The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, has accepted a penalty for misconduct over the management of a safeguarding issue and after a police investigation.
Bishop Lowson faced allegations that he did not adequately safeguard children and vulnerable people, but peers clarified he was not accused of committing abuse. He was suspended from office in May 2019 whilst investigations took place.
Lincolnshire Police investigated historic sex abuse cases as part of phase two of the Operation Redstone, which looked into wider safeguarding issues and management within the Diocese.
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Lowson have since “met together to pray and discuss next steps” after the conclusion of the clergy disciplinary process, and subsequent investigation, that started after his suspension almost two years ago.
Christopher Lowson has accepted a penalty for misconduct in relation to the management of one safeguarding issue.
Bishop Lowson, who now begins the process of returning to his job, said: “I offer an unreserved apology for my error of judgement in the way I handled a disclosure about a member of clergy in the Lincoln diocese in early 2019.
“I regret the way I handled the matter, not least because I have always sought to take safeguarding matters extremely seriously.
“Throughout the disciplinary process I have sought to cooperate fully, conscious of the importance of ensuring a thorough investigation for all involved.
“However, the length of the process has not benefited anyone. I hope that some constructive reflection on this experience might help to improve the Church’s safeguarding and disciplinary procedures.
“I am enormously grateful to Bishop David Court, the Bishop of Grimsby, who has led the Diocese of Lincoln during my absence, and to those who have supported him through what has been a very challenging period for all.
“The churches, clergy and people of Lincolnshire have remained in my thoughts and prayers over the last 20 months and I look forward to returning to serve the Diocese as soon as practicable.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I am very sorry that Bishop Christopher and his wife Susan have had to endure such an ordeal over the last 20 months.
“I have expressed my regret to Christopher and am very grateful to him for the gracious way he has responded. I want to make it clear that I am fully supportive of Christopher returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.
“We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season, as we also continue to learn lessons from the scrutiny of IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) which highlighted our poor response to survivors.”
The National Safeguarding Team (NST) said: “Following the conclusion of the clergy discipline process the NST will now, according to House of Bishops’ guidance, consider how best to identify and learn lessons from this case.
“While we are aware the process has taken far too long and apologise for the effect this has had on all involved, when safeguarding matters are raised with the Church it is absolutely right that we respond.
“The concerns raised about Bishop Christopher have now been fully dealt with but we are continuing to look at separate issues raised during the course of this process, which to be clear do not relate to Bishop Christopher and predate his time in the diocese.”