Thinking Anglicans

New CofE policy on granting of Permission to Officiate

The Church of England’s House of Bishops Delegation Committee has approved a new Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate.

The Church Times reports: Clerics under investigation for abuse may be barred from ministering under new safeguarding rules.

PERMISSION to officiate (PTO) will be refused or withdrawn from clerics who are under police investigation over allegations of past child or vulnerable adult abuse, new guidance from the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England states.

It also states that PTO may be withdrawn or refused by the bishop, even if the investigation of the cleric has concluded, and no conviction made.

“Where a cleric has been the subject of a criminal investigation for offences relating to children and vulnerable adults that did not result in a conviction, again the bishop must consult the diocesan safeguarding advisor and the diocesan registrar before deciding whether to grant PTO.”

Appropriate reasons for withdrawing PTO listed in the document include “following an allegation of abuse in a cleric’s past ministry pending the police investigation”.

In addition, PTO must be refused when a cleric has accepted a police caution; an allegation of abuse has been proved in court; or the cleric has been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults…

There is of course a lot more to the document, which is 47 pages long (main part 25 pages, followed by 8 annexes).

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R.H.W. ArguilePhilipRPNewarkGrumpy High ChurchwomanCassandra Recent comment authors
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Andrea Middleton
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Andrea Middleton

Well. This sounds like common sense to me. And Biblical. I think quite a number of people would be surprised to discover this has not always been the case. Ministry is NOT a job. It is life; a vocation, and so it will be different to other “jobs”. How can a person who has convictions or cautions for such behaviour be said to be capable of Shepherding the flock through being an example to the flock ( as in 1 Peter ) or ” blameless” as in ( 1 Timothy)? I understand that clerics, like teachers, may well now be… Read more »

Cassandra
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Cassandra

The document is worth reading, in view of current issues. It’s also clear that clergy with PTO have to do safeguarding training every three years, see section 9:
“As well as DBS checks, all clergy on PTO will need to carry out appropriate safeguarding training, including refresher training every 3 years”
And although there’s the inevitable right for the bishop to waive that, it looks clear that this is not to happen if the person is exercising their PTO in any way at all.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Cassandra PTO already requires safeguarding every three years.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I thought it was 5 years? I haven’t yet been asked to have a safeguarding refresher.

Jo B
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Jo B

In education we have a refresher every year. Troubling that clergy (who are far more likely to hear a disclosure than most teachers) can go several years without one.

Olivia
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Olivia

In our diocese it is DBS check every five years, and safeguarding training every three.

Cassandra
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Cassandra

interesting discussion – so, does it currently differ between dioceses?

Andrea Middleton
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Andrea Middleton

While we are at it, how good is our capability measure in terms of Safeguarding? In my field, we know that there are kinds of behaviours that have very harmful effects on vulnerable people and are therefore a kind of ” abuse” , but may not be predatory, like sexual abuse. Think for example of emotional abuse, or neglect etc, especially where substance addictions or personality disorders etc come into play. Think, for example, about Heather Cooke & the Episcopal church. An American friend pointed out to me a certain absence of such discussions in our Safeguarding context, and that… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

It is worth pointing out for those unfamiliar with the arcane procedures of the CofE that this document applies only to clergy with Permission to Officiate. This is mostly retired clergy and others who minister only from time to time. Active clergy generally hold a licence or a benefice and these authorisations are harder to remove, though there are provisions for suspension where safeguarding allegations are made and the Clergy Discipline Measure would then be invoked. The point about a PTO is that it can be removed at any time at the bishop’s discretion, whereas the other authorisations can’t be.

Cassandra
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Cassandra

‘The point about a PTO is that it can be removed at any time at the bishop’s discretion’ – and, if we go by what has happened in the Oxford Diocese with Lord Carey, restored again at the bishop’s discretion.

RPNewark
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RPNewark

It is also worth pointing out that the entire document applies only to *clergy*. There are other forms of ministry in the CofE that are subject to licence or Permission to Officiate, most notably the 10,000 or so Readers / Licensed Lay Ministers.

Grumpy High Churchwoman
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Grumpy High Churchwoman

Still no statement at all about Lord Carey’s PTO on the Oxford diocesan website.

The Oxford website does say this about safeguarding:
‘It’s also essential that everyone within a church understands the importance of responding well to those who have experienced abuse so that they are protected from further harm and the appropriate steps are taken.’

Is this ‘responding well’?

Philip
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Philip

What happens when a cleric retires from the Church of England and moves to Ireland, Scotland or Wales and asks for PTO?

R.H.W. Arguile
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R.H.W. Arguile

I am concerned that in the absence of police proceedings, allegations against a clergyman are not heard in any kind of forum at which the accused person can be told of the precise nature of such allegations and is then able to challenge their veracity. There is an ancient common law principle derived from Scripture that both sides of an issue need to be heard and both tested. Without this there is not merely a danger, there are evidenced cases, of concealed allegations being the subject of disciplinary action by members of the hierarchy. The fact of allegations is, by… Read more »

R.H.W. Arguile
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R.H.W. Arguile

Having now read the document, it seems like a confused and vague set of regulations which can only harm clergy against whom allegations are made. Thus, the bishop is not expressly required to give a reason for refusing a RTO but should have a good reason. The force of the latter point is negated by the fact that he or she need not give a reason. It then goes on to say that the priest refused a renewal or granting of the PTO may put a case to the bishop (though it does not say that the case will be… Read more »