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    IICSA report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions

    In addition to the several investigations ?by the?Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse?into specific religious organisations, including the continuing investigation into the Church of England, IICSA’s separate Truth Project has recently published a Thematic Report: Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions.

    The full report (92 pages) can be downloaded from this link. ?There is also an executive summary available here.

    IICSA also issued a press release:?Shame and guilt stop survivors reporting child sexual abuse in religious institutions.

    The?Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project.

    The report includes data on religions with a significant presence in England and Wales, including the Anglican and Catholic Churches, Christian faith communities such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Methodists, and Islam and Judaism.

    The report’s key findings include:

    • Those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in the same institution.
    • Over half of survivors did not report the abuse due to feelings of shame (37 per cent) and guilt (18 per cent).
    • Half of victims (48 per cent) knew of others being abused by the same perpetrator.
    • One fifth (18 percent) of survivors reported a loss of faith as a consequence of the abuse.

    The report also examines institutional failures, with most participants firmly believing others were aware of the perpetrator’s behaviour but did nothing. Sexual abuse was most frequently perpetrated by an individual with an official religious title, such as priest, vicar, imam or elder.

    At the Truth Project, survivors are invited to make recommendations for change. Participants told the Inquiry that it needs to address the secrecy that comes from the sanctity of religious institutions and the assumption that religious figures are automatically moral…

    The Church of England issued this press release in response:?Statement on IICSA Truth Project report.

    The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has recently published a research report on child sexual abuse in religious institutions, including the Anglican Church.? It is based on accounts shared by survivors at its Truth Project, and its conclusions and findings are disturbing and in many places shocking.

    One of the report’s key findings includes that those sexually abused in religious institutions were less likely to report the abuse at the time (69 per cent) than survivors (54 per cent) in other institutions. We would urge anyone who wants to report abuse and find support to come forward and we promise they will be heard.

    IICSA continues to shine a light on the safeguarding practices of religious institutions, including the Church of England, and we are working constructively with the Inquiry as we approach our wider Church hearing on July 1.? We commend those survivors who have had the courage to come forward to share their experiences to the Inquiry and in particular to the Truth Project, knowing how difficult this would have been.

    We welcomed the findings and recommendations published by IICSA this month, on the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. This states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors but it failed to do this. It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in both these reports and also strengthen our resolve to make the Church a safe place for all.

    Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop

    There has been some media coverage of this:

    4 Comments

    Opinion – 1 June 2019

    Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Patronage and Power Abuse in the Church

    Michael Roberts Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin The Church of England and Creationism.

    Colin Coward Unadulterated Love?Holding the House of Bishops to account – Sara Gillingham’s challenge

    Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of LLF (Living in love and faith)

    Martyn Percy ViaMedia.News Does the Bible Really…Give Us a Clear Definition of Marriage?

    Richard Peers Quodcumque – Serious Christianity?Inclusive, Expanded … He, She … – what language should we use about God in our worship?

    16 Comments

    An entirely different approach to survivors of abuse

    Following the publication of the recent IICSA report on certain aspects of the Church of England (Chichester diocese and Peter Ball), there was very little immediate public response from senior people in the Church of England. This led Andrew Graystone to write a letter a week later to various bishops and some members of the Archbishops’ Council, calling for an entirely different approach to dealing with abuse survivors. ?The Bishop of London invited Andrew to spell out what such an approach might entail.

    This document is his answer:?The Church of England and survivors.

    16 Comments

    Opinion – 29 May 2019

    Helen King sharedconversations?Intersex in history

    Janet Fife Surviving Church Coming to terms with the Bible

    Richard Peers Quodcumque – Serious Christianity?My story: 25th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women – to live is to change.

    Elaine Bielby Diocese of York Twenty-Five years of women as priests in the Diocese of York
    Three of the 39 women who were ordained priest in York Minster in May 1994 write?about their memories of the day .

