Among the many documents attached to the recent IICSA hearings was an email correspondence dating back to 2015 between a survivors’ group and the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would not have picked up on this exchange but for an alarming article last Friday in the Church of England Newspaper by Sheik Muhammad Al-Husseini. Al-Husseini has core status in the IICSA hearings and although he is not directly involved in the Anglican side of the hearings, he seems remarkably well-informed about the detail of what is going on in our church. He has also spoken to several survivors and their lawyers.
The correspondence, to which Al-Husseini refers, mentions that in 2015 one of the things that survivors were complaining about to the Archbishop was the use by some dioceses of a particular company to protect their interests, Luther Pendragon, a specialist in crisis management. Without knowing anything further about this firm, one is immediately concerned to discover that at least two dioceses are spending considerable sums of money on this kind of advice. If any institution brings in professional help to protect its interests then it means that this institution has decided that it needs to ‘circle the wagons’ to protect itself against a perceived enemy. Who is this enemy? The enemy is evidently none other than the survivors themselves. These are the same people, whose interests the Archbishop of Canterbury has promised to put right at the centre of the Church’s concerns.
The letter addressed to the Archbishop on the 12 June 2015 claims that ‘scandal management companies like Luther Pendragon Limited .. are known to have acted to obstruct, apply pressure and threaten survivors, whistleblowers and others who have spoken out about Anglican clergy abuse’. Even without reading the letter detailing the techniques used by this firm, we seem to be entering a very dark place. A diocese of the Church of England (two are mentioned, London and Winchester) has felt it right to use the services of what can only be described as professional bullies to protect its reputation. The victims of this bullying are among the most vulnerable group in society – the sexually and spiritually abused. How can this be ethical, let alone Christian? One survivor I know was informed that it was normal practice for the Church or its agents to collect personal information about complainants to assist in the potential legal defence processes which might lessen the potential liability of the Church. A particularly nasty attack that survivors have had to face is the suggestion that, before their abuse, they were in some way already mentally fragile. Thus, any symptoms of post-traumatic stress they may now be suffering, were already present.
Al-Husseini’s article also mentions the fact that the Church of England nationally employs one particularly aggressive law firm to protect its interests. A particular lawyer in this firm has acquired from survivors the nickname the Pitbull on account of her techniques of intimidation and merciless interrogation of survivors. The article overall gives us some insight into a thoroughly unpleasant culture. On the outside there are pleasing soft words, tears of remorse and apology. Inside we find a ruthless machine full of hard-headed professional reputation people aligned to aggressive lawyers desperate to defend, at all costs, the institution.
It is to be hoped that this inclusion by IICSA of the 2015 document naming, and hopefully shaming, the underhand methods of Luther Pendragon, shows that the Inquiry is fully aware of hypocritical goings-on in the Church. A further area of injustice remains to be resolved. This is the way that the Church has tried, through its professionals, to discredit a highly respected international expert on safeguarding, Ian Elliott. In 2015 Ian produced a comprehensive report about the treatment of one particular survivor, known to IICSA as A4. In his report which has not been published in full, Ian criticised the advice given to the Church by lawyers and others to withdraw pastoral and other support from A4. The Church, after initially enthusiastically receiving the report and promising to implement its findings in full, started to draw back from this support. We do not know of course what was said behind closed doors at meetings of strategists and advisers but evidently senior people desperately wanted to discredit the report’s recommendations. Within six to nine months it became just another report to be shelved and forgotten. By that time the bishop who had been asked by the House of Bishops to oversee its implementation, Sarah Mullally, had been promoted from Crediton to London. Here her new responsibilities made the task of overseeing the implementation of the Elliott report impossible to fulfil. The criticism that Elliott had made in his report about the withdrawal of pastoral care for A4 was not picked up by the Church or responded to. Nevertheless, there were enough denials and rumours around to suggest that this was not a true record of what had happened and this allowed the Church to wriggle out of any obligation to implement any part of the report. No one in the leadership of the Church attacked Elliott, but neither did they, in the end, do anything to support him or put his recommendations into practice.
The doubts which had been cast over the Elliott report were finally confronted as the result of detective work presented to the IICSA enquiry. Documents were uncovered which showed that there was, as he had claimed, written advice in circulation which gave clear advice to dioceses that A4 and other survivors were to be cut off from all communication with the Church if they made civil claims against it. This included the withdrawal of pastoral support just as Ian Elliott had accurately reported. This whole story was explored in the BBC Sunday programme on July 21st.
