The Archbishops’ Council, at its meeting on Wednesday (Sept 23), voted unanimously for safeguarding proposals to offer both immediate practical support to survivors of abuse and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work.
The Council approved a proposed plan for an interim pilot support scheme for survivors and agreed to draw down reserves for an initial support fund to support those who have come forward. The Council also committed to urgently pursue the principle of independent safeguarding recognising the need for greater independence and transparency of safeguarding.
The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure. Experience with these pilot cases will help inform the setting up of the Church’s full redress scheme for victims and survivors of abuse as that is developed. Part of the value of a pilot scheme is that it will enable the Church to explore different ways of working and to learn important lessons for the future.
The full paper put to the Council contained further details of how the interim pilot support scheme would be run.
The vote followed a detailed discussion by Council members on the importance of safeguarding in the Church including a presentation from the national director of safeguarding Melissa Caslake and input from the lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said:
“Today the Council discussed the safeguarding challenges that face our Church. We acknowledged how we have responded badly to survivors, and what that means for the Council as a trustee body. It was a long, honest and soberingly frank discussion. There were some very personal reflections and comments, including from both of us. This reflects the seriousness with which the Council took the proposals under discussion. The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. Along with providing redress for victims and survivors this is the next step we must take. Today’s meeting and these decisions feel like a turning point. As we await IICSA’s report into the Church of England we continue to pray for survivors and all those the Church has failed. We are profoundly sorry for our failings, but today our words of sorrow are matched by actions that will believe will lead to real change. We hope that this will provide some hope for the future.”
Bishop Jonathan Gibbs said: “While there is much work now to be done the decision to start a support fund is an important and vital step in our response to survivors. This is an endorsement by the Archbishops’ Council of General Synod’s unanimous vote in February for a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress.’
The press release says: and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work and the archbishops are quoted as saying: The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. But there is absolutely no explanation of what this means.
Updates: see in the comments below for some helpful explanations of what is meant.
“THE Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has apologised for “shortcomings” identified by an independent review of his diocese’s handling of a case of spiritual abuse. These failings “contributed to the distress of the survivors”, he said…”
You can read the full report and information about how the diocese is responding here.
“THE author of a strongly critical safeguarding review of the Church of England has condemned the revelation that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) responded to his recommendations by initiating closer ties between insurers, communications officers, and legal staff…”
Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “An independent investigation into allegations that the Dean, Martyn Percy, failed to fulfil his safeguarding responsibilities has concluded the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The National Safeguarding Team, NST, followed the House of Bishops guidance when the four separate allegations were referred earlier in the year relating to the Dean, a senior office holder. At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the Dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.
I am aware this has been a very difficult time for all parties, particularly Martyn and his family, and I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation. There will of course be lessons to learn about the processes, as there are with any safeguarding case, and that is an essential part of our guidance to make the Church a safer place for all. We welcome the Dean’s commitment to taking part in this. Now the investigation has concluded and the Dean has been exonerated of these safeguarding allegations, the NST’s involvement has come to an end. I continue to pray for his ministry and the life of the Cathedral and its mission in the diocese and wider Church.
As I have said before, the NST has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.
The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford
8 September 2020
In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:
“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”
“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has announced the outcome of its independent investigation into the handling of four disclosures to the Dean of Christ Church, made by survivors of sexual assault. The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols.
“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance at Christ Church, and it is our obligation to report such concerns appropriately. After a query from a national newspaper regarding a serious sexual assault, an independent QC advised that a referral should be made to the Church of England as the handling of such disclosures fell within its jurisdiction. It is vital that everyone has the confidence to report safeguarding concerns. We will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities.
“Our thoughts are with all survivors of abuse. If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.
THE Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) is part of a “toxic management culture” in the Church of England, and is so flawed that it needs complete replacement.
This conclusion, in a paper published on Thursday by Dr Sarah Horsman, Warden of Sheldon, an independent retreat centre and support hub for those in ministry, is based on the results of a survey of one third of the C of E clergy, carried out with the University of Aston…
That paper by Dr Horsman and others can be found here.
The Clergy Discipline Measure was a disaster from the word go. Ten years ago, I wrote to the Chair of the Clergy Discipline Commission to explain why the CDM was not an appropriate instrument for dealing with clerical sexual abuse, and why a completely different approach was needed. My paper was circulated to the Commission and put on the agenda for their next meeting. But did they ‘listen’? It appears that they did not; the amended measure, the ‘Safeguarding and the Clergy Discipline Measure’, only exacerbated the problems.
