This is a copy of a newsletter written by Martin Sewell which helps a reader to understand at depth the issues on safeguarding that are coming before General Synod this week. Previous newsletters have been shared with synod members. ED.

You will not gather it from the General Synod agenda but a lot is happening. Let me update you in brief starting with the Q&As. Two merit your special attention.

In question 201 there is an oblique reference to the case of a Bishop who has told a lie in a safeguarding context to the continuing detriment of a Survivor. Full details (including a written admission) are known to both Archbishops, members of Archbishops’ Council, many in the House of Bishops, all Safeguarding Leads and the NST. All has been clearly known and understood for over 18 months yet there is still no process to address this matter. Cover-up or corporate dysfunctionality? – You decide.

The question is limited to the passing of a key document; there has been an attempt to outplace responsibility to a Reviewer who has refused that responsibility. I stress the need for compassion towards those embroiled in Safeguarding complexities and controversies, nevertheless there are equally important issues of integrity of process, institutional probity, moral cowardice and a failure of Governance.

When you read the answer to the Question, you might like to ask your Diocesan Bishop if s/he is aware of the details and what they are doing to instigate a proper response or investigation. I very specifically do not name anyone.

A second question allows us to kill two birds with one stone. The Christ Church Review was supposed to have been set up with proper consultation with all parties.  Archbishop Stephen said this on the record – twice – at the July York Synod. What does consultation amount to in the CofE?  Prof. Percy was told what others had already decided, less than 48 hours before the Fait Accompli was announced. That’s it: CofE ’consultation’.

Those who are to devise the Review questions and set the all-important terms of reference include Sir Roger Singleton – the acting head of the NST during the early period of the complaints scope; he reported directly to William Nye, and worked with the Lawyers of Church House – all of whom are the explicit subject of the complaint. Apparently, in the eyes of the Church and its Secretariat, no reasonable person could have a reasonable perception of bias arising out of those associations! 

Good clean transparent process and accountability? You decide

Martyn Percy will not co-operate with a process he regards as tainted from the outset. No intelligent person would. On Friday he withdrew his co-operation from the review, not out of petulance, but to uphold a key principle. Consultation (NB NOT veto) means consultation – not meekly taking instructions.

For those of you who do not know Prof. Percy, he is not only a former high-ranking priest in the Church of England – which gave him close insight into the way the Church and its Secretariat operates; he has also sat on six public Regulatory Boards which gives him very significant knowledge of how a regulatory framework ought to operate in a proper and transparent manner. Those boards included the Advertising Standard Authority, the British Board of Film Censors and the protection of laboratory animals in scientific research. Might he be well-qualified to flag up Church House inadequacies and malpractice? You decide.

I do not espouse his case, because it is any more important than others but as his survivor-victim colleagues know and value, he knows every trick in the book and how to counter it. Nobody should co-operate with a crooked process – and our victims and complainants are doing just that.

Every Review set up by the Church since July- bar one- is now being boycotted by those who campaigned for them. Why? – because nobody trusts them

 I can now confirm that none of the 12 victims whose Reviews were left high and dry by the sacking of the ISB have accepted working with the new Review Commissioner, Kevin Crompton for the same reasons as Professor Percy. They want the reviews they fought for, for years – but not at any price. The survivors also report further data breaches. None ever happened on the watch of Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves.

Another person reports making contact with Mr Crompton, but after hearing what was on offer, under the Review scheme most of you passed with 10 minutes of debate in July, that person found it such thin gruel as to be not worth bothering with. You may understand why there is virtually unanimous rejection by the survivor-victims community of the Church of England’ platitudinous hypocrisy of saying that they “are putting victims first and at the centre of our concerns…” – yet not even consulting with them.

The behaviour of the Church replicates that of their abusers who told them Who will listen to you… you are not important… I can do with you whatever I please”.

Barrister Edward Morgan KC was appointed by Church House without consultation to investigate a separate Percy complaint against William Nye. That too has run aground on the issue of transparency and conflict of interest policy. Prof Percy has just formally withdrawn his complaint until a comprehensive, clean and transparent process is established for all who have complaints against the Secretary General.

At the York Synod, Jamie Harrison told Synod that he would confirm that written Conflict of Interest policies were operating across the National Church Institutions (NCI’s). Jamie Harrison stated that he knew of several operating in NCIs; perhaps understandably he said that he had none on him as he answered the supplementary question.  Disclosure of what he did have in mind does not appear as a clarification in the Report of the York Synod. Extensive and repeated requests to Archbishops’ Council and NCI’s have not resulted in clear and satisfactory answers.

According to Prof Percy, there is still uncertainty as to whether we have registers of interests and comprehensive conflict of interest policies that relate to the Secretary General. That was the major a sticking point on both the Morgan Review, and the Christ Church Reviews, leading to what is effectively a collapse of functionality. Do we want to pay for reviews that are imperfectly established and will not address all the issues? You decide.

Prof.Percy had also urged that his complaints process against William Nye be widened to enable other victims, survivors, stakeholders and whistleblowers to be considered within the same process, not least in case common themes should emerge. He was informed that he would, alone, be required to collate such evidence and bring them within the terms of reference (drawn up by Church House). Just imagine, for a moment, any victim of abuse (e.g., involving a known perpetrator such as Jimmy Savile) being told by the BBC or the Police that as the complainant, they must co-ordinate the evidence of all the victims.

There are several known complaints against the Secretary General from survivor victims none of whose grievances appear to quite to fit within the parameters of those NCI complaint policies which have been ascertained.

