Bishops advance Lambeth appeal by adopting guidelines to prevent abuse – Episcopal News Service

Bishops listen to the plenary session on Safe Church during the Lambeth Conference on July 31, 2022. Photo: Neil Turner/The Lambeth Conference

[Episcopal News Service – Canterbury, England] During the second plenary session of the Lambeth Conference, primates, bishops and other church leaders spoke about how to prevent and heal abuse in the church, and create a common culture of safety in across the variety of cultural contexts that make up the Anglican Communion.

After hearing from Safe Church trustees, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and a victim of clergy sexual abuse, the Bishops looked at Lambeth’s Call on Safe Church project, which commits provinces to a plan to prevent and fight against abuse. Agreeing that the specifics can be adapted to each province or diocese but that the principles must be shared, the bishops approved the draft appeal to move to its final phase, when it will be revised to include the comments they provided. .

In plenary, Welby said the problem of abuse in the church “has been the heaviest and most powerful burden of this role that I have faced in the past 10 years”.

Abuse, he said, is not limited to any region, culture or context – although “it is largely a male problem”.

“The fundamental problem of Safe Church is the abuse of power. It’s not even, normally, particularly a question of sex. It’s about power – someone’s ability to do whatever they want with someone who is weaker,” he said.

Garth Blake, chairman of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission, gave an overview of the progressive steps the Communion has taken to prevent abuse in all its forms – including sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse – in churches. At the 2008 Lambeth Conference, “the abuse of power within society and the Church and its disproportionate impact on women and children” emerged as a theme which generated guidelines and recommendations over the next decade.

In 2012, the Anglican Consultative Council adopted the Charter for Life Safety in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, encouraging all provinces to fulfill its five commitments: to provide pastoral support where there are abuses; respond effectively to abuse; methods of teaching safe pastoral ministry through education and training; assess the suitability of potential church leaders through background checks and other methods; and promoting a culture of security to prevent abuse.

This charter is the basis for the ACC’s establishment of the Safe Church Commission in 2016. The ACC has approved a protocol for provinces to share information about the suitability of potential ordinands or lay leaders for ministry. The protocol suggests a framework for provinces to report cases of proven abuse or credible allegations, so that potentially abusive clergy or lay leaders cannot continue their ministry in another province.

The ACC adopted a another set of guidelines in 2019, developed by the Safe Church Commission, for churches to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults in the communion provinces. The ACC asked each province to adopt and implement the charter, protocol and guidelines at the 2019 meeting.

The Call for a Safe Church project would affirm that provinces commit to all of these measures, implementing them in a way that suits their local context.

Bishop Tim Thornton, chairman of the Lambeth Appeals Subgroup, told an evening press conference that the bishops had “unanimously agreed to the appeal”, although the process they use to record their approval or disapproval has changed. For the July 30 first call, the bishops used electronic voting devices to submit one of three possible responses to the call to mission and evangelism.

However, Thornton said, based on the bishops’ comments, the conference will no longer use the devices. Instead, bishops will discuss drafts in small groups, of which up to six will be randomly selected to verbally present their thoughts during the session. Then it will be put to a voice vote, and if there is a clear consensus that the appeal should go forward, it will move on to a final draft incorporating all of the Bishops’ comments.

Thornton clarified that there will be no numerical counting of votes. When asked what would happen if there was no clear consensus, Thornton quoted Welby as saying that “if the majority says no, indeed, then the appeal will not proceed, and the work will be graded, but it won’t go to the next phase.

The guidelines and protocols affirmed by the Safe Church appeal do not prescribe specific actions or rules, and that is by design, said Blake, chair of the Safe Church Commission.

“Why “guidelines”? Because of 165 countries and all these different legal systems, we can’t have one set of prescriptive rules. But we may have guidelines that need to be adapted to each province, and we have tested the suitability of these guidelines through a wide range of commission members in all regions of the world. And part of my role as chair was to say, “This draft guideline, does it work in your province?”

Bishop Cleophas Lunga of Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland Diocese, part of the Church of Central Africa Province, said it was essential to be able to implement the guidelines in a locally relevant way, partly because the legal and procedural systems in Zimbabwe are often not interrelated. easily with those from other parts of the world.

“We are now, as a province of Central Africa – and I am sure that other provinces in Africa will follow us – to start using the guidelines that we have managed to put in place, so that they can be adapted to our context, and include the pieces we have [already been] use, to make the set of safeguards comprehensive,” he said. “So it’s a welcome idea.”

– Egan Millard is associate editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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