Comments: Opinion - 24 June 2017

Wonderful to read that the church was opened up and the lights turned on in the deeps of that terrible night. And serving breakfast by the morning. And, fundamentally, being there. Sharing life, being there. Listening, comforting... being there.

"The people on the lowest incomes of this parish simply do not feel listened to, either this week or in previous years, by those in power."

But the simple truth is that the political system for decades has been geared up to protect the interests of "those who have".

Jesus Christ was "there"... sharing life, living among, ordinary people.

Essential that the Church does not become a cosy living room club.

Essential that the Church speaks from outside the political establishment, and radically challenges existing paradigms that safeguard the 'haves' at the expense of the lives of so many people who are marginal, struggling, exhausted.

Respect to every single person who is willing to live out "good news for the poor" by opening the doors and turning on the lights.

And being there, beyond the building, out on the street, in the community... not just in emergency, but week by week, and year by year.

True, often unglamorous, religion.

Thanks to Giles for a moving, provoking article. Each one of us probably needs to be provoked. I know I do.

The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. And still meets us, every day, if we have eyes to see.

God have mercy and heal us all.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 11:43am BST

I was abused as an eight-year-old child at boarding school. I ran away three times (proud of that), but was repeatedly sent back into the hands of my abuser (the head teacher).

I gained insight about sexual abuse in my 20's, when I worked as an Assistant Governor in the Prison Service, and was tasked to run a national centre for 120 serious sex offenders. I closely interviewed every single one and explored their profoundly selfish compulsions.

Years later, when I had switched to education and was acting Head at a school for similar-aged pupils, I received a phone call from a school in Wales enquiring about a man who had previously taught at my school.

He had been punishing teenage boarders by making them strip in front of them. 'Had my school had any misgivings about him?'

The shocking truth was that this teacher (later suspended from teaching) had been Deputy Head years earlier at my school, and had been showering with pupils and taking unofficial trips with children; but rather than being reported or put on any lists, my school had done a legal deal committing all parties to silence about these affairs. From the school's point of view, reputation was at stake.

And so to Peter Ball. If Robert Brown's article is accurate the offending was bizarre, disgusting, shameful, and an abandonment of a duty of care: "He had connections with numerous public schools... offered counselling for boys who were suffering from homesickness. Those who were especially spiritually favoured would be invited to shower with him, pray with him naked, massage his legs... and occasionally be beaten by him."

Abuse is not a one off experience for the victim. Even five decades later I get triggered periodically and find myself in foetal position and I am there again.

How people are not reported is inexplicable to me.

Today, I work as a nurse in a large secondary school, caring for young people physically, psychologically, pastorally. Every single one is precious. Safeguarding is a huge duty of care. If we do not protect the innocent... if we put reputation first... if we endanger future victims (by the very nature of compulsion to repeat offend) what are we playing at?

Isn't withholding documents from the police a kind of tampering with the evidence and perverting the course of justice? Or playing God with people's lives?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 12:21pm BST

@Susannah: I am very sorry indeed that you have had to live under that shadow. Thank you for your thoughts.

Andrew Brown notes the striking similarities between the abuse perpetrated by Ball and that of the Bash camps. The other thing that connects the Smyth with the Ball is their rancid snobbery, in its own – if less repulsive way - a complete negation of the principles on which our faith is founded.

A further reflection on the Gibb Report: I recently found myself re-reading Norman Dixon’s classic, ‘On the Psychology of Military Incompetence’ (1976), and wondered that if the words ‘Church’ were substituted for ‘army’, ‘bishop’ for ‘general’ or ‘abuse case/schism’ for ‘battle’ the book would be a very telling study of ecclesiastical failings. There is the same fetishizing of pointless and inadvertently comedic hierarchies, the same ‘bull’, the same belief that throwing more resources at a problem using the same failed strategies will somehow yield a better result, the same misguided ‘fog of war’ (which, in the fertile imaginations of its participants, transmutes strategic defeats into tactical victories), the same petty-minded micromanagement, the same concealment for the purpose of evading responsibility, the same dishonesty directed at the avoidance of blame or its transference to vulnerable scapegoats.

All these failings, and more, are to be found in the grotesque response of those in authority to Ball’s crimes, which lead to at least one person committing suicide, and the lives of others being significantly scarred.

Incidentally, Dixon’s book should be required reading for those church ‘leaders’ being trained (or indoctrinated) pursuant to Lord Green’s silly management schemes.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 2:24pm BST

'We are an unsuccessful church' - by the standards of so much of today's Anglican machinery. But not by the standards of Jesus. Maybe General Synod - or, better, the House of Bishops - need to do some study of the letters to the 7 churches from the first chapters of Revelation. It's not the self-satisfied large, rich church that does well in God's eyes, but the small, struggling one under attack.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 12:14pm BST
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