June 2015

magnifying glassDear Friends

As I began to write this piece, Sepp Blatter (the president of FIFA) had resigned amid rumours that he too would be investigated for corruption.

Mr Blatter’s life has been totally dominated by FIFA. Evidently he has been dedicated to his task but there has been a lack of transparency and honesty and it would appear a great deal of money has changed hands to ensure that the ‘right’ outcome has been achieved. I’m no football expert but it seems to me than any large organisation that deals with many countries, some of which are known to be run on the idea of back handers, is going to run into trouble if it isn’t open and honest about its dealing. Unfortunately it seems that some things are hidden that should be exposed, the FBI however seem to be determined to expose the corruption at the heart of FIFA.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was concerned about what was hidden and in Chapter 10 v 26 Jesus says, ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known’. That applies to the message that he brings to us but also maybe to the things that happen in dark places that need a light to be shone upon them.

Many of you will have seen on the news recently that the Methodist Church has also come under scrutiny because we have been going through a process to examine past cases of abuse in the church, spanning seven decades. This has been a very thorough process and the aim has been to review ‘safeguarding cases’ concerning abuse of vulnerable children and adults. Why? So that lessons can be learnt with the benefit of hindsight, to learn from mistakes and to ensure that proper procedures are put in place to minimise risk and to ensure that people are heard.

The Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Conference, said it was ‘deeply regrettable’ that the church had ‘not always listened properly to those who have suffered abuse by people in a position of trust in the church.’ He unreservedly apologised for the failure of past processes, or lack of them, to recognise and acknowledge that abuse was taking place. 1,885 cases were reviewed, 187 alleged perpetrators are still alive and known to the safeguarding team, 687 cases are open to further action. Some cases are still being investigated. The Methodist Church is not without blame.

I watched the news headline concerning this as it unfolded and was impressed that Gareth Powell, who has been nominated to take over as General Secretary after the conference, dealt with a very difficult interview on Breakfast Television. My heart went out to him as explained the process that the church has been through to bring as much as possible out in the open. I held my head in despair and felt for the difficulty of his task and for the people who had been abused, and wondered about those who have been perpetrators.

By the evening the tone had changed slightly and our beloved Methodist Church was being hailed by the BBC and other broadcasters as an example for others to follow, we were congratulated for being open, honest and transparent, for being willing to recognise the problems of the past, apologise and then to do all we can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. No one can fully recover from abuse if it isn’t recognised as such, if it’s swept under the carpet to avoid a scandal. At least there is now an acknowledgement that mistakes have been made and that stringent new processes are in place.

At Wesley Hall we take safeguarding issues very seriously indeed and everyone working with children and vulnerable adults is required to undergo training. Certain people have DBS checks (which used to be CRB checks) and we ensure that proper procedures are followed. It’s very important that all of us are vigilant in this regard.

Openness, honesty and transparency in our dealings leaves us open to criticism when it goes wrong, but is that not better than ignoring problems and allowing people to remain damaged by events that should be acknowledged? Forgiveness is hard when the fault is not acknowledged and people’s lives are adversely affected for many years. The event may be suppressed but healing is difficult to achieve when these things aren’t taken seriously. It is difficult to forget.

God Bless you all,


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