Thinking Anglicans

House of Bishops issues report of meeting and a statement on IICSA report

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued this statement:

Meeting of the House of Bishops

The House of Bishops met at Bishopthorpe Palace from 15th to 17th May 2019.

Brexit was on the agenda as the bishops discussed recent political developments and prayed for the nation.

The bishops discussed mission and ministry in covenant with the Methodist Church, financial priorities in Church funding over the next three years, and the ministry of confession. The bishops also spent time reviewing progress that has been made by the Living in Love and Faith working group.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) recently published report into the Church of England also received attention from the bishops who have additionally made a statement. [see below]

Elsewhere on the agenda the bishops gave time to the subject of women and men in ministry in the Church of England and mutual flourishing. They discussed the process for discerning how people are called to the ordained ministry.

The House of Bishops also took note of the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong and anticipated the Lambeth 2020 meeting in Canterbury next summer.

The additional statement referred to above is as follows:

Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:

“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.

“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July.  The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally

4 Comments

Bishop of Lincoln suspended from office for alleged safeguarding failure

Updated again Friday evening

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement:

Archbishop of Canterbury statement on Bishop of Lincoln

“Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury). If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people. I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated. I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”

Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said: “I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter. For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”

The Lincolnshire Police have issued this statement, as reported in local newspapers:

A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision today of the Archbishop of Canterbury to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln from office and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that decision.

“The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted.

“Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.

“We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.

“There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor-focused and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team. Anyone wanting to make contact in complete confidence can do so to the Diocese Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson who can be contacted on 01522 504081.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has published the text of an Ad Clerum about this. I recommend reading this in full.

Media coverage:

BBC Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson suspended from office

Church Times Bishop of Lincoln ‘bewildered’ by his safeguarding suspension

The Lincolnite Bishop of Lincoln suspended

Lincolnshire Live Bishop of Lincoln suspended by Archbishop of Canterbury

Telegraph Bishop of Lincoln suspended over alleged abuse failures as Archbishop warns of ‘significant risk to children’

Guardian Bishop of Lincoln suspended over safeguarding issues

Times (£) Bishop suspended in abuse ‘cover-up’

Daily Mail Bishop of Lincoln is suspended from office by Archbishop of Canterbury over child safeguarding inquiry

UPDATE

The Lincolnite reports that an additional fourth person is implicated in the cathedral matter: The four senior figures embroiled in the safeguarding scandal at Lincoln Cathedral

Anglican Communion News Service has a full report: Bishop of Lincoln suspended after information received by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

68 Comments

George Bell Group issues new statement

The George Bell Group has issued this: Statement May 2019.

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

25 Comments

IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball

IICSA has published its report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball investigations.

Full Text of Report: Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Press release: Inquiry publishes report into the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

The Church of England has published this: Publication of IICSA report into Anglican Church 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, has today published its report into the Anglican Church  based on its case studies last year of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.

The 252-page report makes 5 recommendations about a range of issues. These will now be studied in detail and a full response released at a later date. The Inquiry’s third and final hearing in the  Anglican church case study  will start on Monday 1 July 2019 and run for two weeks. This will focus on both the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry notes that further recommendations directly relating to the findings in this report will be made following the hearing in July.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said:

“We thank the Inquiry for the report and note the findings and recommendations which we will now study in full. The report states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors and the Inquiry’s summary recognises that it failed to do this.  It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report.

“Whilst the report acknowledges the progress the Church has made in safeguarding, we recognise that our work must continue at pace in order that we can ensure that the Church is as safe as possible for all. We are committed to working to bring in specific changes that will help us better protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual and all other forms of abuse. If anyone is affected by today’s report I would urge them to come forward. Details of how to do this can be found on the Church of England website.

“We are  immensely  grateful to survivors for their courage in coming forward to IICSA to share their experiences of how they were treated by the Church, knowing how difficult this would have been; their testimonies have made shocking and uncomfortable listening. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the Church of England to be investigated by IICSA as a matter of priority, we have sought to help the Inquiry  in every way that  we can  and  we will now fully consider the report.”

33 Comments

Church of England report on The Seal of the Confessional

The Church of England has today published two items:

Report of the Seal of the Confessional Working Party

Interim Statement on The Seal of the Confessional

The former is an 84 page report.The working party membership was:

  • Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham (Chair)
  • Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham (Vice-Chair)
  • Fr Andrew Cole Ecumenical (Roman Catholic) representative, Private Secretary to the Bishop of Nottingham and Parish Priest of Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham
  • Revd Dr Michael Lloyd, Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford [June 2015 to November 2015]
  • Professor David McClean CBE QC Emeritus Professor, School of Law, University of Sheffield
  • Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark (& member of General Synod)
  • Fr Thomas Seville CR, Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (a member of Faith and Order Commission and the General Synod)
  • Ven Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale (Prolocutor of the Northern Convocation & General Synod member)
  • Dr Jane Williams, Assistant Dean & Lecture in Systematic Theology, St Mellitus College [February 2016 to January 2017]
  • Graham Wilmer MBE Founder, Lantern Project and member of the National Safeguarding Panel

The latter is a 3 page statement signed by William Nye, as Secretary to the House of Bishops. It says, in part:

…In recent decades, churches around the world have begun to face the many ways in which they have failed to keep people safe from abuse and failed to respond well to those who have suffered abuse. Listening to their voices has raised some significant questions about the ‘seal of the confessional’. This became evident, for instance, in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, and there has been discussion in the UK context as well.

Two situations in particular have been a focus for attention. The first is where the person confesses to sins that include abuse of a child or vulnerable person. Why should the normal duty on a priest to report such information appropriately not apply? The second is where it is claimed that if the person confessing their sins has referred to abuse committed by them or by someone else, that cannot then be repeated in another context, such as a statement to the police. This is simply wrong:the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to the priest who hears the confession, not tothe person who makes it.

