Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Kirkstall to retire

The Rt Revd Paul Slater, Bishop of Kirkstall, an area bishop in the diocese of Leeds, announced his retirement today. He will leave on 31 January 2022. The diocesan announcement is here.

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General Synod elections 2021 – candidates’ election addresses

Elections to General Synod are currently taking place. I have posted links to the election addresses of candidates here. This includes all the dioceses and special constituencies except for some where candidates were unopposed. The only exception is the Armed Forces Synod whose members are to be “elected or chosen … in such manner as may be determined by the Armed Forces Synod”. I have been unable to find anything online about how this being done.

In addition to election addresses some dioceses have produced videos of the candidates and/or held hustings or question and answer sessions which are available online.

If anybody wants to download any of this material for future reference they are advised to do so in the next few days. If 2015 is any guide some dioceses will remove election addresses from their websites immediately after voting closes on 8 October.

I am also compiling a list of the members of the new synod here.

Additions and corrections to either list can be emailed to me here.

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Scottish bishops set up Mediation Steering Group

The Scottish Episcopal Church has announced Mediation Steering Group established for Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney.

The Episcopal Synod, comprising all seven diocesan bishops, met online as planned this morning to consider the setting up of an independent mediation process to help the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney move forward from its current difficulties.

The Synod voted to meet in private and then unanimously agreed to set up such a process and appointed a Mediation Steering Group to oversee the process. The remit for the Steering Group is set out below.

The Group will be chaired by David Strang CBE, former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland and former Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and Lothian and Borders Police. The other members of the Group will be the Rev Liz Crumlish and Morag Hendry. Further information about each member is set out below.

The bishops are grateful that all three have accepted an invitation to serve and for their willingness to offer their skills and experience to the Church in this way.

The Group will now commence work, initially, on appointing an external mediation organisation to scope, and subsequently undertake, a confidential mediation process. In setting up such a process, it is expected that a range of individuals within the diocese will be consulted.

The Group is aware of the need to move forward swiftly, and further information will be issued on behalf of the Group as soon as it is in a position to provide more details.

The bishops acknowledge that this is a difficult period for the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, and recognises the level of hurt and upset experienced by a number of people. It has also been a challenge for the bishops themselves, and they have listened to a wide variety of differing opinions in recent weeks. They are in the process of considering what additional pastoral support can be made available.

Meanwhile, the bishops invite all members of the Scottish Episcopal Church to join with them in holding the Diocese, and the future mediation process, in their prayers and they encourage members of the Diocese to engage positively with that process, which they hope will help to bring healing.

The press release then lists out the Steering Group Remit and provides further details of the members of that group.

See here for our previous report on this.

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Statistics on ‘Church at Home’

The Church of England has released statistics on remote worship during the March to July 2020 lockdown: Church at Home. There is an accompanying press release, copied below.

Thousands of churches offered remote worship during lockdown, new report finds
01/10/2021

Thousands of churches adapted ‘at a moment’s notice’ to providing worship at home from the start of the first lockdown, according to a new report published today.

More than 9,000 churches (78%) offered ‘Church at Home’ online, via email, post and telephone during the March to July 2020 lockdown when collective worship was suspended because of the coronavirus restrictions.

More than 8,000, or 69%, offered livestreamed or pre-recorded services, while more than 5,000, or 44%, offered services downloadable from a website or emailed. More than 4,000, or 33%, offered printed and posted services and more than 2,000, or 21%, provided telephone or dial-in services.

The majority were continuing to offer these services in October last year even though most were also open for in-person collective worship.

(more…)

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Appointments to Independent Safeguarding Board

See our previous report of 15 February:Proposals on NST independent oversight published.

Today’s press release:

Chair and survivor advocate appointed to Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed two key appointments to the new Independent Safeguarding Board that will provide oversight of the Church of England’s national safeguarding work

Dr Maggie Atkinson, a former Children’s Commissioner for England, has been appointed as Chair of the Board. She will lead the formation of the ISB and ensure there is an effective approach to the independent oversight of safeguarding in the longer term.

The Chair will provide expert recommendations to enable the Church of England to embed a proactive, preventative, safer culture, and ensure the Church is held publicly accountable for any failure to respond to the ISB’s recommendations.

