Bishop of Lincoln reinstated after 20-month safeguarding investigation

The Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson(Photo: Chris McAndrew)

The Bishop of Lincoln is to return to duties after accepting a penalty for misconduct in relation to his handling of a safeguarding issue. 

The Rt Rev Christopher Lowson was suspended in May 2019 after being accused of failing to act on abuse allegations. There was never any suggestion that the bishop himself had committed abuse. 

After a 20-month long investigation and meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, he has been reinstated and can return to ministry. 

"I offer an unreserved apology for my error of judgement in the way I handled a disclosure about a member of clergy in the Lincoln diocese in early 2019," he said.

"I regret the way I handled the matter, not least because I have always sought to take safeguarding matters extremely seriously." 

He said it had been a "very challenging period for all" and that he was looking forward to returning to service in the diocese. 

But he added that the length of the disciplinary process had been difficult.  

"Throughout the disciplinary process I have sought to cooperate fully, conscious of the importance of ensuring a thorough investigation for all involved," he said.

"However, the length of the process has not benefited anyone.

"I hope that some constructive reflection on this experience might help to improve the Church's safeguarding and disciplinary procedures."

Archbishop Welby has welcomed the bishop's return to ministry but also apologised for the long disciplinary process.

"I am very sorry that Bishop Christopher and his wife Susan have had to endure such an ordeal over the last 20 months," he said.

"I have expressed my regret to Christopher and am very grateful to him for the gracious way he has responded.

"I want to make it clear that I am fully supportive of Christopher returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.

"We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season, as we also continue to learn lessons from the scrutiny of IICSA which highlighted our poor response to survivors."

The National Safeguarding Team added its own apology in a statement. 

"Following the conclusion of the clergy discipline process the NST will now, according to House of Bishops guidance, consider how best to identify and learn lessons from this case," it said.

"While we are aware the process has taken far too long and apologise for the effect this has had on all involved, when safeguarding matters are raised with the Church it is absolutely right that we respond. The concerns raised about Bishop Christopher have now been fully dealt with but we are continuing to look at separate issues raised during the course of this process, which to be clear do not relate to Bishop Christopher and predate his time in the diocese.

"This has been a difficult period for all in the diocese and support is being offered as we continue to work towards making the Church a safer place for all."