Thinking Anglicans

Update on Church’s response to IICSA report

One of the papers, released ten days ago, for next week’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod is GS 2184 Response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s Final Investigation Report into the Anglican Church. This has been followed up today by the following press release.

Update on Church’s response to IICSA report
16/11/2020

Following the publication (Oct 6) of its overarching IICSA report, the Church’s national governing bodies have all endorsed a motion apologising to victims and survivors and committing to urgently implementing the six IICSA recommendations. There will be a particular focus on independent safeguarding and redress for survivors and victims

Project groups will be set up including for independence and redress work streams. The independence workstream is about scoping the best structure for independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in place of the Archbishops’ Council. The House of Bishops also agreed that an interim arrangement is put in place prior to the establishment of this new body.

A further project group will also be set up to implement Recommendation 1 which proposes that diocesan safeguarding officers (DSOs) employed locally would be professionally supervised and quality assured by the National Safeguarding Team.

The Archbishops’ Council committed to finding significant additional financial resource to support the interim support scheme for survivors, which was announced in September, while work begins on a full redress scheme. The NST is in the process of appointing a new staff member to lead on the redress work.

It was agreed that workstreams must be undertaken in consultation with victims, survivors and all relevant Church bodies

The National Safeguarding Steering Group will establish a coordinating subgroup to oversee the work on all six IICSA recommendations and ensure they are implemented swiftly with the particular focus on independence and redress for survivors and victims. The recommendations also focus on CDM reform, information sharing and external audit.

A full background paper on these proposed changes has been published for a presentation and debate at General Synod which meets online from November 23-25 (timetable) with a further detailed response to the recommendations then to be drawn up, published and sent to IICSA.

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Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury

The following statement has been issued by Lambeth Palace this morning.

Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury
12/11/2020

The abuse carried out by the late John Smyth was horrific and support continues to be offered to survivors. The Makin review is currently looking at the Church’s handling of allegations about his abuse, including the response of other organisations involved.

A formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in June, that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth, has not been substantiated. The complaint referred to Lambeth’s response to allegations which first came to attention in 2013 and information relating to the specific issues raised has been reviewed. Information relating to a further complaint sent to the NST in August, about wider issues, has now also been reviewed and no safeguarding concerns have been identified. All the information reviewed will now be sent to the Makin Review, due to publish next year, for further scrutiny.

Archbishop Justin is deeply sorry for the abuse that was carried out by John Smyth. The Archbishop has committed himself to leading the change needed in the Church of England relating to safeguarding and is personally keen to listen to survivors and striving to keep developing and learning in his own ministry.

Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors. Support can be offered to victims through the National Safeguarding Team’s survivor engagement worker Emily Denne, who can be contacted at emily.denne@churchofengland.org or do contact Keith Makin, the independent reviewer, direct at keith.makin@independentreviews.live.

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Church of England Safeguarding: weekly roundup 24 October

See separate articles for the recently published reports on Victor Whitsey and on Stowe and Maids Moreton.

See also several relevant items in our twice-weekly comment roundups, first here, and then here.

Media coverage of the Whitsey report has been extensive:

Media coverage of the Maids Moreton case:

Other Church Times reports:

And see House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020.

1 Comment

Events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton

The Diocese of Oxford has published a summary briefing and recommendations, along with the full report, from the independent review into events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

Press release (also copied below)

Summary briefing: this page includes all the recommendstions and diocesan responses (scroll down) and also links to a Seven Minute Briefing.

Full report

Press release:

In 2017 Peter Farquhar was murdered. His need for an emotionally close relationship had been exploited, and an intelligent, talented man was made vulnerable. Peter was a member of his local church; his strong personal faith featured in the abusive relationship, and his murderer, Ben Field, also had roles within the church.

This was an extraordinary and unusual case. Everyone who came into contact with the murderer, Ben Field, was manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church.

The Church and wider society need to be ever more vigilant of those who can be made vulnerable by the likes of Ben Field, simply because they are elderly or lonely. For this reason, the Diocese of Oxford commissioned an independent review to establish lessons learnt from the events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

The review, commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Panel, was carried out by Dr Adi Cooper, OBE, an independent consultant in adult safeguarding and adult social care. Dr Cooper makes 13 recommendations for improving safeguarding awareness and prevention as well as supporting a shift to a more open culture within the Church of England around safeguarding in all its complexity for parishes.

