Church of England officials have been subjected to “horrific abuse and bullying”, including death threats, from a small number of survivors of sexual abuse and people with safeguarding concerns, an official church document says.
The claims come from the C of E’s national director of safeguarding, Alexander Kubeyinje, in a paper for the church’s legislative body, the General Synod, which meets next month.
Kubeyinje, who took up his post six months ago, said: “I have been taken aback with the amount of abuse, bullying and harassment that colleagues receive, and threat to life on occasions. This has predominantly been from a small number of survivors, advocates and others who have concerns with regards to safeguarding across the wider church community.
“The NST [national safeguarding team] are at the forefront of this abuse, which has a detrimental impact on them and their families … There is not always a sense of how staff can be protected from such horrific abuse and bullying.”
The result of such behaviour was that “staff will often shut down and not want to engage with the people who are abusing staff, which in turn has a detrimental effect on all involved.”
Kubeyinje acknowledged that the C of E “has not been a safe place for all” and the “perception of safeguarding is still poor in the eyes of many”.
The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children and vulnerable adults, its cover-up and the way the C of E has treated survivors, have been the subject of painful debate and numerous inquiries over the past 10 years.
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse concluded that the C of E had protected its own reputation above its “explicit moral purpose” and had “failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide”.
A separate briefing circulated this week to members of the General Synod by a group of 13 survivors of abuse said: “Whatever you are told at synod, we want you to hear our pain and frustration. The C of E’s treatment of victims and survivors of abuse is chaotic, cruel and dangerous. For many of us, the way we are treated by the system today is worse than our original church-based abuse.”
They added: “We have experienced physical, sexual and spiritual abuse. Our abusers include bishops, deans, clergy and other church employees.”
Phil Johnson of Macsas (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) said Kubeyinje’s paper “shows a total lack of comprehension of the depth and impact of abuse on people. What’s being described are criminal offences, which should obviously be dealt with by the authorities, but it feels like it is tarring [all survivors] with the same brush.”
Kubeyinje was “fairly new and I don’t think he has a broad knowledge of the history of how victims and survivors have been treated”, he added.
Richard Scorer, a solicitor at Slater and Gordon who represents survivors, said: “Nobody should experience abuse in their job. But … the C of E has lost the confidence of survivors.”
Kubeyinje declined to make any further comment on his paper before the synod meeting. But Jonathan Gibbs, the C of E’s lead safeguarding bishop, said the paper was based on Kubeyinje’s “personal experience and observations from his first few months in the role and highlights the unacceptable harassment of staff that he has witnessed ….
“He fully recognises that the experience of trauma often underlies how people may respond and he is absolutely committed to strengthening the church’s ongoing safeguarding work, including through better engagement with victims and survivors.”