Things may be different now. The devastating impacts of the CDM on clergy, two thirds of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, have been exposed by the Sheldon Community’s research and Dr Sarah Horsman’s report. The findings make depressingly familiar reading for survivors of clerical sexual abuse. Survivors encounter similarly horrendous responses to disclosures and experience the same sorts of impacts on our mental and physical health, finances, careers and relationships as clergy subjected to CDMs. And it is for similar reasons: the Kafkaesque ‘toxic management culture’ that privileges arcane, inhumane processes (often themselves incompetently managed) over appropriate professional judgement, practical and pastoral support, and working towards healing and reconciliation.
Put simply, both the CDM and the Church’s responses to disclosures of ecclesiastical abuse are incompatible with Christian discipleship. Not only is the CDM time-consuming and expensive, the human cost can be hell on earth. The adversarial, legalistic approach causes structural damage to the relationships between bishops and clergy, between clergy, church-goers and congregations, and between the faithful and the Church itself. Some survivors and clergy lose their faith; some their very lives. The CDM is a disaster for the life of the Church.
…The letter to the CC would seem to have made some considerable impact since it appeared on Tuesday last. It seems to be saying two fundamental things. It was, first of all, accusing the Church of England and especially the Archbishop’s Council and the National Safeguarding Team of authorising and using legal processes to cope with safeguarding issues in inconsistent and secretive ways – such that do not further the cause of justice. The letter was also suggesting that in the administration of these in-house forms of justice, fundamental ethical and biblical principles were being ignored. Although not mentioned in the text of the letter, it is apparent that the authors were thinking about the passage in Micah 6 about the importance of justice etc. Gilo makes clear this connection of ideas by calling the appeal for additional signatures, the Micah 6:8 initiative…
SURVIVORS of abuse in a church context receive about £55,000 in redress from the Church of England out of an estimated £20 million spent on safeguarding annually, independent research released this week suggests.
The estimates were collated by Dr Josephine Anne Stein, who is an independent researcher, policy analyst, and survivor of ecclesiastical abuse (Comment, 6 April 2018). She completed the work in response to a question from Canon Rosie Harper during the February General Synod meeting, at which an increase in the redress given to survivors was agreed (News, 14 February)…
The article contains a lot more detail on what is included in the estimates.
The BBC Sunday radio programme today has a lengthy report on the letter to the Charity Commision, starting at about 31 minutes into the programme here. This includes interviews with both Lord Carlile and Bishop Jonathan Gibbs which are very informative and interesting. I recommend listening to the whole segment.
..One of the most extraordinary claims by the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, Jonathan Gibbs, was the notion that critics of the NST ‘core groups’ misunderstood their character and functioning. The signatories to the letter include Lord (Alex) Carlile QC, who was the reviewer chosen by the Church of England to conduct the comprehensive review into the Bishop George Bell ‘core group’ process. He made significant recommendations for the improvement of the system and these were accepted by the Archbishops on behalf of the Church.
Those recommendations have not been implemented…
…All in all, the Bishop’s press release advances what we in the legal profession sometimes refer to as a “very brave” position. Renaming a function does not change its reality: it is like insisting that a duck is a platypus; the walk and the quack tend to give it away. You can rename what you do a “statutory strategy meeting” if you want, but if you lack a ‘conflicts of interest’ policy, an appeal system, and fail to take minutes, and sit a communications officer at the table but not a competent lawyer, and don’t run a system where those at risk of catastrophic consequence of malpractice either as complainant or respondent have confidence, you will continue to have dissatisfaction…
…He later told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday, however: “In one sense, I welcome this letter, because it adds weight to my desire to bring about the kind of root-and-branch change that we all long for: in particular in the way in which we respond to survivors, the way in which we deal with complaints, the way in which we change the culture of the Church.”
The letter to the Charity Commission, which also criticises the “impaired transparency and intermittent accountability” of the NST, calls for a complete reform of safeguarding practice and policy within the C of E. It urges the Church not to wait for the final report of the Anglican investigation by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is due to be published this autumn (News, 1 May), before acting.
