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Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of Troubles

Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of the Troubles During the Prime Minister’s Question time on 15 July, PM Johnson announced that the government would be bringing forth a statute of limitations in regard to occurencess committed before the Good Friday...

Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes Seeking Input on Proposals

Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes Seeking Input on Proposals   Input has been requested on the proposals to change the current legislation regarding parishes within the Church of England.  The review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure...

GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia

GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia Gafcon Australia has outlined its plan to support Anglicans who leave the Anglican Church of Australia over doctrinal revision which overturns the plain teaching of Scripture. At an...

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bp of Liverpool

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bishop of Liverpool The Church of England Evangelical Council has responded to a widely criticised public address and subsequent apology made last month by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of...

Questions Out of LFF, Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir, I read the first article from Anglican Futures, regarding the document, Living In Love and Faith, [LLF] EC 8083. I found the article helpful, well presented and gives a clear overview of the document.  However, I found myself seriously disquieted and I raise...

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid: Parental Deaths Due to HIV

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid Parental Deaths Due to HIV  The Rt Revd John Orina Omangi, Bishop of the Kisii Missionary District in Eastern Kenya is appealing for assistance in caring for 100 children orphaned by the widespread HIV problem in the area.  Kisii...

Christianity & Craft Freemasonry, A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers

Christianity and Craft Freemasonry A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers Gerard Moate Latimer Trust, 2021 (ISBN: 9781906327705, 70pp) By 1964 a national commission of enquiry estimated the existence of 50,000 books and pamphlets on freemasonry. This literature has,...

Forgotten Reformer: Myles Coverdale

Forgotten Reformer: Miles Coverdale Geoffrey Main Self-published, 2021 (ISBN: 9781916873704, 228pp) Episcopal biographies are always an enjoyable read, not least those of bishops who are better known for their non-episcopal work. Coverdale is of course best known for...

And Just When You Thought You’d Heard Everything, Bats Communications Officer

Whilst considering reducing the number of clergy nationwide, the Church of England is advertising for someone to be employed as its, “Bats in Churches Communications Officer”.  The post, which is located in London, pays between £31,857 and £34,255 (pro rata).  The...

Pilgrim’s Proces: Baptism Depths of Meaning by Peter Sanlon

In my last column we looked at the Lord’s Supper.  Today, we take a look at the other sign our Lord Jesus instituted among us.  These signs, or sacraments, which God gives his people are both simple and profound. In their simplicity, God's grace is powerfully...

Original Sin is the fundamental systematic cause of abuse

Original Sin is the Fundamental Systematic Cause of Abuse

The Christian world has recently been shaken by revelations that two high-profile Evangelical leaders—the late Ravi Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; and, closer to home, the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, former Vicar of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon—were, all along, serial abusers.

Over the years, similar scandals have engulfed other segments of the Church, too. When I was an undergraduate in the 1980s, the late Bishop Peter Ball, the Anglo-Catholic founder of a monastic community, came to preach in our college chapel: we all thought he was a great saint, deeply humble and on fire with the Holy Spirit. In fact, he was at the height of a catalogue of prolific abuse, for which—decades later—he was eventually jailed.

The natural reaction to the discovery of abuse, in the Church as elsewhere, is to look for the systemic and cultural problems that allowed it to happen, and to tighten up safeguarding policies and procedures to make sure it can never happen again. And, indeed, it is quite right that searching questions should be asked: it appears that both Fletcher and Zacharias, for example, had used their charisma to create a culture in which they were considered to be above challenge, as a result of which allegations were brushed aside over many decades.

There is, however, one fundamental systemic problem that is at the heart of every case of abuse, every manipulation, every deception, every exploitation of power: Original Sin. As Christians, we understand—or ought to understand—that Original Sin is embedded into the human condition, and there is, therefore, no safeguarding regime that can entirely prevent abuse.
The formal position is that safeguarding policies and procedures are required to protect children and ‘vulnerable adults’; although ‘vulnerable’ is nowhere defined. One thing that the victims of Zacharias, Fletcher, and Ball all had in common was that they were adults, and that they would not immediately have been identified as ‘vulnerable’. It was only the abusive situation in which they found themselves that made them vulnerable: does this mean that every interaction between people within an organisation must be policed, just in case?

The problem with the ‘precautionary principle’—whether it is applied to safeguarding, COVID-19, or any other problem—is that there comes a point at which the cost of the precautions outweighs the potential benefits. As human beings, we are created to exist in relationship with one another, and to co-operate based on trust. If we erect high walls with checkpoints in an attempt to preclude any possibility of harm or abuse, there can be no trust: trust requires vulnerability. A Parish safeguarding officer, having recently returned from a Diocesan training course, commented on how suspicious-minded his colleagues seemed to be: this, surely, can be no way for a Christian community to operate.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting for one moment that all safeguarding measures are unnecessary, or should be done away with; but that there is a balance to be struck. We often hear about the damage that can be done by insufficient or inadequate safeguarding; but rarely that excessive or intrusive safeguarding procedures can also cause considerable harm, albeit of a less direct and immediate, kind. We need to assess carefully the wider consequences of our good intentions, lest we find ourselves too far along that road to Hell of which they are the notorious paving.

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