When we take an overall view of the way the Church has been behaving in regard to the survivors of sexual abuse it is hard not to use a series of adjectives which would include the words murky, disreputable and dishonest. The gall needed to spend the Churches’ money on a company such as Luther Pendragon, which has made its name on defending tobacco companies and the nuclear waste industry, suggests that there are a considerable number of senior clergy who are in danger of losing their moral compass.
Every time a lie is told to a survivor, or a committee listens to ethically doubtful advice from an expensive lawyer, corruption enters in. Individuals may have arrived at a meeting decent and honourable. By the end of a meeting when they may have colluded in a blatant piece of expedient management of a survivor, there has been a slippage into colluding with evil activity. This makes them participants in the evil themselves.
The saga of Jonathan Fletcher rumbles on. Many people are asking how an individual with a history of doubtful behaviour and no PTO was able to access many pulpits in Britain and abroad over the past 2 ½ years. Every such invitation involved another person in authority defying the rules of the Church. Were these invitations made in conscious defiance of church rules or is it a case of information not being shared? Then there is the deliberate ‘cleansing’ of mentions of Fletcher on various websites. Who had the authority to perform such an act? One author of a piece which had mentioned Fletcher in his original piece, only to see the name disappear, protested to me personally about this underhand and unauthorised editing. The censorship shows every sign of being coordinated. Thankfully no one has access to my blog posts so that my, no doubt provocative, posts on the topic remain up for anyone to read.
The Church at the institutional level and through its non-official manifestations seems to be going through a crisis of morality. In spite of thousands of sermons preached each Sunday, the response to abuse survivors is apparently sometimes mired in shady, often shameful activity. At the heart of this activity, as we have said many times before, is the need to preserve the good name of the structure. How long will it be before this reputation polishing exercise collapses in total failure and the questionably ethical behaviour of so many church people becomes manifest? That will be possibly the beginning of the end for our national Church.
Photo John Titchener (left) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Office [EIO]. David Bonehill (right) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Group [EIG]
MS McNEILL: Do you think…A4, as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?
MR BONEHILL: No.
MS McNEILL: Finally, I want to read directly…the guiding principles that you told us about last week from Ecclesiastical. The first of those guiding principles is that policyholders…should respond to victims and survivors in such a way that it is not experienced or seen as negative, resistant or unhelpful, because this can create relationship difficulties and may worsen their well-being. Do you think that in managing this entire issue, Ecclesiastical has lived up to that guiding principle?
MR BONEHILL: Could we have done it better? Yes, I accept that point.
MS McNEILL: …as a statement of principle, it is a good one, isn’t it?
MR BONEHILL: Yes, it is. I agree entirely.
MS McNEILL: Do you think that you lived up to that principle?
MR BONEHILL: I think we could have done better
MS McNEILL: Thank you.
Above in summary form by #AnglicanHearing
Today, the final Friday, was originally intended to be used only for closing statements from the lawyers representing the various parties. However, it was announced at the end of Thursday that an additional witness would be called first on Friday morning. This turned out to be David Bonehill, Claims Director of EIG and and John Titchener, Group Compliance Director of EIO.
The Church Times has a report of what happened: IICSA reprimands Ecclesiastical over earlier advice to C of E and evidence to Inquiry
List of documents adduced on day 10 (but none have as yet been published)
Mr William Chapman, counsel for complainants, victims and survivors represented by Switalskis and also who represents MACSAS:
Page 135-136: “He [George Carey], in the words of Andrew Nunn, did try to sweep it under the carpet. If George Carey thought by doing so he served the reputation of the church, it was a gross misjudgment. The tactics deployed by the church were at the very edge of lawfulness. We heard how Bishop Kemp attempted to compromise Mr Murdock. We heard how several bishops telephoned Ros Hunt to ask her to tell the young men who had made complaints not to speak to the police or the press. We heard how Michael Ball, Bishop of Truro, had been contacting witnesses and, in Mr Murdock’s view, trying to influence them. We do encourage the police to review whether any of these matters, in particular the actions of the bishops who contacted Ros Hunt, disclose offences of perverting the course of justice”
Mrs Kate Wood
Q. How would you characterise the emails you received from Neil Todd? You received a number I think at this time?
A. I did. He, I think, was surprised this was being raised again. He was very calm about it, I felt. He wanted information, and why wouldn’t he? I wanted to give him as much information as I could, but, for the reasons you have outlined, I had to be a bit careful. I didn’t have any emails from him that showed any great distress at that point. He was obviously anxious, and he wanted information. But he was very calm and composed with his emails. I could tell he was also very angry at the church, and, again, why wouldn’t he be? So I tried to support him through that.