Jasvinder Sanghera has been appointed as the Board’s Survivor Advocate. She will ensure that the experiences and views of victims and survivors are heard and embedded within the safeguarding policy and practice development frameworks.

Maggie Atkinson has completed more than 40 years’ dedicated work with children, their families and communities. Born and brought up in Yorkshire, after graduating from Cambridge she taught in comprehensive schools then worked in service and practice improvement in local authorities, including as Director of Children’s Services for Gateshead. She was Children’s Commissioner for England 2010-2015, and now leads independent challenge and scrutiny in several localities’ safeguarding partnerships.  She serves on a number of charity Boards, including at UNICEF UK.

Jasvinder is the founder of the charity Karma Nirvana, and has extensive experience of working with victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour abuse. She is Chair of the Leeds Children Safeguarding Partnership.

The two appointments were made by an independent panel which will now work with the Chair to appoint a third member to the ISB whose skills and roles will complement the members already appointed.

The purpose of introducing an independent structure for the Church’s safeguarding work is twofold: to ensure good safeguarding and to challenge the internal cultures of the Church of England which too often have resulted in preventing best practice.

Conscious of the need to improve the culture of safeguarding across the church, the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops had already agreed to support the development of an independent structure to deliver professional supervision and quality assurance across its safeguarding activities. The IICSA Report gave new momentum to this decision.

Chair, Dr Maggie Atkinson said: “I am honoured and pleased to have been appointed to establish and chair the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board. I look forward to starting our work, as a strong response to safeguarding concerns whether they are historical, or current.  We will be a small but insightful group, from a range of backgrounds and experience.  For all my adult life I have worked with and for children, young people, families and vulnerable adults.  Such work holds ordinary people and their concerns at its centre.

“The Board will focus on how the Church either protects people who work for or come into it, or falls down in its duty to do so. All who engage with the Church must be confident they will be kept safe.  It follows that safeguarding must be a primary concern in everything the Church does, every day.  This work is not only about really learning lessons when things have gone badly wrong and people have been hurt as a result.

“It is about the culture, practice and steadfastness of safeguarding as an automatic, Church-wide state of mind.  The Board’s role will be to question, reflect and report on how far this culture is manifested in what the Church does for the people it serves.”

The Survivor Advocate, Jasvinder Sanghera, said: “I feel immensely privileged to be appointed the Survivor Advocate for Church of England’s, Independent Safeguarding Board.  It is vital that the Board, in overseeing and assuring the soundness of the work done by the National Safeguarding Team, has the voice of survivors and victims ever present in all it does and says.

“This role is significant to the journey of the church and I am delighted that I will be contributing to this vision, helping to make a difference to the lives of those affected by abuse, so that lessons are not only learned but embedded in practice.”

In a joint statement, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: “These are vitally important appointments and we are pleased to welcome them.

“Numerous reports in recent years have made clear the Church of England’s safeguarding failures and provided clear and urgent recommendations for how these can be addressed – including greater transparency and accountability at every level.

“We are deeply grateful to Maggie and Jasvinder for offering their wisdom, skills and lived experience to move us forward and provide greater oversight of the Church’s safeguarding work.”

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Opinion – 29 September 2021

Martyn Percy Modern Church “Nuts and Bolts” (III): Reflecting on the Governance Review Group Report
[We linked to parts I and II here.]

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News General Synod: Honest to God!

‘Angela’ Surviving Church Power abuse against Church Leaders. The Witness of a Parishioner

The Archbishop of York gave this lecture at St Martin in the FieldsThe Dream for the Church

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Opinion – 25 September 2021

Martyn Percy Modern Church “Nuts and Bolts” (I): Reflecting on the Governance Review Group Report
“Nuts and Bolts” (II): Reflecting on the Governance Review Group Report

Church Times What the C of E can learn from the police
“Withdrawing resources from local communities results in loss of trust and confidence, argues Alan Billings

Andrew Lightbown Theoro0 Speaking of character, culture, mixed economies / ecologies & parishes
written in response to the article by Alan Billings

Sam Norton Elizaphanian Synod: The dying of a church is not a management problem

Ian Paul Psephizo Why we should all be using printed Bibles

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Opinion – 22 September 2021

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of character, speaking of culture

Kelvin Holdsworth Making the Real Presence, real.

Church Times Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘Daily fed and guided’ in sacrament
Archbishop Welby talks to Madeleine Davies about reform and the pandemic

Jenny Humphreys ViaMedia.News General Synod: Permitting Discrimination is Very Dangerous!