In response to these concerns, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops of the Church of England commissioned a Working Party on the Seal of the Confessional. It first met in 2015 and completed its report in 2017. As well as examining legal, historical and theological perspectives, it received evidence from survivors of abuse and from clergy who have extensive experience of the ministry of confession.

At present, the ‘seal of the confessional’ is upheld in the Church of England’secclesiastical law. The Working Party did not reach a consensus as to whether this should change. The diversity of view within the Working Party would be reflected more widely in the Church of England. Some Anglicans feel very strongly that the ministry of confession is an integral part of the church’s life of the church, and that its proper practice is inseparable from the unqualified observance of the seal. Some observe from their experiences that the Seal of the Confessional can offer comfort to survivors of abuse who, trusting in the absolute discretion it promises, may confide in a priest for the first time and by so doing find that they are able to unburden themselves and begin the process of healing. Others feel very strongly that the church cannot continue with any aspect of its practice that stops information being passed on which could prevent future abuse or enable past abusers to be brought to justice. The House of Bishops has been giving these issues very careful consideration

The Working Party was, however, unanimous in its recommendations in a number of key areas. One was for improvements to training on the ministry of confession in relation to safeguarding issues, with training itself becoming obligatory for all those ordained as priests, since any priest might be asked to do this. Another was for the appointment of an adviser on the ministry of reconciliation in each diocese who can be a point of reference for training, supervision and advice.

The House of Bishops is fully supportive of these recommendations. Addressing them has required consultation with a number of different groups and individuals. Further information will be given in due course about how the agreedrecommendations of the Working Party’s report will be taken forward.

38 Comments

More fallout from the Panorama programme

An open letter has been published by Justin Humphreys, chief executive of the charity now known as thirtyone:eight (formerly Churches Child Protection Advisory Service):
An open letter to the leadership of the Church of England following BBC’s Panorama.

…It has been clear for some time that the past cases review conducted between 2007 and 2010 was flawed in a number of respects. For there to be any confusion or uncertainty about what happened to those cases that were identified, often referred to as the ‘Known Cases Lists’ is also inexcusable. The Panorama program did well to uncover what were clearly points of discomfort for the church hierarchy. For key representatives of the Church to either not be able to respond clearly to questions about the number of cases or be unprepared to do so, calls the management of these cases into serious question and makes one wonder who exactly is in control? The need for transparency and true accountability has never been as needed as it is today.

What is needed within the Church of England (and frankly elsewhere across the wider Church and beyond) is authentic leadership. Leadership that is prepared to lead by example in a proactive exercise of self-reflection that leads to open and honest dialogue (particularly with survivors). Leadership that is not governed, coerced or muzzled by either insurers, lawyers or any other stakeholder that may stand to lose from just exposure and open remorse and repentance. This would be the right thing to do!

We may ask, what (or who) is being served by this ongoing catalogue of failures, missed opportunities and resistance to effective change concerning past, present and future safeguarding matters? It certainly cannot be said that survivors are being well-served. It is also of great concern that the Church itself is being further damaged by a continual denial of the truth and avoidance of any tangible reparation.

If the public at large is ever again to say of the Church that it is a safe place, a haven or even a sanctuary for those who are suffering, the Church must be prepared to be laid bare and be held accountable for those things it has failed to do well. This humility would be the greatest strength of the Church in seeking to deal with this sad catalogue of shame. The time has come for those that stand in the way of what Jesus would so clearly have done to be challenged, held accountable and where needed placed elsewhere – where they have less opportunity to exert their negative influence and to stand in the way of the restoration that is desperately needed…

Do read the whole letter.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has written a second blog, this one is titled: Panorama on C/E. Further reflections. Again it’s worth reading in full, but the concluding paragraph says:

…Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities.  The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things.   Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews.    The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived.  The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could not disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves.  The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.  The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church.  The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain.  They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them.  In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.

The Church Times has published a letter from Andrew Graystone which can be found here (scroll down)

Panorama programme won’t be the last scandal

Sir, — Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows. Is it the job of the Archbishops’ Council? or the General Synod? or the National Safeguarding Steering Group? or Lambeth Palace? or the House of Bishops? Or is it, perhaps, a matter for each individual diocese?

Everybody points to someone else. Nobody steps forward. After a decade or more of crisis, which continues to eat away at the Church’s standing in society, there has been a complete failure from those in authority to grasp the issue. One reason that some survivors of church abuse are so painfully vocal is that they are filling a vacuum of leadership on this most crucial of issues for the Church.

Monday’s Panorama, with its focus on the shameful mismanagement of abuse in Lincoln diocese, was entitled Scandal in the Church of England. It could have been made at any point in the past decade, and it could have focused on almost any diocese. Stories will continue to emerge, and the scandal of abuse past and present will continue to undermine the Church’s wider mission, until some individual or body takes responsibility and institutes decisive action.

In the mean time, it is victims of abuse, past and present, who bear the cruelty and pain of the Church’s failure.

23 Comments

BBC Panorama documentary about Safeguarding in the CofE

Updated again Tuesday afternoon

The BBC is due to broadcast a documentary this evening, titled Scandal in the Church of England.
The 30 minute programme is now available to view at the above link.

Somewhat unusually, the Church of England issued a statement about this programme last Friday:

BBC Panorama this Monday (April 29) will feature interviews with survivors of church-related abuse in a programme entitled ‘Scandal in the Church of England’. We have worked with the producers to provide information and a response to the range of issues raised, particularly around the Past Cases Review. There will be a personal response from Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, once the programme has been aired. Bishop Peter has also been interviewed for the programme.

