While the Church of England is holding its semi-annual General Synod at the University of York, the Church’s past conduct is being scrutinized at a hearing in London, 200 miles to the south.

For the past five years, a government-funded panel has been investigating the failure of many institutions, including the Church of England, to safeguard children from child sexual abuse. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) has been streaming live testimony via its YouTube channel.

At the opening of General Synod on July 5, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stated that while the Church has taken steps to address the scandal, there is a lot more to be done, according to The Telegraph. He said that “every time the Archbishop of York or I see another case where there’s a falling short of our response, it is a knife in our soul.”

General Synod concludes on Tuesday, July 9, and Welby is scheduled to testify in an IICSA hearing on July 11.

“There is no doubt that our response to survivors in the past has been inadequate,” said the Rt. Rev. Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding children. He described for Synod a number of changes the Church has made, including hiring a children’s services executive to the new position of Director of Safeguarding.

He urged all members of the Synod to read two reports that have been issued from IICSA: “The Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball,” and the broader “Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions.”

“The protection of the reputation of the religious institution and individual perpetrators at all costs meant victims and survivors said they were often disbelieved, discredited and not supported after disclosing their experiences of sexual abuse both as children and as adults,” the latter report states.

“These reports are difficult to read and the accounts within them are harrowing,” Hancock said. “We absolutely must have these conversations.”

Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester convicted of sexual assaults against boys and young men, died in June at the age of 87 after serving 16 months in prison.

The IICSA inquiry, begun in 2015, is expected to continue into 2020. The BBC has reported that the cost of the inquiry thus far has exceeded £100 million, or about $125 million.

Kirk Petersen

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