Our Theological Approach
The House of Bishops’ Policy ‘Promoting a Safe Church’
“From beginning (in the cry of a baby) to end (in the cry from the cross), the life and death of Jesus Christ illustrates the willingness of God to be vulnerable in order to share to the full our world of pain, poverty, suffering and death. In his earthly ministry, Jesus constantly showed himself to be compassionately on the side of the outcast, the marginalized and the stranger, reaching across social barriers with the inclusive love of God. This was wholly in line with the Hebrew Bible’s priority concern for orphans and widows, its obligation to provide a voice for the voiceless, and its prophetic call for justice to ‘roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5.24).
The risen Christ’s commission to his followers (‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ [John 20.21]) requires the Christian Church to exercise that same concern for those whom some in society treat as the outsider and the stranger, to reach across barriers of exclusion and demonstrate a love which shows itself in compassionate pastoral care and in the quest for justice in all our relationships.
The heart of Christian pastoral care is this: love for God and love for our neighbour, the social expression of which is justice in all human affairs.
In line with the gospel of creation and redemption, Christian pastoral care has often been described in terms of healing, sustaining and reconciling. All people, and especially those who may be marginalized through a vulnerability, need to receive the healing love of God to rebuild relationships with others or within themselves which illness, disability or abuse may have fractured. Healing is a process of being made more whole. There can be substantial steps for some people in this life, which can be aided through the Church’s ministry of healing and reconciliation, though full healing in all dimensions of life must wait for the coming of Christ’s kingdom when all creation will be healed and renewed.
For those who have been abused, neighbour love includes the need for them to be listened to and believed, supported as they cope with the effects of trauma, enabled to make the choices which will lead to healing and start on the costly road towards forgiveness.
The Christian gospel offers the grace of reconciliation with God, which can enable people to learn to live lives more reconciled with others and with their environment.
Everyone needs the sustaining reassurance that they are treated with the respect that is due to all human beings made in the image of God and precious to God. Those who have challenging personal situations must receive the resources they need to live independent lives with dignity.
Everyone needs to know that they can live safely in a non-threatening environment.
Christian pastoral care takes place in the context of the present world, which in gospel terms is provisional. We live in the time between God’s living Word to us in Jesus Christ, and the coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness, when there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more social exclusion, and no more death.
In this world the Holy Spirit sustains our ministry – enabling us to do what we can within the constraints of fallenness and sin, and yet holding out the living hope that the day will come when God will be all and in all“
For full policy ‘Promoting a Safe Church‘ follow the link below:
The House of Bishops’ Policy ‘Protecting All God’s Children’
“Every human being has a value and dignity which comes directly from the creation of male and female in God’s own image and likeness. Christians see this potential fulfilled by God’s re-creation of us in Christ. Among other things this implies a duty to value all people as bearing the image of God and therefore to protect them from harm. Christ saw children as demonstrating a full relationship with God. He gave them status, time and respect.
Every person is equally precious to God. Each one needs the assurance that respect for this brings. Individuals who suffer abuse often experience a loss to their identity and worth; there is often shame and a misplaced guilt. The Church is intended to be a place where men, women and children, including those who are hurt and damaged, may find healing and wholeness. It is our calling to be agents of healing and recovery in such a way that enables all who have suffered from abuse to lead lives with dignity in a context that is as safe as possible. It is about speaking words of peace. It is communication of ‘shalom’; that is, of justice, healing and peace for the whole of the individual, as well as for the community.
God is present and at work in the world in many ways. A Church empowered by the Holy Spirit is especially a place where the wonderful character of God is manifested. The Church is called to witness to that truth.
As individual Christians and as part of the Church, our vocation is to reflect the character of God.
We are called to welcome and care for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the victims of injustice. Safeguarding good practice concerns the development of safer expressions of care to all and underpins the love and welcome of God for all people.
Justice is part of the outworking of love. The Church must hold in tension concerns for both justice and compassion. Nevertheless, those who have suffered child abuse have sometimes found an unsympathetic hearing. They may be disbelieved, discouraged and damaged further. Some people may side with the alleged perpetrator. This occurs in all parts of society, but it is particularly hurtful when it occurs within the Church. Such actions compound the sense of injustice that many feel. In answer to the question ‘What does God require of us?’ the need to act justly is set alongside the need to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6.8).
Many who have endured child abuse consider that mercy towards those who have sinned is set above the need for the victims to be enabled to find justice. Both are essential. In creating humankind God made us to be together, to live in community. When one suffers we all suffer. We are all made poorer by every incidence of child or adult abuse as by all sin. In finding the grace to act righteously towards those who suffer, we also experience transformation through grace. We become better people and our churches become safer places for all.
In similar ways, offenders may also be assured that they are precious to God, and find healing and wholeness. Because redemption and the possibility of forgiveness are so central to the gospel, the Church is not only well equipped to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders but is also challenged by the issues their presence raises for us. The Church is part of a society where collusion with violence in families, emotional abuse or certain taboos on sexual abuse often holds sway. It is our calling to hold on to both justice and grace and to build safer church communities, often in challenging circumstances. Church people have sometimes required those who have suffered abuse to forgive. We need to understand forgiving and receiving forgiveness as lifelong processes.
The Gospel accounts remind us of Jesus’ humanity and vulnerability throughout his life. He gave up all but the power of love. He gave up wealth, security and status. He listened to and ministered to those who were powerless and vulnerable; he appointed fallible and weak disciples who needed to discover their limitations and find strength by living in God’s grace with each other. Those who are humble and vulnerable themselves are often gifted with a ministry with those who are most in need, including with children and adults who have suffered. There is therefore a challenge for the Church to encourage ministry, service and leadership in ways that promote discernment of one’s boundaries and limitations, reliance on God and our brothers and sisters in Christ, thus developing compassionate, collaborative and enabling ministries which value careful listening to all.
Child abuse is a scourge on individuals, on our Church and in our society and we must name it as such, doing everything we can to prevent it. We are to nurture children as fully as we can in Christ’s name.
A Christian approach to safeguarding children will therefore expect both individuals and communities to:
- create a safe environment for children and their families;
- act promptly on any complaints made;
- care for those who have been abused in the past;
- minister appropriately to those who have abused;
- provide opportunities for healing and flourishing.
God’s mission is a message of good news to love and welcome the poor and marginalized. The Church must take seriously both human propensities to evil but also the God-given resources of goodness, peace, healing and justice: in short, God’s love, God’s life.
For the full Policy ‘Protecting All God’s Children‘ follow the link below: