Toward abuse-free churches

By on March 11, 2011

“Tackling the question of exploitation by clergy is crucial to the health of the church.” Photo: Shutterstock

In June, the second international conference of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Consultation will ask some hard questions about social and religious structures that perpetuate abuse. Partnering for Prevention: Addressing Abuse in Our Communion & in Our Communities, scheduled to take place at the University of Victoria, June 24 to 26, will explore the legacy of church abuse and how to prevent it and foster healing.

“Abuse happens in the church because we perpetuate structures of clericalism that place clergy in unrealistic positions of power and adulation among the faithful,” said Rev. Mary Louise Meadow, past canon pastor of the diocese of British Columbia and a conference co-coordinator. “We embrace and perpetuate theologies of domination and atonement in the interests of preserving the heritage of a regal past.”

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Marion Little, canon pastor for the diocese of British Columbia Sexual Misconduct Policy, noted that tackling the question of exploitation by clergy is crucial to the health of the church. “If the church ever hopes to attract and retain discerning young adults and young families, we need to assertively address the issues around abuse, its perpetuation, how to prevent it and how to support healing.” She added that the church is uniquely positioned to provide its members with sanctuary, which for her is the most central aspect of Christianity. “If we cannot provide true sanctuary to our most vulnerable…, we might as well lock our doors and go home.”

Featured conference speakers include Seattle-based Rev. Dr.Marie Fortune, an expert on sexual exploitation by religious leaders; the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, Anglican indigenous bishop of Canada; the Rev. Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa, coordinator for dialogue, Anglican Church of Canada; and Dr. Patricia Vickers, a B.C.-based ethno-consultant and expert in conflict resolution. More than a dozen workshops will explore topics ranging from pastoral ethics and professional supervision to domestic violence and human trafficking. Workshop leaders will include lawyers, clergy, child protection officers and abuse prevention educators.

The Safe Church Consultation became a formal entity during Lambeth 2008 and is now recognized as valuable resource for those responding to harm suffered by vulnerable members of churches and the communities they serve.

Conference collaborators include the diocese of British Columbia, Christ Church Cathedral, the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, and the Anglican Foundation of Canada. The cost of registration is $250. For more information on the conference, go to www.aco.org/networks or email [email protected]

Author

  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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