Anglican Consultative Council members emphasized urgency of ‘good safeguarding’

Posted Feb 14, 2023

[Anglican Communion Office] The “safety of all persons in the provinces of the Anglican Communion” should be “a priority of focus, resource allocation and actions,” the global Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission said Feb. 14 during a plenary session of the 18th Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Accra, Ghana. And members asked the Safe Church Commission to continue to provide safeguarding resources and training to provinces.

The ACC also redefined the term “vulnerable adult,” as used in its official guidance to member churches. Proposing a resolution, the Malaysian lawyer Andrew Khoo, representing the Church of the Province of South East Asia, explained the change: “in the earlier guidelines that had been previously approved we had a three-point definition of what constitutes a vulnerable adult,” he said. “We have added two more points which deal not so much with the inherent disability of a particular person but situational circumstances a person is placed in,” such as a natural disaster or war.

The resolution also encourages member churches and agencies to use and implement the International Anglican Safe Church Commission Charter and Guidelines; and asked for the development of resources on the theology of safeguarding.

Several people spoke in support of the resolution in the small debate that followed. The Rt. Rev. Graham Usher, bishop of Norwich in the Church of England, said: “This is everyone in this room’s responsibility.” He called on ACC members to be “a leader in our own provinces in this whole area because we will only solve these issues and protect the most vulnerable in our church communities if we all take responsibility.”

And he also delivered a message to the men in the room, saying: “it is us, as men, who are the perpetrators of so much sexual violence, of abuse of power. We need to be the change we want to see and model that in our communities.”

Ethel George, a lay representative from the Anglican Church of Melanesia,  endorsed the call for new theological resources, saying: “people in our communities would be more receptive to any resources that are faith-based.”

Archbishop of Canada Linda Nicholls, urged members to support the resolution, saying: “we’ve been talking [during the meeting] about the witness of the church, and I come from a province where the witness of our church has been deeply, deeply damaged by a history of not being a safe place because we participated with the government in residential schools for indigenous peoples where sexual and physical abuse occurred in some or many of those schools. And we continue to pay the price.”

She said that seeking a world of “repentance and reconciliation and healing” would take generations. “If we do not get this right, if we do not make our churches places that are safe for children, for women, for men, for vulnerable adults of every kind, then we have failed the primary gospel imperative to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Nicholls said that implementing the charter was “very hard work” but she said that members should “say yes and then go home and do it.”

The bishop of Nairobi in the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru, said: “This is long overdue. It is time that we did it.”

By a show of hands, the members of ACC-18 approved the resolution:

Recognizing the priority of building a safe church throughout the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Consultative Council:

  1. commits itself to making the safety of all persons in the provinces of the Anglican Communion a priority of its focus, resource allocation and actions;
  2. requests the Safe Church Commission, in consultation with the Secretary General, to continue to provide safeguarding resources and training to the provinces;
  3. amends the definition of “vulnerable adult” in the ‘Guidelines to enhance the safety of all persons – especially children, young people and vulnerable adults’ – within the provinces of the Anglican Communion, so that it reads:

    Vulnerable adult means an adult who has any relationship with a church worker where there is an intrinsic imbalance of power, which is capable of being exploited or taken advantage of by the church worker to the detriment of the adult. The imbalance of power may be increased by the circumstances of the adult such as where they:

    • are ministered to in their home;
    • are dependent on one or more persons for support such as in the case of an accident, illness or birth of a child;
    • experience a life crisis or natural disaster, such as the death of a family member or loss of employment, or loss of home and possessions;
    • through poverty, war or civil strife, displacement, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender, or other social and cultural factors have a diminished ability to protect themselves from abuse; or
    • have an intellectual or physical disability, mental illness or other impairment”;
  4. encourages member churches and agencies to use and implement the International Anglican Safe Church Commission Charter and Guidelines; and
  5. Requests that the Commission for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, in consultation with the Secretary General, to develop resources around the theology of safeguarding.