There have been several media reports ahead of broadcast:

BBC Jane Corbin Two former Bishops of Lincoln failed to act on abuse allegations

Rutland and Stamford Mercury Bishop of Grantham ‘very sorry’ over reports Diocese of Lincoln failed to properly handle historic abuse allegations and Prepare for “difficult and shocking things” warns Bishop of Grantham over Panorama historic abuse programme.

The latter helpfully included a link to the lengthy Ad Clerum notice from the Bishop of Grantham issued before the programme was shown, which is also available as a PDF over here. This is quite detailed and worth a careful read.

Following transmission the Church of England has issued this press release:

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “It has been harrowing to hear survivors’ accounts of their abuse – shared on BBC Panorama – and we issue an unreserved apology for how we have failed them.  We acknowledge that the Past Cases Review, PCR, from 2008-10, however well-intentioned was in hindsight clearly flawed, as shown in the independent scrutiny report by Sir Roger Singleton published last summer.  The ‘stringent criticisms’ of the PCR, shared with IICSA, are being acted upon and all dioceses are now carrying out a second past cases review, PCR2. We fully acknowledge that it was a serious mistake not to work with and hear from survivors during the original PCR. The new review will ensure survivors voices are heard. We are aware of the courage it takes for survivors to come forward knowing that the effects of their abuse are with them for life.

I would urge anyone affected by the Panorama programme to call the NSPCC helpline number 0808 800 5000.”

Operation Redstone survivor information

Other updates

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has this commentary on the programme: Panorama on Scandal in the C/E. Some thoughts. His final conclusions are:

…The programme concluded with a number of story-lines unfinished.  There was Matt’s story which still has many unanswered questions to be faced, particularly in respect of his official complaints against named individuals.  These remain unresolved.   There was also mention of a newly uncovered file in the York diocese mentioning a number of abuse cases that have not been examined.  We still were left with the feeling that for whatever reason, the Church remains defensive and highly secretive.  Any control of information, which still appears to be happening, is a power tactic.  If there is still secrecy and an attempt to bury the past, all such attempts to do this will likely fail.  Truth, as I have said before, has a habit of spilling out to the embarrassment of those who want to suppress it.  The secrets that are held in order to protect reputations have the capacity to wreak enormous damage on institutions.  The Church of England has much to lose if it does not get its house in order over safeguarding.

Christian Today has a detailed report on the programme which usefully includes the text of the media response made by the Bishop of Grantham, The Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain:

Whilst some matters remain under investigation it is not possible to comment specifically on the questions that have been posed to the diocese by the BBC.

The Diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well. The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served.

The past abuse that our safeguarding team brought to light, through our revisiting and review of past cases, is all the more appalling given what the public deserve and are fully entitled to expect, which is the highest level of conduct from clergy and all those involved in leadership in the church. All people are made in the image of God and abuse of any kind is contrary to that belief.

It is as a result of our commitment to ensuring justice is served, that our safeguarding team have developed an effective partnership with Lincolnshire Police, working together on Operation Redstone. Together they have worked tirelessly to ensure that convictions were secured where possible and where this was not an option, that risk was managed appropriately. Throughout all recent processes our hope is that victims and survivors have felt heard, and been well supported and cared for, although we acknowledge we may not have always got this right.

Every effort is being made to ensure that safeguarding is part of the DNA of the Diocese of Lincoln. There are high levels of confidence in our safeguarding practitioners from Lincolnshire Police and statutory authorities. There is mandatory safeguarding training that is externally audited and independently validated with support from Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children and Adult partnership boards. Our safeguarding team have delivered face to face training to 3296 people in the past five years.

As a diocese we promise to offer support to anyone who contacts us about issues of harm or abuse and are committed to ensure that churches are a safe place for all.

Church Times Hattie Williams Bishop apologises for mistakes after Lincoln abuse featured on Panorama

Press Association via Premier Church of England officials ‘turned blind eye’ to child abuse claims

22 Comments

Safeguarding: some further articles

Updated with more articles on Friday

Meg Munn, chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, has written this: QUESTIONING THE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK. The whole article is worth a read.

On the topic of Victims and Survivors, she wrote this:

The panel was asked to consider a paper on the setting up of an Ombudsman service to adjudicate on the handling of complaints. The view of the panel was that there are currently many concerns among victims and survivors that are not properly handled, that much more needed to be done about the processes at an early stage. I represented this view at the National Safeguarding Steering Group in early April and am pleased that this was understood and consideration to how to proceed is taking place.

The recent report by the Social Care Institute for Excellence which includes a significant section on improving responses provides a lot of important information regarding the experience of a number of survivors of abuse. The findings are detailed and it will take time for the range of issues to be fully considered. What jumps out is the poor ongoing response to survivors. The importance of maintaining contact and keeping survivors up to date with any action is essential.

The recent interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Channel 4 news raised concerns about the glacial progress of a review into the activities of John Smyth. While there may be real difficulties in gaining co-operation of the organisation at the centre of this case, the Church must communicate more regularly and clearly about their actions otherwise it is not surprising that survivors lose heart. I am urging those concerned to consider how they can proceed as soon as possible.

On the latter point, today’s Church Times has a report by Madeleine Davies headlined Smyth abuse-survivors dispute Welby claim.

SURVIVORS of abuse perpetrated by John Smyth have written to Lambeth Palace to correct the Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertion that Smyth was “not actually an Anglican” — a comment made during an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

In total, the letter lists 14 points of dispute about the Archbishop’s comments.

