Lincoln Diocese says its focus is on abuse victims and survivors after bishop's suspension

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

The Diocese of Lincoln has said it is committed to safeguarding following the suspension of Bishop Christopher Lowson by the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The Bishop of Lincoln's suspension on Thursday came as a shock to many in the Church of England. 

Explaining his decision, Archbishop Justin Welby said the bishop had been suspended following information received by the police, who are currently investigating the diocese over its handling of sexual abuse.

"If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people," the Archbishop said. 

"I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult."

Following the announcement, the Diocese of Lincoln said in a letter to clergy and staff that it could not comment further on the details but that it was committed to meeting its safeguarding responsibilities.

"We realise that this announcement will come as a shock to you. We also realise that it follows earlier announcements to do with safeguarding issues in the diocese," the letter read.

"We wish to assure you of our confidence in our safeguarding team and of the commitment by us all to making the Diocese of Lincoln as safe as it can possibly be for everyone. You will understand that we are unable to make any further comment at this stage.

"Our focus, therefore, is on victims and survivors, and on you, the people of the diocese and Greater Lincolnshire and our colleagues in ministry.

The letter was signed by the Bishop of Grimsby, Dr David Court, who has been appointed as acting diocesan bishop following Bishop Lowson's suspension, and the Bishop of Grantham, Dr Nicholas Chamberlain. 

Bishop Lowson, who has served as Bishop of Lincoln since 2011, responded to his suspension by saying he was "bewildered" but would fully cooperate with any investigation.

"For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion," he said.

READ MORE: Church of England offers 'unreserved apology' after harrowing Panorama investigation into child sexual abuse

A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said it was aware of the Archbishop of Canterbury's decision to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln but that it would not be appropriate to comment further on it. 

In a statement responding to the decision, the spokesman said, however, that police investigations were now looking into the safeguarding decisions of senior figures within the diocese.

"The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted," the spokesman said. 

"Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.

"We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.

"There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor-focused and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team." 

Anyone wishing to raise safeguarding matters in the Diocese of Lincoln is advised by police to contact diocesan safeguarding adviser, Debbie Johnson on 01522 504081.