THE Church of England has a “lot of learning” still to do about handling allegations of abuse, says the next Bishop of Leicester, whose nomination was announced on Tuesday.
The Bishop of Tewkesbury, in Gloucester diocese, since 2013, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, is to become the seventh Bishop of Leicester in the spring. In Gloucester diocese, the powers of diocesan bishop were delegated to him while the Bishop, now retired, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, was the subject of a policy inquiry into allegations of indecent assault (News, 8 August 2014).
The police inquiry was dropped, and Bishop Perham was cleared by a church risk-assessment (News, 15 May). Bishop Snow said this week that, while the Church had improved the way it addressed allegations of sexual abuse, the work was not complete.
“We have made huge steps forward, but the whole agenda, particularly of listening to survivors and those who have been victims — we have got a long way to go on all of that. We have to hold up our hands and say we have got a lot of learning still to do on all of this,” he said on Tuesday. “My experience in Gloucester has born that out. It was a difficult experience for us, but a useful one for the diocese and the Church.”
That time would stand him in good stead in his new post, Bishop Snow said, although he was daunted and excited in equal measure.
He praised the first tranche of training he had been sent on with other suffragan bishops, as part of the recommendations of the Green report on senior leadership in the Church (News, 12 December 2014). “It is very necessary and much needed. I’m a beneficiary of that . . . and I have found that hugely valuable,” he said.
But he was a little more sceptical about the broader Reform and Renewal programme.
“There are parts of the Reform and Renewal agenda I am hugely excited about, but there other parts which are more to do with internal workings of the Church which I am not always so convinced about,” he said. Spending too much time navel-gazing and “playing around with internal structures” was not the best way to make a difference on the ground.
When it came to his new diocese, Bishop Snow said that he would try to continue the work of his predecessor, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, in building relationships with the plethora of other faith groups in Leicester.
“I’m aware I’m stepping into some big shoes,” Bishop Snow said. “Bishop Tim is very well-respected here, and did some excellent work around community engagement. But I’m clear I have the gifts and skills that are needed for the next part of the journey.”
The Bishop declined to be drawn on the question of same-sex relationships in the Church.
When asked what he would do if a gay priest in his new diocese decided to marry, he said that he would not “go into the details”, except to say that he believed that the Church of England had a clear position on the matter, which he personally also upheld. “I look forward to engaging with all the different opinions in the diocese,” he also said.
Bishop Snow, who is 47, spent most of his ministry in the diocese of Sheffield, apart from three years working with the Church Mission Society in Guinea, West Africa. In 2010, he became the Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham.
With his wife, Lynn, a paediatrician, he has three school-age children. He was trained for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and enjoys travel, music, and kayaking.