Thinking Anglicans

Some updates on safeguarding matters

Updated Wednesday afternoon

Several developments relating to safeguarding in the Church of England.

The Insurance Post reports that Ecclesiastical Insurance had an apologetically-worded statement in its annual report, published not long after its appearance at the IICSA hearings: Briefing: Ecclesiastical’s child abuse claims shame – CEO Hews’ admission too little too late? Scroll down in the article for the full text of the EIO statement.

The Church Times reports: Two members are removed from core group in Percy case, owing to conflict of interest

TWO members of the core group set up to examine accusations of safeguarding breaches by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, have been removed after they were deemed to have a conflict of interest in the case, the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has confirmed…
…In May, Private Eye reported that the core group established by the NST of the Church of England earlier this year included two members of the college who had supported complaints against Dean Percy, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson (News 29 May). The Dean is not represented on the core group, although one of the two college members was reportedly asked to represent him and declined. It is assumed that these are the two members removed from the core group…

The article goes on to report the question asked by Martin Sewell (and answered by the Bishop of Huddersfield) at the General Synod meeting on 11 July about whether, by including complainants in the core group, the Church had “embraced the concept of ‘unconscious bias'”.

Martin Sewell also had a letter in the Church Times last week Anonymity and representation in safeguarding (scroll down)

Sir, — The inauguration of the ministry of the new Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, was a great joy to many in the Church who know his writings and enthusiasm for spreading the gospel. It is a shame that, for reasons outside his control, it occurred under the shadow of the suspicion that he enjoyed the privilege of anonymity while a safeguarding complaint was considered against him, whereas Lord Carey found the fact of his investigation in the hands of the press within three hours of his being notified.
This was wholly unnecessary. Had the recommendations of the C­­­arlile report been accepted and implemented in full, everyone under inquiry would have enjoyed anonymity pending investigation and there would have been a level playing field for both men.
Furthermore, Lord Carlile recommended that the respondent be given representation at the core group table: a recommendation that, had it been implemented, would have avoided the current débâcle over Dean Percy. In his report on Bishop Bell, Lord Carlile wrote: “There was no discussion whatsoever of the need to ensure the justice of the case by examining the facts from Bishop Bell’s standpoint. This issue seems to have been totally abandoned.”
One suspects that this is equally true in the Percy case, but we cannot know, as the Dean is refused access to the minutes.
Finally, the House Bishops Guidelines have not been updated over two years after they accepted the Carlile recommendations — except the one about anonymity –though they have applied that one in favour of someone they wish to advance.
I hope and believe that Archbishop Cottrell has the commitment to justice to drive forward the necessary change, by implementing all review recommendations, from the office to which he has now been called.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has a detailed further analysis of the NST’s Core Groups and the Carlisle recommendations in Revisiting the Carlile Review: A Critique of Church Core Groups? This deserves reading in full, but he concludes thus:

…Can we detect in any way that the Core Group was being ‘managed’ to satisfy the needs of the Church communications department and its desire for good PR?  Were the Archbishop and Bishop of Chichester making statements suggested to them by their highly remunerated reputation managers?  If Carlile’s critical Review is pointing us in this direction, then it follows that similar pressures will also be at work in the 2020 Percy Group.  Are Core Groups, in other words, subject to being managed to suit the purposes of the reputation launderers working for the Church? In the comments I made about Bishop Jonathan’s responses to questions at the recent Synod, I suggested that the management of safeguarding issues was being handed over to a team of lawyers.  Such lawyers would be the ones seeking to defend the Church and protect its good name.  Now, after reading the Carlile report again, I am left wondering whether it is in fact the power of reputation managers and communication departments that we see operating behind the scenes and making the decisions for our Church.  If that is the case, then our Church will not be taking too seriously the cause of transparency, justice and truth.  These and other Christian values like honesty and right dealing may only ever be paraded in public when they can serve the purposes of good PR!

This rereading of the Carlile report and the way that it revealed rampant ‘unconscious bias’, to quote from Martin Sewell’s question at last Synod, allows us to point once again to our ongoing concerns over the Percy Core Group. Conflicts of interest still abound there. Quite apart from the inappropriate placing of two complainants in the Group, there are the collusions we have pointed to before between firms of lawyers, reputation managers and those at Christ Church who have manipulated the Church and the NST to operate in their interests. If the incompetence of the Bell Core Group was a scandal, the sheer apparent malevolence at work in this present Percy Group is one which is driving out all pretensions to ethical behaviour and Christian values. We seem to be witnessing evil and corruption on a grand scale. Will the Church at the national level be able to rescue this situation and allow it to come through this appalling crisis?

Update

There is a further article today, by Martin Sewell at Archbishop Cranmer:
Martyn Percy is challenging an entire cultural mindset of establishment privilege.

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Martin Hislop
Martin Hislop
13 days ago

More evidence as to why an Independent Ecclesiastical Ombudsman needs to appointed.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
13 days ago

Stephen Parsons of ‘Surviving Church’:

“We seem to be witnessing evil and corruption on a grand scale”

If that is the case, then we all have a responsibility to act. To do nothing – or not enough – is not an option.

Last edited 13 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Adrian
Adrian
13 days ago

An apparent conflict of interest on this scale and nature should be a resigning issue for those who allegedly accepted places without declaring it, and for those who asked them to be on the committee.

Kate
Kate
13 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

It scares me that people are sitting on safeguarding groups who didn’t immediately object to the two individuals with a glaring conflict of interest. If they can’t see something so obvious – or, worse, ignored it for political reasons – how on earth can we trust them to deal with safeguarding issues which can have massive impact on people’s lives? Synod should now be calling for the resignation of everyone involved.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
13 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Bang on.

Alison Menage
Alison Menage
13 days ago

After this and the shocking article in the Church Times, ‘Toxic CDM leaves clergy suicidal research finds’, surely a National unbiased Commission is necessary to look into the hopeless and frankly corrupt management of the Church of England!?

Kate
Kate
13 days ago

Lest anyone think that we are nitpicking. From https://www.leadinggovernance.com/resource-public/processes/conflicts-interest

”The first step in handling conflicts of interest is to establish a register of interests. ”

”At the outset of each meeting, the chair should ask the members if they would like to declare a conflict of interest. ”

This is absolutely routine stuff in any well-run meeting..It ought to be part of the basic governance protocol for Core Groups.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
13 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: It is written into the Bishops’ Guidelines (where they deal with membership of a Core Group), but was not followed on this occasion:   “If anyone carrying out these roles is the subject of the allegation or has any conflict of interest or loyalty such as: ~ personally, knowing the respondent and/or the victim/survivor; ~ is witness in the investigation; ~ are pastorally supporting the respondent and/or the victim/survivor They should not be included in the core group.“   Perhaps it is necessary to explain that this precludes the subject of the allegation (in this case Martyn Percy) from… Read more »

Kate
Kate
12 days ago

Rowland, thank you for those references. My observation is that the Bishops’ Guidance is weak in several regards: 1. There is no register of interests so that other members have an opportunity to review whether they think there is a conflict. The Bishops’ Guidance lays the entire responsibility on individuals with conflicts with no cross-check or visibility. 2.. Unless I have missed it, there is no formal agenda item to surface any actual or potentially perceived conflicts of interest. This is important a) to direct thought to the matter b) create an opportunity for an experienced chair to explain what… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: The conflict of interest in this case ought to have been obvious to everyone. Clearly the Guidelines weren’t considered. We don’t know how far matters went before the two people were ‘removed’ from the core group. In fairness to the others, it may be that they made their concerns known and this resulted. We simply don’t know.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
13 days ago

In this context, may I suggest a reading and/or re-reading (and re-publishing & updating) of Alan Wilkinson’s “DISSENT or CONFORM? War, Peace and the English Churches 1900-1945 [SCM 1986]

Last edited 13 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago

Another significant book is “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism”, in which the journalist and historian Anne Applebaum reviews the 1927 classic “La Trahison des Clercs” by the French philosopher Julien Bender:   “These modern-day clercs understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statements, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact on ordinary people and institutions. In exchange, they know that they will be rewarded and advanced”   Very familiar themes in the 1967 classic “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” by the American philosopher and political analyst Noam Chomsky:   “It is the responsibility… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago

Martin Sewell [at the ‘Cranmer site’] on “the cruel and unjust culture operating out of Church House…institutional power unfettered by well-established legal principles”:   “The most likely scenario is that it never occurred to anybody at the outset or since that one [an appeal policy] would ever be needed, for either there was what I have already identified as the arrogance of power – “We never make mistakes”; or simple pride – “Good people like us would never do anything so wrong as to require a formal policy.””   Angus J [commenting at the ‘Cranmer’ site]:   “From my comparatively… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
11 days ago

As an outsider looking in, I am astonished the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – Her Majesty The Queen – has not stepped in and intervened…unless the structural defects causing these injustices are ever-present in all the Establishment power systems (eg the Church and the State).

Last edited 11 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
11 days ago

The Queen will only act on advice, and if you ask yourself who she is getting her advice from that will probably answer your question.

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