During the interview on Friday, which explored the Church of England’s response to Smyth’s abuse, Archbishop Welby said that Smyth “was not actually an Anglican. The church he went to in South Africa was not Anglican, and Iwerne was not part of the Church of England.”

Smyth was living in South Africa when a disclosure of abuse was made in Ely diocese in 2013, and died there last year. He was a former chairman of the Iwerne Trust, which ran holiday camps for boys at English public schools, and is now part of the Titus Trust. A six-month Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast two years ago, found that both the Iwerne Trust and Winchester College had learned of allegations of abuse by Mr Smyth in the 1980s, but failed to report them to the police (News, 10 February 2017).

One of the survivors who wrote to Lambeth Palace this week, Graham*, described the claim that Smyth was not an Anglican as “farcical”, given that he worshipped in the C of E.. The letter tells the Archbishop that Smyth had in fact been a licensed Reader in the diocese of Winchester…

Do read the entire article for further details.

Update

Law & Religion UK has published two articles recently discussing Mandatory Reporting. The most recent one is IICSA second seminar on mandatory reporting  and the earlier one was IICSA and mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: update. These contain numerous links to the IICSA materials on this subject, which deserve careful study.  L&R UK comments:

An earlier IICSA seminar on mandatory reporting took place on 27 September 2018 and considered existing obligations to report child sexual abuse in England and Wales, as well as international models of mandatory reporting. A report of that seminar has been published on the website and the 11 presentations are also available to read on the mandatory reporting seminar page.

On 17 April we posted an update on mandatory reporting in which we indicated that Bates Wells Braithwaite had reported that the IICSA was actively considering the question of introducing mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse in England and Wales; the Inquiry has consulted with the Victims and Survivors Forum, a self-nominating group of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and has now published a summary of responses: Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: A survey of the Victims and Survivors Forum, in which the great majority of respondents from the Forum (88.6%) were in favour of introducing mandatory reporting.

25 Comments

The CofE appoints its first permanent national Director of Safeguarding

The Church of England announced today that Melissa Caslake, Executive Director of Children’s Services for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and City of Westminster, has been appointed as its first permanent Director of Safeguarding.


First national Director of Safeguarding appointed
10/04/2019

Melissa Caslake, Executive Director of Children’s Services for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and City of Westminster, has been appointed as the Church of England’s first permanent Director of Safeguarding. She takes over from Sir Roger Singleton who took up an interim role at the beginning of the year.

Melissa has a strong professional background in adult and children’s services over a 20-year career, with particular experience of child protection and safeguarding, and a track record of leading good and outstanding children’s services in local authorities.

As executive director she has overseen the Bi-Borough response to non-current child sexual abuse and been the London lead Director of Children’s Services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, working with Government departments to develop a stronger national response. Melissa has overseen the provision of support for children affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, also reporting to the Government’s Taskforce.

Prior to her current role she was Director of Family Services for the City of Westminster where she led the service to an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ rating in 2016. She was formerly a divisional director in the London Borough of Harrow and Director of Children’s Social Care and Youth Inclusion in the London Borough of Merton.

Melissa studied English at Oxford University followed by a Master’s in social work at Exeter University; she also has a range of management and leadership qualifications including from the Warwick University Business School.

Commenting on her appointment Melissa said: “I am proud to be taking on the role of National Director of Safeguarding for the Church of England. My career has been dedicated to safeguarding vulnerable children and adults and helping families in need.

“I am determined to ensure that the Church is a safer place for all, and I look forward to applying my professional experience and expertise to this challenge.”

William Nye, Secretary General to the Archbishops’ Council, said: “I am delighted by the appointment of Melissa Caslake to this role. The Church of England has come a long way in improving its safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in recent years, particularly since the establishment of the national safeguarding team in 2015. But there is much still to do, and the creation of a director post for safeguarding recognises that.

“We have been fortunate in the last few months to have Sir Roger Singleton filling the post on an interim basis and now to have someone with the experience and seniority of Melissa to fill the post on a permanent basis, and to take the national Church’s safeguarding work to a new level. She will be an excellent addition to the Council’s leadership team, and I am very pleased to welcome her to Church House.”

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “I welcome the appointment of Melissa as the Church of England’s first Director of Safeguarding. Her strong, professional background and experience will strengthen the National Team as it continues its work at a time of increasing demand. Melissa’s appointment is part of our commitment to ensuring the Church is a safer place for all and she will take on leadership of the team as we approach our main IICSA hearing. I look forward to working with her in my role as lead safeguarding bishop.”

Melissa’s start date will be confirmed in due course.

More information

31 Comments

Sexual abuse survivors respond to SCIE report

In response to the report linked in the preceding article, the following press release has been issued:

SURVIVORS RESPONSE TO CHURCH ABUSE REPORT

Sent on behalf of MACSAS* and a number of survivors of abuse in a church context

Thursday 4th April 2019  

Today’s report from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) illustrates the Church of England’s comprehensive failure in the treatment of victims of its own abuse. The church’s leaders should now be putting their hands up to their collective and individual failure to respond authentically and honestly to survivors.

SCIE’s independent research indicates that less than one in five people who reported abuse in the church say that they received a satisfactory response, and more than half never received any meaningful response at all. [2.1.1] The report also speaks of the church’s failure to understand the lifelong impact of abuse, and its failure to keep the victim at the centre of its response. [8.1.2]

Those of us whose lives have been devastated by clergy abuse know this from long and bitter experience. We are victimized first by our abusers, and again by the church’s “defensive responses” to criticism of its failings.

For many years the Church of England has responded to the crisis of clergy abuse by saying “You can trust us. We’ve got this in hand.” The SCIE report confirms what we have known all along – that the church can no longer be trusted to manage disclosures of abuse. We repeat our call that this work should be handed over to a fully independent body. The church’s General Synod must be allowed proper time to debate these findings – preferably at an Extraordinary Meeting at which survivors can contribute their expertise, as recommended by the report.

Notes

The full report can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yyfqxvlj

The Church of England’s response can be found at http://tinyurl.com/y425ykd4

*MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors)     www.macsas.org.uk

For more information contact Andrew Graystone    

07772 710090

andrew.graystone1@btinternet.com

64 Comments

The Church of England welcomes the final SCIE overview report

Updated on Friday to include initial media coverage

The Church of England has announced today’s publication of the final SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) overview report,  which details the learning from the 42 independent diocesan safeguarding audits and findings on improving responses to survivors of abuse. There is also a response from the National Safeguarding Steering Group.

Details are in the following press release.

The Church of England welcomes the final SCIE overview report

04/04/2019

The Church of England welcomes the final SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) overview report, published today, which details the learning from the 42 independent diocesan safeguarding audits and findings on improving responses to survivors of abuse.

The report received by the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) acknowledges that the results of the survivor survey makes for very difficult reading and the Church’s failure to respond compassionately has undermined confidence in the its own safeguarding practice.

The report presents an overview of learning from the 42 audits, carried out between 2015-17, and introduces the additional work conducted by a survey to gather the views of people who have first-hand experience of Church responses, including survivors of clergy and Church-related abuse

It notes the audits have taken place in a changing context and the Church has done much to address early systemic issues raised by SCIE. It therefore summarises and appraises all activity (completed, underway and planned) to address issues that have been raised and makes clear areas where work is still required to improve safeguarding practices.

58 people responded to the survivor survey which focused on how the Church should be engaging with people who come forward; the vast majority said they were dissatisfied with the Church’s response.

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop and chair of the NSSG said:

“It is essential that victims and survivor organisations have confidence that anybody coming forward to disclose abuse to the Church are treated with compassion, offered support and their concerns and allegations are taken seriously. They must have confidence that the Church will act to address instances of abuse and do all it can to prevent future harm.  The Church recognises that significant changes will be required before survivors will have this level of confidence in the Church, and that this undertaking is no simple task.  However, it is one that I and my fellow Bishops and the whole Church are absolutely committed to.”

Media coverage of this:

3 Comments

Safeguarding in Chester diocese

Updated again 31 March and again 1 April

The Archbishop of York has published this announcement:

Statement on safeguarding arrangements in Chester Diocese

28/03/2019

The Archbishop of York has been informed, in the course of a conversation with the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, that all safeguarding arrangements in the diocese will until further notice be led by the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair.

An Instrument of Delegation has been signed by the Bishop of Chester to formalise this change of episcopal responsibilities within the Diocese.

The Diocese of Chester has published this more detailed statement:

Changes to safeguarding arrangements

A statement from Bishop Peter regarding safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester:

28 March 2019

A statement from Bishop Peter Forster: 

“I have asked the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair, to lead on all safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester and have formally delegated this responsibility to him with immediate effect.

“I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

“An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

“The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese.

“I will continue in all other duties relating to my role of Bishop of Chester.

“I will not be making any further public comments in relation to this matter until the outcome of the independent review.”

Updates

According to a report in the Telegraph, Bishop accused of covering up child sex abuse scandal gives up safeguarding powers

…The Telegraph has also learnt that the Church of England has also commenced formal proceedings regarding Bishop Forster’s conduct. He has been reported to the Church’s disciplinary body by its most senior safeguarding watchdog. Sir Roger Singleton CBE, interim director of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, has instigated the start of the Church Disciplinary Measure (CDM) process. This can result in a tribunal or hearing overseen by the watchdog, if evidence of malpractice is found..

Chester Standard   Chester: Bishop Peter Forster delegates safeguarding responsibility after cover-up reports

Cheshire Live Bishop of Chester hands over safeguarding responsibilities after retired priest convicted

Christian Today Bishop of Chester hands over safeguarding duties after jailing of retired priest

Church Times Disciplinary complaint lodged against Bishop of Chester

…A Church House spokeswoman confirmed on Monday that Sir Roger had lodged a complaint against Dr Forster under the Clergy Discipline Measure…

…Under the CDM process, a complaint against a bishop is made to the archbishop of the province — the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in this case. The complaint is then referred to the registrar of the province for preliminary scrutiny, during which a decision is made whether there is enough substance to the complaint to justify proceeding with it.

Within 28 days of receiving the registrar’s report, the archbishop must decide how to proceed. Options include dismissing the complaint, taking no further action, imposing a conditional deferment (whereby the complaint is kept on file for up to five years), or imposing a penalty by consent. A penalty can range from a rebuke to prohibition for life. If the respondent does not consent to a proposed penalty, then a formal investigation must take place. In the case of a complaint against a bishop, this would be heard before a vicar general’s court.

71 Comments

Bishop of Chester criticised for not reporting a paedophile priest

The Telegraph reported on 13 March: Longest serving Church of England bishop faces calls to resign after court hears he knew about paedophile priest.

The longest-serving bishop in the Church of England is facing calls to resign after it emerged he knew about a paedophile priest in his diocese and did nothing.

The Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Peter Forster, found out Rev Gordon Dickenson had become embroiled in a child abuse scandal decades earlier when the retired vicar wrote a letter about the affair in 2009.

Dickenson was convicted earlier this month of eight counts of sexual assault after pleading guilty to abusing a boy during the 1970s inside a church hall and even his vicarage.

But ten years ago, Dickenson had written to the Diocese of Chester which was conducting a review of past abuse cases admitting he been accused of the abuse during the 1970s and had promised the then Bishop of Chester he would “never do it again”.

Despite this admission, Bishop Forster failed to pass on the letter to the police or order an internal church inquiry…

Another report from the local Cheshire newspaper is here: Former Warrington vicar jailed for sexually abusing teenage boy.

…This case came to light in 2017 after Cheshire Constabulary published a report into the findings of an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual abuse made against a former Bishop of Chester.

Operation Coverage focused on allegations made against the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s…

The Church Times reported:Diocese apologises as abuser pleads guilty.

The Diocese of Chester issued this statement on 15 March:

A statement from the Diocese of Chester in response to the sentencing of retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, who was jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on 15 March 2019.

We can confirm that retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, has been sentenced and jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a child. This refers to his time as Vicar of Christ Church, Latchford, in 1973 and 1974.

We offer an unreserved apology to the survivor who has shown bravery and courage to share his experiences with the police and we acknowledge how difficult and distressing this must have been for him.

The Diocese has provided full co-operation with the police throughout the current investigation and anyone affected by today’s news should contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.

It has been reported that Gordon Dickenson wrote a letter to the Diocese, dated 2009, in which he admitted he had been accused of abuse during the 1970s.

The Diocese wishes to apologise for not acting on this information in 2009 and acknowledges that, had it done so, the police may have brought a prosecution against Gordon Dickenson sooner.

An independent review will be conducted into the handling of the case to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned.

On the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme this morning, Meg Munn chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, was interviewed about this matter. You can hear what she said here, from about 27.5 minutes in, or in this extract over here.

Martin Sewell has referred to this matter in an article published at Surviving Church: Too important to care about child sexual abuse? Problems for Church and State. Concerning Bishop Forster, he writes in part:

…In both cases, plainly those exercising misjudgement are not bad people. I constantly remind readers that the context of the time must be factored in.  However, the time for this to be an excuse allowing us to continue, simply apologising, undertaking a “learned lesson review’ and moving on, has surely passed. That scenario has been played out too many times in too many places. Victims need to see more robust responses either from the individuals concerned or from the relevant institutions.

Until such public figures pay a price, either through voluntarily resignation, through the withdrawal of honours conferred upon them, or through being shunned by the court of public opinion, we shall continue to have a culture of minimisation and cover-up. Hitherto the only ones who have paid a price for these matters coming into the public domain are the victims who have to revisit their history of pain, humiliation, anger and all the tragedies within their personal lives that go with this.

If the Establishment, secular or faith, is to retain any credibility, it is time for its members to grasp the personal responsibility that such cases require. Great reputation and personal advantage goes with public status: with great privilege goes great responsibility. Respect for both victims betrayed and the institutions served requires no more feet shuffling but bold moral acceptance of consequence through principled resignation…

64 Comments

Faith and Sexuality Survey results published

The Ozanne Foundation has published the results of the 2018 National Faith & Sexuality Survey. There is this Press Release  which summarises the results:

SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS REPORTS OF SIGNIFICANT HARM EXPERIENCED BY LGBQ+ CHILDREN OF FAITH WHO ARE SUBJECT TO “CONVERSION THERAPY”

The 2018 National Faith & Sexuality Survey has revealed the high level of mental health issues reported amongst people who have attempted changing their sexual orientation, with many sharing they have attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts. Over half said they first attempted to change whilst they were 18 or under with many stating they were influenced by their religious leader. 22 people said they had been forced to undergo sexual activity with someone of the opposite gender. These attempts were reported as being overwhelmingly unsuccessful, with the primary motivations given for attempting to change relating to either religious beliefs or internationalised homophobia.

The survey, the first of its kind in the UK, was designed to understand the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and acceptance of their sexual orientation. It ran during December 2018 and attracted over 4600 responses, of which a tenth (458) stated they had personal experience of attempting to change their sexual orientation. Over half of these said they had experienced mental health issues, of whom nearly a third (91 people) said they had attempted suicide while over two-thirds (193 people) said they had had suicidal thoughts. Two in five of those who reported mental health issues indicated they had self- harmed and a quarter said they had suffered from eating disorders. Few said they had sought advice from the medical profession but instead nearly half said they had sought advice from their religious leader, who was identified as being significantly more likely than parents to be the person to advise or force attempts at sexual orientation change…

…The report is being presented at a lunchtime fringe meeting at the General Synod on February 21st 2019 ahead of the Church of England’s own presentation of its proposed “Pastoral Principles” for pastoral ministry among LGBTI+ people in the Church.

The full set of results can be downloaded here.

The survey questionnaire can be downloaded here.

The full Executive Report can be downloaded here.

Media coverage is being collated over here.

12 Comments

Church abuse survivors update General Synod booklet

Updated Wednesday morning

Press Release
Monday 18th February 2019 1000
GENERAL SYNOD FORCED TO FACE CHURCH ABUSE CRISIS
Victims of abuse address the church through hard-hitting booklet

The General Synod of the Church of England, meeting this week in Westminster, has once again been forced to face up to the crisis of abuse by clergy and other church officers. In spite of featuring prominently in the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the church had decided not to formally discuss the crisis during its four-day meeting. But victims and survivors of church abuse have forced the issue back onto the church’s agenda through a hard-hitting pamphlet. The booklet We Asked for Bread but you gave us Stones updates a previous booklet, which shocked many synod members twelve months ago. Victims of abuse, whose comments about the church caused widespread dismay this time last year, were asked to describe how the church has treated them since then.

The message of the booklet is that for all the talk, the Church of England is no further forward in addressing the needs of victims. “I have been more of less abandoned'” says one. Another complains that “Nobody has taken charge. We remain adrift.” The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the church’s treatment of complainants as “a deeply evil act.” And yet Andrew Graystone, who collated the new booklet, says that the church has persisted in its “lawyer-led, money-driven approach to survivors of abuse.” He pleads for the church to treat its victims as “wounded friends” and to “start by asking what you might do to help them rebuild their lives.”

