Skip to main content

Church Commissioners

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 15 October 2020

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners was asked—

Church Attendance and Participation

What plans the Church of England has to increase the number of regular church attendees during the covid-19 outbreak. (907540)

What progress the Church of England is making on increasing participation in worship, weddings and other ceremonies. (907545)

The “A Church Near You” website advertises 17,000 regular Church of England virtual services and events, and those are only a portion of all that is on offer. Weddings and funerals are also often livestreamed, as my own daughter’s was in the summer, and my hon. Friends will be pleased to know that Carlisle cathedral streamed ordinations earlier this month and that St Martin’s, Liskeard will have a drive-in carol service in Morrisons car park on 20 December, which will also be livestreamed.

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging answer. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it has been at first impossible and latterly difficult to enable church congregations to meet physically as they used to. However, churches up and down the land have done amazingly by offering virtual services, prayer sessions and courses such as Alpha courses, meaning that many additional people who had never been to church before are now involved in a church. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking churches of all denominations who have done so much during the pandemic to serve their local communities, ranging from worship opportunities to physical care, food distribution and pastoral support?

I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for what he said. Of course, I am delighted to do so. I am sure, in fact, that the whole House would like to thank clergy, staff and volunteers who have risen to the challenge of maintaining worship and meeting need in a magnificent manner. They have been astonishingly present throughout the pandemic.

Government guidance talks of including participation in livestreaming of services, as my hon. Friend mentioned with his daughter’s wedding. What technical help is being given to assist churches to allow them to include more participation?

I can tell my hon. Friend that the Church made a significant investment in a new digital communications team back in 2016. The training has been used by over 4,000 clergy. Over 7 million people have used our daily prayer apps. Nearly 3 million people have watched national online services, with about a fifth of those being people who rarely go to church or do not go at all. The good news is that the Church is reaching more people than ever before.

Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals: Attendance Restrictions

What recent discussions the Commissioners have had with Government Ministers on covid-19 attendance restrictions for baptisms, weddings and funerals. (907541)

The Government have kept in constant touch with the Church of England, all denominations and all faiths throughout the pandemic. Dioceses, parishes and cathedrals are quickly notified of any changes to law or guidance.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but how can we ensure that we do not put any further restrictions on baptisms, weddings and funerals? Does my hon. Friend agree that those ceremonies must be supported and that we cannot have another six months of cancellations?

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. I am very pleased that baptisms, weddings and funerals can continue in some form in all three covid alert tiers. I am pleased that the Government recognise the huge significance of those services in people’s lives.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

What plans the Church of England has to implement the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse investigation report on the Anglican Church, published in October 2020. (907542)

As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, the findings of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse are “shameful and disgraceful” and remind us how badly we have treated and continue to treat victims and survivors. All the recommendations are going to the House of Bishops on Monday for urgent response and action.

Any Church should be a haven for children and young people to be able to grow in Christ but to do so in safety. The report found that 390 clergy and leaders in the Church of England were convicted of child abuse between the 1940s and 2018, but many more will have evaded punishment for their crimes. In fact, in 2018 alone, we heard that 449 concerns were raised about child sexual abuse relating to church leaders, so does the Commissioner agree that historical complaints against living alleged perpetrators must be investigated and justice brought for their victims? Can he outline what action the Church is taking to ensure that those found guilty of offences are removed as a threat to children?

I can indeed. The House of Bishops is urgently and very seriously considering the recommendations, including deposition from holy orders. We will address both practice and culture within the Church and are working on a redress scheme for victims and survivors, and we fully co-operate with all police investigations.