Letters to the Editor

by
19 July 2019

Safeguarding and the Church’s reputation, Methodists, and Evangelical Synod members

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After a rape, reputation should not be the first priority

Sir, — On 4 July 2019, in the course of taking evidence relating to the Church of England, IICSA considered issues raised by the case of Tim Storey, a youth worker in a central London Anglican church, and subsequently a ministerial student at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was convicted, in 2016, of two offences of rape and sexual assault. Our daughters are two of his victims.

When, in 2009, our daughter first told the diocese of London what had happened to her, she did so with the overwhelming priority that Storey should be stopped from ever abusing anyone else. She relied on the diocese to do the right thing.

What in fact happened was that there was “a wholesale failure by those responsible to recognise whose interests they [the diocese of London] should be safeguarding”. The safeguarding policy was not followed, the [then] safeguarding adviser to the [former] Bishop of London carried out his enquiries in a way which showed that he thought that the girls must have consented to what happened to them, and that they and others were just “chattering”. Nothing specific was reported to the police.

The director of ordinands told my daughter to her face that he had to have Storey’s best interest in mind as well, and promptly gave him a job in his church.

The whole process by all involved, from the Bishop downwards, was a buck-passing, incompetent, self-protecting, and reputation-preserving one.

The diocese and named individuals were severely criticised by the trial judge in 2016 (News, 22 April 2016), and the statement of the diocese at the end of the trial was described as a “shameful misrepresentation of the truth”.

The direct consequence of the failure of the diocese to act was to allow Storey to carry on offending. He was convicted of new, online offences, and, at the 2016 trial, there were two other cases of rape which the prosecution were unable to proceed with, because the victims were so traumatised and potentially suicidal that they were unable to give evidence.

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The independent review carried out after the trial recommended that disciplinary measures be taken against both the DDO and the Bishop’s safeguarding adviser, the latter having “arrogantly refused to co-operate with police” or to accept any individual responsibility, minimising the part he played to that of a general adviser on whom no one should have relied (News, 24 February 2017).

At the IICSA hearing on 4 July, the Ven. Rosemary Lain-Priestley sought to explain why sanctions were not proceeded with under the CDM. Essentially, the mistakes made did not “fit” the categories available. The decision-makers were not prepared to risk a failed application, asserting that this would “upset the victims”. In reality, not trying upsets the victims more.

Anyone reading the CDM will conclude that it is very outdated. Worryingly, the letter from Margery Roberts (Letters, 12 July) shows what scant regard is given to the prescribed procedures, whatever the issue. Ignorance and a lack of professionalism reign.

We are immensely proud of our daughters for speaking up and having the courage to go through the ordeal of giving evidence in two criminal trials, which led to a 15-year sentence for Storey. But they are angry about the continued procrastination of the Church of England, and that no one has really felt any consequences for the catastrophic mistakes made.

In the 21st century, no organisation whose repeated organisational failure facilitated further serious sexual offending should expect to go unsanctioned.

Why has no one resigned? Why only now, ten years on from my daughter’s first report, is a working group being set up to consider the fitness for purpose of the CDM in relation to safeguarding, and without commitment to a speedy time-line.

Why is the default mindset that “nothing happens hurriedly in the Church of England” tolerated? Why is no one senior enough getting angry enough to “turn over some tables” and urgently push through the wholesale change that is required?

Name and address supplied

A Methodist example

From the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain and 13 others

Sir, — We write on behalf of Inclusive Church, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, One Body One Faith, Ecclesia, the LGBTI Mission, and many others to welcome the vote at the Methodist Conference to give overwhelming support to an “in principle” move towards marriage equality (News, 12 July).

We will be praying for them as they consider this move in their local churches over the coming year, and as they prepare for the final vote next year.

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England has made very similar proposals to those being discussed in the Methodist Church: proposals that respect the conscience of everyone and understand that it is possible to be faithful and committed members of our Church while holding differing views on marriage.

It is time that the Church of England made a similar move and began to be honest about the reality: that a great many of our church communities would rejoice in the opportunity to welcome gay and lesbian couples to make their marriage vows in our parish churches.

It is time for change in the Church of England, for an honest acceptance of the differences within us on this issue, just as we do on divorce and the ordination of women.

ANDREW FORESHEW-CAIN, DAN BARNES-DAVIES, PETER LEONARD, LUKE DOWDING, SIMON BARROW, SIMON SARMIENTO, ELAINE SOMMERS, ERIKA BAKER, SUSAN GILCHRIST, JAYNE OZANNE, SAVI HENSMAN, SARA GILLINGHAM, JAY GREENE, ANN REDDECLIFFE

The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England
c/o 23 High Street
Chapel-en-le-Frith
High Peak SK23 0HD
 

EGGS: it wasn’t a split, and they weren’t senior

From the Revd Dr Ian Paul

Sir, — Your short report on the “split” in the Evangelical Group on General Synod (News, 12 July) contains several quite important errors.

First, no “senior members” of the group resigned. You do mention two archdeacons, who might be styled “senior” in terms of ministry, but they had no seniority within the group. The committee and leadership of EGGS were unanimously agreed on the proposed changes.

Second, the group was in no sense “split”. Of those who did vote against, a number agreed with the statement, but were not sure whether the timing was right.

Third, you quote the Ven. Gavin Collins’s claiming that the new statement was a “very narrow formulation”. In fact, as was mentioned repeatedly in the debate at which Gavin was present, the statement did nothing more than restate the current teaching of the Church of England in its canon law and liturgy, and was in line with the stated view of the Anglican Communion.

It is a strange day when an archdeacon can believe that the current teaching of the Church is “very narrow”.

IAN PAUL
Member of General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council
102 Cator Lane, Chilwell
Nottingham NG9 4BB
 

The trees of life

From Donald Mavunduse

Sir, — As director of international operations at the charity Send a Cow, I was encouraged to read the of the mind-blowing potential of planting trees in tackling climate change which has made headlines recently.

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While the carbon-capturing benefits of trees have long been known, trees have not been seen as a formidable solution to the climate crisis until now. Finally, it feels as though there is some optimism in the fight against climate change, and a real and affordable solution is on the table. Whether world leaders, governments, and communities act on this recent report is another question.

The mission of reforestation must be a worldwide effort, and it is one that we can all take part in, however big or small. The NGO I work for already has an active role: agroforestry, tree-planting, and tackling environmental degradation has been a key part of our approach in rural Africa for more than 30 years. It is an approach that enables families to feed themselves sustainably, and it protects the local environment.

What encourages me most, however, is when I see communities playing an active part in reforestation. In Wolayita, Ethiopia, 120 members of the community came together to regenerate eight hectares of land: roughly 11 football pitches. Send a Cow supported them, but it was the community’s driving force and commitment to the project which made it a success. Individuals financed the project personally, and volunteered their time to restore the land: planting seedlings, tilling the earth, and building trenches to conserve rainwater and rejuvenate the soil.

Over the past two years, they have planted 5000 trees and 1200 grass cuttings: the once destitute area of land has been transformed, and the ecosystem is starting to thrive because of it.

Of course, this is just a small-scale project. Billions, rather than thousands, of trees will need to be planted globally to capture the amount of carbon needed to slow climate change.

Nevertheless, if we can all harness this community spirit and put the needs of the planet first, and if organisations such as ours can secure more funding to deliver environmental projects, then we might actually make this tree-filled vision a reality.

DONALD MAVUNDUSE
Director of International Operations
Send a Cow
The Old Estate Yard
Newton St Loe
Bath BA2 9BR

‘Gay bags’ welcome

From the Dean of Wakefield

Sir, — Out of respect for the role of Sir William Fittall, and for the individual whose letter of concern gave rise to Sir William’s report, I have deliberately refrained from any public comment on the matter of the naming of eucharistic presidents at Wakefield Cathedral. I should like to respond to Geoffrey Squire’s comment, however, about a young man being asked to “cover up his gay bag” when entering Wakefield Cathedral two years ago (Letters, 12 July).

I was not in post as Dean of Wakefield two years ago. But if Mr Squire would like to supply me confidentially with further details about the unacceptable incident he describes, I will investigate it as fully as possible as a matter of urgency. Meanwhile, I want to reassure readers of the Church Times that everyone, without exception, is unconditionally welcome at Wakefield Cathedral, complete with whatever logo they wish to wear or carry.

SIMON COWLING
Cathedral Centre
8-10 Westmoreland Street
Wakefield WF1 1PJ
 

An afternoon gin and tonic with Noel Streatfeild

From the Revd Clarissa Cridland

Sir, — I was very interested in the article on Noel Streatfeild (Feature, 12 July), and particularly in the photograph, since this was taken at about the time I first met her, aged 21.

I was working for J. M. Dent as secretary to the Children’s Editor, and had to go round to Noel’s flat in Elizabeth Street, just round the corner from Belgravia, in order to show her the proposed illustration for a jacket on her new holiday book. “Sit down, darling,” she said to me. It was not a cup of tea which was offered, but a gin and tonic (and not much of the latter), which I enjoyed at three in the afternoon — and, indeed, every time I went to see her.

A year or so later, she was at an office party for the relaunch of Ballet Shoes, and noticed that my own shoes had a hole in them. She took me to task, and I explained that I couldn’t afford to buy new ones: I wasn’t paid enough. She marched straight over to the managing director and demanded that he increase my salary.

Amazingly, I didn’t get the sack, but it was a close thing. Noel’s children’s books were wonderful, but some of her adult ones, including The Whicharts, were very odd.

CLARISSA CRIDLAND
The Vicarage
Church Street, Coleford
Somerset BA3 5NG

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