Australian perspectives on church abuse Part 3

Anglican-Church-of-AustraliaReading this third and final contribution from Christine, I feel truly that I am glimpsing the future. Looking at this piece from a UK perspective, there are several things that I would point out to the reader that would be very welcome if they existed in this country. First of all, I am looking at a process for dealing with power and sexual abuse which is open and transparent. Secondly we read below of psychologists offering their services and helping everyone involved to understand the dynamics of bullying and abuse. Thirdly we have a system that recognizes that all of us are ‘vulnerable’ adults in the sense we are susceptible to being bullied and abused.

In the blog post that will be posted on Tuesday, we will hear something written by ‘Joe’, the teenager who was sexually abused 40 years ago and has been seeking support from the church ever since. None of the things we find being implemented in Australia were much in evidence in the Church of England before the Elliot Report was published in March of this year. The forthright intervention of Bishop Sarah may, we hope, change things. We would certainly that Christine’s Australian material would be of assistance to Sarah in her work.

In summary Christine’s contributions have given us a perspective on the topic of church abuse that is an enormous encouragement to those of us who are concerned about this topic and who do not live in Australia. It allows us to believe that someone somewhere is thinking clearly and rationally about the issue of abuse in churches without defensiveness and self-interest confusing the situation. The two enemies of clear thinking and action that I identify as operating in the UK are an instinctive defensive protectionism towards the institution and the demands of insurance companies. Instead of compassionate outreach towards victims and survivors, we meet defensiveness, blocking and ‘forgetfulness’. All of these responses are as abusive as any actual abusive act connected with sex or bullying. Knowing that systems are in place on the other side of the world to help survivors will help us to demand that such things are put in place in the UK (and the States)

Parish Level – ‘ground-upwards’

In Parts 1 and 2 I outlined briefly some events that led to the removal of a priest who had been accused of bullying. The overwhelming intervention by laity and priests together has to stand as a major victory. At that time, 2009 and shortly after, laws were enacted that endorsed a person’s right to live and work without the fear of harassment and bullying. Organisationally, this is ‘top down’ dynamics at work, where higher up the chain, interventions are put in place that help and enable those at ground level.

Part 3 now outlines what can happen at ground level that can influence the upper echelons of church organisations. As Laws and Protocols are now in place, what has been happening?

Interpretation of Laws has varied across Australia but a search of the different Diocesan sites reveals similar responses. Interestingly, in one of the states, one of the grass roots moves came from psychologists who offered to help the victims of church sexual abuse. I have not verified this but it seems that the Diocese accepted this help which has become integrated into a Committee that investigates complaints. This, to my mind, is vital. While an intelligent Director of Professional Standards can go a long way to understanding the psychological attributes of a bully, the professional psychologist is in the best position to make a diagnosis and do a risk assessment.

What of victims’ responses to the aforementioned changes? A key factor in the sexual abuse cases that has affected satisfaction is whether the best interests of the victims were prioritised. Other factors for victims include:

• their understanding of the process for responding to reports of abuse
• their expectations of what can be achieved through the response
• the nature, timeliness and consistency of the response
• their treatment by the person who handled the response (such as whether they were believed and offered support) and that person’s position of authority in the institution. p171

While these points are made in the context of child sexual abuse there is no reason to think that they would not apply in the adult abuse context too. One complainant used the Faithfulness in Service Handbook as the template for their complaint.

In one Diocese an adult abuse victim has praised the system, saying:

1. On first contact the Australian Anglican Diocese responded within a day, with the Director of Professional Standards taking the lead.
2. A telephone conversation confirmed that they were believed and would be taken seriously.
3. The Director of Professional Standards sent the victim two attachments , Faithfulness in Service and Policy Guidelines No.55 Complaints and Grievance Policy .
4. This
1. Set a preamble about how we relate to one another in a Godly way.
2. Provided a process for the effective management and resolution of concerns, disagreements, complaints or grievances that arise
3. Advised how to make a complaint about the conduct or the decision-making process
4. Outlined the process and timeframes
5. Assured victims of a timely response.
6. Stated that the “process is based on the principles of natural justice including the rights of the complainant to:

i. Be heard,
ii. Have the complaint treated seriously and investigated and considered by unbiased parties,
iii. Be informed of the process for managing the complaint, and
iv. Be informed of the outcome and the reasons for that outcome.
The respondent has the right to:
i. Be informed of the details of the complaint,
ii. Be informed of the process for managing the complaint,
iii. Have the complaint investigated and considered by unbiased parties,
iv. Be able to respond fully to the complaint,
v. Have the response considered seriously, and
vi. Be informed of the outcome and the reasons for that outcome.
5. The Director of Professional Standards informed the victim that the bishop had been informed of a previous communication (as agreed) and asked permission of the victim to forward further information.
6. Offered counselling.
7. Arranged meeting. Mediation had been considered but it was felt that events had overtaken everyone to the point that mediation was probably out of the question.
8. The meeting was professionally-run and allowed time for the different aspects of the complaint to be aired.
9. This was followed up with information as to how the case was to be resolved.

This was a highly professional response where the victim felt themselves to be part of the ongoing process; not a person to whom things were being done, and things that were out of their control.

I have searched some UK Diocesan sites for similar protocols to the Australian one that I mentioned. At first glance the UK ones seem to be less robust than those of the Australian counterparts. In one Diocese, seemingly, the term ‘vulnerable adults’ is used because it comes straight out of Government handbooks. Whereas what I am observing is not in that category. Research demonstrates that we are all vulnerable where it comes to targeting by bullies. Indeed, it may be the more talented and useful members of the congregation that are targeted. In a study into workplace bullying:

WBI research findings from our year 2000 study and conversations with thousands of targets have confirmed that targets appear to be the veteran and most skilled person in the workgroup.
Targets are independent. They refuse to be subservient. Bullies seek to enslave targets. When targets take steps to preserve their dignity, their right to be treated with respect, bullies escalate their campaigns of hatred and intimidation to wrest control of the target’s work from the target.
Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the “go-to” veteran workers to whom new employees turn for guidance. Insecure bosses and co-workers can’t stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bully bosses steal credit from skilled targets.
Targets are better liked, they have more social skills, and quite likely possess greater emotional intelligence. They have empathy (even for their bullies). Colleagues, customers, and management (with exception to the bullies and their sponsors) appreciate the warmth that the targets bring to the workplace.
Targets are ethical and honest. Some targets are whistleblowers who expose fraudulent practices. Every whistleblower is bullied. Targets are not schemers or slimy con artists. They tend to be guileless. The most easily exploited targets are people with personalities founded on a prosocial orientation — a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, nurture others.
Targets are non-confrontive. They do not respond to aggression with aggression. (They are thus morally superior.) But the price paid for apparent submissiveness is that the bully can act with impunity (as long as the employer also does nothing).

We are keen to get church authorities to demonstrate understanding of ‘vulnerability’ as applying to almost everyone. Stereotyping of victims must cease. Anyone who says, as we are bound to say, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God is vulnerable in a meaningful sense.

I hope that this ‘ground-upwards’ outline of church responses to bullying has not only cheered those who have been subjected to such abuse, but also given them hope; I also ask that such information is disseminated to churches so that their understanding of this subject is broadened and that Protocols like Policy Guidelines No.55 Complaints and Grievance Policy are put to use globally.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

30 thoughts on “Australian perspectives on church abuse Part 3

  1. I very much appreciate this deconstruction of the concept of vulnerable adult, something I have spoken on before. As an adult with ongoing mental health issues, I recognise this “vulnerable” category, if automatically applied, which happens of course because people can’t be bothered with nuance, is in fact part of the ongoing “othering” and stigmatisation of people like me. The use of this concept may be well-intentioned in certain contexts, but it is also demeaning and blind in others, where the reasons why people may be vulnerable to/targets of prejudice and discrimination are ignored. The irony is the complacency with which these things are spoken by the local hierarchy who have targeted and severely undermined me both in my employment and my ministry – without any apparent awareness of wrongdoing.

    1. Yes, haikusinenomine, wherever we find stereotyping we find lack of thinking, lack of nuance, and general laziness in thinking. I feel like researching every Diocese in the UK that has done this and sending them the WBI reference. Then perhaps fewer people will be wronged.

