Church of England General Synod debates safeguarding subsequent steps

Church of England General Synod debates safeguarding subsequent steps

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Divisions have surfaced on the General Synod assembly in Westminster over the urgency of bringing ahead laws on impartial safeguarding for the Church of England.

Members debated the way forward for safeguarding at Synod on Saturday, three days after the publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s report which closely criticised the C of E’s system and practices. The former chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse known as for the creation of two impartial charities, one to ship the Church’s operational safeguarding, the opposite to scrutinise it. 

The debate additionally got here after a report in December by main barrister Dr Sarah Wilkinson into the controversial disbanding of the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) in June 2023. She discovered {that a} “advanced matrix of causes” lay behind the termination of the ISB members’ contracts, together with roles that have been “not clearly outlined”. 

Speaking to the Synod by video, Professor Jay advised members: “Safeguarding within the Church immediately falls under the usual anticipated and set in secular organisations, that are required to observe statutory steerage.”

She known as on the Church to “problem faulty beliefs about safeguarding which proceed to be held”.

“For instance, we heard from numerous folks that safeguarding must be rooted in Scripture and that being a practising Christian must be a prerequisite to holding a safeguarding position,” she stated.

The Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, Joanne Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney, circulated a doc, GS 2336, to members earlier than the talk. Paragraph 12 of GS 2336 recommends the creation of “an inner workforce” to “run deep engagement with Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors/ Diocesan Safeguarding Officers and others in dioceses and cathedrals to unpick reactions on completely different parts and develop detailed proposals”. It additionally requires the creation of a “survivor and sufferer focus group” to “hear the views of victims, survivors and their advocates on the proposals”.

Bishop Grenfell moved a movement that “this Synod thank Sarah Wilkinson and Alexis Jay for his or her work and request that the method set out in paragraph 12 of GS 2336 for forming a response to, and contemplating any mandatory implementation of, their suggestions be pursued as a matter of precedence”.

Clive Billenness, a lay member for the Diocese in Europe, proposed an modification to the movement to “instruct impartial legislative counsel to arrange a draft Measure giving impact to Professor Jay’s proposals within the method beneficial by Dr Wilkinson (i.e. utilizing exterior consultants)”; “to publish the draft Measure for open session by 30 April 2024”; and “to convey that draft, along with a report setting out responses to the session, for first consideration at General Synod in July 2024”.

Bishop Grenfell resisted the transfer to push forward with making ready laws. She stated: “The work that must be accomplished now’s deep and huge engagement, not speedy supply. We’ve solely had the (Jay) report for a number of days.”

Mr Billenness’s modification fell in a vote requiring a majority in every of the three Houses of Synod. The House of Bishops voted in opposition to it by 27 to eight; the House of Clergy by 95 to 62; however the House of Laity supported it by 83 to 80.

Amendments apologising to the previous members of ISB handed however the debate descended into bitterness when the Rev Robert Thompson, a clergy member for London Diocese, known as on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishops’ Council Secretary-General, William Nye, to resign.

He stated: “Apology must be embodied and at current nobody is embodying that inside our Church. I’ve on social media known as for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Secretary (sic) to resign and I feel that’s now what is required. Trust is totally damaged.”

The essential movement handed in a vote of the entire Synod by 337 to 21.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist primarily based in Lancashire.



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