Q. In your witness statement at paragraph 149 you refer to the fact that in his later emails in particular he was clearly angry with the church —
Q. — and was feeling anxious. You refer to an email — I think the reference is wrong, but the correct reference is ACE001870. This is an email to Jeremy Pryor. Why is it that you have this email, Mrs Wood?
A. I can only think that Jez, Jeremy, copied me in on it, I think.
Q. You think Jeremy copied you in or did Neil Todd copy you in? The reason I say that is in your summary you seem to think that Neil copied you in when he wrote this to Jeremy?
A. I don’t know, sorry.
Q. That’s all right. Don’t worry about that. If we can go down to the fifth paragraph of the long email that begins, “So the difficulty”. I think this is the email you are referring to in your witness statement:
Neil Todd’s Email to Mrs Kate Wood/Jeremy Pryor
“So the difficulty of the black-and-white events of Peter Ball’s behaviour are not in the acts themselves — but the fact that he corrupted my genuine search for something good with acts which were obviously intentional for his own sexual gratification in the guise of a wise teacher nurturing and caring of a young seeker, aspiring to good intentions.
“When he denied his behaviour, this struck at my deepest conscience — it was then that the reality of what I allowed him to do — was not moral. The reality that his behaviour was not for my good or inspirational guidance.
“He only had to admit that what he did — actually occurred — this would then have made some sense to me. If he could admit that lying on top of me naked, his ejaculations, the naked showers under his instruction, the threat of physical beatings was all part of his unique path to spiritual guidance, was normal, then maybe we could have accepted that his intentions were good, just unusual. But his denial of all that occurred resulted in deep disillusionment. I personally felt ashamed for allowing this behaviour to occur, for allowing myself to be so gullible and not question or seek guidance earlier. This could have redirected my path. I could have joined a true community and been guided appropriately. The church should also have showed a greater deal of support but to dismiss me after the incident with no due care, simply resulted in full disillusionment with the institution as a whole. I genuinely felt the church was covering up, but at the worst it affected my personal relationship with God and my genuine search in faith. When Peter accepted a caution, he stated with penitence and sorrow he was accepting the police caution, but, again, the church was saddened by his resignation.
“All I want is the truth to be known without suspicion. I want Peter to admit in black and white that the events that took place did take place — that none of this was my imagination — nor my fault. I want the black-and-white questions to be answered.
“I would also request that the church take responsibility for not acknowledging nor supporting nor investigating my concerns.
“I heard that Peter had a new candidate when I was based in London — I wonder if he too experienced similar behaviour.
“I have survived all this, led a normal life — I changed direction after a few years of rebellion, to say the least, and commenced training as a registered nurse. I have been qualified since 1999 and have been working as director of nursing for indigenous communities in Australia. I have a loving and supportive partner of 18 years and am generally considered normal.
“Unfortunately, I never had counselling to deal with nor work through the emotions that occur after such a personal incident — but, yes, I can accept that Peter Ball’s behaviour has left its mark. I am not a vindictive person — I only wish for an acknowledgement that my experience was a reality and that all Church of England hierarchical parties take a share in the responsibility of their inaction.
Closing remarks by Fiona Scolding QC
Chair and panel, obviously it is not the role of counsel to the inquiry to sum up. I just have a very few brief remarks. I would like to thank everybody — in particular the legal teams and all the witnesses who have attended — for their patience and cooperation. I would also like to thank everyone for the courteous and respectful way in which this hearing has been conducted and in their approach and role towards us as counsel to the inquiry.
Just a few statistics, so that everyone can feel that they have earned their fees: 108,000 pages of documents were received by the inquiry during this investigation, and 53,244 pages were disclosed; 118 witness statements were obtained from 23 97 individuals; we have heard 14 live witnesses and three read witnesses.
Last, but by no means least, we want to hold and remember Neil Todd and his family and hope that they are able to find peace and solace after what must have been a painful reawakening of their memories.
