Pledge to protect the vulnerable
Anglicans worldwide have voted unanimously to call on their churches to adopt and implement a charter protecting vulnerable people.
More than 80 members of the Anglican Consultative Council last night committed themselves to promoting the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults, within their national and regional churches.
Meeting in Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, they passed a resolution calling on their churches “to adopt and implement the following Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and report to the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to steps taken to adopt and implement the Charter.”
Australian Garth Blake, convener of the Communion’s Safe Church Network that proposed the resolution, said, “We are enormously pleased by the unanimous approval, but even adoption of a charter will not be effective unless it’s implemented.
“Adoption is just the first step and we shall be looking carefully to see what each province does to create safe churches. The charter contains principles of safety, but how those principles are implemented will need to be worked out in a contextual way in each province.”
The issue of violence, particularly against women and children, has been on the agenda of the Communion since the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Member Churches and Communion leaders have made a steady effort to address protection issues, but this is the first time the whole Communion has been encouraged to adopt a charter (see below).
“It’s clear that civil society is looking very closely at what churches are doing to stop abuse,” said Mr Blake.
“There’s been a disconnect between what churches say and what has happened. People have been severely harmed in our churches. Trust has been lost. The charter is designed to rebuild that trust.”
Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion
Pastoral support where there is abuse
1. We will provide pastoral support for the abused, their families, and affected parishes and church organisations by:
a. Listening with patience and compassion to their experiences and concerns;
b. Offering spiritual assistance and other forms of pastoral care.
Effective response to abuse
2. We will have and implement policies and procedures to respond properly to allegations of abuse made against clergy and other church personnel that include:
a. Making known within churches the procedure for making complaints;
b. Arranging pastoral care for any person making a complaint of abuse;
c. The impartial determination of allegations of abuse against clergy and other church personnel, and assessment of their suitability for future ministry;
d. Providing support for affected parishes and church organisations.
Practice of pastoral ministry
3. We will adopt and promote by education and training standards for the practice of pastoral ministry by clergy and other church personnel.
Suitability for ministry
4. We will have and implement policies and procedures to assess the suitability of persons for ordination as clergy or appointment to positions of responsibility in the church including checking their background.
Culture of safety
5. We will promote a culture of safety in parishes and church organisations by education and training to help clergy, other church personnel and participants prevent the occurrence of abuse.
The final paragraph in this communique from the ACC15 Meeting in Auckland sounds like a better idea for a Communion-wide Covenant document than that proposed by a previously circulated, ‘official’ Communion-wide memorandum.
One wonders whether the following agreement will find approval in those GAFCON-oriented Churches that currently urge their governments to extend criminal penalties to homosexuals – whom the world may consider to be amongst the ‘marginalised and abused’ in the Church? :
” 5. We will promote a culture of safety in parishes and church organisations by education and training to help clergy, other church personnel and participants prevent the occurrence of abuse.”
Will this paragraph, I wonder, find acceptance by ALL Provinces of the Communion? Or will Provinces like Uganda and Nigeria have to renege on this particular provision – in their inability to recognise Gay people as ‘Children of God’ needing protection from homophobia?
Like the previously-touted Covenant Document, time alone will tell.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand