Church of England

A Safe Place to Grow

Speech to General Synod on Safeguarding

General Synod – 7 July 2018

Earlier this week a friend sent this tweet:

‘Church, we have got to stop introducing Safeguarding Training with comments like

“Sorry, I’m afraid we have to go through the boring safeguarding stuff, it’s the rules”

This is part of the problem.

Friends for as long as we see safeguarding as a chore and some kind of ‘necessary evil’ we will continue to allow darkness to grow in the home of light and the hope we are called to offer to a lost world will wither and die.

Safeguarding is not something to be seen as a hoop through which to jump but instead an opportunity for fulfilling the Mission of God.

We, quite rightly, get excited about #NewRevs, Fresh Expressions, Messy Church as proof of new life and growth but do not talk of safeguarding in the same terms.

There is good reason for this as, thus far, our safeguarding track record is nothing about which to boast.

This must change.

We need to see how safeguarding is at the heart of mission for it is only when sheep feel safe that they will give birth to lambs.  Only when the church is a safe place to grow will the flock increase.

We have failed the Good Shepherd again and again.

We stand accused in the same terms as the faithless self-serving shepherds of Ezekiel 34:

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (Ezekiel 34.2-6)

Our Church is supposed to be like a mother nursing her children but too often we have been a predator lurking in the dark waiting to strike.

We have much still to do, the motion before us goes a long way to achieve that.  It is not yet perfect. Heaven forfend that we will ever think, like the Rich Fool building ever bigger barns, that we can fold our hands and become proud instead of humble, self-serving instead of serving others, and a place of death instead of the home of life eternal.

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