“Although the events in the Parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton were unusual, there is learning from them that can inform improvement in safeguarding policy and practice,” writes Dr Cooper. “The lessons from the harm done by Ben Field presents a challenge for the Church regarding specific themes: the abuse of trust in a religious paradigm, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and safe recruitment both of clergy and volunteers.”

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “I welcome the report and the recommendations it contains. The events to which it relates have caused immense distress to many. Following the trial and conviction of Ben Field, the Diocese was determined to learn what further action was required to ensure that potentially vulnerable adults attending church are adequately protected from harm. This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse, and it is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.”

23 October 2020

Notes for editors:

  • The independent report and recommendations were published in full on 23 October. The Diocese will report progress against each of the recommendations during 2021.
  • We believe this to be the first independent review concerning the Ben Field case. A Domestic Homicide Review is due to report in 2021
  • The report and recommendations are published at oxford.anglican.org/events-in-stowe-maids-moreton/
  • For media enquiries, call Steven Buckley 07824 906839 or Liz Hudson on 07702 563211
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Bishop Victor Whitsey: safeguarding review published

From the Chester diocesan website:

A Betrayal of Trust, the independent report into the Church’s handling of the allegations concerning the late Hubert Victor Whitsey, former Bishop of Chester, has been published today. The learning lessons review was carried out by His Hon David Pearl and independent safeguarding consultant Kate Wood.

The Church supported the police in an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by Whitsey dating from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. A public apology was issued in October 2017 following this investigation which included a commitment to a learning lessons review…

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House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020

Update The Church Times has written about the bishops’ meeting and a subsequent interview with the lead safeguarding bishop, Dr Jonathan Gibbs: Gibbs: independent body will supervise Church’s safeguarding.

Church of England press release

House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020
19/10/2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today, Monday 19 October via Zoom.

From October, the House is now meeting once a month, a schedule which is likely to continue until Easter 2021.

The focus of the meeting was an opportunity for reflection and learning on the overarching IICSA report for the Anglican Church in England and Wales which was published on 6 October and had six recommendations for the Church of England.

The House discussed the two most significant themes from the report; proper redress for victims and survivors and greater independence in safeguarding decision making. The House was addressed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the lead safeguarding bishop and the National Director of Safeguarding. All spoke in favour of the motions put before the House (see below) and strongly urged the House to vote in their favour.

During the course of two plenary sessions and breakout groups the House reviewed the recommendations of the report, affirming that any response by the Church needs to be sensitive to, and mindful of, the views of victims and survivors.

The House unanimously endorsed a motion fully accepting the IICSA report, unreservedly apologising to victims and survivors for the harm done by the Church and committing itself to urgently implementing the recommendations.

The House also unanimously agreed with the proposal that the Church should move towards establishing an independent safeguarding structure, with a new trustee body responsible for safeguarding to take over responsibility for the Archbishops’ Council. The House also agreed that an interim arrangement be put in place for additional independent oversight of safeguarding, prior to the establishment of the new trustee body.

The House then underlined the importance of a full response to the IICSA report being released in the coming weeks.

The House also received updates from the various works streams operating under the auspices of the Emerging Church Groups. An overview by the Chair of the Co-ordinating Group, the Bishop of Manchester was given, followed by a brief report from the Chair of the Recovery Group, the Bishop of London regarding ongoing changes and updates to the guidance for worship, following the introduction of the tier system across the nation.

The Archbishop of York updated the House on the work of the Vision and Strategy Group and received the House’s endorsement for his work on developing a shared vision for the Church. Further updates were also given by the Governance Group and the Transforming Effectiveness Group.

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Church of England Safeguarding: weekly roundup 16 October

A collection of material published in the past week related to Church of England safeguarding. See also additional items in our Opinion articles last Wednesday and  tomorrow.

BBC Radio 4 had this  Sunday programme interview including survivors and the Archbishop of York. The item starts 13 minutes into the programme.

The same radio station had a programme in its Moral Maze series, titled The Moral Authority of Organised Religion.

