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Building a Safer Church

Building a Safer Church

Andrea Watkins

26 November 2018 7:38PM


The Safeguarding Manager for the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, and Training and Development Manager for the Church of England National Safeguarding Team, Andrea Watkins, reflects on a recent meeting of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission.

I was delighted to join the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission and participate in its last “in person” meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2 – 6 November. The group was tasked with drafting guidelines to enhance the safety of all persons – especially children, young people and vulnerable adults – within the provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The Safe Church Commission has diverse representation of senior Anglican clergy and safeguarding professionals from across the provinces including South East Asia, the UK, Europe, Africa, North and South America, Australia and the South Pacific. The group was formed early in 2017 and has had two previous residential meetings in London, UK and George, South Africa.

It is hoped the Guidelines will serve as a practical resource for use by church communities to prevent the occurrence of abuse by church workers and to respond well to those who have been abused. The Guidelines are underpinned by the Charter for the Safety of People within the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Protocol for disclosure of ministry suitability information between the churches of the Anglican Communion. There are five commitments of the Charter which include:

  • pastoral support where there is abuse
  • effective responses to abuse
  • practice of pastoral ministry
  • suitability for ministry 
  • culture of safety.

If the practices outlined in the Guidelines are followed, churches throughout the Communion will be places of enhanced safety, where church workers act with integrity, victims of abuse receive justice, church workers who commit abuse are held accountable, and church leaders do not conceal abuse.

As a new member of the Commission, I was inspired by the level of unity and cohesiveness the group displayed. The level of engagement and energy of Commission members was infectious. I felt welcomed from day one and it soon became clear that the Commission did not see itself as simply drafting guidelines for the sake of compliance or box-ticking, but laying the groundwork to facilitate transformative cultural change with the aim of ensuring that safeguarding is seen as an integral part of Christian ministry.

Throughout the life of the Commission, members have made lasting friendships through the exchange of ideas, opinions and different perspectives that will shape safe church work for years to come. Although the Commission in its current form will come to an end, it is exciting that this work marks the beginning of an ambitious and aspirational journey.

Please remain prayerful as the Commission continues to work via virtual conferencing and email, and prepares its final report. The report, including the Guidelines and a set of recommendations for implementation, will be presented at the next Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in May 2019.

  • Click here for more information on the work of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission.

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