Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) Report on the Anglican Church
This Report was published on October 6th, and I know many of you will have read it, if not, I urge all of you to do so. It can be found HERE. Reading it is painful, but nothing to the pain suffered by those who are victims and survivors of abuse perpetrated by clergy and lay church officials which has been ignored, covered up, and not addressed. I welcome the Report and the mirror it holds up to the Church of England.
On Monday the House of Bishops met and unanimously endorsed a motion fully accepting the IICSA report, unreservedly apologising to victims and survivors for the harm done by the Church and committing itself to urgently implementing the recommendations. The House specifically engaged with the two most significant themes from the Report; proper redress for victims and survivors and establishing a new structure for safeguarding decision making that is independent of bishops and church bodies including the Archbishops’ Council. The House endorsed rapid action on redress, to build on the interim arrangements recently set up by the Archbishops’ Council. It also unanimously agreed with the proposal that the Church should move towards an independent safeguarding structure, with a new trustee body responsible for safeguarding to take over responsibility from the Archbishops’ Council.
The Report states, “The culture of the Church of England facilitated it becoming a place where abusers could hide” and that culture change “will need continuous reinforcement of the abhorrent nature of child sexual abuse and the importance of safeguarding in all of the Church’s settings”. That there continue to be significant numbers of cases of abuse, and of church leaders perpetrating abuse or failing to respond to victims and survivors properly, means we have a very long way to go to become the safe church our Gospel demands. This is about changing ingrained culture and attitudes, and the Report engages with these issues thoroughly. I am determined that we root these attitudes out of this Diocese and ensure that no parish or benefice and no individual fails to comply with the requirements of training and safeguarding practice.
I am completely committed to ensuring we properly respond to and care for victims and survivors. For too long their voices have been marginalised or ignored. The steps we are taking are designed to ensure this never happens again and that the needs of victims and survivors are central to all our processes.
We have been taking steps in the Diocese to respond vigorously to the recommendations, under the leadership of the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Karen Galloway, and our Safeguarding Panel, chaired by former Chief Constable Simon Ash.
The IICSA Report also addressed the Church in Wales and there were eight main recommendations. The first two are addressed to the Church of England, that the post of diocesan safeguarding adviser be strengthened and its independence be ensured, and be called “diocesan safeguarding officer”, and that the Clergy Discipline Measure should be amended in relation to safeguarding complaints. I would heartily support the first, and the second is underway. There are two recommendations to the Church in Wales, about the structure and policies of safeguarding and about record keeping. The last four are addressed to both Churches, that there be a formal information-sharing protocol between the two Churches, that there be information sharing protocols between Churches and statutory bodies, that there be funding and support for victims and survivors, and that there be, or continue to be, independent auditing of safeguarding practice. There are further points raised under a consideration of the seal of the confessional and the recruitment, training and continuing professional development of clergy, and cathedrals, amongst other areas.
I strongly urge you to read and consider the whole of this Report, and most especially I ask your prayers for all victims and survivors of abuse as the Church works quickly to produce just practices of support and redress and a thoroughgoing change in culture.
With every blessing,