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Opinion – 18 September 2021

Giles Fraser UnHerd Only chaos can redeem the Church
“God save our parishes from people with MBAs”

Church Times The love affair with the parish — has it ended?
Madeleine Davies, in part two of her study, looks at the forces for its retention and abandonment

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Purposeful Sexuality – naive, dangerous ideas about LGBTIQ+ and straight identities

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CDM Code of Practice: further criticisms

We linked on 7 August to a critique of the April 2021 amendments to the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 Code of Practice written by Gavin Drake.
More recently, Rosie Dawson wrote about this for The Living Church: Church of England Code Silences Victims, Critics Say (some additional links added).

…”These were significant amendments ,” retired barrister and Synod member David Lamming told TLC. “It’s unfortunate that they were overlooked at Synod because they seem to me to go beyond what the measure authorises, which is that the guidance applies only to those who exercise functions within the CDM process.”

The timing of the amendments has led several commentators to conclude that they were drafted in direct response to concerns about the publicity surrounding a CDM complaint brought against the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Rev. Martyn Percy, in November last year. In May 2021 the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, effectively dismissed the case, ruling that it would be disproportionate to refer the matter to a tribunal.

The complaint against the dean came within the context of a long-running, very public and very acrimonious dispute between him and the college and cathedral chapter. Supporters on both sides have engaged in briefing a voracious media. A dedicated website keeps Dean Percy’s supporters abreast of every twist and turn in the saga.

“It is rarely a good idea to legislate from the circumstances of a single case as, appears to have been done here,” says Martin Sewell, a retired Child Protection lawyer and General Synod Candidate. While he believes the motivation behind the changes to the code of practice may have been well-intentioned, he says the effects run contrary to free speech and natural justice. “Much speculative gossip about the circumstances ensued about the nature of the case against Dean Percy. I don’t think it was wrong to have refuted such gossip in careful terms.”

The Church of England would not be drawn on the Percy affair in relation to the changes to the Code of Practice, but said that there had been number of recent cases in which details of complaints under the Clergy Discipline Measure had been made public, causing significant distress and upset for those concerned.

One priest who has fallen afoul of the new rules is the Rev. Robert Thompson, vicar of St. Mary and St James in West Hampstead, London, who announced on Twitter in April that he was subject to a CDM for online bullying. In the adjudication he later received, he was reprimanded for “weaponizing” social media and forbidden from disclosing any further details of the case, including the outcome.

“Robert got the result of his CDM and was told there was no case to answer,” says his friend and fellow priest, the Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, “but he was also told that he couldn’t share that news with anyone. And the instruction was couched in terms of a threat. It should really be up to Robert what he wants to share. He didn’t tweet anything that identified the complainant. The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken.”

In a statement the Church of England said the update to the code was “simply to underline the expectation of confidentiality in clergy discipline cases, while they are ongoing. It said the Clergy Discipline Commission would respond to Drake’s concerns in due course…

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Alan Griffin case mentioned in House of Lords debate

The speeches concerning the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure  from the Bishop of Blackburn, Lord Cormack, and Lord Lexden are all worth reading. However, I draw you attention to this exchange between Lord Lexden and the Bishop:

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack referred at the start of his powerful remarks to the passion and anger that he felt because of some recent events. I feel very deep passion and anger, as I shall explain.

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged–and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

Long ago I was briefly close, perhaps for no longer than a single summer, to a witty and clever Cambridge contemporary. He was a classicist who became a lecturer at Exeter University and later took holy orders. His name was Alan Griffin. In November last year, the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin committed suicide. After the end of the inquest into his death in early July this year, the coroner wrote a detailed report on the way that the Church had investigated his suspected sexual misconduct. She revealed that when he died, the Church’s investigation had been going on for over a year. The coroner stated that

“he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”–

I repeat, the detail and source for which he had never been told.

Worse, when the coroner probed the evidence against him, she found it was non-existent. There was, she said,

“no complainant, no witness and no accuser”.

The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo. Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?

And how did the Church carry out its investigation during the year in which Alan Griffin was kept in ignorance of the so-called accusations against him? The coroner states:

“nobody took responsibility for steering the direction of the process from start to finish and for making coherent, reasoned, evidence based decisions”.

