Thinking Anglicans

Survivors challenge General Synod

Updated Thursday evening

A group of survivors of sexual abuse committed by Church of England clergy have written an open letter to General Synod members. The full text of that letter is copied below the fold (and is also on the Surviving Church blog).

Amendments, supported by the survivors, to the proposed motion due to be debated next week regarding the recommendations from IICSA to the Church of England have been proposed by David Lamming and Peter Adams.

Peter Adams has written an article about the need for stronger action by General Synod: Closing the door on a shameful past: the need for a fully rounded response by CofE General Synod to IICSA.

These amendments have however been ruled out of order. See today’s Church Times news report Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected.

The full text of the proposed motion if the proposed amendments had been accepted, is as follows.


AGENDA ITEM 9 Safeguarding: Response to recommendations in IICSA May 2019 Investigation Report (GS 2158)


That this Synod:

(a) lament the Church of England’s abject failures in dealing with reports of abuse, as revealed during the hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and documented in its interim report, Anglican Church Case Studies: Diocese of Chichester and The response to allegations against Peter Ball (May 2019), and accordingly welcome the terms of the Diocese of Blackburn ‘Ad Clerum’ letter dated 17th June 2019, reflecting on the IICSA report and commend its victim-centred approach to all in authority within the Church as a suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission;

(b) affirm (in the words of the National Director of Safeguarding at para 4.1 of paper GS 2158) that the Church of England “remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions to improve how all worshipping communities across the whole Church in its many forms – across its parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, religious communities, national church institutions and other church bodies – respond to concerns and allegations of abuse and to all victims and survivors of abuse and others affected by this, whilst at the same time working to prevent such abuse from occurring in the first place.”

(c) endorse the Archbishops’ Council’s response, set out in paper GS 2158, to the five recommendations made by IICSA at pages 206 to 207 of its said report;

(d) request the Archbishops’ Council, National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG), National Safeguarding Team, and House of Bishops to respond immediately to the recommendations of the final IICSA report on the Anglican Church when it is published, and bring their response to General Synod for debate no later than July 2021; and

(e) request the Archbishops’ Council, NSSG and House of Bishops, working in conjunction with the Church Commissioners, to bring forward proposals for an appropriate and properly resourced compensation and redress scheme, so that words of apology are matched by actions that truly reflect the justice and righteousness of God’s kingdom.

An open letter to all members of the Church of England General Synod, from victims and survivors of abuse in the Church of England

At your meeting next week, you will once again debate safeguarding in the Church of England. In February 2018 and February 2019, we sent you booklets called We asked for bread, but you gave us stones. In them, we spoke to you about the experience that victims of abuse face in dealing with your church. We also spoke to you in our book Letters to a Broken Church. We haven’t produced a booklet this year, because we have nothing new to add. For all the TV documentaries and shocking headlines, all the money wasted on undelivered schemes, and all the synod motions, not to mention the handwringing of archbishops, almost nothing has changed during this synod for victims of church abuse. The church still treats us as if we are a problem to be fixed. The restorative approach suggested by last year’s helpful ‘Ad Clerum’ from Blackburn Diocese (which you were prevented from discussing last time you met) is nowhere to be seen. 

The motion that you will be asked to approve at this synod simply says that you will endorse the Archbishops’ Council’s response to the five recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Our response is – is that all? IICSA has been a traumatic and costly experience for many of us. The minimum we would expect is that you will accept its recommendations wholeheartedly and without hesitation. And we expect and demand that you accept whatever further recommendations come from IICSA in the report they will publish this Summer. Shame alone ought to be enough for you to do that.

We believe that you should go much further. 

We hear repeatedly that the church is spending more and more money on safeguarding. Of course, we agree that preventative safeguarding should be given a high priority. But you also need to give attention to what happens when safeguarding has failed. You need to know that as far as we can see, the church has made no progress at all in caring for victims and survivors of clergy and church-related abuse. The much-vaunted “Safe Spaces” initiative has swallowed hundreds of thousands of pounds, and five years on nothing has been delivered.  Without the dogged and costly work that survivors do in caring for each other, there would be even greater tragedies to report.

Synod members, please don’t issue another apology. Please don’t tell us how important it is to “listen to survivors.” Please don’t set up another half-baked inquiry or a working group. Your apologies are hollow, and your promises are empty because nothing changes. Please don’t leave this to the House of Bishops either. We don’t trust them. Too often our experience is that a small group of men at the heart of the church deploy their power, with the help of the church’s lawyers and insurers, to cover up wrong-doing and avoid caring for victims.  We find ourselves constantly re-abused by the church’s responses to us.

