News roundup: January 2020

03 February 2020, Thirtyone:eight

Here are our top safeguarding stories from January 2020.  To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:

Thirtyone:eight in the news:

>> Church call to government to expand safeguarding definitions in faith settings

Thirtyone:eight has called for the government to expand the law regarding 'positions of trust' to cover faith organisations and sports clubs. In a report launched on 28th January, the APPG on safeguarding in faith settings warned that the current loopholes are leaving 16-17 year-old's exposed to greater risk of grooming and abuse, and making it possible for faith leaders and those working in faith settings to engage in sexual activity with them 'with impunity'. UCB's David Peek spoke to Justin Humphreys about the report.

>> Dioceses to dig deeper into their safeguarding history

A new review of the Church of England’s safeguarding history will examine files of every living cleric and church officer for allegations of abuse or neglect. The work, Past-Cases Review (PCR) 2, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. A report is due in 2021. The director of the National Safeguarding Team, Melissa Caslake, said: “This is a substantial and significant task, to ensure that the Church is a safer place for all, and it is vital we ensure that survivors feel they can come forward in confidence".

>> Willow Creek confirms abuse allegations against Gilbert Bilezikian

Willow Creek Community Church is now dealing with allegations of misconduct against the man who mentored Bill Hybels. A long-time church member shared in a public Facebook post in January that Gilbert Bilezikian kissed, fondled, and pressured her to have sex with him between 1984 and 1988. The church member wrote that she has met privately with Willow Creek leadership to discuss the abuse since 2010, when she “felt strong enough to begin to confront the spiritual abuse I’d experienced so early in my faith.”

>> ‘Vicar of Baghdad' defends actions after charity watchdog misconduct ruling

A clergyman known as the Vicar of Baghdad has defended his actions after the charity watchdog found he committed serious misconduct following a probe into claims he intended to pay so-called Islamic State to release sex slaves. Canon Andrew White said his work at a missionary charity was "highly appropriate for a religious leader living in a war zone", after a Charity Commission report concluded he was likely to have caused "significant damage" to the charity's reputation.

>> Bishops shamed by BBC documentary

The two-part programme, Exposed: The Church’s dark secret, was shown on BBC2 on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th January. The documentary, which has been well-received by reviewers, included testimonies from victims, police, lawyers, and church officers, as well as dramatic reconstructions. The independent chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, praised survivors and their families. “The BBC documentary showed the devastating and lifelong impact of abuse,” she said. “Those who spoke out, showed incredible bravery.”

>> 'Dying' woman 'duped' her vicar

The case of an Essex priest deceived by a parishioner is an example of a case so complex it cannot properly be investigated under the current Clergy Discipline Measure system, a tribunal has said. The parishioner falsely claimed to be terminally ill, and then alleged the priest had impregnated her.”

>> Churches divided as Wales announces smacking ban

Wales joined Scotland in approving a ban on smacking children last month. Assembly Members voted 36 to 14 in favour of the Welsh Government bill, which means the country joins 58 other nations in ending the physical punishment of children. Rev Aled Edwards from Churches Together in Wales said the decision has divided opinion across churches in Wales: "We serve a number of churches and within Wales we reflect the diversity of opinion. Some believe the state does have a role to defend and look after its citizens by making these decisions whereas some think it is up to the family."

>> Child cruelty case triggers call for home schooling review

Child protection experts have called for a national review of home schooling following an inquiry into a case in which a violent stepfather and his partner subjected their young son to extreme neglect and abuse. The boy – known as Child AB – endured four years of cruelty including being beaten, locked in his room and forced to defecate on the floor, fed stale food and banned from speaking to his siblings. The case is the third high-profile serious case review in recent years involving Northamptonshire county council children’s services.


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