By ACNS staff
The Anglican Communion Safe Church Network (ACSCN) has welcomed steps that the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle of the Anglican Church of Australia is taking to address past cases of abuse within the Diocese.
The Diocese of Newcastle has launched the initiative Facing the past: Shaping a healthy future to address a “history of abuse within the Anglican Church in its area,” Bishop Gregory Thompson has announced.
In an open letter of apology, Bishop Thompson expressed “profound shame and regret that individuals within the Church harmed people and harmed them again when they came forward to speak of what had happened”.
He spoke openly about a culture in the Diocese that allowed bullying and abuse to happen, and the inadequate responses to survivors. He vowed that under his leadership there would be “no accommodation to cultures that minimise the conduct of perpetrators and diminish victims and survivors”.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil … not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act,” he said in a community address, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Survivors of abuse and others with information about abuse were encouraged to come forward to the police, the Royal Commission and to the Diocese’s professional standards office, said the bishop.
The Diocese is asking parishes, agencies, schools, organisations, leaders and individuals to adopt “Being Together” practices that foster and enable a safe and healthy culture in the Church.
A website has been created for the initiative and includes the open letter and community address by Bishop Thompson, as well as information for reporting abuse and the Being Together practices.
The initiative of the Diocese of Newcastle was welcomed by ACSCN convenor Garth Blake SC.
He noted that the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting in November 2012 had adopted the Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion which commits churches to offer pastoral support and promote a culture of safety.
Read the ‘Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion’ on the Anglican Communion website.