      The “othering” and stigmatisation of people – would you say that this is targeting as an ‘in-group’/’out group’ situation, so several people would fit into this category or is it more directed than that?

      I agree that part of the sense of injustice lies in the apparent lack of awareness of wrongdoing. We expect clergy to have some sensitivity on such matters. If I am lying broken on the side of the road I would expect a priest to come and help me if he happened to be passing. If I am hurting, don’t write me off! In my imagination I want some sort of truth and reconciliation event to take place.

      1. I was talking here specifically about the myths and fear that surround people with mental health problems. We are understood as a classic outgroup par excellence, therefore potential targets or another good word, scapegoats, who are used to enable the ingroup, the sane, to feel good about themselves and create cohesion by venting their attitudes on us. In this day and age some people are more understanding and civilised, thankfully, but it can be frightening to see how easily the mask can slip at times, and this was part of my experience last autumn.

        On a theoretical level, and this has a theological relevance for this site too, I have learnt such a huge lot over several years by studying the work of Rene Girard and several theologians who use his work. It’s quite complex stuff at times and hard to digest it all. I could recommend his books “The Scapegoat” or “I See Satan fall like Lightening” for starters, or “Faith beyond Resentment” by James Alison, who has the outsider experience of being an out gay catholic priest and writes very movingly. Also his excellent course “Jesus the forgiving Victim” When I was working as a reader I found this really excellent website based on the weekly readings extremely helpful: Browsing around this site is a very good way to begin to see things with a whole new gospel vision.

        My priest stated explicitly that her actions were done with my best interests to the fore, which she thought she could attend to at the same time as securing her perceived interests. I think her complacency on this must have been a bit dented when she received the 18 page letter from my lawyer detailing our view of illegal disability discrimination, however she makes it clear since then that she is not expecting to discuss this and certainly no apology looks forthcoming! But this is an ongoing situation with two halves – the employment and the reader ministry – and I am only now working towards dealing with the ministry situation having obtained a just tolerable compromise on the employment situation after they saw that anything less would mean going to a tribunal where they would lose.

        1. I would add re mental health specifically that stereotyping, misunderstanding and rejection are rife. This has meant for me and many others, living for decades of my adult life warped by the constant awareness of negative general attitudes, which now and then break out into actual attacks on my personal integrity or social belonging in some way. Things have improved with the advent of “mad pride” and anti-stigma organisations etc, but it’s still the case that people with mental health issues are the social sub-group with the very lowest rate of employment participation. I hunted and struggled for years to end up in my little job that suited me ideally in the out of the way place where I live, where I thought I could be myself and not have to lie about my condition. No wonder that, for this sort of reason, my apparent acceptance in the local church meant so much to me – but I was shocked to discover how easily the acceptance and the place I thought I had proved myself in over a number of years – during which time some similar short episodes of illness had been accepted and worked with – could be stripped away from me in a complete about face by someone I had thought was a friend. How naive. How coloured by wishful thinking – and being the target of careful cultivation by a gifted social manipulator.

  2. The points iterated above are fantastically good. The detailed unpacking of the ideal response, and the description of a “typical” victim, (love the word “target”) as actually being a decent, good human being. This kind of thing would have given me hope. But it simply never happens. Not here. Now, some advice, please. If I feel like taking the risk, would I be better off approaching the Bishop of Crediton, or the Bishop of Worcester? What I want is someone who will try to put things right. Which of these is more likely to do that, do you think?

    1. I can’t say anything about the Bishop of Worcester. I live in the Bishop of Crediton’s area and met her briefly at a conference at which I gave a 15 minute talk last autumn. For me it’s a live issue whether I can, should or have the strength to try to talk to her.

      1. Haiku, I am hoping to reflect further on this issue of who is a ‘vulnerable adult’. I have already posted on this topic before but the Australian material has made me feel bolder in my belief that that use of the expression by the church is patronising, condescending and offensive. Bishop Sarah must surely be someone who has had their eyes opened to this new reality. The Church can no longer be parasitic on guidelines that are published by central government but must deal with abuse in its own way and on its own terms. I am hoping that once the issue of insurance companies and their influence has been swept away, then the church can start to be prophetic in its clear-eyed understanding of what abuse is and how it should be dealt with. Don’t hold your breath but we do have the materials to make the future come true in this area. Human frailty may hold up the process I fear.

