By Kirk Petersen

The Archbishop’s Council, a leadership body of the Church of England, announced September 26 that it had voted unanimously to create a fund to provide payments to survivors and victims of church-based sexual abuse.

The announcement did not specify an amount, but said the council “agreed to draw down reserves for an initial support fund.” The council’s most recent annual report indicates that at the end of 2018, the body held £2.6 million ($3.3 million) in unrestricted general reserves. Accounting reserves generally are funds held for emergency purposes.

In a joint statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said: “We are profoundly sorry for our failings, but today our words of sorrow are matched by actions that will believe will lead to real change. We hope that this will provide some hope for the future.”

“The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure,” the announcement said. “Experience with these pilot cases will help inform the setting up of the Church’s full redress scheme for victims and survivors of abuse as that is developed.”

The announcement comes shortly before the scheduled October 6 release of the final report of the investigation of the Anglican Church in England and Wales by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is investigating abuse in other parts of British society as well.

An interim report in May 2019 was strongly critical of the church’s response to decades of abuse reports in the Diocese of Chichester, and to the depredations of the late Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester who was jailed in 2015 for sexual assaults on young men and boys.

The abuse scandals have rocked the Church of England. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has twice been stripped of his priestly rights for improper handling of abuse charges.