We also wish to thank all the other victims and survivors, whose courage in speaking to us and whose insight, wisdom and understanding is both central and essential to the work of this inquiry. We apologise for any distress and upset that this week may have caused to them. Thank you very much
A document which I hope will always be referred to as the Blackburn Letter appeared yesterday June 17th 2019. It is written by the senior staff of the Blackburn Diocese and is addressed to their licensed staff, clergy and Readers, and safeguarding officers.
In essence, it is commending study of the recent IICSA report on the Diocese of Chichester and the Peter Ball case.
Those of us who have been cheering on the case of safeguarding for some time cannot but feel that this is progress. The Letter may claim historic importance because it shows that in one diocese of the Church of England a group of senior church people really seem to understand all the dimensions of safeguarding in the Church. They understand it in a way that goes far beyond the box-ticking reputational management process which is what safeguarding comes to be in many places.
Why am I personally moved by this letter? For a start, the Blackburn senior staff want those who study the IICSA report to notice before anything else the suffering that has been caused by sexual abuse to real victims. Many people, including myself, have always pleaded that safeguarding should start at this end – the needs of survivors. Sexual abuse, however many years ago it took place is a ‘human catastrophe’ for those caught up in it as victims as well as causing ‘lifelong impact’. How right that the Blackburn Letter begins with words from Psalm 51. ‘Have mercy on us O God, for we have sinned’. The letter makes no apology for putting the human suffering endured by survivors right at the beginning.
The traditional preoccupation of the Church, reputation management, only gets a mention in para 5. It is mentioned, but only as a way of explaining that it has been a factor in not dealing well with allegations from the past. When protecting the good name of the institution has taken precedence, the suffering of survivors has been made far worse.
Moving on from what appear to be genuine expressions of sorrow and contrition on behalf of the whole Church, the letter begins to explore what can be done in the future. The congregations are to be places where ‘children and vulnerable adults can be entirely safe’ but also where ‘the voices of those who have difficult things to say or disclosures to make are heard and acted on.’ The second part of this wish is far harder to deliver. Many survivors report that the reason the Church has found it so hard to deal with their needs is because the recounting of their past experience of suffering causes so much discomfort in the hearer.
None of us find it easy to listen to stories of abuse, particularly when the abuser was a trusted figure, like a priest or a bishop. Taking on board the idea that a member of the home team is an abuser is deeply unsettling. It is far easier to shut down the discordant thought and that is what many people will do in practice.
A further insight in the letter, which is music to my ears, is the recognition that clericalism, deference and abuse of power lie behind the ‘cover-up’ and the silencing of the ‘voices of the vulnerable’. Clergy and other leaders have power within the relationships they possess and there needs to be ‘deeper awareness’ of that power. This theme of ministerial power and its potential for harm is the topic that I have chosen to reflect on in the forthcoming volume of essays Letters to a Broken Church. There is so much more to be said on this topic.
I want to make two further observations about the letter. One is that the letter appears to have been written at a visceral level. In short, the emotions of sorrow and repentance are allowed to rise to the surface and be dominant themes in what is communicated. Somehow the letter, assisted by a quotation from Andrew Graystone’s essay of a week ago, manages to avoid completely the somewhat petulant tone of so many expressions of ‘regret’ and ‘apology’ that we associate with official statements.
Such sentiments, if they are followed through, will begin to meet the needs of survivors. It may be the beginning of the ‘change of culture’ that has been looked for by so many. It is also the first sign that some senior clergy individually and corporately are beginning to ‘get it’.
My final observation is a somewhat irreverent one but it needs to be made. Is it a coincidence that this remarkable statement of unanimity and contrition about safeguarding emerges from a diocese that is far away from London? The Diocese of Blackburn may be articulating a somewhat prophetic position precisely because it feels itself geographically and in other ways remote from the centres of Anglican influence represented by Church House and Lambeth Palace respectively. The prospect of an entire diocese studying the articulate comments and criticisms of the Independent Inquiry must be causing considerable discomfort among those who try hard to control the narrative and set the agenda for the Church of England. The forthcoming debates at York General Synod may or may not get to the heart of the issue as the Blackburn Letter seems to have done. Whatever is said at York, the effect of the process of study in the Blackburn diocese will have implications which will reverberate long into the future. It will be increasingly hard to claim that no one understands the issues. The consequences of this serious reflective study on safeguarding and the needs of survivors will be hard to limit only to one circumscribed geographical area represented by the Diocese of Blackburn.
