Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute (Proverbs 31:8, NIV).
Thirtyone:eight is a leading safeguarding organization which takes its name from this verse in the Book of Proverbs.
THIRTYONE:EIGHT ASKS, WHY SAFEGUARDING SUNDAY?
Your Church is unique. It is a place where anyone can come and feel welcomed, loved, and part of a community. But with that openness comes responsibility, especially towards safeguarding vulnerable people.
It’s easy to think that abuse and neglect don’t happen in our churches. But the sad truth is that they can and do happen. In some cases, failure to safeguard people from abuse has had devastating and long-lasting consequences on people’s lives.
Thanks to the many brave people who have experienced such abuse and spoken out about it, we are now much more aware of the risks. Today, many churches are working hard to get these things right and safeguarding is now a familiar word to most people who work and volunteer in Christian ministry.
However, to truly create places that are safer for all, we need to create open cultures where abuse has nowhere to hide. To do this you need to ensure everyone in your church is aware of the part they each have to play in supporting the safeguarding arrangements you have in place and to be alert to the risks of abuse both from within and outside the church. Safeguarding Sunday will help you do that.
It’s not just about making a statement. It’s your chance to consider the journey your own church or denomination is on with safeguarding. You can reflect on where you may have got things wrong in the past and think about how you are supporting those who have been hurt or harmed.
It’s your chance to highlight all the good work being done behind the scenes and to show your church and your community that you are committed to protecting vulnerable people and creating safer cultures and communities for all both now and in the future.
We are a Christian organisation, inspired to ‘speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable’ as it says in Proverbs 31:8 from where we get our name.
Our vision is a world where every child and adult can feel, and be, safe.
I am glad that ELIM my Church Denomination is supporting Safeguarding Sunday. The November 2023 Issue of DIRECTION our national magazine featured an article, What does a healthy church look like? and asks the question, How do we build healthy churches that protect against spiritual abuse?
The article highlights the importance of this question in the light of recent headline cases of spiritual abuse and acknowledges the need for greater transparency.
Peter Wright, Head of Communications and Membership at thirtyone:eight says:
“It often takes a tragedy for people to put measures in place to stop things happening again.”
Peter goes on to define spiritual abuse:
“Spiritual abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse which is characterized by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context.”
“It’s misusing positions of power and authority in places where people feel involved or invested in a community and fear being separated from it. It can have a deeply damaging impact on those who experience it.”
The article recommends ‘Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse’ by Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys who highlight key components needed for safer and healthy church cultures:
- Communicating well
- Listening well
- Managing power
- Establishing good governance
- Building effective structures
- Modelling safe behaviour
As Oakley and Humphreys point out, sfeguarding is a serious issue and in order to establish a safe environment there must be transparency and accountability. The higher the level of leadership the greater transparency and accountability must be. A radical re-think on these serious issues is needed at every level in church life. Mechanisms must be in place which trigger immediate action whenever spiritual abuse is present. Training for spiritual leaders must confront character and personality weaknesses especially with respect to the exercise of power. Compassionate care and support for all those involved and affected must be close at hand. But far better for such abuse not to occur in the first place.