Letters to the Editor

by
20 October 2017

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Safeguarding: calls for debate, risk-taking, and a review of measures

 

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — That Gilo (otherwise “Joe”) has been able to engage in a meaningful mediation process with the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop at Lambeth can only be good news for the Church of England, especially having regard to the woeful way his complaints had been responded to in the past.

The bishops’ letter to EIG, however, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about the part played by the insurer in such cases (which EIG has pointed out in its response), namely, to respond to a claim for financial compensation by an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, not to offer pastoral support: the latter is the job of the Church.

The problem for the Church has been in holding this dichotomy in tension. It has also to be borne in mind that a complaint may not be true and needs to be investigated. Indeed, this was one of the key messages of Sir Richard Henriques’s report on the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland. It is good, though, that EIG have issued guiding principles (in July 2016) that make it clear that “to give an apology or simply to acknowledge the abuse circumstances will not normally prejudice the position”.

I would suggest that the issues raised by the Gilo and Bishop Bell cases highlight the need for them to be the subject of a substantial debate in the General Synod next February. It is to be hoped that such a debate will be on the agenda.

DAVID LAMMING

Synod member for St Edmundsbury & Ipswich

20 Holbrook Barn Road

Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU

 

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — I was very pleased to see the heads of agreement that emerged from the mediation process between the Church and one of its long-term — and justified — critics.

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Others may wish to explore further the complexities of our Church’s relationship with its insurers, but my eye goes to a more fundamental point. The Church is in the “healing business”, and plainly progress has been made. Instead of shutting the victim out, we invited him in and opened our ears.

It is worth noting that the three bishops involved brought a range of roles to the table. The Rt Revd Paul Butler is a former lead Bishop for Safeguarding (“insider”); the Rt Revd Alan Wilson has pastorally supported victims (“outsider”); and the Rt Revd Tim Thornton has been given responsibility for helping the Chuch clamber out the wreckage. The success of the mediation is, by definition, founded on trust and good will. For Gilo to be able to conclude “on the same page” as the Bishops after an honest examination of such a badly managed case is a great credit to everyone concerned.

I hope it emboldens the Church to take similar risks with all the complainants and to offer the same facility to any who feel able to do so. Whatever they tell us will still hurt us, but at least we shall be better aligned with the values that we teach than we have been hitherto.

MARTIN SEWELL

Synod member for Rochester

Gravesend, Kent DA11 7 PB

 

From Mr Christopher Mew

Sir, — I have been involved with safeguarding in the Church of England for 14 years, since the issue in 2004 of the House of Bishops’ publication Protecting All God’s Children. I have consulted with government staff on the formulation of both the 2006 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act and the subsequent 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act. As adviser to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers on safeguarding, I have promulgated and supported the guidelines issued by the Church, through liaison with Church House, Westminster, with the lead Bishop on Safeguarding, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, with my own diocese (Coventry), and as a member of my parish safeguarding team.

Many dioceses, incumbents, and churchwardens are uncertain about the extent of the requirements and constraints that the guidelines place upon them. Since 2004, there has been a stream of directives from Church House about procedures and formal certification of churchgoers; administrators and church workers alike are now becoming concerned that some of these go beyond what is reasonable and within the intent of civil law.

The government legislation embodied in the 2006 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was scaled down in the subsequent 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act, which acknowledged that involving 11 million people, church workers among them, was inappropriate. Regulated activity for which DBS checks are required was more clearly defined, and a specific amendment restricted the definition of “vulnerable adult” to those in institutional care, or that of social services.

Acceptance of DBS checks, confidential declarations, and references for those closely involved with vulnerable groups is widely accepted and supported through parish safeguarding arrangements. Acknowledgement of those working “under supervision” is not always recognised as requiring different treatment.

There are, however, key concerns over the manner in which safeguarding training is being rolled out. The latest expectation of safeguarding training extends to almost every volunteer within the church, right down to refreshment servers, lunch-club helpers, and shop staff. Not only is this disproportionate, but, with 16,000 churches, it could involve upwards of 250,000 people. The “Practice Guidance: Safeguarding Training and Development” recognises that “there is no statutory requirement for this training”; but clergy and PCCs are feeling intimidated by the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 to implement training edicts.

The content of the base module, whether done face to face or online, extends beyond what is appropriate, is disturbing for some who may be themselves elderly innocents or “survivors”, and appears to seek to make social workers of every church volunteer. A parish known to me has sought to ban a worker from volunteering for declining awareness training, while I have had clergy talk to me over fears of losing volunteers.

Reluctance to question safeguarding measures is understandable. I have been wholly supportive of safeguarding practice over many years. I would, however, ask whether it is time to review the extent of the requirements now being rolled out. The Church of England should not be dictatorial towards its members, who are, after all, the body of the Church, for whom a welcoming environment should be paramount.