Right at the heart of this blog’s concern and many other places is the desire that the suffering of abuse survivors should be understood, responded to and healed. Up till now the Church has often insisted of responding through damage limitation and avoidance. The Blackburn response is suggesting that these methods are no longer viable. Perhaps the Blackburn Letter is the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Church of England. One day it may be said that that on the 17th June 2019 the Church of England, represented by the Diocese of Blackburn, began to move from denial and avoidance of the issue of abuse victims to a stance resembling healing, humility and new beginnings.
It is perhaps unfortunate for the Church of England and other public bodies that iPlayer was ever invented. It allows the curious and those obsessed by detail to go back and watch small sections of a programme over and over again. The Panorama episode on the Church of England last Monday was a case in point. Certain things within it jarred for me and I needed to check out what had really been said as well as the demeanour of the person uttering the words.
This blog piece has to assume that the reader saw the programme (or at least read my previous blog) as space does not allow me to run through the things said. Three people were especially prominent in the programme, in addition to the valiant survivors who appeared. One was the investigating Lincolnshire Superintendent, Rick Hatton. The other two were Bishop Alan Wilson and Bishop Peter Hancock. All three came over as having individual sincerity and honesty. Each, in different ways, conveyed emotion and this drew the viewer in to feel with them the sentiments of sorrow they were experiencing. The emotional connection between Superintendent Hatton and the viewer in particular was unexpected, but it made for powerful television. The other two individuals mentioned also drew us into their personal emotional world. We felt caught up in the way they had reacted as human beings to the horrors of sexual abuse by clergy.
However, this spell of identification was partly broken in the final few moments of the programme. One of the bishops showed himself to be unable to answer a straightforward question about the statistics of abuse. Suddenly the good rapport that Bishop Hancock had built up with the viewer over the programme was shattered. His evasive response to the interviewer changed the way we related to everything he had previously said in the earlier parts of the interview. Instead of being a man of feelings and integrity, Bishop Hancock suddenly showed himself as someone who was there to perform in front of an audience. He was there not to speak for himself but on behalf of others.
On the Twittersphere this question has been asked by several people. Who was Bishop Hancock representing and who was he speaking for? The evasiveness of the final moments of the programme showed that all his earlier answers were in all likelihood rehearsed and controlled by other unseen people. Unlike all the other people in the programme, the Bishop’s words came to be revealed as the words of a corporate entity. We were, in other words, hearing from, not a live independent human being but rather we were witnessing a stage-managed, damage limiting show. The story of the Wizard of Oz immediately comes to mind.
Whenever an individual has the task of standing up on stage and presenting views for someone else, particularly when they are likely to be challenged at a later date, one can feel sorry for that person. I felt sorry for Bishop Hancock on Panorama just as I had felt for Archbishop Welby when he spouted out nonsense about the Smyth scandal to Channel 4 barely three weeks ago.
Whoever are the hidden forces who pull strings behind the scenes, one feels an atmosphere of desperation in the system when half-truths and palpably false information are fed to the public. In this age of Twitter, Facebook and email, information travels as fast as light. How anyone can expect to hide truth in 2019 is a mystery? The story of spiritual/sexual abuse in the Church is far too big to be buried in a flurry of misleading statistics.
The revelation in 2010 that there were only 13 cases of serious abuse to be examined in the entire C/E was palpably false information but it had the effect of damping down criticism of the institution for a period. Control of information was then power for those in charge of the Church and they used it effectively to delay the day of reckoning that seems now to be very close.
The truth of the full extent of the abuse scandal within the Church of England is, for the moment, hidden from most of us. The IICSA hearings did prise open numerous cans of worms and give us a glimpse of what appear to be outrageous manipulations of information which were used to protect the institution. I am still haunted by what was revealed at the hearing about Chichester when a detective investigating the crimes of Bishop Ball was actively obstructed in the course of his duties by the then Bishop of the Diocese. The IICSA hearings of last year lead us to suspect that next Monday’s reports and conclusions on the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball are likely to be fairly dire.
Somehow the horror of what churchmen (it does seem to be men) will do to try to protect the church from scandal and malfeasance has now limited power to shock. It is a bit like the situation in the States where presidential lies have become so much the norm that no one expresses any shock at a new one. But even the negative conclusions of IICSA towards the Church may be survivable if the Church finally comes to the realisation that it cannot prosper when information in this area is suppressed or manipulated.