    2. Yes, EnglishAthena, those points are wonderful aren’t they! I can’t take the credit for those. I can’t take credit for ‘target’ either but research had demonstrated that the focus is on the bully; it is their activity that is abusive no matter who it is levelled at. In other words, anyone in that situation would reasonably have felt hurt by that particular action.

      I know that “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick” but maybe we can generate a little hope for you – noting that the issues that have affected satisfaction is primarily whether the best interests of the victims were prioritised. This has to be ascertained first. Who will handle your complaint? Can they assure you that they will take it seriously?

      Second, what of your understanding of their process for responding to reports of abuse? The detailed points above can remove a whole set of stressors for complainants.
      What is your expectation of what can be achieved through the response? What do you want to have as the outcome?

      The nature, timeliness and consistency of the response is important. The example above is a particularly fine one.

      All of this is a risk if the diocese hasn’t adopted a ‘corporate climate’ set of words that you can point to and rely on.

      OK to answer your specific question. I am not a lawyer, a psychologist, or a practicing psychotherapist but I have had some success in helping people who had been targeted to get to where they want to be. That’s why it is important to for you to be able to clarify what it is you want of this process. Interestingly, it is rarely financial reward that comes to mind. Most people want an apology or acknowledgement or something like that. Maybe restitution, or that their processes will improve as a result of grappling with your case. Most just don’t want these things to happen to others.

      Do you have a choice between which of the Bishops you may approach?

      If the answer is “either” then which one is more likely to put things right? I reckon the one who has a written form of words on their site; one that demonstrates that they know about ‘corporate climate’. Also, the one who is more able to put things right will be the one whom you have prepared. For instance, a stream of consciousness letter is less likely to succeed than one that follows their protocols. I know of someone who used their Diocese document and wrote on that in the margin. Thus it was obvious that it was Diocese’s points that were being addressed. Another cited all the reference points “…on page x of your document you say…. well that happened to me on ….”

      Elsewhere, there is a ‘how to’ list. You will have a better chance of success (whatever that looks like for you) if you have made contemporaneous notes, with dates, what was the occasion, who witnessed it, all that kind of stuff. While I have never seen this on a website, I think it is a good idea to write a ‘victim impact’ statement. This is tough going and you could do with a friend alongside you or a counsellor. Write up a draft first. Leave it for a couple of days; look at it again; send it to someone who knows how to edit. Having said that, it could also be that this very process could be freeing.

      I wonder whether we could put together a facsimile document? That is, a draft that includes the elements of an abusive encounter? Let’s see what Stephen and Chris think. Do you think that could work?

  3. Many thanks for the link above to the workplace bullying website, which I have started to explore. This looks extremely good and very relevant and useful to me personally despite the atypical aspects of my situation.

    1. You’re welcome haikusinenomine. I’m sure there will be lots more useful stuff to find. I’m glad that you’re find it relevant and useful. Share the quotes with us that impress you most.

      1. I’m looking forward to this and will come back to you. At present I’m going off on holiday today for a week and will be offline.

      2. is a substantial website of a serious project to help targets. It’s based in the USA (is there anything similar here?) but what they say applies mostly here too. There is too much good stuff on this site to pick it all. But here is one summary I liked: “The lies, humiliation, shame and exclusion are the most insufferable aspects of bullying and define the experience.” This actually taps in with several facets of my life experience, since for example I spent many years after being diagnosed as bipolar in the “closet” as much as possible over my situation, through fear and shame as well as ignorance and lack of suitable solidarity and support; and I have only gradually found the strength to sometimes be open about my situation at appropriate moments and to challenge the wounding lies, humiliation, shame/stigma and exclusion. Thus it is an ongoing challenge to maintain my self-belief and personal integrity as well as hope that I can move in the social world without the constant danger of crushing attacks such as were aimed at me last autumn/winter. My developing theology as well as people in the church helped me enormously to grow and become strong. However, church involvement has been a double-edged thing too.

