The Church of England is facing more than 3,000 abuse complaints, the vast majority of which relate to children or vulnerable adults.
Peter Hancock, the lead bishop on safeguarding will reveal the full extent of the scandal the Church faces when he answers questions from the ruling general synod later today. Of roughly 3,300 ‘concerns or allegations’ dealt with by the Church in 2016 alone, ‘the vast majority of which related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,’ he will say.
The revelation comes as the CofE’s general synod, or parliament, meets in Westminster for three days that are set to be dominated by questions around abuse.
A presentation around safeguarding on Saturday will outline the issues the Church is facing but Christian Today understands that survivors of abuse are furious the presentation is ‘stage-managed’ by bishops and is not a full debate that would allow more probing issues to be raised. Several synod members are planning to push for a full debate rather than simply a presentation but their calls are likely to be rejected.
Victims of clergy sex abuse will protest outside Church House before the presentation on Saturday and the Archbishop of Canterbury along with other bishops and members of synod are planning to go and join them for two minutes of silent prayer.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will face questioning by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) next month. The Church is facing three weeks of public hearings into how it dealt with allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Chichester and one CofE source told Christian Today they expected the hearings to be ‘very painful’.
Welby has said the way the Church has abused people, particularly children, leads him to tears and frequently keeps him awake at night. But victims are warning the time for words is over as they demand fuller compensation.
The archbishop is also under significant pressure from supporters of George Bell, the late Bishop of Chichester, who the CofE effectively admitted was a paedophile when it announced it had paid £16,800 in compensation and legal fees to a complainant known as ‘Carol’. However a review of the decision by Lord Carlile QC found the Church’s process deficient in a number of ways.
His review was published in December and found the Church had ‘rushed to judgment’ and smeared Bell in its attempt to avoid being seen as soft on clerical sex abuse. The inquiry found ‘serious errors were made’ as a result of an ‘oversteer’ that presumed his guilt without fully looking at the evidence.
But Welby appeared to leave open the possibility of Bell’s guilt when he responded to Carlile’s review by saying a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over his head.
Despite coming under immense pressure from Bell’s supporters, who include academics, historians and peers, Welby has refused to withdraw his statement and last week the Church said ‘fresh information’ has emerged about the case which has been handed to Sussex Police.
The CofE’s general synod meets from today until Saturday in Church House, Westminster.