comments
The Church Times reported yesterday that Church organisations urge Bishops not to commend blessings for same-sex couples.
As the story goes on to explain,
…A note at the foot of the letter, which has been sent to every bishop in the C of E, states that “all signatories are leaders of networks/organisations, but are signing in their personal capacities, recognising they cannot claim to speak for everyone that they lead.”
The full text of the letter, including the list of signatories, can be found here.91 Comments
Continuing from episode 6….
1. Ben Bradshaw asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner a question about the ISB in the House of Commons.
2. Francis Martin has interviewed Bishop Joanne Grenfell in the Church Times: Bishop of Stepney: ‘My fury when safeguarding is done badly’
3. There is an update from Gavin Drake which you can read here: When is a report not a report? He writes:
Yesterday, I tabled a “further motion”, or “following motion” to be debated at the General Synod this weekend, about the Archbishops’ Council’s decision to get rid of its Independent Safeguarding Board. The motion – which is available here with a full background briefing – was ruled “out of order” on the basis that the presentation on developments at the ISB, which will take place on Sunday afternoon (9 July) is a “free standing” presentation which isn’t linked to a report. Well, what on earth is GS Misc 1341, a report by the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, Mr William Nye, on recent developments with the ISB, if it isn’t a report?
I’m not easily beaten. And so I’ve amended the motion with a preamble which links it directly with the Annual Report of the Archbishops’ Council. This motion has been tabled and, like yesterday’s motion, has been supported by other Synod members.
I have heard that this one has been accepted as being in order – so Synod members will be able to debate the Archbishops’ Council’s handling of the ISB after all. The new motion is below. I will draft an amended version of the background paper as soon as possible…
4. The Independent Safeguarding Board has issued a final document: Recent Developments: ISB Response to GS Misc 1341.It begins
This paper is provided in response to GS Misc 1341, which was written by the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, dated June 2023. The paper being presented to General Synod does not reflect the full picture and we provide this document to further inform General Synod members…
And the covering tweet from Steve Reeves says:
As @Jas_Sanghera_KN and I leave our formal roles on the ISB, we wanted to thank those who have engaged with us. We also wanted to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and honesty, by sharing additional context in light of recent Synod briefings.
5. Gavin Drake has now published his revised briefing paper.
6. Rosie Dawson at Religion Media Centre has written Archbishops’ Council blocked safeguarding governance review.
7. Anglican Futures has published When the Church fails – should the Government intervene?
8. Eastern Eye has published Exclusive: Church of England victimises whistle blowers.
1. ViaMedia.News has this morning published an article by Martyn Percy: The Foundations for Ecclesial Instability: the Rock on the Sands.
2. The Archbishops’ Council has issued invitations to abuse survivors and organisations of survivors to meet online this week with council members. Details are here (PDF format). Some survivors have objected to these meetings on various grounds. See for example this tweet. (alt version in Comments).
3. I discovered that my earlier link to GS Misc 1341 was broken. I have repaired it, but here it is again:
GS Misc 1341 Independent Safeguarding Board: recent developments. This is the official Archbishops’ Council explanation for recent events. The link inside this paper to GS 2215 also appears to be broken at present, so here is a local copy: GS 2215 Safeguarding June 2021. But perhaps more useful now is the original unnumbered paper released on 25 February 2021, written by Malcolm Brown, Independent Safeguarding Structures for the Church of England Proposed Interim Arrangements – 2021 (Phase 1). I would strongly recommend that all General Synod members review this paper before the weekend. Also of interest is the earlier 15 December 2020 press release.
4. Gavin Drake has tabled a following motion for General Synod to consider. The wording of the motion is:
This Synod —
- is dismayed by the recent decision of the Archbishops’ Council to disband the Independent Safeguarding Board and terminate the contracts of its members;
- notes that a Serious Incident Report has been made to the Charity Commission in respect of this governance decision;
- recognises and laments that any working relationship between many survivors and victims with the Archbishops’ Council has been broken;
- in consequence, calls upon the Archbishops’ Council, working with its Audit Committee, to commission an independent inquiry led by a senior lawyer (judge or King’s Counsel) into the safeguarding bodies, functions, policies and practice in and of the Church of England, to report within a maximum period of 12 months, and
- requires that the report of that Inquiry be fully debated by the Synod to enable it to make decisions about future safeguarding in the Church of England.
He has also written a background briefing paper which needs to be read in full by every General Synod member (9 pages).
5. The Church Times has published a report on Gavin Drake’s motion, see Hattie Williams Synod motion seeks debate on ISB affair and inquiry by a senior lawyer.
6. Rosie Dawson has written for The Living Church Synod Members Expect Heated Discussion of Safeguarding.
7. Religion Media Centre has published this by Tim Wyatt: Timeline: how the CofE has tried to stop sex abusers
Readers with long memories may perhaps recall an article from 2020 on Surviving Church by Gilo titled Thoughts on the Elliott Review ‘translation’ by Archbishops Council.
It has taken another three years to begin to get at the truth concerning this. The letter linked below has recently been sent to both archbishops.
Updated Saturday, Monday and Wednesday
Both the Church Times and Law & Religion UK have been looking at items on the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod.
Law & Religion UK
Law & Religion UK
Church Times15 Comments
Updated again Saturday morning
Previous episode here.
1. BBC Hardtalk has broadcast an interview with the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin. This covers many other topics, but one small segment deals with safeguarding in general and the ISB in particular. You can find that starting at 12.30. Bishop Rose said she disagreed with both the Bishop of Birkenhead, Julie Conalty, and with Andrew Graystone, on this topic. Transcript now available.
