Safe church – a shared responsibility

By Penny Mulvey

As the Uniting Church continues to address the issues revealed through the investigation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, different synods have developed strategies aimed at assisting congregations ensure a safe place for all.

One such resource, Growing in understanding, The church as a safe place, was recently launched at the Queensland synod.

The resource is aimed at helping congregations understand how the accepting and forgiving nature of a church environment can unwittingly enable predators to make connections.

Examples the document offers include such things as a groomer targeting a vulnerable adult, which can be justified if challenged with: “I was just trying to comfort you, it was a holy kiss.” This can lead to people doubting their reading of a situation and feeling embarrassed about making an accusation. As the document states: “Grooming silences the inner compass.”

Growing in understanding , The church as a safe place gently raises the difficulties created by a trusting environment, which is such an integral element of congregational life.

The document highlights that: “Acknowledging the vulnerability of the church and its members to manipulative and predatory behaviour is deeply painful. Yet this understanding is essential to building communities of faith which safeguard all those who seek Christian fellowship.”

Keeping people safe is everyone’s responsibility. If you would like to encourage discussion within your congregation on this important subject, the Queensland resource can be found here.

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