We need you to acknowledge that you do not have the competence or the right to clear up your own mess.  We need independent people we can go to to report abuse and find support; people who are not part of the church, and don’t wear the same uniform that our abusers wore. We need you to use your power as a synod to establish a properly funded scheme for support, compensation and redress for victims of church abuse. This is not because we want your money. It is because being abused in church (or anywhere else) not only steals the victim’s dignity and self-respect. It also robs them of their livelihood, their security, their future, their health. More than half of all victims of abuse suffer long-term illness. We need you to pay for counselling; we need you to help us with living costs; we need you to fill in the gaps in our pensions. These are debts you as a church have incurred.  Why should we routinely have to go cap in hand to bishops for help, only to be told you have no money and no resources? Why should we have to worry about housing costs, while our abusers live securely in vicarages and palaces? Why should so many of us find ourselves worse off as a direct result of disclosing our abuse to the church? A properly-funded redress scheme will cost many millions of pounds. But please don’t say that you have no money. It hasn’t escaped our attention that before they have attended to the needs of victims, the Church Commissioners have found £21million for a new library at Lambeth Palace.  

If there is any good news, it is that an increasing number of General Synod Members in all three Houses know that radical change is necessary. Perhaps the best thing you could do for us is to set a clear and purposeful direction of travel for the next Safeguarding Bishop, and for members of the Synod to be elected later this year. The motion before you is anodyne, but the amendments we have seen seem to have some teeth. Perhaps, if enacted, they could lay the groundwork for progress. We urge you to adopt these amendments and begin the task of reconciliation with those who have been wronged.

Signed by victims of abuse by

Rt Revd Peter Ball

Rt Revd Victor Whitsey

Rt Revd Michael Fisher

The Venerable Tom Walker

The Very Revd ******* ******* (action ongoing)

Revd Roy Cotton

Revd Colin Pritchard

Revd Chancellor Garth Moore

Revd Jonathan Fletcher

Revd Trevor Devamannikam 

John Smyth QC

Revd ***** ******* (name withheld at victim’s request)


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4 years ago

Those who are members of General Synod will have a much clearer idea than me but it seems, from a distance, that one fundamental problem is that the agenda is controlled by the “establishment”. I don’t know how it could be achieved, but wouldn’t it be better for each of the three houses – Bishops, Clergy and Laity to each control the agenda for one of the days? Indeed, if Synod is three co-equal houses, why isn’t it organised like that?

Andrew Graystone
Andrew Graystone
4 years ago

I trust that, after refusing even to consider amendments that victims of abuse have specifically supported, no-one at General Synod will come out with any vacuous talk about needing to “listen to the voices of survivors.” Whatever they might say it is clear from their actions that the House of Bishops wants nothing of the sort.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
4 years ago

If the so-called Pastoral Statement over civil partnerships was acknowledged by the Archbishops to have ‘jeopardised trust’ I can only guess what this will do once the media get hold of it and recognise its significance. They simply don’t get it – and allowing decisions like this to be taken by the lawyers and the ‘Central Secretariat’ (to avoid repeated use of the Sacred Name) shows strategic incompetence as well as contempt for the survivors of abuse. We now see the (archi)episcopal hand-wringing after the Peter Ball docu-drama for what it really is. Presumably, Sue Booys does as she’s told?

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Bill Broadhead
4 years ago

As the proposer of the first part of the amendments that we hoped would produce the ‘composite’ motion set out above, I was, to put it mildly, not only disappointed but exasperated at the decision (by the person appointed to chair the debate) that the amendments fell foul of Standing Order 28. I, and others, consider that to have been based on too narrow a view of what SO 28 would allow. (It was, incidentally, nothing to do with Sue Booys.) However, and happily, after a lot of toing and froing e-mails during the course of today, a resolution to… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
4 years ago

Here we go again – the establishment acting to protect their power and stop real change. Just how much lower can these people go? May be members of Synod need to just go ahead and debate the amendments anyway. At least do something to challenge this shut down of debate. And all of this in a week where the insurers were exposed yet again as bullies, bishops have been condemned in the House for their not so pastoral letter and on and on. May be Ben Bradshaw is right and it is time for elected members of the Commons to… Read more »

Martin Henwood
Martin Henwood
Reply to  Marise Hargreaves
4 years ago

When you have [behaved?] badly words are not the answer

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
4 years ago

There are still efforts going on to try to give the motion on the order paper more content and for it better to reflect the concerns of survivors/victims. The Chair has ruled the composite above out of order. We need another amendment that is not the same as, but mirrors what is set out at the top of this thread. Working and praying that we get this agenda item closer to reality.

Jane Chevous
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
4 years ago

Pete, so good to see you here!
Thank you, David and all those involved in the amendment. Given the timing of this synod (vis Darkest Secret,etc) it’s essential for us survivors, and all who support us, that there is a robust debate, leading to some clear actions. Apologies are shallow, clanging bells without change. We’ve heard enough empty bells recently

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