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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report


A.2: The Church of England


5. The Church of England, part of the Anglican Communion, is the established church within England (with the Queen as its Supreme Governor). It is the largest Christian denomination in England, with around one million people attending Church of England services on any Sunday.[1] The Church is a significant provider of voluntary services for children, including nursery groups, holiday clubs, youth clubs and religious activities designed particularly for children and young people. It estimates that over 100,000 children participate in activities connected to the Church, with more than 80,000 volunteers and around 2,700 church staff providing support and activities for children and young people.[2] It is also the biggest religious sponsor of state education in England, with one in four primary-aged children and one in 16 secondary-aged children attending an Anglican school.[3]

6. The Church has 42 dioceses in England, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well as the Diocese in Europe (which covers continental Europe, Morocco and some states in central Asia and the Caucasus). Each diocese has a cathedral (which is governed separately by a dean and canons) alongside other churches, some of which – such as minsters or abbeys – may have a prominent role on a regional or national level. More than 9.4 million people visited a Church of England cathedral in 2015 (the last date for which figures are available), and 37,000 people regularly participated in cathedral services.[4]

7. There are around 12,500 Church of England parishes with some 16,000 churches.[5] In 2019, there were almost 20,000 priests in ordained ministry, including more than 7,000 ministers with permission to officiate (often retired clergy) and over 1,000 chaplains (employed by bodies such as the Army, hospitals or schools).[6] From November 2018 to the end of 2019, there were 574 people who were newly ordained and 552 ordinands entered training in 2019/20.[7]

Table 1: Church of England statistics

42 dioceses/cathedrals
6,853 benefices (parishes or groups of parishes to which clergy will be attached)
12,366 parishes
15,529 churches
7,253 stipendiary clergy
3,320 non-stipendiary clergy

Source: Church of England Statistics for Mission 2018 (

8. The Church of England is not a centralised institution. As Bishop Peter Hancock (then Lead Bishop on Safeguarding) said, the Church is not a single institution but a “family of essentially autonomous office holders and charitable bodies, including both ancient ecclesiastical corporations and modern statutory corporations”.[8] It is divided into the two provinces of Canterbury and York, each with its own archbishop.[9] The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and the chief religious figure of the Church of England, who is also recognised as the first amongst equals of all bishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Map of England showing regions delineated as Dioceses in the Province of York and in the Province of Canterbury

Map of Church of England dioceses

Source: Church of England (based on‐our‐regional‐presence)

9. Each of the 42 dioceses is overseen by a bishop. While archbishops are involved in the selection of diocesan bishops within their respective provinces, they have no legal powers to control or direct the actions of diocesan bishops other than through an Archepiscopal Visitation.[10] Within his or her diocese, a bishop has considerable power and influence. He or she is the chief pastor of both clergy and lay people, and is responsible for recruiting those who wish to become clergy (known as ordinands), ordaining clergy, performing confirmations, appointing clergy to vacant ‘benefices’ (the offices of vicars or rectors), providing licences to all clergy in the diocesan area and investigating the first stages of complaints against clergy.[11]

10. In 2018, the last date for which statistics are available, all 42 dioceses had a diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA).[12] He or she advises the diocesan bishop and senior staff about safeguarding issues, and is responsible for training, advisory work for parishes, organising risk assessments and liaising with statutory agencies (including reporting allegations of abuse) as required. Safeguarding strategies and plans were in place in 41 dioceses[13] and all 42 diocesan synods had adopted the House of Bishops’ safeguarding guidance and policies and had a system for responding to safeguarding concerns in line with the statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018).[14]

11. The National Safeguarding Team provides and devises standardised training and issues guidance for all dioceses, to which all individuals in the Church must have due regard”. In 2017, data collated from the dioceses indicated that 73 percent of all licensed clergy had up-to-date safeguarding training (an increase from 62 percent in 2015) and 61 percent of clergy with permission to officiate had up-to-date safeguarding training.[15]

12. As at June 2018, all dioceses reported that they had complied with the Church of England’s Practice Guidance: Safer Recruitment (2016), including using application forms, taking up references, carrying out a criminal record (Disclosure and Barring Service or DBS) check and using confidential declarations.[16] In 2018, the Church made 49,856 requests of the Disclosure and Barring Service.[17] Thirty-two dioceses had electronic systems to track DBS checks were in place and four dioceses were able to confirm in 2018 that all DBS checks were up to date for all clergy, including those who have permission to officiate.[18] In 2018, the Church referred 15 church officers and dioceses referred 33 church officers to the DBS for investigation as to whether or not they should be placed on the register for those unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults.[19]

Sexual abuse within the Church of England

13. It is not possible to accurately identify the scale of sexual offending within the Church of England. The Church provided the Inquiry with a list of 390 individuals (either clergy or those in positions of trust) who have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences since the 1940s. There have also been 330 civil claims against the Church of England for child sexual abuse. The majority of these relate to offending carried out before 1990 and some of these are multiple claims against one individual.

Safeguarding concerns reported to the diocesan safeguarding adviser

14. From 2015 to 2018 (the latest date at which accurate figures were provided), there was an increase in the safeguarding concerns or allegations (including sexual and other forms of abuse) reported to the diocesan safeguarding team about anyone who may be involved with the Church.[20] These involved clergy, office holders, members of the congregation or those otherwise involved in the Church.

14.1. In 2018, there were 2,504 safeguarding concerns reported to dioceses about either children or vulnerable adults.[21]

14.2. In 2018, there were 449 concerns about recent child sexual abuse. In addition, 155 concerns were reported about non-recent sexual abuse. (The remaining concerns involved physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, domestic abuse or other form of concern.)[22]

14.3. In 2018, 25 percent of all concerns were reported to statutory authorities. In particular, 44 percent of all recent concerns relating to children were reported to statutory authorities.[23]

14.4. In 2018, dioceses became aware of 242 allegations of recent sexual abuse of children relating to church officers, and 83 allegations of non-recent sexual abuse relating to church officers. Sixty-three percent of all allegations received against church officers were for recent allegations of child sexual abuse. Twenty-four percent of the allegations related to volunteers; 41 percent of allegations related to ordained priests, ministers or ordinands.[24]

15. In 2018, the Church carried out 670 risk assessments of individuals in respect of the risk they may pose to children. The majority of these did not relate to members of clergy. Only 183 related to those holding some church office. There were 11 independent risk assessments in respect of clergy in 2018 (compared with 27 in 2017).[25]


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