SAFE MINISTRY & CHILD PROTECTION IN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH DIOCESE OF SYDNEY
The Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney is a network of 270 local parishes with about 600 paid clergy and paid lay pastoral workers and in excess of 9000 unpaid volunteer child related workers. The Diocese has adopted a multifaceted approach to the issue of child protection and sexual misconduct since the mid-1990s. The structures, policies, practices and procedures now in place and being further developed are as follows:
1. PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS UNIT
This unit consists of a Director, a Chaplain for Diocesan Complaints, a Project Manager for Care Leavers and an Administrator. The unit administers the complaints and discipline procedure in relation to clergy and church workers. A database of offenders and alleged offenders is maintained. It also has the overall responsibility throughout the Diocese to ensure that all parishes and other activities of the Diocese are child protection compliant. The unit undertakes screening of all clergy appointments on behalf of the Archbishop. It provides ongoing support and advice to parishes and organisations. The Chaplain ensures contact with and support of those who disclose abuse.
2. SAFE MINISTRY BOARD
Standing Committee of Synod has established a Professional Standards Board with the dedicated policy task of ensuring that child abuse issues are dealt with comprehensively and in an ongoing way throughout the Diocese. The Board constantly reviews all child protection policy. Safe Ministry Board Ordinance.
The Archbishop, Dr Peter Jensen, has publicly reaffirmed the church’s abhorrence of child abuse and sexual misconduct by clergy and church workers in a letter read in all parishes. He committed himself and the diocese to giving these issues a high priority. He has reaffirmed this commitment publically in Synod, noting that such issues, unless dealt with properly, will remain a barrier to mission by alienating people from the good news of Jesus Christ. Archbishop Jensen has continued to take an active role in ensuring that the Diocese gives priority to these issues. He continues to make himself available for pastoral interaction in particular cases.
4. CARE OF VICTIMS AND COMPLAINANTS
The Chaplain, oversees care for claimants and their families. This supplements counselling which is provided to victims and paid for by the Church. A care and assistance scheme is in place as an alternative to litigation to provide for financial assistance to victims to meet their needs which arise from the abuse or misconduct. It includes a mechanism for external assessment if necessary. This covers the uninsured aspect of claims. When pastorally appropriate, the chaplain arranges for the Archbishop or one of his Episcopal team to see particular victims of clergy or church worker misconduct or abuse. The Project Manager for Care Leavers receives complaints of child abuse in Church of England Homes and supports complainants.
5. CODE OF CONDUCT
The national code of personal conduct for Clergy and Church workers Faithfulness in Service, was adopted by the Sydney Diocesan Synod in October 2004. A series of compulsory training seminars are conducted every three years in all regions for all clergy and paid churchworkers.
6. ABUSE AND SEXUAL MISCONDUCT COMPLAINTS PROTOCOL
The Diocese, has in place a Protocol for receiving complaints and allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct by clergy or church workers. Four independent contact persons, all trained counsellors, are available for people to contact. Their details are advertised in the Diocesan newspaper, on the Internet website and by leaflet to all parishes and organisations. Through an abuse report line (1800 77 49 45 or ), the contact persons provide information and support enquirers as they consider their options. They can then assist in the documenting and reporting of allegations or complaints of abuse.
7. DISCIPLINE ORDINANCE 2006
The handling of complaints that are received under the Protocol regarding sexual misconduct or child abuse by clergy or church workers is governed by the Discipline Ordinance 2006. Complaints are verified in writing, put to the respondent, investigated, considered at a prima facie level by a Professional Standards Committee, if necessary considered by a Tribunal and recommendations made to the Archbishop for action. The strongest sanction available is for clergy, removal of their holy orders and for others a Prohibition to prevent them from undertaking ministry or being in a particular or any role in the Church. There are also conciliation provisions in appropriate circumstances. The process is administered independently by the Director of the PSU with advice from the Professional Standards Committee. The Archbishop is excluded from procedural decisions. He considers the final recommendations and implements “discipline”. He is entitled to enquire as to progress of matters and the Director is obliged to keep him informed.
8. CHILD PROTECTION GUIDELINES AND OTHER ADVICE
All parishes and organisations were provided with Child Protection Guidelines, First Edition 2001 which explains in detail the requirements of the NSW Child Protection Legislation. This document had been preceded by five introductory circulars and seminar training throughout the Diocese. In March 2003 all parishes were provided with a checklist entitled “Dealing with Child Abuse Allegations in the Church”. The PSU continues to provide “help-desk” assistance to clergy and churchworkers in parishes on child protection issues. All parishes have been provided with a document called Guidelines for dealing with offenders and persons of suspicion in parishes.
9. CHILD PROTECTION LEGISLATION COMPLIANCE SURVEY
The PSU has surveyed the 270 parishes to assess the extent of compliance with the Child Protection Legislation. The evidence from the survey is that there is widespread understanding of and compliance with the legislative requirements. Further auditing processes are being considered by the Professional Standards Board.
10. SCREENING OF LAY WORKERS
Parishes obtain prohibited employment declarations for all child related workers (including unpaid volunteers) and undertake working with children screening checks for those who are paid. They are advised to also always undertake reference checks. The Diocese of Sydney recently participated in a pilot screening of volunteer (unpaid) child-related workers for all CEBS/boys-only ministries and Camp Howard volunteers. This has resulted in some legislative changes. However, working with children background checks remain unavailable for unpaid volunteers except where they are involved in overnight residential programmes or foster care. In addition to secular legislative requirements, prohibited persons under the NSW State legislation (those convicted of serious sexual offences) cannot be appointed or elected as church wardens or parish councilors.
11. SCREENING OF MINISTRY/ORDINATION CANDIDATES, CLERGY AND PAID LAY MINISTERS
All candidates for ordination and all clergy being authorised or licensed in Sydney have to complete a screening disclosure document which asks questions about drug use, alcohol use, occult practice, use of pornography, homosexual conduct, sexual conduct outside of marriage, police or child protection authority investigations, apprehended violence orders, and criminal charges or convictions. This disclosure form is based on a comprehensive screening questionnaire recommended by the Anglican General (National) Synod Child Protection Committee. This questionnaire is also administered to all paid lay ministers who apply for the Archbishop’s licence. Ordination/ministry candidates also undergo extensive assessment and screening by way of reference-checking, general psychological testing, interviews, chaplaincy supervision reports and college reports. The Discipline Ordinance 2006 provides a mechanism for pre-ordination disclosure and consideration of prior sexual misconduct or child abuse. All new Ordination Candidates must undergo Safe Ministry Training before entering theological college.
12. TRAINING OF LAY CHILDRENS AND YOUTH WORKERS - SAFE MINISTRY
This training resource kit, produced by Anglican Youthworks, is used by a network of regional Youthwork advisors. They run at least 24 set courses annually throughout all regions of the Diocese to train children and youth work volunteers and trainers who in turn train others in parishes using the kit. The Safe Ministry Board has surveyed parishes to assess the extent and effectiveness of this training strategy and as a result new mandatory requirements have been introduced. (see 17 below).
13. TRAINING OF MINISTRY/ORDINATION CANDIDATES AND CLERGY
The PSU provids professional development to clergy through visits to local area clergy groups and annually to both deacon/diocesan lay worker and priest ordination candidates. Moore Theological College includes 7 units on safe ministry. Ministry Training and Development includes child protection issues in the Sydney candidate training conferences/retreats and the after college training syllabus for junior ministers. All candidates are required to read the Code of Conduct. Ministry chaplains are required to discuss the Code with each candidate during their candidacy before they are ordained. A working group of the Safe Ministry Board is compiling a comprehensive curricula of safe ministry training for all levels of ministry, all church workers and all church office holders, whether paid or unpaid, clergy or lay. This template will be used to ensure that all church personnel are trained for their roles and the ministry they undertake.
14. CO-OPERATION WITH COMMUNITY SERVICES AND POLICE
The Diocese is signatory to a Memorandum Of Understanding between the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and other participating Churches in relation to a Protocol for dealing with allegations of abuse involving a child or young person by a church worker. The Director of the PSU is a member of the NSW Police Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad Advisory Council. All complaints that allege criminal conduct are reported to the police.
15. SAFE MINISTRY
From April 2006 every parish is required to have a safe ministry representative and all people who work with children are required to undergo compulsory training in safe ministry every three years. The re-named Safe Ministry Board has had its jurisdiction extended to consider the issue of safe ministry in relation to all vulnerable people, not just children.
16. PARISH RECOVERY CONSULTATION TEAMS
Teams are being trained by John Mark Ministries to be available to advise and assist parishes where allegations of abuse or misconduct by clergy or church workers arise. These teams aim to enable parishes to deal with the matters and aid personal and parish healing.