Revd Andrew Yates reports from York.
Day 3 being Sunday saw the members of Synod travelling into York to attend the Sung Eucharist in the Minster. The preacher was the Bishop of Ghana – seen below in his purple biretta with Archbishop Stephen at the end of the service.
Unfortunately the audio system in York minster is very poor and as a result I heard about 5% of the sermon – so let’s hope the new systems shortly to be installed in St Peters and Paul will be supplied by a different company!
The Gospel reading included these words…Come unto me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens… These words were to prove very true for the rest of the day.
The Independent Safeguarding Board of the Church of England has featured much in the media in recent weeks with negative . The ISB was set up 18 months ago in response to the very critical report on the Church of England’s history of safeguarding and the way that so many victims of abuse have suffered and been failed. For some reason the Archbishop’s Council felt it had to sack the members of the ISB and this has led to a great out cry especially from those representing groups of survivors.
This afternoon there was a debate about this worrying situation. On the way into the hall there was an installation called LOUDFence which consisted of a number of quotes from victims of abuse by clergy and church leaders – some were very horrifying to read.
We heard first a moving testimony from a survivor who had been clearly hurt by the ISB decision as she felt that the members of the ISB who were dismissed were the first people who had really listened to her story of abuse. When she heard the news it felt her world crumbled around her. And she knows that there are any other survivors who now feel vulnerable as they have cases that were being reviewed and are now left in the air.
Four members of the Archbishops Council gave a presentation attempting to explain how and why this situation had come about.
- With regard to the past they admitted that they had not done enough thinking when setting the protocols for the ISB.
- With regard to the present they are working hard to contact those survivors who might now feel unsupported
- With regard to the future they are planning to set up an independent review to report back to the Synod in November.
As an indication of the seriousness of the situation the Council have now referred themselves to the Charity Commission
The Archbishop of York said that for hm this had been a watershed moment. He said he now realises that we cannot deliver this ourselves as a church. We now acknowledge that we need help from outside to decide HOW best to do it.
Synod members had the opportunity to make comments and ask questions. Common themes were
- Great sadness over the additional suffering caused to survivors of abuse.
- Power and the way that it is used within some church structures
- Lack of trust
- What exactly is meant by Independence
Sitting in the public gallery were the two members of the ISB Jasvinder Sanghar and Steve Reeves. I and a number of members around me were puzzled that they had not been invited to put their side of the argument. With pressure from Synod members there was eventually a lengthy discussion about what the Standing Orders allowed the General Synod to do in relation to outsiders. And finally it was agreed that they could both make a five minute statement to the Synod.
They believed that their approach was one that had gained the trust of many of the victims. And on this basis they made a proposal to the Archbishops Council on how an independent system could be set up for the future. However this was rejected. This led them to think that far from being independent the Council had in fact already drawn up a blue print. They felt that as an ISB they were sacked because the Council did not like the direction that they were taking the practise of Safeguarding in the Church of England.
Watching and listening to this with other members of Synod was painful for us as it laid bare the high level of mistrust that is present over this issue as well as clear failure of governance by the Archbishop’s Council. Going forward much will depend on the review that we have been promised and a genuine willingness to put into practise what has been learnt.
Church of England governance
Following the car crash of the afternoon and the exposure of hurt and mistrust we were offered some hope when we came to discuss the proposals of the project board that had been set up to look at the governance of the Church of England. These proposals are radical and are aimed at streamlining much of the work that goes on at a national level as well as preventing duplication and bringing more scrutiny which we hope will prevent a repeat of the ISB disaster.
The proposal is to set up a new body the Church of England National Services (CENS), which would, through a transitional process, integrate the current functions of the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners (excluding investments), Church of England Central Services and some of the activities of the Office of the Archbishops.
CENS would be focused on the delivery of the Church’s strategic objectives, a body designed to serve, support, encourage and enable the work and mission of the Church through the provision of funding, services, advice, and guidance. CENS would serve as a point of connection, one that joins together the local and the national.
Synod approved this report and asked for more detailed proposals on setting up CENS Watch this space….
The overwhelming sadness of this day continued with a fringe group I attended after a rushed supper. It was hosted by Christian Aid and I thought this would be a useful preparation for the Big Breakfast planned at Paul on Sunday July 9th.
As we know in the Penlee Cluster, Christian Aid operates with partners around the world This particular session was on Israel Palestine which was very relevant given the recent conflict in Jenin and other areas of what we call the Holy Land. What made the meeting special was that we were able to hear via zoom from Richard an Anglican priest in Jerusalem and from Sally who is a Lutheran minister also in Jerusalem
It was very sad to hear of the situation that Richard and Sally are having to minister in. An increase in the violence and deaths … an increase in the oppression of Palestinians.
In 2022 191 Palestinians were killed .. and in the six months of this year there are already 160 Palestinians who have lost their lives in fighting
There has been an increase in the number of Jewish settleers who have died in conflict – already 20 this year.
The recently elected Israeli Government is showing extreme attitudes. There has been a large increase in the number of Palestinian homes in the Occupied territories that have been bulldozered to make room for more settler communities – 400 destroyed already in 2023.
These attitudes are also giving a green light to those with racist views to act with impunity. Richard spoke of the way that Christian priests and ministers in the old city of Jerusalem are frequently subjected to verbal abuse, being spat at and having physical attacks on the churches.
As a Palestinian Christian Sally spoke of the levels of poverty which are as high as 50 % in Gaza and the refugee camps. And also, the length of time that she has to stand in a queue to get a permit to just go and spend a few hours in the city.
They both agreed that they think it will get worse before it will get better.
I was challenged by two things that Sally said
· I find it so hard to preach about hope now!
· She asked why there could be universal condemnation of Russia and support for Ukraine but a deafness when it came to aggression by the Isaeli Army on Palestinians?
I came away determined to make the Big Breakfast in PAUL on SUNDAY JULY 9TH from 9 am as big a success as we can and to ask our funds to go to the groups that Sally and Richard work with. DO COME AND JOIN US IF YOU CAN !!
To sign up for the big breakfast contact Keno firstname.lastname@example.org