Saturday, September 12, 2009

Safeguarding - who are we trying to kid?

Good morning God,
The new vetting and barring scheme being introduced by the government to protect children from paedophiles in the UK poses many deep and profound theological questions concerning human nature. Above all, it highlights the real cost of independent as opposed to interdependent living - and our desperate desire to hide the consequences of the breakdown of community and family life.

Whilst the new government guidelines will require 1 in 4 adults in the UK to register for the new database, it will do nothing to address the frightening statistics gathered by Childline and similar charities
These statistics tell us that:-
Over 50% of children who are abused are abused by a member of their immediate family - the most common offender being the father.
40% of sexual abuse of children can be attributed to older siblings
Aproximately 30% of sexual abusers are themselves teenagers..

None of this will change as a result of the new vetting procedures, but we will appear to be doing something - which is all that matters really - isn't it - after all, the government will be seen to be doing something about what is obviously a serious problem.

What the legislation really does is to safeguard the prize of moden civilisation - independence, it does little to safeguard a child. An Englishman's home is his castle, complete with dungeon where wives can be beaten and children can be abused, but that's nobody else's business and it is impolite to even mention it.

There is an African saying 'it takes a whole village to raise a child' and we find that sentiment echoed throughout the scriptures. The gospels as I understand them, proclaim the importance of a community of interdependence, of watching over one another in love. Jesus pointedly extends the boundaries of the traditional family, including in those who would otherwise be excluded - especially children. Nobody is without value, and all can be saved - yes - even the paedophile. And all this is possible because Salvation is communal not personal. You came in Christ to save the world, not the individual. You talk repeatedly in the Scriptures and through your prophets about the salvation of people, not persons.. something that we are too quick to forget in our desire for our own, personal, independent salvation.
I do not believe that we can be made safe by making outcasts of our brothers and sisters. Neither can we be saved by 'not being like them'. If I understand the purpose of the incarnation correctly - the whole point to comming as one of us, it is that we can only be safe and be saved by loving our neighbour as we love ourselves - whoever our neighbour is.
That means tearing down the doors that divide us, living more consciously and determinedly as part of a saved community.
John Wesley proclaimed that there is no holiness but social holiness, meaning that there is no such thing as a private Christian - we are all accountable to each other for our growth in grace and holiness, for our relationships and our behaviour not just for our Church attendance.
It IS a stain on the Church that it has harboured so many paedophiles amongst its clergy and staff, but dont you think God that is is a bigger stain on its character a greater disability of the body of Christ, that we have encouraged the idea of private religion and downplayed or ignored the imperative to watch over one another in love. I am convinced that it is the failure of us all to hold each other accountable, to be 'family' which lies at the real heart of this particular problem.

I deplore the idea of a single child being hurt or abused, but I am under no illusions about what this change in law will and will not do. It will not make us more accountable to each other, it will not make us care more for each other or for each others children, it will not encourage us to watch over one another in love. It will not teach us or enable us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
It will divide us into those whom the government considers 'safe' or 'unsafe', but will do little to increase the safety of our Children behind closed doors,
- and will do nothing to save the lost.
God - save us all - please.


  1. Interesting..To lay so much at the door of Vetting & Barring. There are some points worth considering here, but not in relation to the V&B scheme. oh, and its not a scheme to 'protect children from paedophiles in the UK'. It's so much more than that. In fact it's designed to protect Children and Adults from anyone who poses a risk to safety, health and wellbeing, and aside from those who clearly pose significant risk to others;who the law has dealt with, but who continue to seek ways to harm others, the scheme provides additional information and evidence to organisations to help them decide on the suitability, and risks involved, in an individual working with or having particular contact with children or adults who may be vulnerable.
    It is appropriate that 'government' exercises, this corporate parenting role. It is right too that the church exercises it's responsibility to keep children safe, by both watching over those who are vulnerable, and those who would seek to perpetrate further abusive acts; whether they are sexual, physical, emotional, or neglect.
    Sadly there are so many leaders in the church who do not see the importance of following guidelines or procedures, which when coupled with good partnerships and sound practices, actually do keep children safe.
    To suggest that there is a bigger stain on the church's character that 'that we have encouraged the idea of private religion' as opposed to having 'harboured so many paedophiles amongst its clergy and staff,' is another example of the dismissive attitude among church leaders, which only continues to encourage those who seek to do harm to vulnerable children and adults, to continue to target the soft option; the church),and is deplorable.

  2. Thank you for your comment,
    Allow me to correct a mistaken assumption - I am not in the slightest dismissive of the problem - I, along with my colleagues i the Church, will do our uttermost to TRY and make this scheme work, not because we believe it to be right (most of us dont seem to) or even because we think it stands a chance of working (again - I suspect most dont) but because we DO care about children and so will do whatever we can - even though it means that Church cannot actually BE church - a trusting safe environment where all are welcome - and then of course, the state and those outside will simply accuse us of having double standards!

    None of which alters the facts that MOST children are abused at home, by immediate family - and that this change in paper-pushing will do NOTHING to prevent this - except perhaps lull people into a false sense of security and disguise the real problem.
    The demand for privacy hides all sorts of abuse - not just child abuse, racial abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse (of adults as well as children!) mental abuse etc etc..
    The government should not NEED to ever hold a parental role - the fact that people believe it does suggests a greater breakdown of what we mean by 'family' than we have so far been prepared to admit.
    But thank you for your comments, and being willing to engage.
    God willing one day we might find a way of willingly caring for, instead of necessarily litigating for, children's health and happiness.