The Telegraph had a surprising item: Church of England’s ‘Safe Spaces’ helpline labelled ‘unsafe’ by abuse survivors

Today the Church Times has many relevant items, including:

The Church of England announced the terms of reference for the PCR2 Reference Group for National Church Institutions and Archbishops. Here is a direct link to the actual Terms of reference.

Parliamentary Questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner included some on this topic.

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More about the IICSA report

Updated

See also Wednesday’s Opinion roundup.

Church Times Julie Conalty Comment: the IICSA report sheds light on darkness in the Church.

Religion Media Centre: Church of England concerned for its reputation rather than dealing with child sex abusers and the video recording of the media briefing (chaired by Andrew Brown) is here: Damning report says Church of England more concerned for reputation than dealing with sex abusers. (40 minutes, but well worth the time to watch).

Giles Fraser UnHerd Can the Church solve its paedophile problem?

Open letter regarding IICSA to the parish of St Margaret’s Rainham: Also in a PDF here.

Updates Friday

The Church Times today has a great deal more material related to the IICSA report:

Religion Media Centre also has Fact Sheet Abuse and the Church of England – timeline.

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following personal statement following the publication of the IICSA report:

To fail on safeguarding casts a profound stain across every good thing we do. I have said this before and I continue to stand by it. But I am acutely aware as we come towards the end of this year that while there is a genuine commitment for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults to be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, it is evident we still have not got it right.

The report published today is a stark and shocking reminder of how so many times we have failed – and continue to fail – survivors. Apologies are vital, but they are not enough. We have to listen. We have to learn. And we have to act.

In calling for the enquiry, through a letter to the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014, I was aware that although it would be something that survivors had demanded it would also be a deeply painful process to tell their stories. I am very grateful to them for their courage. We cannot and will not make excuses and I must again offer my sincere apologies to those to have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.

There is clearly much to respond to and an in-depth consideration of today’s report is vital. IICSA has shone a light on the past and present to help us better inform our future safeguarding work. They are owed our thanks which we give wholeheartedly. I pray this report and its recommendations will result in the changes needed to make our Church a safer place for all now and for future generations.

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IICSA publishes report on Anglican Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its long-awaited report on the Church of England and the Church in Wales. The report totals 154 pages.

Here is a link to the Recommendations section of the report. And here is a link to the Executive Summary.

Press releases:

Initial media coverage:

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Looking ahead to IICSA report on Tuesday

Updated

The Church Times has reported on the open letter published on Friday: see Archbishops pledge to act on IICSA report.

Surviving Church published this article by Gilo Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday.

By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report…

Gilo also was interviewed by the BBC Sunday programme (along with Bishop Jonathan Gibbs). Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vy (25 minutes in)

For the first time The Church of England has announced a scheme offering financial support to abuse survivors. Emily [Buchanan] gets reaction from one survivor and talks to the Church’s Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gibbs, about how he hopes this will pave the way to a full redress scheme in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Carlisle also made the news, but not in a good way: Bishop under investigation for giving paedophile Wiltshire vicar a reference.
Update: more detail here: Investigation after Bishop of Carlisle gives child abuse canon a character reference.

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Church of England publishes open letter ahead of IICSA report

press release  02/10/2020

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; an open letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the lead safeguarding bishop and the national director of safeguarding.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, will publish its overarching investigation report into the Church of England (and Church in Wales) on Tuesday (6th October).

For survivors, this will remind them of the abuse they suffered and of our failure to respond well; it will be a very harrowing  time for them.  Some have shared courageously their story at the IICSA hearings or in other forums.  For others this report will be a reminder of the abuse they have never talked openly about. We are truly sorry for the shameful way the Church has acted and we state our commitment to listen, to learn and to act in response to the report’s findings. We cannot and will not make excuses and can again offer our sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.

We, as the Church of England, are ready to support anyone who comes forward.  We must honour our commitment to change. Survivors have told us that words without actions are meaningless; we are taking action but we are also aware that what we have done has neither been soon enough nor sufficient.

Please pray for all those who will be affected by the publication of the report on Tuesday and that as a Church we are able to respond with humility and a shared determination to change.  We must listen carefully and reflect honestly on all that the report says and continue to drive change towards a safe Church for all.

