THE Methodist Church offered
survivors of abuse a "full and unreserved apology" on Thursday,
after an independent review, spanning 64 years, identified nearly
2000 cases of abuse. Six police investigations have been instigated
as a result of the review.
The independent past-cases
review, Courage, Cost and Hope, considered all
safeguarding cases for which there were written records, and those
recalled from memory by ministers and members dating back to 1950.
These included cases involving children and adults that occurred
within a church context, as well as those that were reported to the
Church as pastoral problems. The review did not cover church
schools or religious orders.
The definition of abuse used in
the review was:
a) sexual or
physical abuse against a child or adult;
abuse/neglect if at the level of significant harm - against a child
abuse of any kind (child v. parent; wider family; woman v. man as
well as the more usual male v. female violence);
d) any other
abuse of a vulnerable adult: financial institutional;
abusive images on screen.
In total, the review received
2566 responses reporting a safeguarding concern, including sexual,
physical, emotional, and domestic abuse. These cases related to
1885 individuals cited as perpetrators or alleged perpetrators.
Ministers or lay employees were involved in a quarter of the
The report says that
contributing to the review was "a difficult and painful task" not
only for survivors, "but also for those in pastoral roles who made
decisions in the past that they now regret".
The assessors who received the
responses concluded that 48 per cent of the cases had been
"satisfactorily dealt with". More than half (54 per cent) of the
cases were closed because there was no longer an identifiable risk
- often because the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator had died or
become very elderly and infirm.
In eight cases there was an
"immediate and significant concern" requiring an urgent
A total of 503 cases have been
allocated to a current safeguarding worker. Of those, 61 have had
contact with the police, and there are six ongoing police
In total, 200 ministers were
identified as perpetrators or alleged perpetrators. The statistics
suggest that the numbers have been consistent over the past 12
years and show no sign of decline. A total of 142 of the 200 cases
cited direct abuse of the minister's position of authority. The
concerns or abuse were of a sexual nature in relation to 102
The perpetrators were
82-per-cent male, nine per cent female. (Others were not specified
or cases were both sexes were involved.) Victims were 19-per-cent
male, 46 per cent female. Six per cent of caes involved both sexes;
29 per cent were unknown.
The Methodist General
Secretary, the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, gave an "unreserved apology
for the failure of its current and earlier processes fully to
protect children, young people, and adults from physical and sexual
abuse inflicted by some ministers".
The abuse would remain "a
deep source of grief and shame to the Church", he said. "We have
not always listened properly to those abused or cared for them, and
this is deeply regrettable.
"In respect of these things we
have, as a Christian Church, clearly failed to live in ways that
glorify God and honour Christ."
The report is the product of
three years of work led by a former deputy chief executive of
Barnardo's, Jane Stacey, who has called for a "significant
culture change" in the
The two "most worrying" themes
she identified, she says in the report, were the weakness of
accountability structures and a lack of support for ministers.
Among the recommendations is "structured supervision for
The culture of the Church is
made unsafe, the report says, "not only by the actions of the
perpetrators, but also by the subsequent actions of those in
authority or in colleague relationships, who have failed to respond
in a way that recognises the reality of the abuse that has taken
place. . . Many within the Church have difficulty reconciling the
theology of forgiveness and redemption with safeguarding."
The cases highlighted include
reference to a senior minister who was "highly resistant to
cooperating with the statutory agencies" after a youth officer and
local preacher was charged with the molestation of two boys.
The cost of the review was
The Church of England conducted
its own past cases review in 2008-2009. The conclusion of its
analysis of 40,747 files covering 30 years was that 13 cases
required formal action (
26 February 2010). A news release was issued, but nothing to
compare to the 100-page report released by the Methodist
Since the C of E review,
reports critical of the Church's safeguarding practice have been
published, including the results of an archiepiscopal visitation to
Chichester (News, 7
September, 2012) and the the Cahill Inquiry, which found
"systemic failure" in the handling of allegations of abuse by a
former Dean of Manchester (
News, 24 October, 2014).
On Thursday, Anne Lawrence of
the Stop Church Child Abuse coalition said that the Methodist
report had "shown up the complete lack of transparency in the C of
E past-cases review", and that the Chichester inquiry showed that
it "wasn't worth the paper it was written on".
She said: "Without transparency
in reporting what happened, such as that now demonstrated by
the Methodist Church, the cultural changes required to make our
churches safe places will never be possible.
"It is only when we can see and
understand the harm caused and the cost of abuse in terms of the
impact on survivors, their families, communities and the Churches,
that we will begin to change how we respond and how we protect all
members from abuse."
On Thursday, the Church of
England's lead bishop on safeguarding, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt
Revd Paul Butler, welcomed the new report.
"We will want to see if there
are further lessons for us to learn from the Methodist Church
review," he said. "We recognise that we still have a long way to go
but remain committed to ensuring that the Church is safe for all in
Ms Stacey praised the Methodist
Church's review as a "courageous act", but she warned "There are
undoubtedly cases that have not been reported," and encouraged
survivors to come forward.
The Methodist Church encourages survivors and victims
and those with any information to contact the Safeguarding
They will be listened to and support will be