Archbishop Justin Welby responded to Bishop Thomas’ offer to resign and gave permission for public consideration.
‘I am very grateful to you for writing so fully and openly to me about your knowledge of the events around Jonathan Fletcher. It is a shocking and tragic matter and as you rightly identify it is very important for us to listen carefully to all who have been abused and all who feel their trust has been ruined and are concerned about how they move forward. I am very glad to learn of the steps you have taken and are continuing to take. It is a gospel imperative that we care for all and value all and so ensuring we are a safe church for all is a key part of our calling. I am very pleased that you are writing to the clergy and do pass on my own concerns about these matters. I want also to thank you Rod for the leadership you are showing in this regard and pray for you in all that you are undertaking.’
Bishop Thomas also shed some light as to why that he was unable to episcopally assert himself after the story came to light. Safeguarding and GDPR rules limited the bishop’s abilities.
“Separately, I intend to pursue those recommendations in the report that relate to the sharing of information when a clergyperson’s permission to officiate (PTO) is withdrawn. This has been the cause of much misunderstanding. The GDPR requirements of confidentiality that apply in these cases mean that third parties seldom hear of the reasons for such a withdrawal – if they hear at all. This situation does not encourage proper adherence to PTO requirements. In my own case, I had pastoral responsibilities at Emmanuel but no safeguarding oversight; this meant that to a substantial extent, I was treated as a ‘third party’.”
Thomas will also be meeting with the Interim Director of the National Safeguarding Team and staff of Thirtyone:8 to further discuss how to better handle such problems.