At this point, we know that the report is based on the main public hearing in July 2019, which examined the response of the Church of England and Church in Wales to allegations of child sexual abuse, as well as the adequacy of current safeguarding policies and practices. The report will also focus on common themes and issues identified by the overall investigation which included the case studies into Bishop Peter Ball and the Diocese of Chichester, both held in 2018. The report will identify failings that we are already working to change, and failings that we will need to work harder to change. There will no doubt be strong recommendations  and we welcome that. We make an absolute commitment to taking action to make the Church a safe place for everyone, as well as to respond to the needs of survivors for support and redress.

Safeguarding is valuing every person as one who is made in God’s image.  It is the prevention of harm, and the promotion of well-being.  It is about responding compassionately to victims and survivors, addressing issues of justice with regard to survivors, other complainants, respondents and all others affected and helping them to rebuild their lives.  Safeguarding is fundamental to our faith.  Whatever part we play in the life of the Church, safeguarding is the responsibility of each one of us, guided and advised by our safeguarding professionals.  Church leaders have a particular responsibility to work together to bring about the change in culture and practice that we need to see and has simply been too slow.

If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the publication of this report and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056  or email: safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk.  There are also other support services available.

Alternatively feel free to contact the diocesan safeguarding team in your area.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell
Lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs
National Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake

12 Comments

Church Times criticises Church of England safeguarding

Today, the Church Times has a lengthy news report, Church safeguarding activity accelerates in advance of IICSA report, which lists various initiatives that have been announced recently by the Church of England.

And it also has a very strongly worded leader (scroll down):

Long overdue

WE HAVE often written about safeguarding in these pages, and will again next week, when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) delivers its final report on the Church of England. The array of new initiatives unveiled in the past week — the interim fund, the Safe Spaces service, the admission that an independent system is needed, etc. — gives the distinct impression of a church hierarchy that is scrabbling about on the bedroom floor looking for items of underwear to cover its nakedness, knowing that IICSA is about to draw back the curtains and expose its carelessness, cruelty, and neglect. We would have been more impressed by something not so obviously prompted by IICSA and the approach to the Charity Commission.

It is worth quoting from an earlier leader comment, from April 2018: “Past blunders, defensive policies, and deliberate obstruction have cast such a pall that they overshadow the better practices now being introduced, and have left a trail of damage in their wake.” Survivors have, of course, welcomed the new urgency given to this topic, but will be forgiven for not trusting an institution that has put off improvements till this last minute. And there is much still to do. The emphasis during the IICSA investigation was on the Church’s treatment of survivors and perpetrators. Since it finished, much more has emerged about the ill-treatment of those falsely accused, and of faulty procedures that have led to unsafe conclusions. We, too, welcome the new commitment, but will withhold judgement until we see wholesale reforms.

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Churches launch Safe Spaces project

Church of England press release: Safe Spaces launches to offer support to survivors

A new service providing vital support for survivors of church-related abuse has become operational today.

Safe Spaces, commissioned by the Anglican and Catholic Churches in England and Wales, will be run by Victim Support, a national charity with a track record of providing survivor support.

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, Church in Wales or the Catholic Church of England and Wales.

Safe Spaces comprises a team of trained support advocates, who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence and who have received additional specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church.

The service is for those who may have experienced any form abuse, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse (including spiritual abuse), domestic abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour.

The Bishop of Southampton, Debbie Sellin, Deputy Lead Safeguarding Bishop for the Church of England, said: “I’m delighted that this service will shortly be available to offer support and advice to survivors of abuse.

“I want to express my thanks to all those who have helped to bring the project together, particularly the survivors who have given of their time and energy.

“In Victim Support, we have an excellent operational lead, and we look forward to continuing a constructive partnership with then as well as the other denominations involved.

“I commend the service for use and hope colleagues will do all they can to promote it locally.”

The service will run for an initial two years, with a view to extending this. It has been paid for by the Catholic and Anglican churches involved, supported by a grant from Allchurches Trust.

CBCEW press release: Launch of ‘Safe Spaces’ includes a link to this Briefing Paper.

Victim Support press release: Victim Support launches Safe Spaces for survivors of church-related abuse

Victim Support (VS) has today (29 September) launched its new service, Safe Spaces, a joint Anglican and Catholic Church in England and Wales (CCEW) project to provide a vital support service for survivors of church-related abuse.