Dr Gibbs told the programme: “There is no doubt that, in the past, our systems have failed considerably, and that was made very clear during IICSA. That made very painful listening for all of us involved in the Church and our hearts go out to and our principle focus must be on survivors, and improving the way in which we respond to survivors. . .
“There is still a long way to go. There is journey; but it is a journey to which we are absolutely committed. . . The direction of travel is going to be substantially influenced by the IICSA report when it comes out very shortly. We made clear our commitment to that journey of change especially in the debate at the General Synod back in February” (News, 14 February).
A letter has been sent to Baroness Stowell, chair of the Charity Commision,
“to ask that the Charity Commission exercise its powers of intervention to address the failures of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England (charity number 1074857) to devise a safe, consistent and fair system of redress to all parties engaged in safeguarding complaints…”
The letter is signed by a wide range of people including Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC, Lord Lexden, His Honour Alan Pardoe QC, Sir Jonathan Phillips KCB, Prof Sir Iain Torrance KCVO, Kt and Prof Nigel Biggar. It has also been signed by many survivors of sexual abuse.
There is a petition at change.org the Micah 6:8 Initiative, to enable others to add their names to this list. The notes at the end explain:
If you wish to support this initiative publicly please sign the petition.
Some may wish to signify support privately by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name/chosen signifier, any brief self description you choose, and if appropriate, your CofE Diocese so that the range of support can be seen. We shall send this list to the Charity Commission with the request that it remain private.
..Four of the past five archbishops of Canterbury and York had been the subjects of formal complaints about their alleged failures to act against clergy accused of sexual abuse.
Lord Carey of Clifton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, has been prevented from performing his religious duties while the church’s national safeguarding team investigates his past conduct.
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev Christopher Lowson, has been suspended for more than a year. He has been accused of failing to respond “appropriately” to safeguarding allegations. He has said that he is bewildered by the accusations. The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, had apologised for failing to respond correctly when he was told about domestic violence by one of his priests when he was Bishop of Reading…
…Separately, seven survivors have written to Bishop Gibb; the director of safeguarding, Melissa Caslake; and the chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, calling for the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, to resign pending further safeguarding training.
The letter refers to internal email correspondence from Bishop Thornton, who sits on the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG), about one of the survivors. The letter states: “The attitude displayed here confirms what many survivors have long thought: that the adversarialism towards victims of abuse has not just extended to their litigation and insurance agents, but has its roots in the most senior members of the Church’s structure.”
…I am very aware of the current criticism of our core group process and some of this seems to be based on misunderstandings about what is involved. There has been confusion as a result of them being likened to core groups in the statutory sector which have a different purpose and follow different processes. Revised guidance will make it very clear they are more equivalent to a statutory strategy meeting (there will also be a change of name to help make this clear), where decisions are made collaboratively about what the next steps should be. This may include an independent investigation of allegations that have been made, including that senior members of clergy have not followed due safeguarding processes. As part of such investigations, those concerned are given details of any allegations and the opportunity to respond. These processes are confidential while they are taking place and therefore we cannot give public explanations of everything that is happening, which of course brings its own challenges.
It is evident that about three quarters of current national cases are about senior clergy failing to act rather than a direct allegation of abuse, but that can still have serious consequences. We always try to make that difference clear, and although the current guidance does not distinguish between those accused of abuse and those accused of failing to act properly on information received, the revised guidance will address this difference. Statistics about the number of cases involving senior clergy (currently around 30) can also be misleading as a significant number relate to concerns raised about the past conduct of now retired clergy…
The Church of England has admitted that there are about 30 separate safeguarding inquiries under way into senior clergy — bishops or cathedral deans…
…A C of E spokesman said: “We have approximately 30 national cases with the majority being where senior clergy or church officers have not reported allegations of abuse to the relevant safeguarding adviser, the local authority or the police, or made other inappropriate decisions.”
The highest-profile involve the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and a predecessor, Lord Carey, who are subject to inquiries for safeguarding lapses, Carey for the second time. ..
The article lists some of the other cases and discusses the apparent inconsistencies in the handling of them by “core groups”.
Surviving Church has published the text of a letter from seven clerical sexual abuse survivors to the Lead Bishops, Director of Safeguarding, and Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel (Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop Debbie Sellin, Melissa Caslake, Meg Munn): “Neither here nor there”.
This letter complains about the handling of survivor complaints, with specific reference to the Bishop at Lambeth and the National Safeguarding Steering Group. It asks for various actions to be taken to improve the processes for dealing with survivors. Receipt of the letter was (as shown in the article) acknowledged in a reply of 7 July.
Bishop of Bristol to take up national safeguarding role
The Bishop of Bristol, Bishop Viv Faull has been appointed a deputy lead bishop for safeguarding, with a focus on liaison with diocesan bishops on behalf of the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) and with the wider Anglican Communion, and to speak on safeguarding in the House of Lords.
She will work closely with the lead safeguarding bishop, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs and the other deputy lead Bishop Debbie Sellin who took up their roles earlier this year. All three bishops will continue to work closely with Melissa Caslake the Church of England’s national director of Safeguarding to continue to develop the Church’s safeguarding practice.
Speaking about her appointment Bishop Viv said:
“I was a Chester Diocesan ordinand when Victor Whitsey was Bishop, and a Deacon in Gloucester when Peter Ball was Bishop. Though they did me no individual harm I have seen the great harm done to others and the whole Church of God. Safeguarding has therefore been an urgent concern throughout my time as Dean in Leicester and in York where I led changes of process and culture and learnt much. I am aware of how much the Church still has to learn and will do my best to contribute to debates and to enable fellow diocesan bishops to participate fully and be supported in their roles.”
Bishop Jonathan said: “We are delighted that Bishop Viv has agreed to take up this role bringing her long experience of ministry and absolute commitment to good safeguarding. She will play a key role as a link between the NSSG and other bishops, as well as with the wider Anglican Communion.”
It is in the public domain that when Lambeth was contacted in 2013 about an allegation against Smyth it liaised with the relevant diocese. This was to ensure that the survivor was being supported, police had been informed and that the bishop had contacted the Bishop of Cape Town, where Smyth was then living. However, since a formal complaint has now been received by the National Safeguarding Team, it is reviewing information and will obviously respond on this to the person who brought the complaint and take any further action if needed.
These issues will all be considered by the Makin Review which the Church commissioned last year into the Smyth case and is expected to publish into 2021.
…The NST has avoided using the term “investigation” in its statement about the allegation against Archbishop Welby. The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, complained recently to the NST that it had caused confusion by using the same word for the both initial consideration of whether there is a case to be answered and the subsequent formal investigation instigated by a core group.
The NST talks instead of “reviewing information”…
It concludes thus:
…On Tuesday, Graham took issue with the C of E statement, saying that he had not been supported, beyond the offer of £100 for counselling; nor had the police ever been in touch with him.
On the matter of correspondence with Cape Town, he writes: “I have in front of me a copy of the letter the Church is referring to. On the simple matter of facts, it was not addressed to the Archbishop of Cape Town but to Bishop Garth Counsell, the Bishop of Table Bay. There is no evidence that this letter was in fact sent or received.
“What is undisputed is that John Smyth continued in his role as Director of the Justice Alliance of South Africa for a further three years, and that during that time he continued to meet and groom young men in Cape Town.”
A further detailed statement from the complainant can be found in two of the comments below.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “I do not believe that the Church has got to grips with the fundamental principles of adversary justice, one of which is that you must disclose the evidence that you have against someone, and give them an equal opportunity to be heard as those making the accusation.
“And you cannot give them an equal opportunity if there are conflicts of interest involved. Anyone with a conflict of interest must leave the deliberations and take no further part. This is what lawyers understand as the law of apparent bias. It’s not to say that such people are biased: that’s often misunderstood. It is the appearance of bias that matters.
“Having people on a core group with a conflict of interest is simply not sustainable and is, on the face of it, unlawful.
“And to fail to allow the person accused to represent themselves, or be represented, in the full knowledge of the accusation, is not sustainable, and is, on the face of it, unlawful.”
The report also includes this:
…In the mean time, senior figures at Christ Church are continuing, in the words of some observers, to “weaponise” the investigation. At a recent meeting, members of the Governing Body were reportedly told by senior figures in the dispute that, with “new students potentially arriving in the autumn, the Dean is a safeguarding risk”, and that they were “constantly monitoring the risks the Dean poses”.
As a consequence, the Dean asked the NST for an unequivocal statement that he was not a safeguarding risk. The NST has complied: a statement has been posted this week on the C of E website: “The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.”
The lead bishop for safeguarding, Jonathan Gibbs, has previously written a letter stating that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case. The safeguarding issues referred to the NST are being looked at by an independent investigator and we would like to stress there is no evidence at this time that the Dean presents a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult. The referral is about whether safeguarding responsibilities were fulfilled.
Along with this statement, the letter to the Church Times, was also published on the Church of England website – this is the only place where updates on the independent investigation will appear. There have been no other briefings.
As Bishop Jonathan said in his letter there is no agenda behind this and we would like to thank all parties for their cooperation and hope that this safeguarding matter can be concluded quickly.
TWO members of the core group set up to examine accusations of safeguarding breaches by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, have been removed after they were deemed to have a conflict of interest in the case, the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has confirmed…
…In May, Private Eye reported that the core group established by the NST of the Church of England earlier this year included two members of the college who had supported complaints against Dean Percy, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson (News 29 May). The Dean is not represented on the core group, although one of the two college members was reportedly asked to represent him and declined. It is assumed that these are the two members removed from the core group…
The article goes on to report the question asked by Martin Sewell (and answered by the Bishop of Huddersfield) at the General Synod meeting on 11 July about whether, by including complainants in the core group, the Church had “embraced the concept of ‘unconscious bias'”.
Sir, — The inauguration of the ministry of the new Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, was a great joy to many in the Church who know his writings and enthusiasm for spreading the gospel. It is a shame that, for reasons outside his control, it occurred under the shadow of the suspicion that he enjoyed the privilege of anonymity while a safeguarding complaint was considered against him, whereas Lord Carey found the fact of his investigation in the hands of the press within three hours of his being notified.
This was wholly unnecessary. Had the recommendations of the Carlile report been accepted and implemented in full, everyone under inquiry would have enjoyed anonymity pending investigation and there would have been a level playing field for both men.
Furthermore, Lord Carlile recommended that the respondent be given representation at the core group table: a recommendation that, had it been implemented, would have avoided the current débâcle over Dean Percy. In his report on Bishop Bell, Lord Carlile wrote: “There was no discussion whatsoever of the need to ensure the justice of the case by examining the facts from Bishop Bell’s standpoint. This issue seems to have been totally abandoned.”
One suspects that this is equally true in the Percy case, but we cannot know, as the Dean is refused access to the minutes.
Finally, the House Bishops Guidelines have not been updated over two years after they accepted the Carlile recommendations — except the one about anonymity –though they have applied that one in favour of someone they wish to advance.
I hope and believe that Archbishop Cottrell has the commitment to justice to drive forward the necessary change, by implementing all review recommendations, from the office to which he has now been called.
…Can we detect in any way that the Core Group was being ‘managed’ to satisfy the needs of the Church communications department and its desire for good PR? Were the Archbishop and Bishop of Chichester making statements suggested to them by their highly remunerated reputation managers? If Carlile’s critical Review is pointing us in this direction, then it follows that similar pressures will also be at work in the 2020 Percy Group. Are Core Groups, in other words, subject to being managed to suit the purposes of the reputation launderers working for the Church? In the comments I made about Bishop Jonathan’s responses to questions at the recent Synod, I suggested that the management of safeguarding issues was being handed over to a team of lawyers. Such lawyers would be the ones seeking to defend the Church and protect its good name. Now, after reading the Carlile report again, I am left wondering whether it is in fact the power of reputation managers and communication departments that we see operating behind the scenes and making the decisions for our Church. If that is the case, then our Church will not be taking too seriously the cause of transparency, justice and truth. These and other Christian values like honesty and right dealing may only ever be paraded in public when they can serve the purposes of good PR!
This rereading of the Carlile report and the way that it revealed rampant ‘unconscious bias’, to quote from Martin Sewell’s question at last Synod, allows us to point once again to our ongoing concerns over the Percy Core Group. Conflicts of interest still abound there. Quite apart from the inappropriate placing of two complainants in the Group, there are the collusions we have pointed to before between firms of lawyers, reputation managers and those at Christ Church who have manipulated the Church and the NST to operate in their interests. If the incompetence of the Bell Core Group was a scandal, the sheer apparent malevolence at work in this present Percy Group is one which is driving out all pretensions to ethical behaviour and Christian values. We seem to be witnessing evil and corruption on a grand scale. Will the Church at the national level be able to rescue this situation and allow it to come through this appalling crisis?
“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.
“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.
“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.
