The End is Nye?
During a Question and Answer session at the Religious Media Festival on June 12th, Archbishop Justin Welby pronounced, “Until we have a fully independent central safeguarding system – and this is not the official view, but it’s my view – until we have a fully independent safeguarding system in the Church of England we cannot hold our heads up.” Within ten days, the Independent Safeguarding Board, two-thirds of whose membership fought hard to secure its full independence from Church authorities, had been dissolved.
What is one to make of the Archbishop’s remarks in the light of this? It could be the usual tale of Archbishop Welby playing to the crowd. The intriguing part is that he believes a fully independent central safeguarding system might not be in line with the official view of the Church. Where is this official view expressed? Has the General Synod at some point ruled against independence in safeguarding?
Does this remark perhaps reveal something of the thought processes behind closed doors? Earlier this month survivors of abuse published a letter tracing many of the Church’s safeguarding failures to William Nye, Secretary-General of both the Archbishops’ Council and General Synod.
From their conversations with Bishops and senior Church officials, these survivors claim to have a very substantial body of evidence – “credible, concrete and serious instances” of Mr Nye having engaged in the following:
“Consistently acting against safeguarding victims, survivors and complainants if he deems this to be in the better interests of the church, bishops and/or himself (as he sees it), whom he purports to represent.
“Obstructing and preventing Lead Safeguarding Bishops, senior personnel in the NST, and if he can, the ISB, from going about their roles in the manner in which General Synod, the wider church and public might naturally be entitled to expect.
“Wilfully obstructing, delaying, corrupting and interfering with safeguarding investigations, attempts to call the church to account, and audits to change this.
“Creating and perpetuating a culture of fear, deference and total control, such that individual victims seeking emergency support, proper redress, or some genuine independent investigations into their grievances are informed that this can only be achieved through “a word with William as he will be the person who ultimately has to agree to this…”. This is completely and utterly unacceptable.”
The letter from the Survivors called for “the immediate stepping back/suspension of Mr. Nye from each and every sphere of safeguarding within the Church of England.” Mr Nye is also a Churchwarden and the Safeguarding Officer for his parish church, St Cyprian’s, Marylebone.
But Mr Nye’s safeguarding interests go beyond the parochial. The survivors claim that senior church figures have been informed that it is Mr Nye’s decision whether Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft is required to step down in order that safeguarding failings be properly investigated. According to the letter, Mr. Nye currently retains ultimate control on high profile safeguarding cases, which are then “seemingly subject to deliberate and extended delays, along with numerous obstructions, interferences and obfuscation.” Meg Munn, the interim chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board, is described as a subordinate tetrarch, who has not demonstrated “any form of meaningful independence from Mr. Nye”.
The Purple Blob maintains its firm grip. Why such control? Why, Nye, why?
William Nye LVO became secretary-general of the Archbishops’ Council in 2015 after four years as Principal Private Secretary to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (as they then were). Before that he was a Director in the National Security Secretariat at the Cabinet Office. He had also served in HM Treasury and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. His salary is said to be over £170,000 plus bonuses. In 2020 it was reported that the Church’s spending on safeguarding had ballooned from £50,000 to around £20m, without any redress reaching survivors of abuse.
Might this background of service and secrecy inform the alleged shadowy manoeuvres of Mr Nye? Having been involved in National Security there might well be an institutional instinct to be secretive and yet fully informed of every sensitive disclosure. In service to the then-heir to the throne, it would have been second nature for such an official to act unbidden to serve what he considered his master’s best interests. Last week Keith Makin, conducting the review into John Smyth’s abuse, announced that the police matter which had delayed the report has now concluded. The Makin Review is due to be handed to the Archbishops’ Council for subsequent publication.
How much did Justin Welby know about John Smyth’s activities from his days as a dormitory officer on Iwerne camps? Speaking to Channel 4 News in 2019, he said, “I had no idea what John Smyth was doing until 2013.” But in Andrew Graystone’s 2021 book Bleeding for Jesus, he recalls being warned about Smyth in 1983.
In 2017 the Archbishop told LBC radio that he had attended a camp in the mid-seventies but then, “I went off to work in France in 1978… and had no contact with them [Iwerne] at all.” Four months after this interview, he revealed he had in fact attended Iwerne camp in 1979. He also participated in camps in the late eighties and early nineties.
Welby further claimed in the Channel 4 interview that he wrote to the Archbishop of Cape Town to warn him when Smyth was moved to Africa. Lambeth Palace subsequently issued this correction: “Archbishop Justin clearly remembered that he had written a letter, but was wrong in thinking he had written about Smyth.”
When disclosures of Smyth’s abuse reached Lambeth Palace in 2013, the Archbishop left it to the Bishop of Ely to report the matter to the authorities. However in 2018 he told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: “Nobody can say it is not my fault. It is so absurd, To say, ‘I have heard about a problem but it was someone else’s job to report it’, that is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response.”
Considering such confusion and misinformation, whose interests would it serve if all independence were removed from the Church’s safeguarding processes before the publication of the Makin Report? And who might be in a position to ensure that this is so, unseen and unaccountable, that his boss’s interests and reputation might be managed more effectively?
The end is Nye.