All members of the General Synod will receive a copy of the new booklet when they arrive for the meeting on Wednesday.

A copy of the new edition of We Asked for Bread but you gave us Stones is available for download here: Stones not Bread Revisited.

Update 

All Synod members will today receive as well a copy of this Credit card sized reminder of what they personally can do to prevent abuse.

3 Comments

Updates on the case of Bishop George Bell

We last reported on this matter on 24 January, when the Briden report was published. There have been some further developments:

The Church Times reported on 1 February: Welby welcomes plan for George Bell statue hours after apologising for Church’s handling of the case.

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed plans for a statue of the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, to be completed and installed in Canterbury Cathedral, hours after apologising for the Church’s botched handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against the Bishop.

Plans for the statue were halted in 2015, after a woman known as “Carol” alleged that Bishop Bell, a former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, had sexually abused her in the 1940s, when she was nine…

And on 8 February: George Bell ‘should not have been named’ in Church’s settlement of sex abuse allegation.

THE blackening of George Bell‘s name would not have happened had there been a confidentiality clause governing the payment made to “Carol”, who accused him of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.

Dr Warner was addressing supporters of Bishop Bell at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, held at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, to which supporters wish to see the name “George Bell House” restored…

The resolutions which the Bell Society has promoted for some time are these:

  1. Archbishop Justin Welby to apologise for his “significant cloud” remark concerning Bishop Bell
  2. Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, to invite Barbara Whitley, Bishop Bell’s niece, for a face-to-face meeting. 
(She has already requested such a meeting.)
  3. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter to restore the name of 4 Canon Lane  to George Bell House
  4. Chichester Cathedral’s Chancellor and Canon Librarian, the Rev’d Dr Anthony Cane, to permit the reinstatement of Bishop Bell’s portrait and plaque
  5. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean, the Very Rev’d Stephen Waine, to correct page 37 of the Cathedral Guide: Society and Faith
  6. The General Synod to undertake a Full Debate at the earliest opportunity, regarding the serious implications arising from Lord Carlile’s Report

It will be interesting to see if Questions asked at General Synod next week produce any further answers.

30 Comments

Briden report on the Bishop Bell case is published

Updated Friday morning with media coverage (scroll down) and again Saturday

The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has today issued this:

National Safeguarding Team statement on Bishop Bell

A ruling by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence that had been brought before the core group, the Church’s response to any safeguarding situation…

…The core group took the view that there were no safeguarding issues arising out of the fresh information and Mr Briden concluded that the allegations presented to him were unfounded.

Lessons have already been learnt from this case and we have apologised for mistakes made in our processes. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have released their own statements.

The full text of the Briden report is available here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has today issued this:

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

I apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in the process surrounding the handling of the original allegation against Bishop George Bell. The reputation of Bishop Bell is significant, and I am clear that his memory and the work he did is of as much importance to the Church today as it was in the past. I recognise this has been an extremely difficult period for all concerned and I apologise equally to all those who have come forward and shared stories of abuse where we have not responded well.

An allegation against the late Bishop George Bell, originally brought in 1995, was made again in 2013 in the context of a growing awareness of how institutions respond to safeguarding cases. A review carried out by Lord Carlile into how the Church of England handled the case concerning Bishop Bell made a significant number of recommendations, and the Church of England accepted almost all of these.

At the end of 2017 several people came forward with further, fresh information following the Carlile review, and after a thorough, independent investigation, nothing of substance has been added to what has previously been alleged. A statement from the National Safeguarding Team explains the processes involved in reaching this latest decision more fully…

The Bishop of Chichester has released this:

RULING ON GEORGE BELL INVESTIGATION – A RESPONSE

…The Carlile report, and this subsequent investigation, have however shown how much we have had to learn about dealing with cases from the distant past. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has already questioned the Church over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our two hearings – to be published later this year – will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse in the future. We have learned much about what makes for better process and continue to do so.

In particular, we have learned that the boundaries of doubt and certainty have to be stated with great care, that the dead and those who are related to them have a right to be represented, and that there must be a balanced assessment of the extent to which it would be in the public interest to announce the details of any allegation.

It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain. We have also now understood much more besides, in particular about the trust that people place in us and their legitimate expectations of us as guardians of the inheritance of faith.

We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it…

Updates – Media coverage

Church Times Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell. This includes a report of a press briefing held yesterday with extensive quotes from “a Church House spokesman”. There are also quotes from Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer. Strongly recommended to read in full.

Times (£) Sex-claims bishop George Bell will get a statue (this refers to a planned statue at Canterbury Cathedral)

Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury apologises ‘unreservedly’ for CoE’s ‘mistakes’ in handling Bishop Bell allegations

Guardian C of E apologises for its handling of George Bell abuse allegations

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury apologises over ‘mistakes’ in how Church of England handled allegations against Bishop George Bell as it emerges they were ‘unfounded’

BBC Bishop George Bell abuse allegations ‘unfounded’

Anglican Communion News Service Abuse allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are “unfounded”, inquiry finds

Archbishop Cranmer Martin Sewell and David Lamming How far is Bishop George Bell’s reputation restored? When is a cloud not a cloud? This detailed analysis is also strongly recommended reading.