2. The English Churchman has published this article: The End is Nye?
3. The National Secular Society has published NSS urges Charity Commission to investigate CofE safeguarding
4. Via Media.News has published: Archbishops’ Council: Reset Required by Gilo
5. The Church Times has several relevant items, first of all four relevant Letters to the Editor, under the heading Disbanding of the Independent Safeguarding Board. They are from: nine survivors, another survivor who had an ISB case review pending, David Lamming, and Vasantha Gnanadoss.
6. Church Times: Angela Tilby: Archbishops’ Council is too powerful
7. Church Times: Opinion: Radical changes need the General Synod’s scrutiny
8. Civil Society Charity Commission mulls intervention at Archbishops’ Council
…The Commission said the charity reported itself to the regulator and it is considering its response.
A spokesperson for the regulator said: “In line with our guidance, the Archbishops’ Council has reported a serious incident in relation to these matters. We will engage with the trustees to determine whether a regulatory response is required”.
A Church of England spokesperson said: “The Archbishops’ Council has already submitted a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission in relation to the independent safeguarding board, in line with the reporting criteria of the Charity Commission…
9. There is a change.org petition Safeguard victims in the Church of England – ask the Charity Commission to intervene now!
Latest Update Wednesday afternoon
1.Briefing Note: Dispute Notice – Key Points
This briefing outlines the key points of the Dispute Notice issued by Jasvinder Sanghera CBE and Steve Reeves MBE on 24th May 2023.
Update: The full text of the PDF is copied below the fold.
2. Today, Monday, on BBC Radio 4 WATO, there was an interview with Jasvinder Sanghera, which you can listen to over here, starting at 33.45, in which she refutes the claims made in earlier radio interviews by Alison Coulter and Stephen Cottrell. Transcript now available here.
3. A notice was posted on the website of the ISB: Statement from Independent Safeguarding Board
You will be aware of the announcement from the Archbishops’ Council regarding the Independent Safeguarding Board.
We will continue to honour any reviews or complaints that are underway or are due to start. We will be in contact as soon as possible with survivors and complainants and reviewers to ensure these are completed.
The ISB is working with the Archbishops’ Council to put in place alternative arrangements to handle complaints while work is undertaken to develop an independent oversight body for safeguarding. Once the detail is in place an announcement will be made.
4. Surviving Church has published an article: Was the Independent Safeguarding Board ever Independent? The Archbishops Set Out Their Position to a Complainant
5. Premier Christianity has published an interview with Jasvinder Sanghera: ‘The Church of England is not survivor focused when it comes to safeguarding’
6. Church Times news article by Francis Martin: Row over Independent Safeguarding Board continues
This covers much of the same information as the items above, but with some important additional details.
Episode 1 was this: Archbishops’ Council terminates contracts of ISB members
Episode 2 is here: ISB controversy continues
Today, the BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday carried a segment in which three people were interviewed by William Crawley: Jane Chevous from Survivors Voices, Jasvinder Sanghera one of the sacked ISB members, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.
The BBC programme is here: go to 31 minutes, 45 seconds for the start of this item. A transcript of the interview is available here.
Professor Nicholas Adams wrote a very detailed analysis of this interview on his Facebook page, and has kindly allowed me to reproduce his comments, which are here in a PDF, include suggestions for what the archbishop might more helpfully have said. Do read it all.
Earlier last week, Justin Humphreys, of the safeguarding consultancy thirtyone:eight wrote about the Archbishops’ Council’s action in this article: Why true independence matters when it comes to safeguarding. Here is a part of it
The sad news of the departure of the members of the Church of England Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), who have persistently pursued their mandate to provide independent oversight and support the work of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, is a significant setback in the progress made. It also highlights serious flaws in the way the Independent Safeguarding Board is structured in that it reports into the same body, the Archbishops Council, who oversee the day-to-day national and regional safeguarding operations that the Board has been set up to scrutinise. If a body is to exercise true independence, it must be fully independent and free from the structures and influences that it is created to oversee.
Justin Humphreys, Chief Executive at Thirtyone:eight comments, ‘While the Church of England considers its next steps, the instinct to quickly rush to “reset” the existing model should be resisted. Time should be taken to properly learn the lessons of what went wrong and why, and with the help of appropriate external expertise they must give time to understand what is needed to ensure a true and fully independent review of its safeguarding operations. This process should include victims, survivors and those with lived experience. To simply recreate what was, would be a travesty and would almost certainly be doomed to the same outcome as the arrangements we have just seen collapse.’
Helen King has written: The Independent Safeguarding Board: a ‘reset’?32 Comments
Updated yet again Tuesday afternoon
Two dismissed members of the now defunct Independent Safeguarding Board dispute the claims made by the Archbishops’ Council. See this report in the Church Times: Hundreds support us, say sacked members of Independent Safeguarding Board.
A synod paper published today, GS Misc 1341, is titled Independent Safeguarding Board: recent developments. I do recommend reading this document, which will be among those discussed at the General Synod on Sunday 9 July.
The BBC lunchtme radio news programme. The World At One, carried interviews with Bishop Julie Conalty, Deputy Lead Bishop for Safeguarding. and Alison Coulter, an elected lay member of the Archbishops’ Council.
A full transcript is available here (not yet checked for accuracy against recording). The BBC’s own audio recording is available here.
Other audio recordings (courtesy of Mandate Now) can be found here (Conalty) and here (Coulter).
earlier press coverage: