Dear brothers and sisters,
In recent weeks there have been more news items about the mishandling of reports of abuse in the Church. Churches of all traditions have badly let down the survivors of abuse by too often refusing to believe their accounts and failing to respond appropriately.
If we are to be a truly inclusive church we need to take safeguarding seriously as an integral part of our life and ministry. Jesus' ministry was characterised by commitment to creating safe spaces whenever he was dealing with people. He encountered people whose vulnerabilities included: mental and physical illness; experience of abuse by people in power, rejection because of social status and being ignored because of age. In his loving acceptance and willingness to listen and challenge he was showing a commitment to the flourishing of every person. This window he gives us into the heart of God shows that safeguarding is fundamental to God's mission.
I am grateful to those who serve in our churches and the circuit as safeguarding officers and trainers. Their important role is not simply to make sure that the right policies and procedures are in place and that safeguarding is at the front of our attention but to remind us that safeguarding is God's work.
The policies and procedures are essential tools in helping us to ensure that everyone who is involved in any activity is safe. They also mean that we know how to respond appropriately when any form of abuse is disclosed and can offer the right kind of care and support. Perpetrators of abuse also know that that they will be monitored and appropriately managed if they want to participate in church life.
Because safeguarding is God's work then it is not something that should be left to those who are appointed as safeguarding officers. Safeguarding is the responsibility of all of us, so we all have a role in making churches safe spaces. We all have a responsibility to report any concerns we have, no matter how apparently small, to the safeguarding officers for appropriate action. Just as important is the contribution that we make towards creating a culture of safety in our churches where we:
The circuit safeguarding officer is Peter Gardner, E: email@example.com or T: 01452 415769.
With every blessing,
This Pastoral Letter has been published in the (Autumn 2023 Preaching Plan)