The interviewer on Panorama upset Bishop Hancock (and presumably his minders) when she scratched at potentially the greatest scandal of all – the statistics of abuse across the whole Church. What was being discussed was sensitive information about the full extent of abuse in the Church. Not being ready to share that information suggests that Church authorities know that it cannot yet be revealed without a great deal of spin and preparation. The need for the application of extensive communication skills suggests that the news in this area is very bad indeed. Some months ago, it was suggested to me by someone ‘in the know’ that the Church dealing with abuse scandals was a bit like fighting forest fires which keep erupting all over the place.
Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities. The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things. Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews.
The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived. The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves. The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.
The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church. The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain. They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them. In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.
An open letter has been published by Justin Humphreys, chief executive of the charity now known as thirtyone:eight (formerly Churches Child Protection Advisory Service):
An open letter to the leadership of the Church of England following BBC’s Panorama.
…It has been clear for some time that the past cases review conducted between 2007 and 2010 was flawed in a number of respects. For there to be any confusion or uncertainty about what happened to those cases that were identified, often referred to as the ‘Known Cases Lists’ is also inexcusable. The Panorama program did well to uncover what were clearly points of discomfort for the church hierarchy. For key representatives of the Church to either not be able to respond clearly to questions about the number of cases or be unprepared to do so, calls the management of these cases into serious question and makes one wonder who exactly is in control? The need for transparency and true accountability has never been as needed as it is today.
What is needed within the Church of England (and frankly elsewhere across the wider Church and beyond) is authentic leadership. Leadership that is prepared to lead by example in a proactive exercise of self-reflection that leads to open and honest dialogue (particularly with survivors). Leadership that is not governed, coerced or muzzled by either insurers, lawyers or any other stakeholder that may stand to lose from just exposure and open remorse and repentance. This would be the right thing to do!
We may ask, what (or who) is being served by this ongoing catalogue of failures, missed opportunities and resistance to effective change concerning past, present and future safeguarding matters? It certainly cannot be said that survivors are being well-served. It is also of great concern that the Church itself is being further damaged by a continual denial of the truth and avoidance of any tangible reparation.
If the public at large is ever again to say of the Church that it is a safe place, a haven or even a sanctuary for those who are suffering, the Church must be prepared to be laid bare and be held accountable for those things it has failed to do well. This humility would be the greatest strength of the Church in seeking to deal with this sad catalogue of shame. The time has come for those that stand in the way of what Jesus would so clearly have done to be challenged, held accountable and where needed placed elsewhere – where they have less opportunity to exert their negative influence and to stand in the way of the restoration that is desperately needed…
Do read the whole letter.
Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has written a second blog, this one is titled: Panorama on C/E. Further reflections. Again it’s worth reading in full, but the concluding paragraph says:
…Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities. The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things. Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews. The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived. The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could not disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves. The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution. The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church. The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain. They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them. In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.
The Church Times has published a letter from Andrew Graystone which can be found here (scroll down)
Panorama programme won’t be the last scandal
Sir, — Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows. Is it the job of the Archbishops’ Council? or the General Synod? or the National Safeguarding Steering Group? or Lambeth Palace? or the House of Bishops? Or is it, perhaps, a matter for each individual diocese?
Everybody points to someone else. Nobody steps forward. After a decade or more of crisis, which continues to eat away at the Church’s standing in society, there has been a complete failure from those in authority to grasp the issue. One reason that some survivors of church abuse are so painfully vocal is that they are filling a vacuum of leadership on this most crucial of issues for the Church.
Monday’s Panorama, with its focus on the shameful mismanagement of abuse in Lincoln diocese, was entitled Scandal in the Church of England. It could have been made at any point in the past decade, and it could have focused on almost any diocese. Stories will continue to emerge, and the scandal of abuse past and present will continue to undermine the Church’s wider mission, until some individual or body takes responsibility and institutes decisive action.
In the mean time, it is victims of abuse, past and present, who bear the cruelty and pain of the Church’s failure.
http://survivingchurch.org/2019/02/19/elephant-at-general-synod/ (Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’)
“You cannot preach repentance until you have repented” [Booklet “We Asked For Bread But You Gave Us Stones – One Tear (sorry, Year) On” by Andrew Graystone]