Onward Christian Radio has it on good authority that Peter Hancock, the lead bishop on safeguarding will reveal the full extent of the scandal the Church faces when he answers questions from the ruling general synod later today (Thursday 8 February 2018). Of roughly 3,300 ‘concerns or allegations’ dealt with by the Church in 2016 alone, ‘the vast majority of which related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,’ he will say.
The revelation comes as the CofE’s general synod, or parliament, meets in Westminster for three days that are set to be dominated by questions around abuse.
A presentation around safeguarding on Saturday will outline the issues the Church is facing but Onward Christian Radio, understands that survivors of abuse are furious the presentation is ‘stage-managed’ by bishops and is not a full debate that would allow more probing issues to be raised. Several synod members are planning to push for a full debate rather than simply a presentation, but their calls are likely to be rejected.
Victims of clergy sex abuse will protest outside Church House before the presentation on Saturday and the Archbishop of Canterbury along with other bishops and members of synod are planning to go and join them for two minutes of silent prayer.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will face questioning by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) next month. The Church is facing three weeks of public hearings into how it dealt with allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Chichester and one CofE source told Onward Christian Radio they expected the hearings to be ‘very painful’.
Welby has said the way the Church has abused people, particularly children, leads him to tears and frequently keeps him awake at night. But victims are warning the time for words is over as they demand fuller compensation.
The archbishop is also under significant pressure from supporters of George Bell, the late Bishop of Chichester, who the CofE effectively admitted was a paedophile when it announced it had paid £16,800 in compensation and legal fees to a complainant known as ‘Carol’. However, a review of the decision by Lord Carlile QC found the Church’s process deficient in a number of ways.
His review was published in December and found the Church had ‘rushed to judgment’ and smeared Bell in its attempt to avoid being seen as soft on clerical sex abuse. The inquiry found ‘serious errors were made’ as a result of an ‘oversteer’ that presumed his guilt without fully looking at the evidence.
But Welby appeared to leave open the possibility of Bell’s guilt when he responded to Carlile’s review by saying a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over his head.
Despite coming under immense pressure from Bell’s supporters, who include academics, historians and peers, Welby has refused to withdraw his statement and last week the Church said, ‘fresh information’ has emerged about the case which has been handed to Sussex Police.
The CofE’s general synod meets from today until Saturday in Church House, Westminster.
Pressure is also mounting on the emerging Pentecostal and prophetic churches were sexual abuse and cases of spiritual are abuse are said to be rampant.
The UK authorities are not as relaxed on rules as is the case with many African countries with regards the broadcasting of healing claims. Alex Omokudu’s Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA) church has twice been fined by Ofcom for making claims the church has cured people of cancer and HIV on its television channel.
Believe TV, was slammed by the regulator in 2011 and 2012 for broadcasts featuring Omokudu, claiming: “Doctors do not have the answer-we have got the answer. We have got the answer to healing.”
A ruling stated: “Given the content was soliciting a response from viewrs and individuals experiencing serious illness who may be vulnerable to the healing claims being made… Ofcom found there was a material risk that susceptible members of the audience may be exploited by the material.”
Then there was the shocking case of Bishop Benjamin Egbujor and his wife Rose Nwenwu who were jailed after forcing a teenage girl to undress and pouring ‘anointed oil’ over her during a private prayer session. Benjamin Egbujor was found guilty and was convicted of sexual assault and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. While his wife Rose Nwenwu was found guilty of sexual assault as well as helping and encouraging Egbujor.
Detective Inspector Angela Craggs, of the Met’s Sexual offences and Child abuse command, said: “Egbujor and Nwenwu exploited the trust of their congregation when they targeted and abused these victims. They believed their position with the church would protect them from facing justice, but the court has held them accountable for their actions.”
It is hoped that the current trend of exposing these sex offenders will serve to empower victims of sexual violence to come forward and report to police, and a warning to offenders who think they can use their position to protect them from the law. No amount of anointing is greater than the law.
Onward Christian Radio has been inundated with reports from different parts of the world relating to abuse in church. We are appealing for UK based victims of sexual assault to contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000