A Letter for Parishioners: August 2018
The Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has been set up to explore the historic response of a range of national institutions to allegations of sexual abuse from those in their care and under their protection.
The Church of England is one of the institutions being investigated and the IICSA has so far spent over two weeks looking into the Diocese of Chichester and also, then, into the way that the Church responded to allegations against Peter Ball, Bishop of Lewes and then Gloucester. Much of what has been heard feels shocking and impossible, both in terms of how abuse has been perpetrated and also in terms of how opportunities to take seriously those who had been abused were missed or wasted for a range of reasons, none of them good.
It is a painful, humbling and absolutely necessary process and one which every member of the Church of England should be aware of and praying about. We cannot be the Church, nationally or locally, if we are not willing to make sure that the Church is a safe place for everybody.
We are fortunate to have a committed and experienced Safeguarding Team in the parish who ensure our good practice when it comes to care for vulnerable adults as well as children and young people. Colin Weedon and John Foster have set up a clear system of safeguarding and Chris Barker has now become the Safeguarding Officer, working alongside John. The structures we have are absolutely as they should be and we have regular reviews to identify possible gaps or problems.
However, safeguarding is not about a few people doing excellent work on behalf of the rest of the Church- it is about every member of the Church family taking seriously our responsibility for one another. The PCC are legally responsible for safeguarding in the parish on behalf of the whole congregation. It is something we do, not something we can delegate to others.
There are six things we should all be doing to ensure that our theology is lived out in the way we actually care for each other and respond to need:
- Find out who Chris Barker and John Foster are, as well as our Children’s Advocates (Sally Dowling and Jason Searancke). If a child or vulnerable adult tells you they are concerned about something that has happened in Church, go to a Children’s’ Advocate, or a member of the Clergy.
- If you work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults make sure you attend the safeguarding training which the PCC will be organising in the Autumn.
- Look into the work of the IICSA and, difficult though it is, inform yourself about what has happened within the body of the Christ in terms of abuse and a deeply inadequate and shockingly naïve response from the Church over decades.
- Please pray for those who have been abused, and are being abused, within the life of the Church and beyond, and that the Church of England and every institution will make the changes necessary to become the places of safety, nurture and care which they ought by every law of decency and every vocation to be.
- Get to know the children and young people who are part of the Church. Find out what inspires them, what they enjoy doing, what they know of God, who they are.
- Remember that safeguarding is the role of the whole Church family, not just of our Safeguarding Team.
To put it in a sentence, this current crisis and our response to it will decide whether we can ever again claim to be the Church of Christ. If we don’t take safeguarding seriously we must not say things which we are not willing to work for. Jesus spoke very clearly and very powerfully about the abuse of power and there are few arenas where it is seen more clearly than this. We must use the power we have to make sure that these things do not happen again, to make sure that we are indeed the Church of God, in which all are made welcome and given a home, a place of safety in which all may flourish and become the people God made and is making us to be.
Rev’d Canon Richard Lamey: Rector