THE Area Bishop of Stepney, in the diocese of London, Dr Joanne Grenfell, is to become the Church of England’s next lead bishop for safeguarding, it was announced on Monday.
She will take over from the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, when his three-year term ends in March (News, 3 April 2020).
Dr Grenfell will attend the House of Bishops and work closely with the recently appointed National Director of Safeguarding, Alexander Kubeyinje (News, 8 July 2022). Her focus will be on implementing the recommendations of both the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) — to which the Church formally responded last week — and the second Past Cases Review (PCR2).
This will include addressing the conflict between the absolute confidentiality of the seal of confession and IICSA’s recommendation for mandatory reporting of suspected or known child abuse. Dr Grenfell chairs the newly resurrected working group to establish whether the seal should be abolished, upheld, or amended in line with this recommendation (News, 21 October 2022).
Dr Grenfell, a former Church Times diarist, was consecrated in 2019 (News, 10 May 2019). She was previously Archdeacon of Portsdown, from 2013. She was ordained priest in 2001 and served her title in Liverpool before ten years of ministry in Sheffield diocese from 2003. Here, she held posts including Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Dean of Women’s Ministry. Before ordination, she was a lecturer in English at Oriel College, Oxford.
Dr Grenfell said on Monday that the way in which the Church of England dealt with safeguarding was “of the utmost importance. It reveals our values and identity as a Church and is therefore a matter of spiritual integrity. I am committed to working for culture change, drawing on the wisdom of survivors and engaging with NST colleagues and leaders across the Church of England.
“My aim is that together we will not only prevent church-based abuse now, but also deal honestly, thoroughly, and proactively with what has previously been perpetrated and covered up.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his thanks to the work of Dr Gibbs through his term before commending Dr Grenfell’s “commitment and experience as well as her willingness to take up this role, which is a vital part of the work of the Church. I am aware of the immense time commitment that this role rightly involves and pray for Bishop Joanne as this new chapter begins.”