Statement from Archbishop Justin
“I have been fully briefed on this matter and have read the independent legal advice. I have also spoken at length with Stephen. He clearly should have informed the authorities and made fuller notes of what he did in this case. He has shown humility in immediately admitting he failed to act as he should have done in this case, when the matter was raised with him by the NST this year. He has also said so publicly. I am also reassured that he did refer it on and saw the significance of offering support and contacting the survivor who must always be the priority. While I cannot comment further on this case, our IICSA hearings have shown the journey the Church is still on to be a safer place for all and I pray that this experience will strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry as the Archbishop of York.
“I am looking forward to working with Stephen and we commit ourselves to continue to learn lessons and to recognise and accept we all need to be open and forthright in striving to make the church a safe place for all. This means listening to survivors and constantly examining our own actions and recognising our vulnerability as well as calling on all to demonstrate our commitment to care for all.”
Statement from National Safeguarding Team
“Concerns were referred to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, earlier this year about the handling of a case by Bishop Stephen 10 years ago after information came to light from a clergy file. The concerns raised were about the action taken following allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by a parish priest. At the time Bishop Stephen responded to the survivor, offered support and subsequently referred the allegation within the diocese, but did not ensure the matter was referred to the statutory authorities or directly to the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The NST has now investigated the matter, taken independent advice and interviewed Bishop Stephen.
“He has shown insight and humility in accepting that he failed to act as he should have done in relation to a serious matter and acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a lack of training and understanding, which he has subsequently sought to address.
“The NST investigation concluded that he posed no current risk of not responding appropriately to safeguarding disclosures and that informal action was a reasonable and proportionate response to the case.”
The Charity Commission has told both sides in the dispute at Christ Church, Oxford, to enter into a mediation process.
The Commission is concerned that the very protracted and public dispute between the College’s governing body and its Dean is damaging to the reputation of the charity, and affecting its ability to govern itself.
The situation risks harming the reputation of charity more generally, in the eyes of the public.
Both parties in this dispute have called on the Charity Commission to intervene further. However, any regulatory intervention can be effective only if relationships between all parties are stable. The Commission has therefore today told the parties to the dispute that it expects them to enter into formal mediation within a limited time frame, with a mediator selected by the Commission, and without delay.
Helen Stephenson, Charity Commission Chief Executive, said:
It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes. Our role is, instead, to ensure that charities are governed effectively, charitable funds are properly accounted for, and trust in charity is maintained. In these exceptional circumstances, we have told the parties to the dispute to enter mediation, without which it is difficult to resolve issues in the charity in any reasonable timescale.
The Commission will not comment further on the case until the mediation has been completed.
It has also asked both sides to refrain from public, or private, commentary whilst the mediation process takes place.
25 June 2020
The ongoing dispute between Christ Church and the Dean has undoubtedly gone on for far too long. Its impact on Christ Church’s daily life, its staff, students, teaching and research, all risk being affected without the prospect of a resolution. We were therefore delighted to learn at our meeting with the Charity Commission today that it has now agreed to intervene. For some time, we have sought to address the impasse through independent mediation, but that process was unfortunately put on hold earlier this year. We hope that the Dean responds quickly and positively to the Commission’s announcement and we look forward to attending the mediation it is facilitating as soon as possible.
Christ Church has published a statement on its website, now changed from the version published on 22 June.
It appears from this that the French authorities had made no contact with anyone in Oxford prior to the court’s decision. However, it has today been admitted by the college that Professor Joosten was one of the 41 signatories of the letter to the Charity Commission which the Church Timesdescribed as accusing Dr Percy of “sacrificing the best interests of Christ Church to his own”.
Sir, — In response to your report “C of E is ‘being used’ in campaign against Dean of Christ Church” (News, 19 June), I would like to point out that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean.
When a referral is made alleging that a senior member of the clergy has not fulfilled his or her safeguarding responsibilities, the NST has a duty to consider the management of any safeguarding risk. In this case, an independent safeguarding person has been asked to investigate and report back.
As I am sure your readers would agree, the Church must take all safeguarding issues very seriously, and all this is being done in accordance with the House of Bishops guidelines. For reference, the Dean of Christ Church is a “Church officer” within the definition contained in the House of Bishops practice guidance.
There is no agenda behind this and we hope that with the cooperation of all concerned this matter can be concluded quickly.
THE Church of England is being “dragged into a vendetta” against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, General Synod members have been told.
