Thinking Anglicans

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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Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
1 month ago

I am fascinated that the Church thinks its critics do not understand how it’s core groups function. A principal signatory of the complaint letter is Lord Alex Carlile QC engaged by the Church to review its core group procedures in the case of Bishop George Bell. He made recommendations all but one of which were accepted but are not yet Implemented over two years later. Today he describes our systems of investigations as the most unjust and incompetent he has ever seen. Two other signatories are David Greenwood and Richard Scorer who have done sterling work representing multiple survivors at… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Sewell

I know who I believe and it’s not a close call. They understand very well the way these so called core groups work. They also understand this is an exercise in hiding the truth which means justice is not seen to be done but the institution is safe. Surprisingly the people I choose to believe are not part of this discredited and shameful ecclesiastical institution.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Justin Welby should be asked to consider his position as Archbishop, in the light of these revelations.

Matthew Ineson
Matthew Ineson
1 month ago

Totally agree

Simon Butler
Simon Butler
1 month ago

As someone who has regularly complained about alleged poor legal process, Richard, I think you mean “allegations” not “revelations”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Butler
Gilo
Gilo
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon Butler

If you are the Rev Canon Simon Butler, it is disconcerting to see an Archbishops’ Council figure and senior member of the clergy continue to maintain this kind of denial. Over the past month alone, anyone observing the train of events, has been aware of the disparity of responses going on. The Archbishop of Canterbury was parachuted into relative safety with a statement following a Channel 4 news report. In that instance a survivor came forward, made a complaint about Archbishop Welby, and an investigation opened by the NST. Yet with applied news laundering the comms team removed Archbishop Welby… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon Butler

I mean both SB

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

I don’t think singling out one individual is just or helpful. The danger is that one is made a scapegoat but everything carries on regardless.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, the position of Archbishop of Canterbury is a responsible one – performing duties on behalf of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – Her Majesty The Queen. The buck stops there. Bishop Bell’s Core Group, for example [over 5 years ago], was the joint responsibility of both ++Justin Welby and +Martin Warner. A giant ‘pig’s ear’ was made of it – which both Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden [and significant others] made clear…a miscarriage of justice as clear as day. This was a supreme, obvious example in which both the Archbishop and the Bishop needed to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard W. Symonds
Kate
Kate
1 month ago

If Justin Welby said tomorrow that he was “retiring”, I don’t believe that anything would change as a result, do you? Much more of the episcopate is involved, even if only through their passivity rather than agitating for change.

Kate
Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

There are two ways to determine who is responsible for something. One is a legalistic study of documents. That is already underway, albeit perhaps with a lack of zeal when serving bishops are implicated. The second approach is an holistic one: what changes need to be made to the leadership team to bring about the necessary sea change in approach. I would argue that everyone on that list is responsible for the present situation because otherwise their involvement wouldn’t need to change. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are guilty of any wrongdoing in any legal sense, just that they have… Read more »

NJW
NJW
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

Ten years ago I think that this three-layered approach might have been fully justified. However, the church has been increasingly centralised with both soft and hard power now exercised to control diocesan bishops in a way that would just not have been the case previously. An example (away from safeguarding), of this process working to minimise the power of diocesan bishops and centralise strategic power is the way that SDF funding is used to implement decisions according to a central policy that has little or no reference to the needs or wants of the local church, but promotes a particular… Read more »

Kate
Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  NJW

I think that’s a bit like blaming civil servants instead of ministers. Yes, it is entirely possible that the civil servants pushed for certain policies but ministers nonetheless remain responsible.

NJW
NJW
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

My point was not that the ‘civil servants’ are in control, but that the church is now controlled not by individual diocesan bishops, but by Archbishops ‘in council’. Diocesan bishops have always been subordinate to their metropolitan, but their ability to act truly independently has been eroded over some time – and with that erosion of independence, naturally comes a centralising of responsibility – in this case the the Archbishops (and Council).

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Safeguarding Bishop Gibbs can call the Church of England Core Groups what he likes – the present term he likes is “statutory strategy meetings”.

I prefer to call them what they have proved to be and what they are:

‘Ecclesiastical Kangaroo Courts’.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

The involvement of so many high profile names (I think over 50) as signatories to this letter is bound to raise the profile of this issue. Archbishops of Canterbury and York, you can expect trouble ahead.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Just one cautionary note. The Charity Commission won’t take action on the contents of a letter, however high profile its authors. If the Commission decides to institute an Inquiry (which it can carry out either itself or by appointing a person on its behalf) evidence will be required which would ordinarily be on oath or a declaration of its truth. I imagine that an Inquiry is what the letter is aimed at.

If that course is taken, we are unlikely to hear anything very soon.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

“We are unlikely to hear anything very soon“

If that is the case, the Servants of the Crown at Lambeth Palace and Church House will continue to be protected by Royal Prerogatives, Immunities and Impunities.

A call for resignations is the only way for such Servants to sit up on their ‘thrones’ and take notice – as well as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England Her Majesty The Queen.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I’m not clear what you are saying about HM the Queen, but the situation is that we can only wait for the Charity Commission’s response.

Sue Atkinson
Sue Atkinson
1 month ago

But the letter is making the much needed point that the church system for caring for survivors is dysfunctional. Even if it takes a decade, (I hope not!) it’s still an important point to make.

Paul Blackburn
Paul Blackburn
29 days ago

I have spent the last 5 years trying to get justice from Manchester Diocese for my wife and I after a seriously flawed CCPAS report was used by a new Safeguarding officer only 6 weeks in post, to bar us from leadership roles and keyholding. We have served C of E for over 50 years, 32 in our current Parish, including leaders of children,youth and vulnerable adult work, treasurer and churchwarden. We are both retired professionals now in late 70s and can get no justice, evidence or reason from the senior Diocesan staff. They just do not get it, to… Read more »

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