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, the Catholic Church of England and Wales or the Church in Wales.

The service comprises a team of trained support advocates, who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence. They have received specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church…

Safe Spaces website

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, the Catholic Church of England and Wales or the Church in Wales.

Victim Support have been commissioned to run this national service, providing remote support through our helpline, live chat serviceand website. Remote support is provided for as long as the survivor needs.  This can be advocating for the survivor, giving them support, providing information (including information on church and police procedures), understanding individual needs and jointly working on individual support plans.  If face-to-face support is also required, contact and referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations depending on need…

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Archbishops’ Council agrees new safeguarding proposals

Updated again Saturday evening

Press release today: Unanimous support from Archbishops’ Council on safeguarding proposals

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.

Also, this recruitment advertisement appeared earlier this week: Development Manager (Redress Scheme)

The Church Times has this report: New scheme ‘marks turning point’ in Church’s treatment of survivors.

32 Comments

Safeguarding News

Today’s Church Times has two safeguarding stories.

Oxford admits failings in spiritual-abuse case

“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.

Elliott condemns PR response to his safeguarding review

“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…”

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Dean of Christ Church cleared of all safeguarding accusations

Updated again Wednesday evening

The Church of England has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford:

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 Diocese of Oxford has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

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 Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The Church Times has published this news report: Dean Percy exonerated over safeguarding charges. This rehearses a good deal of the background.

Update 1:
Christ Church has now issued this: Statement from Christ Church on Church of England Safeguarding Investigation.

8 September 2020

“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.

Update 2
Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer: Church of England clears Martyn Percy of all safeguarding allegations.

Harriet Sherwood writes in the Guardian: Church clears Oxford college dean after ‘black ops campaign to discredit him’.
Headline later changed to Church clears Oxford college dean over alleged safeguarding failures.

Tim Wyatt at Religion Media Centre has Oxford dean cleared by abuse investigation and Christ Church Oxford timeline.

Update 3
The Times Dean of Christ Church Oxford cleared of safeguarding failures

Telegraph Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

Daily Mail Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church college is cleared of all safeguarding allegations in abuse row

Cherwell Christ Church dean exonerated after safeguarding allegations

Update 4
Stephen Parsons Loose ends in the Martyn Percy Affair.

43 Comments

Reforming Clergy Discipline

We linked some weeks ago to an article at Surviving Church titled The Clergy Discipline Measure – RIP? but we have been remiss in not following up on this topic.

The Church Times had reported on 16 July: ‘Toxic’ CDM leaves clergy suicidal, research finds

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.

Dr Josephine Stein has now responded 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.

It doesn’t have to be this way…

Do read the whole article.

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Charity Commission letter: further reports

Updated twice on Monday afternoon (scroll down)

Surviving Church has a further article: Micah 6:8 and the Letter to the Charity Commission.

…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…

The Church Times has this report: Money for abuse survivors is dwarfed by legal and admin bill.

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.

Updates

Archbishop Cranmer has an article by Martin Sewell: Lead Safeguarding Bishop to critics: “You don’t understand”. Two extracts:

..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…

And

…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…

The Church Times has published this: Safeguarding bishop sides with critics of the Church of England’s policy which includes the following:

…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).

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Charity Commission asked to intervene in CofE safeguarding

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.

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories can be found here.

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 nomorenstinjustice@gmail.com 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.

We link to the booklet We asked for Bread but you gave us Stones which compiled a number of survivor responses to the experiences received at the hands of the Established Church. Plus a link to the book Letters to a Broken Church which includes some of our signatories as contributing authors.

The full text of the letter also appears at Surviving Church: Letter to Charity Commissioners over concerns about Church of England Safeguarding.

And it is also available at Archbishop Cranmer: Calls for Charity Commission to intervene in CofE safeguarding saga.

The Times has this news report: Bishops take aim at ‘unjust’ handling of abuse claims. It includes this:

..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…

The Church Times has a news article: Charity Commission asked to tackle C of E safeguarding ‘failings’. In addition to reporting on the letter above, it also has this:

…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.”

Before publication of the letter, the Church of England had issued a press release, which was also sent to all members of General Synod: Charity Commission complaint – message from Lead Safeguarding Bishop, Jonathan Gibbs. It includes the following:

…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…

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