Top Jersey politician condemns CofE failure to publish safeguarding inquiry
A top politician in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, has condemned the Church of England and the Bishop of Winchester for the way a safeguarding inquiry in connection with the island's Dean has been handled.
In correspondence seen by Christian Today, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, former Bailiff of Jersey, has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby complaining that the Anglican church on the island is "in limbo" as a result of a failure to publish a report into the incident.
In his strongly-worded letter, Sir Philip describes the situation as "intolerable" and warns that unless the Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin grasps the nettle and publishes the report, "irreparable damage" will be done to relations between the Church of England and the church in Jersey.
The Bailiwick of Jersey is a self-governing democratic Crown dependency with its own financial and judicial systems. The Anglican church was part of the Winchester diocese but was moved to Canterbury by Archbishop Welby as a result of the row over the case.
The Canterbury diocese now has responsibility for finance, ministry, training and safeguarding and the Winchester diocese still has legal responsibility for administrative affairs.
The Dean, the Very Rev Bob Key, was suspended in March 2013 after an allegation was made about the way he handled a complaint of sexual abuse by a churchwarden of a local, vulnerable woman. He was reinstated the following month after an inquiry led by Dame Heather Steel exonerated him, finding no evidence of wrongdoing. She recommended no disciplinary action should be taken against any Jersey Anglican clergy member. However the Steel report has never been published.
Last summer the Church of England admitted the dispute had cost it nearly £200,000.
In his letter to Archbishop Welby, Sir Philip says he is writing as a Jersey senator and as lay chair of the Jersey deanery synod. He warns that the problem is "gravely affecting" the church in Jersey.
Sir Philip continues: "It is a sad fact that no pleasure has been expressed, either publicly or privately (to the best of my knowledge), by the Bishop of Winchester that the clergy in Jersey have been exonerated. Furthermore, no expression of regret has ever been forthcoming for the unjustified humiliation and distress visited upon the Dean and his wife."
He says the clergy in Jersey are entitled to know whether criticisms of safeguarding processes were justified or not.
"It is difficult to believe that such an intolerable state of affairs would be accepted on mainland Britain."
He calls for the Steel report to be published "in the interests of Christian reconciliation" in order to bring "this damaging affair to a speedy and just conclusion."
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said he never commented on private correspondence.
A Winchester diocesan spokesman said: "The Report, commissioned by the Bishop of Winchester, into the handling of a safeguarding complaint made in Jersey in 2009 is currently being reviewed by legal and safeguarding experts. Its publication is the subject of legal action lodged with Winchester County Court. The Bishop requires the Court's consent prior to any distribution of the Report and all parties involved are aware of this fact."