    Colin Coward Unadulterated Love I repeat: The Church of England is systemically abusive

    David Pocklington Law & Religion UK?Different perspectives of the CDM

    25 Comments

    Support for the pastoral guidance on gender transition

    We linked recently to reports of a meeting between three Church of England bishops and a delegation representing those who signed a petition some time ago asking the house of bishops to withdraw their guidance on?using the existing Affirmation of Baptismal Faith liturgy?to affirm trans people in their Christian faith after transition.

    The website LGBTQ Faith UK has published a detailed critique of the most recent statement, which you can read here:?Episcopally led, synodically?governed.

    The same website had earlier published a lengthy and detailed critique of the original petition. That can be found here: Why the bishops are?right.

    Both these analyses by?Ann Reddecliffe ?are commended for reading in full.

    18 Comments

    Opinion – 25 May 2019

    Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Bishops and conservatives meet in secret to reinforce the abuse of LGBTI+ people
    [see below for the background to this]

    Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Photo exhibition celebrates 25 years of female priests
    “Images of 12 women from Southwark diocese capture variety of a priest’s work”

    Bosco Peters Liturgy?Children in Church

    Stephen Parsons Surviving Church?Wittgenstein’s ideas and the Bible. Some reflections
    and Communication speak and the House of Bishops

    Colin Coward Unadulterated Love?A Christian Vision of Seamless Reality

    Meg Warner ViaMedia.News Does the Bible Really Say…that Sex Outside of Marriage is Wrong?

    36 Comments

    Legal issues arising from the suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln

    UPDATED

    The suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln was reported earlier.

    David Lamming has written a detailed analysis of the legal issues arising from this suspension. You can read this document here. (PDF)

    He summarises as follows:

    Whatever the nature or details of the “information” on which the Archbishop of Canterbury based his decision to suspend Bishop Christopher, in the light of the clear statement that “there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult”, the legal basis for the suspension is at least doubtful. An appeal to the President of Tribunals that would clarify the legal position would seem to be justified and appropriate.

    David is a retired barrister, whose professional interests include ecclesiastical law. He is a member of the House of Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England, elected from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

    UPDATE

    Another article has been published on this topic.
    Philip Jones has written:?Safeguarding and Suspension: The Case of the Bishop of?Lincoln.
    Do read both articles.

    66 Comments

    Bishops meet those who oppose their transgender guidance

    Regular readers will recall the petition that was raised urging the bishops to “revise, postpone or withdraw” this guidance. Our previous report is here:?Further opposition to the bishops’ guidance on transgender services.

    Christian Today now reports:?Evangelicals hold talks with Church of England bishops over transgender guidance. The organisers of that letter met with a number of bishops. Subsequently, they have issued a statement, the full text of which is included here:?The Church of England’s transgender guidance should be withdrawn??and is copied below the fold.

    Update: the headline on the first of those two articles has been amended to read “Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics hold talks…”

    The delegation attending the meeting consisted of: Dr Ian Paul, Dr Edward Dowler, Rev Rachel Marszalek, Rev David Baker. The bishops were the bishops of Coventry, Newcastle, and Exeter.

    (more…)

    35 Comments

    Church announces review into Bishop Whitsey case

    The Church of England has today announced an?Independent lessons learnt review into Bishop Whitsey case.

    His Hon David Pearl has been appointed by the National Safeguarding Team as chair of the independent lessons learnt review into the Whitsey case. The Church supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The allegations dated from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

    The review is expected to be carried out in two phases and will include the case of Gordon Dickenson, once other Church processes have concluded. Dickenson, a former chaplain to Bishop Whitsey, was jailed in March after admitting sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.

    Commenting on his appointment David Pearl said: “I am committed to ensuring that this Review will be both independent and transparent. The Review will examine all relevant documents and will hear from everyone who wishes to provide evidence to the Review.”…

    The Terms of Reference of the Review are also published.

    The Diocese of Chester has published this:?Victor Whitsey Statement
    [Note: this statement is much older and is not in response to today’s announcement.]

