At last year’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, a series of resolutions was passed to bolster the Communion’s efforts to make church a safe place. In June of this year, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed the members of the commission charged by the ACC for completing the work of the resolutions.
The commission, which has been meeting by teleconference had its first gathering two weeks ago in London. The commission is chaired by Australian attorney, Garth Blake, SC. Mr. Blake is a member of the Anglican Consultative Council and serves as chair of the Anglican Church of Australia’s Professional Standards Commission. He is currently the Convener of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network.
Of their first face-to-face meeting, Blake characterized the meeting as “very encouraging”, saying: “we got to know each other and reflected honestly upon the reality of abuse experienced by people, particularly women and children, in our provinces.”
At that meeting, the commission’s members shared stories of abuse in their own provinces and discussed measures taken, and needed, to prevent future abuse as well as how to care for victims of abuse. “In some provinces there are policies and procedures in place,” Mr Blake said. “In other provinces there is a culture of silence which makes disclosure of abuse difficult.” Early next year, the commission will begin a survey of all provinces to ascertain the policies and procedures currently in place in the different Churches of the Anglican Communion.
The commission reflected on the theological principles underlying the Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion, “The witness of Scripture to God’s love for all members of the human family and the priority given in Jesus’ ministry to children and the vulnerable of society will be foundational to the work of the commission,” Mr Blake said. “Our London meeting was enhanced by the opportunity to hear from several people who have been abused in church contexts in England.”
The commission gave preliminary consideration to the content of guidelines to prevent abuse and to respond to abuse where it occurs; and considered how such guidelines could be applied to the different contexts of the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Additionally, they also agreed to establish an international procedure for the “disclosure of ministry suitability information” so that priests are unable to move from one province to another to avoid investigation of complaints or concerns. And they asked for safeguarding to be part of the program for the 2020 Lambeth Conference – the meeting of all Anglican bishops, which will take place in Canterbury.
In addition to Garth Blake, the commission’s membership is comprised the Revd Sereima Divulavou Lomaloma from Fiji; Marcel Cesar Pereira from Brazil; Bishop Cleophas Lunga from Zimbabwe; the Revd Immaculée Nyiransengimana from Rwanda; Bishop Brian Marajh from South Africa; Bishop Festus Yeboah-Asuamah from Ghana; Mary Wells from Canada; Robin Hammeal-Urban from the US; Caroline Venables from England, Archdeacon Christopher Smith from Wales; the Revd Clare Yoon Sook Ham from Korea; and Canon Andrew Khoo, the co-chair of the human rights committee of the Malaysian Bar Council. The commission has co-opted Marilyn Redlich, a member of the Safe Ministry Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia, as its facilitator.
image: Members of the Safeguarding Commission meeting in London, from ACNS