Standing committee. Safeguarding.
OF THE more than 300 churches in the Scottish Episcopal Church, 34 had not completed the safeguarding questionnaire issued as part of a Province-wide audit, the General Synod was told.
Chris Townsend, introducing the report from the Committee for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults — part of the Standing Committee — said that the guidance that it had produced on safeguarding was only as effective as its implementation.
Safeguarding was one of the most “serious risks to the reputation of the Church today”, he said. It should be embedded in everything that the Church did. The harm for victims could not be underestimated, and there should be greater awareness. “We cannot afford to be complacent.”
A safeguarding audit had been carried out across the Province, and at diocesan level, and a report would be produced in 2019. He recognised that attendance at safeguarding training could be problematic, and said that the committee was working to improve the logistics.
Chris Brown (St Andrews) said that he had experience of being abused in a church context, and worried that the report had been allocated just ten minutes, which, he said, seemed “minimal rather than missional”.
Kennedy Fraser (Glasgow & Galloway) said that the lack of any safeguarding information from those churches presented an “extreme” risk to the reputation of the Church. It suggested that a third of the Church did not care about vulnerable people, he said.
Mr Townsend agreed that safeguarding should be higher up the agenda, and that there was a reputational risk. The chair, the Bishop of Edinburgh, Dr John Armes, assured the Synod that safeguarding was taken very seriously.
The Revd Graham Guinness (Argyle & The Isles), said that he was one of the non-responders. His church took safeguarding very seriously, and the reason the questionnaire was late was because they had wanted to take time to consider the form in great detail.
The Primus, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said that a review group had been called to look into the canons in question on relationships, protection, and discipline. “It is probably some of the hardest work I have had to do in many years. It is hard work; we are trying to move the work on, but, as it is canonical, it will have to go through that process.”
Read further coverage of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.