    Joint statement from Archbishop of York and Bishop of Chester

    “We can confirm that we have supported the police on an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey (pictured right). The allegations date from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn?diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

    “We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals?who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority.? We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account. Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust.? We acknowledge that for survivors, the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong. ?We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.

    We have supported the police investigation Operation Coverage, which has been comprehensive,?and they have informed us that?“should Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey have been alive today, then the Police would have spoken to him in relation to 10 of the witness allegations.”

    Anyone affected by today’s news should call the CCPAS helpline on?0303 003 11 11?who can offer help and signpost to church-related support and information or alternatively call the NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Anyone with further information on the case should go direct to the police on 101.

    The Church will consider what lessons can be learnt from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these enquiries have shown.”

     

    Page last updated: 17th Oct 2017 11:01 AM
    12 Comments

    General Synod Agenda for July

    The Business Committee of General Synod has today published the agenda for the July Group of Sessions in York.

    The published information can be read here and is copied in full below the fold.

    (more…)

    0 Comments

    Opinion – 18 May 2019

    Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Unity – Has it Become a Golden Calf?

    Laudable Practice Trad Expressions™: Why High Church is Contemporary

    Samuel Keyes The Living Church Tradition for Teens

    Jemma Sander-Heys Church Times Life by the sea is not all recreation and run
    “Coastal communities face particular challenges, and politicians and churches must tackle them”

    ViaMedia.News starts a new series of posts (one a week) on “Does the Bible Really Say….?” with this:
    Jonathan Tallon Does the Bible Really Say…Anything at All about Homosexuality as we Understand it Today?

    Colin Coward Unadulterated Love A philosophy and vision for parish ministry, then and now
    and Interior reflections of a priest

    85 Comments

    House of Bishops issues report of meeting and a statement on IICSA report

    The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued this statement:

    Meeting of the House of Bishops

    The House of Bishops met at Bishopthorpe Palace from 15th to 17th May 2019.

    Brexit was on the agenda as the bishops discussed recent political developments and prayed for the nation.

    The bishops discussed mission and ministry in covenant with the Methodist Church, financial priorities in Church funding over the next three years, and the ministry of confession. The bishops also spent time reviewing progress that has been made by the Living in Love and Faith working group.

    The Independent?Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) recently published report into the Church of England also received attention from the bishops who have additionally made a statement. [see below]

    Elsewhere on the agenda the bishops gave time to the subject of women and men in ministry in the Church of England and mutual flourishing. They discussed the process for discerning how people are called to the ordained ministry.

    The House of Bishops also took note of the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong and anticipated the Lambeth 2020 meeting in Canterbury next summer.

    The additional statement referred to above is as follows:

    Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

    A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies?IICSA report:

    “We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

    “At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

    “We welcome the recommendations.

    “The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. ?The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

    “It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

    Bishop Paul Butler
    Bishop Christine Hardman
    Bishop Peter Hancock
    Bishop Sarah Mullally

    4 Comments

    Bishop of Lincoln suspended from office for alleged safeguarding failure

    Updated again Friday evening

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement:

    Archbishop of Canterbury statement on Bishop of Lincoln

    “Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury). If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable?people. I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated. I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”

    Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said:?“I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter. For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”

    The Lincolnshire Police have issued this statement, as reported in local newspapers:

    A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision today of the Archbishop of Canterbury to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln from office and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that decision.

    “The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted.

    “Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.

    “We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.

    “There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor-focused and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team. Anyone wanting to make contact in complete confidence can do so to the Diocese Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson who can be contacted on 01522 504081.”

    The Diocese of Lincoln has published the text of an Ad Clerum about this. I recommend reading this in full.