Chief amongst these complainants is that of Gilo. His complaint is that the Secretary General permitted a prior complaint against him to be dismissed, upon the basis that he was not present at a significant meeting which was the subject of serious and controversial inquiry at IICSA. However, it is now confirmed that he was present, via a Subject Access Request answered by other parties present at the meeting. Gilo’s solicitor – the IICSA survivor advocate Richard Scorer – has written comprehensively seeking answers to questions five times without response. The original complaint letter can be read here

We learn from Synod Questions that an outside auditor is to be appointed. Was Gilo or Richard Scorer consulted on this, were they notified before the matter appeared in an answer to Synod Questions?

Take a guess…

I read the news and called. Does this look like the Church has changed its ways? You decide.

The only completed Review by the ISB was the Spindler Report. It was given to the Church in late March with specific recommendations. It was delivered before the formal publication date because the Reviewer deemed action urgent. It was not dealt with until late September when the Archbishops’ Council decided to do nothing for the victim who remains desperate and in despair. The NST Director had been tasked with finding a solution to the need and I understand examined and advised on the nine different solutions put forward. All of these were rejected by the Archbishops’ Council. So no long-term solution has been offered, although 2025 when the (proposed) Redress Scheme kicks in has been mentioned as a possibility. A satisfactory response to the Review? You decide.

On Friday I discovered that Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves have been obliged to decline engagement with the ISB Review which is being conducted by barrister Sarah Wilkinson. The key issue is depressingly familiar.

Church House drew the terms of reference which restrict and do not fully address the concerns expressed beyond the interests of Archbishops Council and the Secretariat. The break point was simple. If Sarah Wilkinson was publicly authorised to address additional relevant issues that she deemed necessary to give a complete picture of why the ISB project failed, its former members were happy to engage. Only those instructing her could free Ms Wilkinson in this way. No such liberation was forthcoming, so reluctantly the ISB members decided that the only position of integrity was to decline to co-operate.

They join a long list of refuseniks – those no longer willing to play the game of pretending that the Church is fit to direct its own inquiries. Who is in the right, Church House or victims the of the CofE? You decide

After the Hillsborough disaster Bishop James Jones (then of Liverpool) successfully championed families whose questions had to be answered. In the Countess of Chester/Lucy Letby case Bishop Sarah Mulally championed transparency and accountability – in the Church of England we continue to abuse our victims and complainants. Is the CofE utterly hypocritical? You decide.

Fundamental Problems…but perhaps Some Good News?

At present, the Christ Church Review, the Wilkinson-led Review into the collapse of the ISB, the complaints process against Mr. Nye, have all had their Terms of Reference specified by the Legal Affairs Office of Church House Westminster. The Ineqe investigation into safeguarding at Christ Church Oxford had their Terms of Reference set by Winckworth Sherwood, who are a primary subject for investigation in the “weaponisation of safeguarding against Dr. Percy”.  Darren Oliver, a partner of this law firm, and also Registrar for the southern province, lobbied to remove such phrasing – without consultation – from my question on the floor of Synod in July.

Is there a theme developing here? You decide.

As readers will understand, if the very people briefing the Reviewer are potentially subjects for any Review into failure or misconduct, and are at the same time working for the bodies that need investigation (i.e., the Archbishops’ Council, the Secretary General, etc.), then there is the potential for a very serious inherent conflict of interest which would undermine trust and confidence in the outcome.

The only Review continuing with full confidence and co-operation is that of Prof Jay who has first-hand experience of the Church its servants and agents. She declared at the outset that if there were any attempt to prevent her reporting comprehensively she would resign.  A wise precaution given the above? You decide.

 All who have engaged with the Jay Review report a uniformly good impression of the competence, professionalism and kindness toward them in addition to a grasp of the issues partly born out of Professor Jay’s experience at IICSA.

Immediately after meeting with the Jay Review, I briefly attended the Clergy Conduct Measure Revision committee and gave them a heads-up on this model of Safeguarding. Having read the new draft new Measure it is clear to me that it has – not unreasonably – been drawn in the context of a ‘business as usual’ model.

This cannot and must not be considered and voted upon, until the Jay proposals have been received and debated fully at Synod, ideally with Prof Jay present, invited to address Synod to explain, and to answer questions.

Those proposals should result in major structural change. Such a radical outcome may result in some challenge and challenge to the bishops and their claims on power and authority. If anyone wants to keep bishops in charge of safeguarding after everything the Jay Report determines, they will be welcome to address the substantial body of evidence suggesting otherwise.  This includes the episcopal lack of competence in this field, and serious questions of integrity.  

The Jay Report should be with us in January. There is no excuse for it not being on the agenda in February 2024, though control or prevention of any debate is likely to be attempted. We must resist that at all costs. The credibility of Synod itself is at stake.

As will be apparent there is a lot happening. But there is at the same time a significant lack of joined-up thinking except on the part of those for whom this patchwork approach to policy, practice and communication provides the proverbial smoke and mirrors needed to sustain” business as usual”.

I once had a rather naughty antique dealer friend (think Lovejoy), who used to defend his wheeler-dealing trading by saying: Truth is a precious commodity – we must use it sparingly”.  When I read and listen to many of the Replies to our Questions at Synod, I often wonder why those answering us have so much to say yet are so evasive and sparing with the truth. At a time when trust and confidence in the leadership has never been lower, truth and delivery on promises looks so problematic.

As I set out the latest situation I have said, “You decide” but of course you cannot because they have not told you any of this or put it on the agenda for debate.

If some time could be allocated we could go some way to restoring the integrity and credibility of those seated on the podium at Synod. It is getting harder and hard to support an institution that is unable to offer transparency, truth and accountability. Synod members – we need these restored to us all. Is there something in all this to be concerned about or I am making a lot of fuss about nothing?….. you decide.