Telegraph Letter from Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson (scroll down)

Tablet Archbishop apologises for shortcomings over Bell

87 Comments

IICSA announces its plans for July hearings into the Anglican churches

IICSA held another “preliminary hearing” on 15 January. “Preliminary” in relation to the further two weeks of hearings planned for 1 to 12 July. The transcript from yesterday can be read here. Most of it is taken up with the Counsel to the Inquiry setting out her plans for July. At the outset she said:

The purpose of today’s hearing is to provide an update on the work that the inquiry has been carrying out since the hearings in July 2018, and to discuss the necessary preparations for the hearing to commence in July 2019.
I will deal with this in the following order:
Firstly, the broad themes and approaches to the national church hearing as the investigation team currently envisages them.
Secondly, how the inquiry has dealt with, and will be dealing with, the material received in the investigation and how such will be disclosed.
Thirdly, the requests made for statements pursuant to rule 9 of the Inquiry Rules, and when these will be ready for calculation.
Fourthly, hearing dates and any next steps. And lastly, any other business.
In what follows, I intend to explain what the inquiry has been doing and where we are now and set out what is going to happen over the next four months.

In addition to her statement, two legal representatives of groups of abuse survivors also made statements. Scroll down to page 8 of the PDF to read these.  David Greenwood makes extensive reference to the case of Matt Ineson.

For a more detailed discussion of IICSA plans, see this summary at Law & Religion UKIICSA 7th preliminary hearing on Anglican investigation.

The Church of England issued this press release: Statement following IICSA preliminary hearing.

Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop for the Church of England said:
“We welcome the comments today from Fiona Scolding QC* on the wider church hearing scheduled for July which outlined the focus of the Inquiry.
We fully support the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with our commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Miss Scolding QC said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful. I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard.
We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”

*Fiona Scolding is the counsel to IICSA for the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

IICSA has also published a number of the written closing submissions made at the conclusion of the Peter Ball hearings in July last year. Here are links to some of them, which readers may find interesting despite their length.

On behalf of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England

On behalf of Baron Carey of Clifton

On behalf of Slater and Gordon survivors

On behalf of Switalski survivors

21 Comments

Safeguarding: PCCs must report serious incidents to Charity Commission

Hattie Williams writes for Church Times today:  Safeguarding: PCCs must report serious incidents to Charity Commission.

PCCs, Diocesan Boards of Finance, and religious communities are now required by the House of Bishops to report any “serious incidents” — safeguarding and non-safeguarding — to the Charity Commission, under new guidance published this week.

As part of the move, the C of E will start compiling national safeguarding statistics for the first time…

The guidance from the Church of England is in these four documents.

There is a press release from the Church of England, which is copied below.

New guidance on reporting serious incidents, approved by the Charity Commission

02/01/2019

The Church of England has published today new House of Bishops’ guidance on reporting safeguarding and other Serious Incidents to the Charity Commission. This is the first time the Church of England has produced Charity Commission approved guidance.

The Charity Commission updated its guidance on Serious Incident Reporting in October 2018, with a particular focus on the reporting of safeguarding Serious Incidents following recent high-profile incidents in the charity sector. All PCCs and DBFs and most Religious Communities are charities and their trustees (eg PCC members, DBF directors) are required to report any Serious Incidents – both safeguarding and non-safeguarding – to the Charity Commission. (more…)

6 Comments

“Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA”

Updated again Thursday and Friday (scroll down)

Channel 4 News broadcast a news item this evening (Wednesday): there is a link to the 5 minute video in this online article:

Exclusive: Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA

A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – before she was allowed to read an official review accusing the Church of England of mismanaging her complaints…

…A 2012 inquiry ordered by the then Archbishop Rowan Williams into multiple failures in safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester concluded: “A confidentiality clause should never be included in any agreement reached with a survivor. It is essential that there is complete transparency about any abuse that has occurred.” mismanaging her complaints…

The Telegraph has also covered the story: Church of England embroiled in NDA controversy after allegedly hushing up findings of harassment probe.

The Church of England has been accused of using non-disclosure agreements to hush up a sexual harassment case involving one of its vicars…

…However the institution is likely to face fresh scrutiny over its alleged use of an NDA, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, its most senior cleric, questioned their legitimacy this year.

He told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in March:  “A non-disclosure agreement seems to me to be dangerous because it creates suspicion, ‘Why are you doing an NDA? Surely you’re trying to cover something up’.”

The Diocese of Birmingham has published a document titled Lessons Learnt Review Statement.

A complaint has been made regarding the way in which the Church of England Birmingham handled and investigated a complaint made by an adult of alleged sexual abuse between 1989 and 1991.

Whilst we investigated the complaint with best intentions so as to honour the complainant’s feelings, and to sensitively communicate with all those involved, we accept that we fell short of achieving those aims.

We want to learn from the mistakes we have made, so as to make improvements to our policies and procedures.

With that objective in mind, the Bishops Safeguarding Management Group authorised an independent Lessons Learnt Review…

Updates

The Daily Mail has now also covered this story: Church of England ‘forced woman abused by a vicar to sign a non-disclosure agreement over her abuse claims’ then paid her £40,000 but denied liability

The Times also carried a short item in its News in Brief column.

The Church Times published Birmingham diocese defends gagging order for survivor.

The Birmingham Mail reported: Church cover-up claims over ‘sex pest Harborne vicar who walked around naked’.

The Diocese of Birmingham on Thursday afternoon issued this on its website:
Response to Channel 4 News story

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told. We needed to put measures in place to safeguard the contributions and identities of these others. For us to publically share personal details regarding private individuals, some of whom have requested anonymity, would be irresponsible, unethical and contravening their understanding of what their contribution is being used for. It is not about protecting the Bishop, protecting the Church of England – Birmingham or the wider Church, it is about protecting the identities and rights of private individuals. We have not attempted to cover up our failings in dealing with this case and have publically acknowledged them here: www.cofebirmingham.com/hub/safeguarding/lessons-learnt/.

(more…)

27 Comments