And so the scene was set for a terrible tragedy.

The last element of the Church’s behaviour in this case which I want the House to note is very serious indeed. The coroner records that submissions

“on behalf of the Church of England … urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations.”

This is not from some shady organisation or business with suspect moral standards, but from our country’s established Church. These are the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of mine from long ago, and that is why my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Could the right reverend Prelate comment on the quotation from the coroner’s report that I read out at the end? The Church of England seeking to interfere with the content of a coroner’s report in order to diminish the extent of the criticism it would sustain: is that not utterly reprehensible?

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

It is reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated. I will report that back to the national safeguarding team and others. We are in the business not of covering up but of being transparent and open, so that these things can be brought to light and people can learn from them. It is reprehensible and completely unacceptable.

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Opinion – 15 September 2021

The Economist The Church of England needs new members. How to get them?
A new scheme hopes to create a million new converts in a decade

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Hierarchy, Bishops and Leadership in the Church

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Radical New Christian Inclusion – Changing Attitude England writes to the Bishop of London

Archbishop Cranmer Anglican Conclave to ‘sift’ all candidates for vacancies to see if they are ‘appropriate’

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Proposals made for reforming Church of England governance

Updated Thursday

The report of the Governance Review working group (49 pages)  has been published here. There is a press release about this, copied below the fold.

The Church Times has extensive coverage:

The Telegraph had this report by Gabriella Swerling on Tuesday evening (which has still not appeared in the CofE daily media digest): Church of England reveals huge overhaul of governance, as parishioners warn of ‘coup’

(more…)

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General Synod elections 2021 – candidates’ election addresses

The nomination period for this year’s elections to General Synod has closed. Dioceses are now required to post candidates’ election addresses on their websites before sending out voting papers. Some of these have already appeared, and the remainder should be available by the end of the week. I am compiling a list of links to all the addresses, which you can find here. I will update this during the coming week. So far as I am aware there is no similar requirement for the special constituencies.

I am also compiling a list of the members of the new synod here.

Additions and corrections to either list can be emailed to me here.

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Scottish bishops publish Aberdeen review

Updated Sunday and again Friday 17 September

The Scottish Episcopal Church has today, 11 September, published the Review of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney by Professor Iain Torrance. The College of Bishops has also published a lengthy explanation of the complications which arose following its receipt on 31 July, which is copied in full below the fold.

Earlier, on 8 September, the College had published this: College instigates mediation process and commits to publish Aberdeen & Orkney review.

The Church Times has a very detailed news report: Review recommends Bishop step back in ‘dysfunctional’ diocese

Update

Another Church Times report: What about those who bullied me, asks Dyer, alleging one-sidedness and a letter to the editor: Heed Torrance on the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney.

(more…)

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Opinion – 11 September 2021

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Whither the Church of England – London diocese an exemplar?

Church Times ‘Focal’. ‘Oversight’. The C of E of the future
Madeleine Davies begins a two-part examination of the Church’s future

Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley The Minister is Tired

Gilo and Tony Surviving Church Award for Investigative Journalist supporting Abuse Survivors: Issues for the Church of England

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Opinion – 8 September 2021

Paul Bickley Theos The Hundred: What Can Cricket Teach Religion?

Surviving Church Bleeding for Jesus. Martin Sewell reflects

Psephizo What does charismatic renewal bring to the Church?
Ian Paul interviews Christopher Landau, the new Director of ReSource.

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Bishop of Croydon to retire

News from the Diocese of Southwark:

The Bishop of Croydon, The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, announces departure from the Diocese of Southwark

The Bishop of Croydon, The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, announced today that he will be leaving the Diocese of Southwark on March 21, 2022 – exactly 10 years to the day of his consecration as Bishop…

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Bishop of Hull to retire in February 2022

The Rt Revd Alison White is to retire as Bishop of Hull in February 2022. There are more details on the York diocesan website.

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News and comment on Church in Wales vote to bless same-sex marriages

News

Church Times Welsh agree to same-sex blessings in church

BBC Church in Wales to give blessings for same-sex marriages

The Telegraph The Church in Wales to bless gay marriages

The Guardian Church in Wales votes to bless same-sex marriages

Comment

Equal The Church in Wales will bless same-sex marriages and civil partnerships

Charlie Bell Equal A fly on the wall

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