From all eva­sion and “coverup” – Good Lord, de­liver us

The Church of England - - FEATURE - By Gor­don Kuhrt The Ven Dr Gor­don W Kuhrt was Archdea­con of Lewisham, and then Di­rec­tor of Min­istry for the Arch­bish­ops’ Coun­cil (1996-2006)

Should we be look­ing to the Li­tur­gi­cal Com­mis­sion to pro­pose in­sert­ing this new pe­ti­tion into the Litany?

This ar­ti­cle is not pri­mar­ily about pol­i­tics. How­ever, there is no doubt, in my mind, that the present po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural con­texts are a sig­nif­i­cant dy­namic in an is­sue that needs to cause us real anx­i­ety. It is this – what should be our Chris­tian re­sponse to what is wrong – or even scan­dalous – in our church as well as our na­tional life? I re­fer to the temp­ta­tion to “hush things up”, let “sleep­ing dogs lie”, “brush things un­der the car­pet”, to hope it “will all go away”, “sort it­self out” or grad­u­ally be for­got­ten.

I’ve been read­ing the re­mark­able bi­og­ra­phy of Di­et­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer by Eric Me­taxas. Here was a pas­tor, prophet and theologian from a priv­i­leged back­ground who, de­spite the most enor­mous pres­sures and dan­gers, ut­terly re­fused to evade the painful is­sues of Nazism and the Church. Un­like so many Ger­man Chris­tians he just would not sweep un­der the car­pet the (at first) un­pleas­ant and (later) bla­tantly evil ac­tions of Hitler and his team. Bon­ho­ef­fer paid the mar­tyr’s price with ex­e­cu­tion in April 1945.

Eva­sion and “cover-up” is much in the news. Fur­ther in­quiries into the roles of the po­lice af­ter the Hills­bor­ough foot­ball ground tragedy are in hand as a re­sult of the report from the group chaired by the Bishop of Liver­pool. Will they get on with it quickly? Al­ready the most se­nior cur­rently serv­ing po­lice of­fi­cer in­volved has “jumped” (be­fore he was pushed, some sug­gest). The Jimmy Sav­ile rev­e­la­tions/al­le­ga­tions have prompted ma­jor po­lice and BBC in­quiries. Will they get on with them quickly? The child-abuse scan­dals in the Ro­man Catholic Church con­tinue to un­ravel – dogged by eva­sion and “cover-up”. When will it end?

On a smaller, lo­cal scale, I was un­til March min­is­ter in a War wick­shire vil­lage. There were sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems in, and al­le­ga­tions about the lead­er­ship of, our vil­lage church school. It took a long time be­fore we were able to get the church (Dioce­san Board of Ed­u­ca­tion) and state (lo­cal Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity) to take it se­ri­ously. Fi­nally, an in­ves­tiga­tive team was set up and speed­ily pro­duced a report. No sooner had that been com­pleted, but (sur­prise, sur­prise), the Head Teacher went on “sick leave” and then re­signed (with­out re­turn­ing for a farewell). The Chair of Gov­er­nors and sev­eral col­leagues im­me­di­ately re­signed too. But the Report was never made pub­lic, and the gov­er­nors and two “Au­thor­i­ties” agreed to treat it as con­fi­den­tial. But, note the con­se­quences –

1. To this day, con­cerned par­ents, teach­ers and vil­lagers do not know what had gone on 2. There was no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion taken 3. The de­part­ing Head Teacher was, within a few months, Head Teacher in an­other county (and more prob­lems devel­oped there!)

4. The chil­dren/par­ents/staff/PCC who had for­mally reg­is­tered com­plaints in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing (and with­drawn chil­dren from the school in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers) have re­ceived no jus­tice.

Here we find a cul­ture in so­ci­ety and in the church that is loath to grasp net­tles prop­erly and se­cure jus­tice for the op­pressed. God has some­thing to say about that!

A wider church ex­am­ple is seen in the child-pro­tec­tion pro­ce­dures of Chichester dio­cese. When is that to be fi­nally cau­ter­ized? It is, again, seen in the trou­bles at Wy­cliffe Hall (The­o­log­i­cal Col­lege) Ox­ford. Amidst a con­fus­ing cloud of ru­mour, crit­i­cism by stu­dents and al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing/heavy­handed man­age­ment, the Prin­ci­pal sud­denly takes leave of ab­sence and then re­signs. At the height of the cri­sis, the Chair of the Coun­cil (the Bishop of Ch­ester) also re­signs. Then the Coun­cil im­poses on it­self and the staff a “Con­fi­den­tial­ity Agree­ment”.

One can sym­pa­thise with the mo­tives – who wants “to wash their dirty linen in pub­lic”? But it smacks of eva­sion to the Col­lege’s sup­port­ers (I speak as a former mem­ber of staff), alumni and the wider church. Is there a cover-up of in­ad­e­quate gov­er­nance? We may never know – but a smell lingers. And the wider Chris­tian world is un­able to learn from mis­takes.

Now, thank God for the courage of the (rel­a­tively) new Bishop of Lin­coln who com­mis­sioned an in­de­pen­dent re­view of his dio­cese. That took some nerve! I can think of other dio­ce­ses that might well profit from the ex­er­cise. In fact, why don’t the arch­bish­ops ex­pect this to be re­peated (say) ev­ery five or six years in ev­ery dio­cese?

A fi­nal point. We now know that, too of­ten, Ro­man Catholic clergy guilty of abuse were moved to an­other par­ish. In the Church of Eng­land, too of­ten, clergy who sim­ply do not ex­er­cise their min­istry with the proper at­ten­tion and ef­fi­ciency (as re­quired in the Or­di­nal, Canons, etc) are qui­etly moved to an­other po­si­tion. It is of­ten de­scribed as “let’s give him/her an­other chance” (I know. I’ve been in dozens of bish­ops’

staff meet­ings up and down the coun­try), but, so of­ten, it is fear of grasp­ing the net­tle. It is eva­sion of the real is­sues. It is a “coverup”!

Af­ter all, Je­sus came as the light! – into dark places. And “the truth will set you free”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.