Survivors-campaigners of Church-context abuse welcome Julie's appointment

Survivors-campaigners of Church-context abuse welcome Julie's appointment

First published on: 28th May 2021

 Archdeacon Julie Conalty's appointment as the new Bishop of Birkenhead has been welcomed by victim and survivor campaigners of Church-context abuse, as “one of very few senior figures who recognises that corruption in the Church needs to be faced.”

Responding to the announcement of her appointment this week (Thursday 27 May), Archdeacon Julie has spoken of the strong sense of calling she has for the role because of its emphasis on victims and survivors:

“What Chester has asked for is bishops who keep survivors central to their safeguarding work, the lost central to their mission work, and Christ central to all that they are.”

In a move one campaigner-survivor sees as indicative of Julie’s commitment to ensuring the voice of victims and survivors is heard, is that he was invited by Julie to be one of her referees for the Birkenhead post. 

Gilo, who is co-editor of Letters to a Broken Church, and who has previously helped Archdeacon Julie write a set of prayers for survivors of church-context abuse, says:
 
"I am not a church insider, so I approached the reference in terms of my experience of Julie's honest engagement and compassion towards survivors.
 
“If the Church were seeking someone who would conform to the status quo, not speak out of turn or rock boats but deliver sound-bites – then I knew they would not be ready to embrace the witness to truth and justice that Julie brings.
 
“I think many of us are confident that Julie will help accelerate change in the Church. She takes the need for culture and structure change and the need for justice and rebuilding of lives very seriously.”
 
Referring to a speech she gave at a meeting of General Synod in 2020, Gilo says:
 
“Anyone who heard her courageous speech will remember the electrifying moment she called out the Church's insurer and lawyer for their unethical strategy and behaviour. 
 
“She tells it as it is because she instinctively knows that the tenacity of the Church has to match the tenacity of survivors. And she is one of very few senior figures who recognises that corruption in the Church needs to be faced.”
 
Phil Johnson, Chair of the support organisation, Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) has also lent his support:
 
"We are delighted at the appointment of Julie as the new Bishop of Birkenhead. She has been a powerful advocate for survivors of abuse, speaking out on our behalf at General Synod and in the media.
 
“She has also supported many survivors both directly and through her work on the support scheme, we have every confidence that she will continue to do so."
 
Jo Kind, MACSAS Committee member and their representative in Wales says:
 
"I am absolutely delighted for Julie that she has been made Bishop of Birkenhead. Those who live in that part of the Diocese of Chester are in for a treat. 
 
“Julie has incredible honesty, insight and integrity which shows itself in the way she listens to people, is willing to call out injustice and to challenge, or equally to give praise where it is due.  She is a key part of the ‘culture change’ in the Church of England which is talked of so often. I wish her so well in her new role."
 
Martin Sewell, a member of General Synod in the Diocese of Rochester, and an advocate for victims and survivors of Church-context abuse says:
 
“Archdeacon Julie has been an important agent of change within the Safeguarding culture of the Church both nationally and locally, enabling the broken to begin to believe that the Church can be trusted again.
 
“She has developed a team culture centred on integrity, victim welfare, and fair process for all. That will be what she takes to Birkenhead and leaves behind her in Rochester.”
 
Julie’s appointment is one of two suffragan bishop posts announced this week in the Diocese of Chester, and completes their new episcopal team after Bishop Mark Tanner’s appointment as the diocesan Bishop of Chester in May 2020. 
 
On welcoming Julie to the Diocese of Chester, Bishop Mark said:
 
“Julie comes with significant experience as an Archdeacon and ordained minister but also brings with her many years of professional expertise in safeguarding. Her passion for justice and truth, and her joyful faith will be an asset and a blessing to us."