Such lack of liaison with legitimately interested parties mirrors the church’s approach to compiling the terms of reference for inquiries into its other failings. If you talk to the campaigners for Bishop George Bell, for example, they report a similar refusal in our leadership to publish, let alone offer for advanced discussion, the terms of reference and timetable for the investigation. Plainly a prolonged discussion of such detail cannot be expected and would lengthen an already tortuous process in such matters. Nevertheless, a confident institution would surely be happy to set out in advance its modus operandi across the board. An unwillingness to listen to the views and experiences of others who might contribute to good process suggests insecurity rather than strength, and in the case of the survivor community it adds to their sense of being seen as a nuisance rather than a resource to be utilised and valued.
The new requirement for reporting Safeguarding matters to the Charity Commission was initially welcomed; and sharing data with the Church Commissioners sounds like an interim step towards external oversight. But the more it was discussed, the more questions arose.
What exactly constitutes a “serious safeguarding concern”? If a Parochial Church Council thinks a matter is serious but the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor disagrees, will it be reported? Who will audit the statistics? How many staff will the Charity Commissioners have working on the data? Will that be sufficient? Given that the Church of England made dreadful errors over the Past Cases Review and that the figure supplied last year to General Synod concerning the number of live cases had to be quickly revised, such questions are not unreasonable.