CHRISTOPHER MEW

82 Coventry Road

Warwick CV34 5HH

 

From the Bishop of Salisbury

Sir, — The Revd Imogen Nay’s incredulity (Letters, 13 October) was because she misread what I wrote about Sir Edward Heath and Operation Conifer, and then made a point that might well be true in general, but was wrong and unfair in the particular.

She attributed to me what was a quotation from Lord Deben, and said I was speaking on behalf of an alleged perpetrator as one who knew him, thus disempowering any alleged victim.

I did not know Sir Edward Heath personally. He died six years before I moved to Salisbury. I said that Operation Conifer had been criticised by Sir Edward’s friends and colleagues, but that those who had been the victims of abuse would now know that their allegations would be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly, and that no one was above the law.

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NICHOLAS SARUM

The South Canonry

71 The Close

Salisbury SP1 2ER

 

Immigration courts wrestle with a faulty system

 

From Dr Stephen Pacey

Sir, — As one who sat for 18 years as an immigration judge, I respectfully agree with the views expressed by the Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby (Comment, 13 October). Let us not forget that immigration courts are one of the key means of “correcting things”.

The fault lies in the system and the ideology that drives it. Over recent years, there has been a tidal wave of hastily conceived and poorly drafted legislation, rushed out to achieve perceived political ends.

To make matters worse, a great deal of that legislation is in the form of statutory instruments, which escape the full rigours of Parliamentary scrutiny and, in their Byzantine complexity, cause innumerable problems for the Home Office, appellants, and judges.

To compound that, government lawyers now adopt a trench-warfare attitude to appeals, seeking to win at all costs. Their true role should be to ensure that the court is in possession of all the evidence and law, so as to be able to make a properly informed decision.

Legislation, of course, begins with the government of the day. It is salutary to remember that Theresa May was for a long time Home Secretary. On her watch, the Home Office became a bizarrely dysfunctional, monolithic organisation, and I regret that I cannot see any signs of improvement now.

STEPHEN PACEY

3 Dickinson Way

North Muskham

Newark NG23 6FF

 

Eucharistic worship is not self-indulgence

 

From the Revd Christine Worsley

Sir, — I was disturbed by some of the assumptions underlying Dr Richard Austen-Baker’s letter (6 October) on multi-parish benefices. This is not to doubt the basic tenet of his response to the points made by the Revd Robert Nichols (Letters, 29 September); rather, it is to question Dr Baker’s regarding a concern for worship generally and, in particular, eucharistic worship as potentially “self-indulgent” and somehow the opposite of a worshipping community that is “primarily there as a witness to Christ”.

What has happened to the perspective that sees worship as integral to our ministry and mission? Although it is some years since Ken Leech wrote of the significance of the eucharist as “a sacrament of equality in an unequal world”, his statement continues to shine a light on the importance of sharing bread and wine as both sign and anticipation. Through this sharing, we live our hope for the time “when justice and mercy shall be seen in all the world”. We do this not for ourselves, but on behalf of the world for which we pray, and in which we are called to live as God’s people.

More recently, others have highlighted the part that worship plays in making real the Kingdom of God, in “creating Kingdom Scenes”. So, in our intercessions, we are before God offering our neighbours, our communities, the wider world, and ourselves to the love of God; in confessing, we do the work of offering our sins: we acknowledge not only our own brokenness and limitations, but also those of the world, as we offer each to God’s healing and forgiveness.

None of this is to deny God’s life, the reality of the Kingdom beyond the Church. Rather, it is that in living and proclaiming God’s love, forgiveness, and healing within worship, our hearts may be tuned to see and serve God’s life, already present and alive in those among whom we live.

CHRISTINE WORSLEY

11 Oberon Way, Cottingley

Bingley BD16 1WH

 

‘Dennis Canon’ in US

 

From Dr Colin Podmore

Sir, — Your report (News, 13 October) was incorrect in claiming that the Episcopal Church in the United States has a canon “which states that a member diocese cannot voluntarily withdraw its membership of the Episcopal Church . . .”. If it had such a canon, five diocesan conventions would hardly have voted to revoke their accession to its Constitution and Canons.

The so-called “Dennis Canon” addresses only the status of “property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation”. In passing it, the General Convention had the secession of parishes from dioceses in view, not a situation in which dioceses withdraw, taking the majority of their parishes with them.

The fact that the Episcopal Church possesses neither a canon forbidding dioceses to revoke their accession to its Constitution and Canons nor an equivalent of the EU’s Article 50 has contributed to the complexity of the litigation, about which state courts have reached conflicting conclusions.

COLIN PODMORE

2A The Cloisters

Gordon Square

London WC1H 0AG

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