In a letter circulated last week to other Synod members, David Lamming and Martin Sewell characterise the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) — initiated after a complaint lodged by the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, and others (News, 29 May) — as an abuse of the C of E’s processes by “well-connected persons”…
This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.
The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy…
The following statement was issued in response to requests from the BBC and Channel 4 news on 17 June 2020.
A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information has come to light regarding Lord Carey, which has been passed to the National Safeguarding Team for immediate attention as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.
A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance, and it advised the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, to withdraw Lord Carey’s Permission to Officiate (PTO) while the matter is investigated.
Lord Carey’s PTO was revoked by the Bishop of Oxford on Wednesday 17 June. Lord Carey is currently unauthorised to undertake any form of ministry in the Diocese until further notice.
While the investigation and review are ongoing, we will not be commenting further on this matter. However, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to make clear that the new information received relates only to the review currently underway, and that there has not been an allegation of abuse made against Lord Carey.
Notes for editors:
In the wake of Dame Moira Gibb’s review, Lord Carey stood down from the role of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford in June 2017, and withdrew from public ministry for a season. Lord Carey accepted the criticisms made of him at the time and apologised to the victims of Peter Ball.
In February 2018 Lord Carey contacted the Diocese of Oxford to request PTO (permission to officiate). Following senior legal opinion, PTO was granted by the Bishop of Oxford later the same month to allow Lord Carey to undertake his priestly ministry at the church where he worships. The granting of PTO was conditional on no further concerns coming to light.
As with all granting of PTO’s, Lord Carey was subject to a fresh DBS check and appropriate safeguarding training at the time.
“I am bewildered and dismayed to receive the news a short time ago that due to ‘concerns’ being raised during the review of John Smyth QC I have had my PTO revoked. I have been given no information on the nature of these ‘concerns’ and have no memory of meeting Mr Smyth. In 2018 the National Safeguarding Team and the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury invited me to meet with them to arrange safeguarding training and facilitate a meeting with survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse. They have failed to deliver action on either of these matters which were the subject of mutually agreed action. As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation.”
According to Anglican Ink, the statement from Lord Carey as reported above is incomplete. Their report has an additional sentence:
“As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation. I understand from the testimony of victims and survivors of clerical abuse that this lack of confidence is widely shared.”
…Another question that is being asked by many of us is this. If Martyn Percy deserved investigation over safeguarding issues with apparently such flimsy evidence being offered, then why not are other more pressing cases given attention? There are several outstanding CDM claims against serving bishops which lie on file. Presumably these can now be activated by victims and complainants? There is the case of Jonathan Fletcher which seems to be ignored by central church authorities, even though it reached front-page headlines of the Daily Telegraph. If the allegations against Fletcher are even half-true, he still poses a safeguarding threat which should be a priority for the NST. To focus on Martyn, who poses no such threat, and ignore Fletcher can only be described as a deeply political choice.
Unless someone explains the real basis for NST involvement in the Christ Church factional disputes, Martyn’s supporters will conclude that the NST has become a political tool at the service of certain unaccountable factions within the Church of England. If that surmise is correct, one would hope that the General Synod would wake up to this fact and vote the NST out of existence. We cannot afford to have a rogue structure within the Church which operates with so much secrecy, factionalism and sometimes overt bullying. Whoever authorised the unleashing of the NST on Martyn Percy has been responsible for taking an enormous gamble with the Church’s assets and reputation. They have gambled on an outcome which, even if successful at one level, does no credit to the Church. If the anonymous power brokers are, however, unsuccessful in what they are doing in Oxford, this may have the effect of destroying the NST structure altogether and their future ability to exercise power through it.
Christ Church has suffered losses of more than £3m in bequests and donations due to an ongoing “farce” over the Dean’s tenure, it is claimed.
A row between the Oxford college’s governing body and the Very Rev Martyn Percy has become increasingly bitter, fuelled by accusations that the latter’s critics will stop at nothing to have him deposed.
Rev Jonathan Aitken, one of Dr Percy’s allies, has now claimed that the dispute is costing the college dearly, not just in legal fees and tribunal costs but also in lost donations as alumni take action to make their voices heard.
He accused the Censors, dons who take on responsibility for the academic life of the college, of becoming “financial alcoholics” who could not stop pouring away the charitable funds of the college on legal fees.
