Survivors of clerical abuse object to C of E safeguarding liturgy guide

08 June 2018

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SURVIVORS of clerical sex abuse have criticised the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, saying that the safeguarding liturgy guide that it published last week had not been informed or approved by survivors, as had been claimed (News, 1 June).

The liturgy guide, Towards a Safer Church: Some liturgical resources, states that, while most of the Bible readings, prayers, hymns, and set liturgy were already in general use, the texts had been supplemented by new material, including prayers suggested by survivors.

An accompanying blog written by the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, said that the content had been “chosen in consultation with survivors”.

In a letter to the Church Times this week, however, eight survivors of clerical abuse dispute the claim. “This was not true, as the compilers presumably knew,” they write. “Graham Wilmer, who reviewed the collection, is very unhappy that his comments about it have been taken out of context and used without his permission in the launch material. No other survivors appear to have been consulted.”

Mr Wilmer, who signed the letter, is a survivor of abuse by a Roman Catholic cleric. He was quoted anonymously by the commission in the context of having read and approved the resources.

The other signatories of the letter were: Jo Kind, the Revd Graham Sawyer, the Revd Matt Ineson, the Revd Janet Fife, Gilo, Phil Johnson, and “Graham”.

The organisation for Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) had not been not consulted, nor had the collection been seen or approved by those survivors who sit on the National Safeguarding Panel, they write.

“Survivors, some of whom are accomplished liturgists themselves, would not have produced such an inane collection of prayers; nor would they have allowed the inclusion of ‘trigger’ phrases that can easily add to the trauma of abuse. . .

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“These things matter. They matter because bishops should not deceive the Church. They matter because acts of betrayal feel to us like fresh acts of abuse. And they matter because it is victims, not bishops, who have the experience to guide the Church in dealing with its current abuse crisis.”

The vice-chair of the Liturgical Commission, the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Richard Frith, responded to the criticism on Tuesday. “We apologise if survivors on the National Safeguarding Panel feel that they were not adequately consulted,” he said.

“The resources were referenced at the April meeting, and one survivor representative on the group — along with survivors from other parts of Church life — had been consulted in depth, and he commended them at that meeting.

“Our prayer is that they will be used by all those involved in safeguarding as part of our commitment to make our churches a safer place for all. As a commission, we are committed to reviewing and supplementing these resources as their use becomes more widespread.”

Meanwhile, the National Safeguarding Team of the C of E has commissioned the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to conduct a survey to find out how survivors rate the response of the Church so that the Church can improve this response.

The results are to contribute to an independent audit by the SCIE of safeguarding arrangements in the 42 dioceses of the C of E.

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