CALLS have been made for the Church of England to open up its
safeguarding files to independent review, after the example set by
the Methodist Church last week.
The Methodist Church published a report, Courage, Cost and
Hope, on Thursday of last week, and offered survivors of abuse
a "full and unreserved apology". The 100-page document is an
independent review, spanning 64 years and identifying nearly 2000
cases of abuse. Six police investigations have been instigated as a
The review considered all safeguarding cases for which there
were written records, and those recalled from memory by ministers
and members dating back to 1950. In total, 200 ministers were
identified as perpetrators or alleged perpetrators.
The chief executive of the Churches Child Protection Advisory
Service (CCPAS), Simon Bass, called this week on every UK
denomination to commission "an immediate, independent, past-case
review of safeguarding concerns".
He described Courage, Cost and Hope as "a powerful
demonstration of the commitment the Methodist Church has towards
ensuring churches are safer places for children, along with
recognising the needs of survivors of abuse".
The Church of England conducted its own past-cases review in
2008-09. The conclusion of its analysis of 40,747 files covering 30
years was that 13 cases required formal action (
News, 26 February 2010). A news release was issued, but not a
Since the C of E review, reports critical of the Church's
safeguarding practice have been published, including the results of
an archiepiscopal visitation of Chichester (News, 7
September 2012) and the Cahill Inquiry, which found "systemic
failure" in the handling of allegations of abuse by a former Dean
of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington (News, 24
Anne Lawrence, of the Stop Church Child Abuse coalition, said
last week 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
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
. . . that we will begin to change how we respond."
She told Radio 4's Sunday programme that she welcomed
the Methodist report's recognition "that policies and procedures
cannot of themselves protect the vulnerable from those who wish to
abuse them. That acknowledgement has been quite profound for many
survivors as if at least they have been heard."
The Methodist review included cases involving children and
adults which occurred in a church context, as well as those that
were reported to the Church as pastoral problems. The review did
not cover schools.
The definition of abuse used in the review was:
a) sexual or physical abuse against a
child or adult;
b) emotional abuse/neglect if at the
level of significant harm - against a child or adult;
c) domestic 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;
e) accessing abusive images on
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 cases.
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
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 elderly and infirm.
In eight cases, there was an "immediate and significant concern"
requiring an urgent response. A total of 503 cases that are now to
be investigated have been allocated to a safeguarding worker. Of
those, 61 have involved contact with the police, and there are six
ongoing police investigations.
The statistics suggest that the number of ministers identified
as perpetrators or alleged perpetrators has been consistent over
the past 12 years, and shows no sign of decline. A total of 142 of
the 200 cases involving ministers cited direct abuse of the
minister's position of authority. The concerns or abuse were of a
sexual nature in relation to 102 of such cases.
The perpetrators were 82-per-cent male, nine per cent female.
(Others were not specified, or were cases where both sexes were
in-volved.) Victims were 19 per cent male, 46 per cent female. Six
per cent of cases involved both sexes; 29 per cent were
The General Secretary of the Methodist Church, 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
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."
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 Church.
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 ministers".
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
The highlighted cases 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 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."
Ms Lawrence suggested on the Sunday programme that the
Church of England had fallen behind the progress made by the
Methodists. "I don't think they are listening as closely as the
Methodist Church has," she said. "We have constantly said that the
Clergy Discipline Measure and their processes for engaging with
these cases is nowhere near adequate enough to understand what
needs to change in order to protect children and the
"I think they are a very big institution; they are an
established institution; they hold great power right to the top of
our country, and I think that's going to be much harder to engage
with in a way that would bring about fundamental change.
"I think the Methodist Church is on a better road because of the
nature of its very institution: it enables people to listen much
better than these bigger institutions. Unless they [the C of E] can
listen right down to the depths of what has happened to the
survivors and what they know and their wisdom, they will not be
able to change in the way that I believe the Methodist Church
Ms Stacey praised the Methodists' review as a "courageous act".
She warned, however: "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 its safeguarding team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
They will be listened to, and support will be offered, it says.