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Archbishop of York admits to mistake over voting to disband Independent Safeguarding Board

05 July 2024

SAM ATKINS/CHURCH TIMES

The Archbishop of York addresses the General Synod on Friday afternoon

The Archbishop of York addresses the General Synod on Friday afternoon

THE Archbishop of York, at the opening of the General Synod in York on Friday, addressed confusion about the consensus of the Archbishops’ Council in its decision to disband the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) last year (News, 23 June 2023).

Before beginning his presidential address, the first item of business, Archbishop Cottrell said that he had made a mistake, last year, when he had told the Synod that the decision by the Archbishops’ Council to disband the board and sack its members had been “unanimous” (News, 14 July 2023).

“It has come to my attention that when I spoke in the ISB debate at the July Synod in 2023 I mistakenly said that the decision by the Archbishops’ Council to terminate the contracts of the two remaining members of the ISB was unanimous,” he said.

Dr Sarah Wilkinson’s report on the demise of the ISB, which was published in December (News, 15 December 2023), drew on emails and interviews and recorded that the council had voted 11 to four to terminate the contracts of Dame Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves the next day, with four members abstaining.

“Some members of the Council, including the Archbishops, wished to wait and not to proceed to an immediate termination,” she wrote. “One member of the Council proposed a pause before the termination to see if any other way forward was possible.”

Archbishop Cottrell told the Synod on Friday that the session in which he had made the remark last year had been “heated and difficult”. “I spoke incorrectly, and since it’s been pointed out to me, I wanted to take this opportunity to apologise and to put the record straight,” he said.

Before that session last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury had said that “both Archbishops had wished to wait a bit”.

The next day, a Church House spokesperson had confirmed: “The Archbishops supported the unanimous decision to terminate the contracts of the Independent Safeguarding Board members,” and that “the decisions of the Archbishops’ Council, as with any board of trustees, are collective” (News, 8 July 2023).

The same day, Archbishop Cottrell had said: “The decisions that [the Archbishops’ Council] took in getting here were unanimous.”

In his presidential address, Archbishop Cottrell referred to a letter sent to faith leaders by the now Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer. “It is clear that he sees and wants to understand more about the impact people of faith have on communities today.

“Let’s be clear, we know that politicians of all parties admire and covet the values that underpin our faith . . . that it is our instinct to put the needs of others before our own.

“But this is where we may need to be a bit more bold. We need to say that these values that we hold dear, these values that shape our life and witness, they do not exist in a vacuum. They come from and are shaped by beliefs and practices; what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and what we do in response: the daily reading of scripture, the life of prayer and worship, the iron rations of the sacramental life. Then these values then become real and become the lived outworking of a Christian life.”

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