“The failed coup and the continuing attacks by the Censors and their allies on the Dean have been a financial catastrophe for Christ Church,” he told the Telegraph.
“The majority of the governing body have not been told what the costs are and do not know, to the nearest million, what they might be.
“But as a conservative estimate, legal bills are already in excess of £2.5m.”
Here’s an extract (but do read the whole article):
…But more disturbingly, I have heard on good authority and am aware that others have also heard, that at a recent Governing Board of the college, one of the senior college figures boasted to the Trustees “the wily Censors have made sure they complained to the right part of the National Safeguarding Team”. If true, both ends of that statement are extraordinary. I don’t know if the NST are aware of this. I don’t imagine so. There would be an outcry across the Church if the NST had been complicit in their own ugly appropriation. It would raise questions about who is controlling different bits of this structure, and in particular who is pulling the strings of the “right part” of the National Safeguarding Team. I suspect Synod members would throw their hands up in horror and ask: how the hell does one rescue a Church’s national safeguarding so far down a road of ethical dysfunctionality?
But this core group sets an interesting precedent. Quite a few Church of England Bishops have been accused of safeguarding failings, cover up, poor response or no response towards survivors, gaslighting, blanking and fogging, dishonesty – yet how many have had core groups convened about them by the National Safeguarding Team? It would now seem that a complaint from a single source against a senior church officer is no longer time-limited, but will result in the formation of a core group on which the complainant can be personally represented. The person under investigation will presumably be asked to step aside from safeguarding responsibilities during the investigation. Although the circumstances in which this has come about are ugly and point to church officialdom targeting a well-known critic – the situation has unexpected potential for survivors. There are a significant number of survivors who have credible and legitimate claims that serving bishops have mishandled disclosures of abuse or have been dishonest in their response. We might welcome the opportunity to have core groups established, and to have complaints acted upon at last. I suspect the number of bishops who could feasibly be asked to stand down through such action might be surprising…
Again, you need to read the whole article, but here’s a taster
…a few weeks ago Professor Biggar received a letter from the College’s lawyers on behalf of the Governing Body, demanding that the McDonald Centre remove all references to Christ Church from its website, including the Centre’s logo, which has the appearance of the famous Tom Tower. The request was effectively to sever all association between the McDonald Centre and Christ Church.
It is curious, after more than a decade of harmonious scholarship and manifest fraternal accord, that that the Governing Body or ‘Censors’ of Christ Church would seek suddenly to censor this academic relationship. Curious, that is, until you consider that Nigel Biggar has been vocal and very public in his defence of Dean Martyn Percy, who is currently being bullied out of his job by a faction of Censors. Having failed to tarnish him with “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature“, they have now turned for assistance to the Church of England to try and oust him for “a consistent lack of moral compass“…
Safeguarding data has been published today taken from annual safeguarding returns, collected by dioceses in 2018 and sent to the National Safeguarding Team. It also contains comparison on data collected over the three previous years 2015-17.
The majority of safeguarding-related concerns or allegations relate to children or vulnerable adults who attend or who have contact with the Church and their lives within the community.
Overall the number of concerns or allegations reported to dioceses in 2018 relating to children, young people and vulnerable adults in the Church was 2,504. This compares to 3287 in 2017, and is slightly higher than 2015 and slightly lower than 2016.
A quarter of concerns or allegations in 2018 required reporting to statutory authorities similar to 2017.
In 2018, 16% of all concerns (400 cases) relate to clergy, including retired and deceased clergy, a slight increase on the average for 2015-17 which was around 12%. There are currently around 20,000 active clergy in the Church.
Safeguarding-related disciplinary measures against clergy decreased in 2018 and combined with the increase in reports against clergy this suggests that more concerns are being raised earlier because there are greater overall numbers of reports but lower numbers of disciplinary cases.
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, a member of the National Safeguarding Steering Group, said:
“In any report about data of this nature, it is important to recognise that behind each statistic are real human lives and that this is a snapshot of the vital safeguarding work going on in all our 16,000 churches across the country. As the report states it is most likely that where there is an increase compared to previous years this reflects the impact of safeguarding training across the whole Church, and the increased likelihood that people will report concerns to their diocesan safeguarding adviser, where there may have been greater reticence in the past. The NST will continue to study trends over a longer period to inform its ongoing safeguarding work and has committed to publishing data on an annual basis.”
…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:
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.