Messages of Hope

Spotlight on ‘the church’

Published / by Sandy

The verdict that announced Cardinal George Pell was guilty of child sexual abuse sent shockwaves around the world this week. ‘The church’ in general have been cast in the spotlight once again, with society at large left with a negative view of the church as an institution where people, especially children, should be feeling safe.

Uniting Church SA Moderator, Rev Sue Ellis, “The news of the conviction of Cardinal Pell for Child Sex offences serves as a sombre reminder of the sad history of sexual abuse of vulnerable children entrusted to the care of churches and other institutions. It reinforces the importance of upholding the stories of people who endured abuse in a church institution”.

She continues: “As people of the Uniting Church, we are committed to seeking to make amends to survivors and to ensure others never suffer in this way again. The Church is called to be a safe place for all people and we are constantly scrutinising our policies and practices around children to ensure they comply with the Royal Commission’s ‘Key Elements of Child Safe Organisations’.”

In response to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Uniting Church launched their Safe Church initiative that offers procedures, training, screening and reporting avenues to help prevent abuses from happening within our churches. In June 2018 we also committed to join the National Redress Scheme, a Government support programme that assists people who have experienced institutionalised sexual abuse and holds institutions accountable for it.

This week the National Redress Scheme published a list of institutions identified by the Royal Commission who have joined the scheme. The Uniting Church does not appear on this list, but we are mentioned on their website along with other institutions whose applications are still being processed. The Uniting Church in Australia has provided the Federal Government with our application and supporting documents in December 2018.  We have been informed that we will soon be operational as a fully listed institution and ready to begin processing any claims originating from within the Uniting Church.

“We pray for all survivors of child sexual abuse and for their families and the families of those who can no longer share their pain. We pray for a safe society where the rights of children and vulnerable people will be recognised and championed. In Jesus’ ministry, the importance of such people in the Kingdom of Heaven was made abundantly clear to his disciples and followers. May it be so in the life and witness of our church today,” says Sue.

“Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Catholic Church at this time as Pope Francis leads the people into a new era of accountability in their discipleship to Christ.”

(originally published on SA Synod website)

Hymn: O God when trust is shattered
PASSION CHORALE 7.6.7.6 D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”) – new words to a familiar tune
O God, when trust is shattered
by wolves among your sheep,
when youth and children suffer,
when those remembering weep,
when victims tell their stories,
when leaders hide abuse,
bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

When leaders side with evil,
when people do their worst,
may we reach out to victims
and put their healing first.
If any member suffers,
we all will suffer, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

We pray that the abusers
will learn sin’s awful cost,
and — making no excuses —
will know that they are lost.
Then may they find redemption —
as we all need it, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

May all who serve in churches
be careful, watchful, wise.
May we prevent abuses
and hear your children’s cries.
We pray that institutions
will seek your way anew.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!
Tune: Hans Leo Hassler, 1601; harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1729 (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Text: Copyright © 2018 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/
Permission given for churches to use this hymn in worship