The Archbishop of Canterbury has shaped the CofE to his will with a skill of a politician – and made it all the better
Last Saturday in central London, two archbishops joined a small group of people protesting about sexual abuse. Though you might expect – or at least hope – to find archbishops on the side of the angels, what was remarkable was that they were protesting against their own church. The building in question was Church House, in Westminster, where the Church of England’s General Synod was meeting, due later that day to discuss the problem of sexual abuse, with the church facing more than 3,000 historical claims. By standing with the protesters, the Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu were making a loud statement about where their sympathies lay. You had to listen very carefully under the noise to notice that the synod debate was in fact a presentation of a report and there were no survivors speaking in it.
The day before, there had been two other announcements on the subject: the church passed over its papers on the diocese of Chichester, where most of the scandals have come from, to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – 75,000 documents in all. What needles might be concealed in this haystack will be for the commission to discover. More sensationally, it announced that a second allegation against the late, and almost sainted, Bishop George Bell of Chichester had been passed to the police.