        I think this quote too might well speak to the experience of those who have suffered sexual abuse? It seems these things go to the core of abuse as such, and this bullying website does a very good job in covering the field in order to support targets, and unpicking particular aspects of abuse in relation to employment. This is not something I’m aware of the church taking very seriously, and the events of last autumn/winter are the second time in my parish employment I have had a major and punishing battle over my rights necessitating the threat to go to a tribunal (the first time, a few years ago, was a classic case of illegal employee exploitation that had nothing to do with my mental health status or disability discrimination laws).

    1. Yes, the core of abuse. And how the core of abuse can be taken seriously. If it can be taken seriously by secular bodies then why not spiritual ones? (quite apart from insurance) How can the story of the good Samaritan be read year after year without clergy noticing the abuse of walking on the other side of the road?

      Recent history has shown how this is possible. Helen Arendt, on viewing Adolph Eichmann on trial, noted that initially Eichmann had been sickened by the sight of the living corpses in concentration camps. Wherein lay his crime? He managed to wall himself up against his rightful reaction. The good Samaritan did not allow this process to take place inside his soul; instead, he allowed mercy to be enacted. Add to this the exigencies of everyday life; its daily round of meetings and its other responsibilities and you are set up to turn a blind eye to those who want to be recognised as normal human beings with normal human needs. The crux of the matter is that it is those who have been selected for their spiritual acumen who let us down. That hurts. It probably hurts more than if it had been John Doe who had caused the hurt. In this sense, we are all vulnerable adults in our relationships with clergy.

      1. yes, an interesting perspective, to define vulnerability not in the (supposedly weak, abnormal or inadequate) qualities of the abused, but in the relationship where the abuser has a position of power.

        1. Yes. It annoys me how the word “vulnerable” shifts the fault to the victim. It is the person with power who can abuse it who has the problem.

          1. The word ‘vulnerable’ may shift the fault to the victim. I haven’t done enough research on this one, but I suspect that its use lies back in history. Children and vulnerable, we accept that. What of adults who have the age of children? I mean those with, maybe, cerebral palsy or something similar. These are vulnerable adults.

            To my mind, the problem lies with what has been left unspoken and unaddressed in the nomeclementure . Actually, there is no similar category that we may apply to adults who have been targeted. Research has addressed this! “Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the “go-to” veteran workers to whom new employees turn for guidance. Insecure bosses and co-workers can’t stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bully bosses steal credit from skilled targets.” So what adjective do we apply here? Normal adult? No! Everyday adult? Worse! This person described in WBI is simply a congregant.

            I think that is what is such an affront to the upper echelons of our churches. These people were not ‘vulnerable’. THAT is the affront.

            1. I am afraid that there is a kind of outlook based on patriarchal attitudes and macho norms for men that “proper” adults “should” be able to stand up for themselves, fight their corner, give as good as they get, etc. This jostling is one of the way male hierarchies are determined. If someone fails to do that there is “weakness”, and weakness is not allowed or only for the special exception category of “vulnerable” who are like children in needing protection. At root the demeaning aspect of the “vulnerable adult” category is precisely this unspoken understanding that such people are not really full adults, are lesser people if they cannot independently care for themselves. Of course that begs all the questions of seeing dependency as in itself lesser too. What this outlook doesn’t take into account, in fact unhelpfully glosses over, is the problems of power relationships that people find themselves entangled in, as well as the reality you point to that targets may have many admirable adult qualities, which others, including of course bullies, don’t have.

              I did do some work on this when one particular version of our diocesan safeguarding policy came out a few years ago, and one aspect that attempted to address this there was the statement built into the definitions that we all have vulnerabilities and that adults can be vulnerable in specific situations or at particular times, meaning that the blanket phrase “vulnerable adult” should not be used. This was some kind of attempt to address the issues, but in the reality of labelling language, what people actually do is pick on a handy if flawed label and use it. I had recent experience of this in a meeting discussing safeguarding where the vicar showed some awareness of the problem but struggled to know what to say. Of course I sat there quietly while conscious that it was at my moment of greatest vulnerability that she had chosen to attack me.

              1. Your first paragraph. Agree. And includes professionals who are bullied. There are various reasons why a professional might not complain too, however, the church misses out on their expertise and the Body of Christ deteriorates as a result.

