There were extraordinary scenes at the Church of England’s general synod in York [today, 9 July 2023] as members fought to give a voice to the two sacked members of its Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB).  

Some protested by slow clapping when one request for them to address the synod was turned down on procedural grounds.

Eventually a way through standing orders was found. The formal synod was adjourned so that “an informal meeting” could take place at which the ISB members, Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera, could speak.

The highly unusual intervention came in an afternoon devoted to the Archbishop’s Council explaining the safeguarding debacle, after the sackings caused outrage at all levels and collapsed the board’s work.

The ISB was set up in January 2022 to move the church towards fully independent safeguarding.  It consisted of a chair, Meg Munn, and two members.

But the two were sacked last month by the Archbishops’ Council, which cited an irretrievable breakdown in its working relationship with them.

Steve Reeves told the meeting that the reason for the breakdown was due to the church’s refusal to receive a view about independent safeguarding which differed from its own blueprint.

”It’s clear to me that when the Archbishops’ Council talks about independence they do not mean independence  in the way that you or I or the average person in the street  means independence”, he said.

“It means semi-detached.  When they talk about trust, they mean obedience; when they talk about communication, they mean loyalty”.

With rising emotion, Jasvinder Sanghera said they had spent months gaining the trust of survivors but the Archbishops’ Council had ripped it away.

 “We were too independent. We did our job too well. When I’m being told we’re too survivor-focused and too survivor-led, I think the church has a problem.”

Earlier synod heard from Jane Chevous, the director and co-founder of the organisation “Survivors Voices”, about how she responded when she heard that the ISB was to be disbanded.   

“I felt my whole world crumbled around me. I had trusted the ISB.  I had hope.  Now that hope had been snatched from me and trampled underfoot.”

Jane Chevous’ comments were followed by a panel presentation and question and answer session from members of the Archbishops’ Council.  

Read it all at the Religion Media Centre