United Reformed Church offers heartfelt apology to survivors of abuse

Past Case Review URC LOGOThe United Reformed Church has undertaken a wide-ranging review of its safeguarding work since the Church was founded in 1972. This review took more than two years. It included careful scrutiny of records and an invitation for people to contact the Church and report concerns. A major and independently-authored report then followed, with key points of learning and recommendations about what the Church can do to continue and improve its culture of safeguarding.

One important step that the Church now takes is to offer a public and heartfelt apology to survivors of abuse, along with their families, supporters and communities, and to acknowledge that there have been institutional failures. 

The autumn meeting of Mission Council, the URC’s executive body, held between 16-18 November 2018, issued the apology for occasions when the Church has failed to protect children, young people or adults from physical and sexual abuse by ministers, office holders, and others in positions of trust, or has failed to listen to those who were abused.

The United Reformed Church is committed to ensuring that its churches, services and programmes are safe places for everyone and now has robust policies and procedures in place to ensure the welfare and protection of all who attend church and use its premises.

On behalf of General Assembly, the Church’s key decision-making body, the Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, made the following apology: 

‘The United Reformed Church offers a heartfelt apology to survivors of abuse and to their families, supporters and communities.

‘We acknowledge the past failures of the United Reformed Church and the courage of survivors, some of whom disclosed exceptionally difficult, life-changing, experiences of abuse as part of the past case review. Any harm and abuse inflicted by people we trusted is, and will remain, a deep source of grief and shame to the Church.

‘The Church calls on anyone who serves our congregations, synods, institutions and offices to continue taking significant steps to support and protect children, young people and adults from suffering and experiencing any form of abuse.’

Prayer

A prayer by the Revd Elaine Colechin, one of the Chaplains to the Moderators of General Assembly, was shared at the meeting of the Mission Council:

Listening God,
In many different places and situations
you hear our cries:
you are aware of every pain and hurt,
of every sorrow and shame.

As we acknowledge as a church our failings:
we remember before you
those who had the courage to come forward
to share their experiences which have been harmful
and irreversibly and wrongly life-changing;
We remember before you
all those effected by abuse -
survivors, families, supporters and communities.

We pray now for healing:
for your peace to fill the hearts and minds
of all who live with the grief of abuse;
for your hope that from here on
as your church, we will not be a people
who have eyes, but do not see,
who have ears, but do not hear.

This we pray in the one
who brought your peace and healing
to those most in need, Jesus Christ. Amen

The full report can be downloaded and read here