                Second paragraph. I reckon that such an interpretation has to begin with God. For instance, “defer to one another” would cover the challenges that you met where people find the flaws and rely on legalisms.

                Your work that you did on safeguarding – is it recorded here on Surviving Church anywhere?

                1. What does professional mean these days if not someone who has a job? I certainly meant to cover bullying in the workplace at all levels in what I said. In the CofE context my impression is that the hierarchy have much greater awareness of the problems of bullying at a higher level against the clergy, both from bishops and indeed in the other direction from congregations. But I think that bullying and various kinds of employment abuse against insignificant parish employees such as me is largely invisible.

                  I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying in your second para though it sounds positive. Perhaps you could expand a little.

                  The small work I did was help the previous incumbent to translate the then new diocesan policy into a policy for the mission community (benefice). These have both been superceded and the present incumbent no longer involves me in this sort of thing…. It seems a long time ago and was long before this site existed. I may have made some comments on this site somewhere such as the ones above but nothing substantial.

                  1. Ha – forgive me. I was in bed lying awkwardly when I wrote that so it came out rather too briefly. I shall expand the para!

                    I was thinking of your “patriarchal attitudes and macho norms for men that “proper” adults “should” be able to stand up for themselves, fight their corner, give as good as they get, etc. This jostling is one of the way male hierarchies are determined. If someone fails to do that there is “weakness”, and weakness is not allowed or only for the special exception category of “vulnerable” who are like children in needing protection.” Yes. I see that too and agree that such patriarchal – or even matey – views are a hindrance. It is a form of acting out. It is unregenerate. The antidote to it – as in all forms of biblical interpretation – is to see it from God’s point of view:

                    “For you, brothers, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13 and in Philippians 2:3 to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves.” and in Jesus’ attitude in making Himself into a servant. It seems that our macho / patriarchal types need a good dose of the bible! (As an aside, I have often wondered whether such people are Christians in any sense of the word.)

                    For me, the problem is being quick-witted enough to say such things at the time! I have managed instant verbal responses and they have been supported by the nearby witnesses. Writing an email later somehow loses its effectiveness. Written communications seem to carry extra weight and are therefore, for me personally, more formal and serious. I try not to get into that position.

                    I mentioned that “patriarchal attitudes and macho norms” can be a form of ‘acting out’. (Acting out is a psychological defence mechanism whereby the person may (erroneously) feel threatened and therefore indulges in avoidance behaviour. It can take many forms! It may mean taking on a persona of ‘Father’, ‘Patriarch’, or ‘testosterone-fuelled male’ or ‘flouncey female’ who leaves the room in a huff before anyone can object.) There is often something unreal or manipulative about such behaviour. I think it is the dishonesty in it that leaves us seething, a dishonesty that leaves us without any right to reply.

  4. Yep. Tick all boxes. Apology, changing systems, restitution. I want some evidence if God’s love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. I have been treated with implacable indifference for 20 years. So, someone, with power, so that they can make a difference, who actually cares. Who is shocked and saddened by the story. I can’t write 20 years’ worth! I did write a summary for the vulnerable adults officer. 26 pages! There is proof, up to a point. Enough on balance of probabilities, anyway. One of the tricks they do is to say they can’t do anything without evidence. Well, imagine if you phoned the police and they said they couldn’t come and look at your burglary without evidence! They don’t look for evidence. They don’t listen to what I have to say. And if there is cast iron proof, still nothing happens. A friend of mine forwarded abusive emails to the Bishop. There was a meeting. So many people were invited it was a pantomime. And it was held in the accused person’s house, home territory. My friend was manoeuvred into resigning, the priest is still there.
    So. Do I take the risk?

  5. Yes, I can tell at a glance why you would think twice about entering into this process again. The system – the pantomime on the person’s home territory, I really feel for you suffering that. That alone, without all the back story, is worth taking up. As you saw from the West Australian system, it is totally transparent and upfront about what is being offered. No one demanded evidence. Witnesses are good because it helps the story to hang together. Plus if several people are telling the same story that’s good too and confirms that the complainant isn’t talking about a simple personality clash.