    Media coverage:

    BBC?Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson suspended from office

    Church Times?Bishop of Lincoln ‘bewildered’ by his safeguarding suspension

    The Lincolnite?Bishop of Lincoln suspended

    Lincolnshire Live?Bishop of Lincoln suspended by Archbishop of Canterbury

    Telegraph?Bishop of Lincoln suspended over alleged abuse failures as Archbishop warns of ‘significant risk to children’

    Guardian?Bishop of Lincoln suspended over safeguarding issues

    Times (£)?Bishop suspended?in abuse ‘cover-up’

    Daily Mail?Bishop of Lincoln is suspended from office by Archbishop of Canterbury over child safeguarding inquiry

    UPDATE

    The Lincolnite reports that an additional fourth person is implicated in the cathedral matter:?The four senior figures embroiled in the safeguarding scandal at Lincoln Cathedral

    Anglican Communion News Service?has a full report: Bishop of Lincoln suspended after information received by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    68 Comments

    ACC-17, Lambeth 2020, and GAFCON: further reports and comment

    Continued from here?and from here too.

    The Church Times has

    The Episcopal News Service has

    The Anglican Communion News Service has:

    From a different perspective, there is:

    And more links from the GAFCON viewpoint can be found here.

     

    1 Comment

    Opinion – 15 May 2019

    Peter Carrell?Anglican Down Under So, who is an Anglican??

    Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Bishop Faull on Twitter. Message to Survivors?

    Marion Clutterbuck Women and the Church Twenty-five years on; reflections on ministry
    These are some memories of one of the women from Chichester diocese, who was ordained in 1994

    Jon White The Episcopal Café?Churches continue to defy demands for accountability

    22 Comments

    British Methodists: report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019

    The Methodist Church (which covers Great Britain, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales) has published the report of its Marriage and Relationships Task Group 2019, together with a number of ancillary documents.

    There is a Media Briefing which is probably the best place to start. Some of this is copied below the fold.

    Also there is a Frequently Asked Questions?page.

    The full report is available as a PDF here.

    Links to seven ancillary documents are on this page. And there is this useful timeline.

    And an archive from last year’s (2018) Conference (more…)

    24 Comments

    George Bell Group issues new statement

    The George Bell Group has issued this:?Statement May 2019.

    Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence. ?Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

    THE CARLILE REVIEW

    The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

    The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

    Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

    The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

    THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

    The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.? Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

    Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

    Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

    THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

    The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

    We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

    It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

    We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

    The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

    Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

    As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

    It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

    We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

    There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

    Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

    25 Comments

    Opinion – 11 May 2019

    Rodie Garland Church Times Mental health needs communities
    “More funding is welcome — but churches still have a part to play”

    Marcus Green The Campaign For Equal Marriage in the Church of England?Ribs to Go
    “the use of Genesis 1 in the discussions about marriage”

    Stephen Parsons Surviving Church IICSA on Chichester – some comments

    Richard Peers Quodcumque – Serious Christianity?Safeguarding in the Church: have we got a mental block?

    44 Comments

    IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball

    IICSA has published its report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball investigations.

    Full Text of Report: Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

    Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

    Press release:?Inquiry publishes report into the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

    The Church of England has published this:?Publication of IICSA report into Anglican Church?

    The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, has today published its report into the Anglican Church ?based on its case studies last year of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.

    The?252-page report makes 5 recommendations about a range of issues. These will now be studied in detail and a full response released at a later date.?The Inquiry’s third and final hearing in the ?Anglican church case study ?will start on Monday 1 July 2019 and run for two weeks.?This will focus on both the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse.?The Inquiry notes that further recommendations directly relating to the findings in this report will be made following the hearing in July.

    The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said:

    “We thank the Inquiry for the report and note the findings and recommendations which we will now study in full.?The?report states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors and the Inquiry’s summary recognises that it failed to do this.? It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report.

    “Whilst the report acknowledges the progress the Church has made in safeguarding, we recognise that our work must continue at pace in order that we can ensure that the Church is as safe as possible for all. We are committed to working to bring in specific changes that will help us better protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual and all other forms of abuse. If anyone is affected by today’s report I would urge them to come forward. Details of how to do this can be found on the Church of England website.

    “We are ?immensely ?grateful to survivors for their courage in?coming forward to IICSA to share their experiences of how they were treated by the Church, knowing how difficult this would have been; their testimonies have made shocking and uncomfortable listening. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the Church of England to be investigated by IICSA as a matter of priority, we have sought to help the Inquiry ?in every way that ?we can ?and ?we will now fully consider the report.”

    33 Comments

    Church of England report on The Seal of the Confessional

    The Church of England has today published two items:

    Report of the Seal of the Confessional?Working Party

    Interim Statement on The Seal of the Confessional

    The former is an 84 page report.The working party membership was:

    • Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham (Chair)
    • Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham (Vice-Chair)
    • Fr Andrew Cole Ecumenical (Roman Catholic) representative, Private Secretary to the Bishop of Nottingham and Parish Priest of Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham
    • Revd Dr Michael Lloyd, Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford [June 2015 to November 2015]
    • Professor David McClean CBE QC Emeritus Professor, School of Law, University of Sheffield
    • Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark (& member of General Synod)
    • Fr Thomas Seville CR, Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (a member of Faith and Order Commission and the General Synod)
    • Ven Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale (Prolocutor of the Northern Convocation & General Synod member)
    • Dr Jane Williams, Assistant Dean & Lecture in Systematic Theology, St Mellitus College [February 2016 to January 2017]
    • Graham Wilmer MBE Founder, Lantern Project and member of the National Safeguarding Panel

    The latter is a 3 page statement signed by William Nye, as Secretary to the House of Bishops. It says, in part:

    …In recent decades, churches around the world have begun to face the many ways in which they have failed to keep people safe from abuse and failed to respond well to those who have suffered abuse. Listening to their voices has raised some significant questions about the ‘seal of the confessional’. This became evident, for instance, in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, and there has been discussion in the UK context as well.

    Two situations in particular have been a focus for attention. The first is where the person confesses to sins that include abuse of a child or vulnerable person. Why should the normal duty on a priest to report such information appropriately not apply? The second is where it is claimed that if the person confessing their sins has referred to abuse committed by them or by someone else, that cannot then be repeated in another context, such as a statement to the police. This is simply wrong:the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to the priest who hears the confession, not tothe person who makes it.

    In response to these concerns, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops of the Church of England commissioned a Working Party on the Seal of the Confessional. It first met in 2015 and completed its report in 2017. As well as examining legal, historical and theological perspectives, it received evidence from survivors of abuse and from clergy who have extensive experience of the ministry of confession.

    At present, the ‘seal of the confessional’ is upheld in the Church of England’secclesiastical law. The Working Party did not reach a consensus as to whether this should change. The diversity of view within the Working Party would be reflected more widely in the Church of England. Some Anglicans feel very strongly that the ministry of confession is an integral part of the church’s life of the church, and that its proper practice is inseparable from the unqualified observance of the seal. Some observe from their experiences that the Seal of the Confessional can offer comfort to survivors of abuse who, trusting in the absolute discretion it promises, may confide in a priest for the first time and by so doing find that they are able to unburden themselves and begin the process of healing. Others feel very strongly that the church cannot continue with any aspect of its practice that stops information being passed on which could prevent future abuse or enable past abusers to be brought to justice. The House of Bishops has been giving these issues very careful consideration

    The Working Party was, however, unanimous in its recommendations in a number of key areas. One was for improvements to training on the ministry of confession in relation to safeguarding issues, with training itself becoming obligatory for all those ordained as priests, since any priest might be asked to do this. Another was for the appointment of an adviser on the ministry of reconciliation in each diocese who can be a point of reference for training, supervision and advice.

    The House of Bishops is fully supportive of these recommendations. Addressing them has required consultation with a number of different groups and individuals. Further information will be given in due course about how the agreedrecommendations of the Working Party’s report will be taken forward.

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