Giles writes

Dear friends,

You may have noticed in our churches, over the last year, a new noticeboard marked “Safeguarding”?
No doubt, you have seen in the national press over recent years, and very recently, a number of cases of historical sexual abuse by clerg or laypeople or other clergy?
These cases have mirrored discoveries of such abuse throughout society, most infamously ,over recent times, in the case of Jimmy Saville.
There have been many others too.

The Church of England has implemented distinct child protection policies since the end of the 1990s and, as legislation has come into Parliament, so we have built up and improved a whole system to protect vulnerable children and adults in our church communities.
Our “Safeguarding” display boards have our policies and lots of details of whom to contact if you have worries. It isn't just about 'Child Protection' any more but also “Vulnerable Adults” too.
Any adult who is trail would count in this category.

The Safeguarding displays carry phone numbers and details of whom to talk to, in complete confidence, if any incident occurs that concerns you.
The policies detail warning signs of abuse in children and adults to look out for.
At our last church council meetings we adopted a “Domestic Abuse” policy that is on the displays that you can read.
There are leaflets on the Mothers Union table in St Mary' s about this subject, which is a great scourge and is why the Dudley Women's Refuge is something we support.
If you become aware of domestic abuse in the church community or outside of it you should talk to one of the people detailed on our Safeguarding display.

It has been very tempting for people to dismiss all of this as “political correctness gone mad” or “it's always more administration” or “what a lot of rubbish, nobody would do those things in a church”.
This is a kind of “head in the sand attitude” which the church hierarchy has adopted and local and government authorities down the years, until the media publicity and legal cases have led to institutions being sued for large sums of money and senior individuals put in jail.

Church councils are in exactly the same situation and, just like the institutions, we cannot hide from the facts any more.
Think about saying something dismissive to a person who had been sexually assaulted.
How would they feel? How would you feel if you were that person?
Would you wish that people had taken safeguarding more seriously?

Jesus said, “It were better for someone to tie a millstone around his neck and throw himself into the sea, than harm one of these little ones.”
As Christians, we have to do all that is possible to protect the young and the frail or vulnerable from harm.
Jesus has commanded us to do just this, and the image of God is in each human being, so why would we not want to protect this image of God?
Despite following Jesus, the church has been no more successful than the rest of society in keeping vulnerable people safe down the years.
We are immeasurably better placed to do so now than in 1999, when many policies arrived for the first time in churches.

As a sign of penitence for past failures, the church must be seen to fully participate in caring for the weak and vulnerable.
Jesus expects no less and it is to him that we will have to answer on the final day.
Caring for children and the frail is a sacred duty, and if we are all vigilant to protect those around us, then we will faithfully discharge that duty.

With love,