THE Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said that she has been given a “clear and unambiguous mandate” from the Archbishop of Canterbury to make significant changes in the Church’s response to survivors of sexual abuse.
Bishop Mullally, who is leading the C of E’s implementation of the safeguarding reforms, was speaking on Monday at a meeting with “Joe” (not his real name), who is the survivor at the centre of the Elliott Report, an independent review commissioned by the Church into allegations of sexual abuse (News, 18 March).
The review, which was carried out by Ian Elliott, a safeguarding consultant with the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, considered the Church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse by the Revd Garth Moore, a former Chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham, and Gloucester, who died in 1990 (News, 4 December). It concerned an attempted rape by Moore, which took place while Joe, then aged 16, was staying as a guest at Moore’s rooms in Gray’s Inn.
At the meeting, Bishop Mullally took questions from Joe and two other survivors. She expressed her commitment to the review until the “necessary changes” were in place, a process that, with their help, would take months rather than years.
Phil Johnson and Jo Kind from Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) said that they had heard many similar promises during the past decade, which had then “vanished through layers of committee” and institutional blocking. He also said, however, that he had never met a “less institutional and more honest bishop” than Bishop Mullally, and expressed his confidence that a “real and honest change” would be brought about.
At the meeting, Bishop Mullally said that she envisaged changes to the training of senior personnel and to the structure of the safeguarding in the Church. She also noted that such a cultural shift would be “as important as, and harder to achieve than,” any structural changes.
She tweeted: “Very moving to meet with survivors,” with a picture of herself holding one of Joe’s calligraphed stones (above). Joe said of her post: “Without a moment’s hesitation, she was already signalling clearly that change was on the way.”
Bishop Mullally said on Wednesday that the meeting was “an opportunity to apologise in person for the failings of the Church” and the “horrific abuse” suffered by Joe.
“I was very moved to both meet and talk with the survivor and also very grateful that he is willing to be involved in taking the recommendations of the Elliott Report forward. As I said when the findings were published the Archbishop of Canterbury has seen the recommendations and is committed to ensuring they are implemented.”
She went on: “How we respond to those who have survived abuse in any form, whether as a child or an adult, is a measure of our humanity, compassion and of the Church's mission in the world.”