Bishop Paul spoke at the General Synod of the Church of England today 17/11/14 on the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy debate.
Synod voted to take note of the report: Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy. These are not a legal code but a set of draft guidelines, commended by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, describing what is desirable in the professional conduct of clergy. […]
Bishop Paul’s speech is reproduced below.
PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES GS SPEECH
I want to speak primarily in my role as Co Chair of our joint safeguarding work with the Methodist church.
I am deeply grateful to the working group for the way in which they listened very carefully to the input from our previous National Safeguarding Adviser, Elizabeth Hall, and others, in the production of these guidelines. This means that they are hugely better than the 2003 guidelines in regard to safeguarding matters. I am also very grateful to the working group, and the 2 proctors, for the way that they responded behind the scenes to the continuing concerns around the question of the Confessional and the 1603 Canon. This has led to the inclusion of the note and the GS Misc at the close of the document which in turn means I am fully supportive of Synod taking note of these guidelines.
They are not perfect, indeed they probably never can be. However they are so much better, and not just in relation to safeguarding, that we would be foolish not to take note of them at this stage. There are adjustments that can be made without too much difficulty following this debate through the Working Party considering points made today and meeting with survivors through MACSAS to address some of their continuing concerns.
For example in section 2 there is a failure to address the important question of power relationships; but 12.2 does speak about this. So some judicial cross referencing within the document would strengthen it without needing major re-writing.
There is still a concern about clergy colluding with one another for mutual protection which should be addressed. The duty to report abuse, not only sexual, can also be clarified further with some relatively simple rewording.
I also think that a paragraph on clergy responsibility to help the PCC and church congregation understand that the whole community has a responsibility in ensuring that the church is a safe place for all would be useful; and make it clear to all that the responsibility is not only that of the clergyperson.
In sections 2 and 5 some reflection on the code of practice for general practitioners could be useful both in relation to safeguarding and to both the healing and deliverance ministry.
My final point would be to also check whether or not the guidelines are adequate when clergy are subject to abuse, as does, on occasions, happen. What is the professional conduct of clergy in such circumstances?
One small further point not related to safeguarding would be in 4.6 to say schools and colleges. This would ensure sixth form and further education colleges are not lost from our sights here.
I hope that synod will take note of this excellent piece of work and look forward to some helpful final revisions before I trust the convocations will adopt them in February.