    I think part of my thinking – and feelings – about these matters lies in the reliance on man’s ways and rules of law. Where is the Christian heart in all of this?

    If you were to take this up again, would it be with the same Bishop? If so, I personally would cc the Archbishop.

    The evidence thing…well it seems to me that the pantomime alone is evidence of a kind. What was done? Nothing healing. One of the articles I posted made the point that Bishops would no longer be able to interpret the rules in their own private way. Times are changing.

    I don’t want to say much more on a public page, especially as I haven’t read your submission but I take the view that if you need something to be resolved then press on. Evidently, something is bothering you or you wouldn’t be on this site, trying to survive your experiences. I have a few ideas but, if you don’t mind, would like to email Stephen and you together to explore them.

  6. The abusive email story really isn’t mine, it is a friend. She is a Reader, and she managed to fall out with the new Incumbent’s wife. Could have been 6 of one….! At any rate, she spoke to the incumbent and apologised for any misunderstanding and he suggested a cuppa. So my friend emailed and invited her, and got this nasty reply. I never saw it, but she thought it was bad enough to forward to the Bishop. Her husband who was a Church Warden resigned over it. The matter was complicated by the fact that the incumbent and the wife had the same email address and it was never clear who had actually sent it! The incumbent, the Archdeacon, the warden of readers’ boss, the wife, other Reader, and if I remember rightly at least some of the church wardens were all invited. My spies, who are everywhere, told me sadly that things were said which should never have been said. The Archdeacon told me he had to act because a warden had resigned. I pointed out that a warden had resigned in my own parish too, he ignored me. The incumbent was known to swear like a trooper, and was warned to stop. But of course, it’s impossible to know if he has if no-one else is there. They were also told to stop sharing emails (there’s a huge confidentiality issue here). The wife was taking services (she’s not a minister) and was told to stop. But she continued and no action was taken. My friend was repeatedly asked hectoring questions which in the end led her to say she would go. She was, I have to say, found another parish near by. Something else that was never done for me. The incumbent carried on pretty much as if nothing had happened. He has since got rid the replacement Reader, who used to be a Professor of Theology, and two much loved retired clergy. No-one has done anything about any of those things. I said to two of the Wardens “when they came for the Jews I said nothing”. They both looked sheepish, and one explained that they’d been a bit taken aback. But when he carried on, they did nothing.
    No, I have moved house. I am not being bullied, and am heaps happier. But I am being treated with much the same indifference. Some people care, most don’t. It won’t do. It is the good men who nothing that is the problem.

    1. I pick up one detail ‘the incumbent swore like a trooper’. Without knowing any other details, this suggest a dysfunctional ministry, or potentially so. People who swear inappropriately are likely to shock at least some people. That is the point of swearing, to create a verbal impact which shocks others. For a clergyman to shock people deliberately is a form of power game, similar to shouting. Both can be seen to intimidate, and that is not on. Both shouting and swearing can be efforts to impose your will on another. My reasoning may not be completely sound but I feel strongly swearing is not seemly behaviour for a clergyman and may be part of the complex make-up of an abusive personality.

      1. Tell me about it. My informant told me he did so at the old people’s home. Inappropriate is definitely the word.

  7. I received this partial notification last week from haikusinenomine and expected that some glitch in the system would reveal itself. that was not to be so apologies where i didnt respond to this:
    “Australian perspectives on church abuse Part 3″. Here is an excerpt:

    I would add re mental health specifically that stereotyping, misunderstanding and rejection are rife. This has meant for me and many others, living for decades…”

    Yes, this needs to be picked up in due course .

  8. For the sake of keeping the Australian perspective in one place, I am adding this on Tony McCorkell who reveals secrets of the wealthy Christian sect Exclusive Brethren. Known for its obsession with privacy and its silencing tactics, the Exclusive Brethren has managed to avoid any scrutiny over alleged child sex abuse. Until now. Sydney Morning Herald:

  9. The Brethren are suing and want the FaceBook post on this subject taken down.

    See also:
    Revealed: how Exclusive Brethren members secretly donate to the Liberal Party:
    Brethren school kids ‘brainwashed’:
    ‘No complaints’: Malcolm Turnbull defends Brethren donations to Liberal Party:

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