Church issues ‘full and unreserved apology’ to abuse survivors

The Methodist Church in Britain has today published the report of an independent review of past safeguarding cases related to the Church from 1950 to 2014.

Speaking on behalf of the Church, the Secretary of the Methodist Conference and General Secretary the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins has issued a full and unreserved apology to survivors and victims of abuse in response to the report:

"On behalf of the Methodist Church in Britain I want to express an unreserved apology for the failure of its current and earlier processes fully to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by some ministers in Full Connexion and members of the Methodist Church. That abuse has been inflicted by some Methodists on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame to the Church.

"We have not always listened properly to those abused or cared for them, and this is deeply regrettable. In respect of these things we have, as a Christian Church, clearly failed to live in ways that glorify God and honour Christ.

"I am certain that the Methodist Conference will want to resolve to do all in its power to improve its systems to protect children, young people and adults from abuse within the life of the Church and on Church premises, and to review them diligently on a regular basis."

The independent Past Cases Review considered all safeguarding cases for which there were written records and those recalled from memory by ministers and members of the Church going back to 1950. These included cases that occurred within a church context as well as those which were reported to the church as a matter of pastoral concern but which occurred away from the church.

In each identified case, the Church's response was reviewed on whether it had been safe, pastorally appropriate and compliant with current legislation and policy. Where possible and appropriate cases have been referred to the police or other remedial action has been taken. The aim of conducting the review and writing the report has been to learn the lessons of the past so that safeguarding work within the Methodist Church is of the highest possible standard and the Church is safe for all.

The review identified 1,885 past cases, which included sexual, physical, emotional and domestic abuse as well as cases of neglect. In approximately one quarter of these cases, church ministers or lay employees were identified as the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators. In 61 of these cases there was contact with the police and there are 6 ongoing police investigations as a result.

The review, which has taken three years, was led by former Deputy Chief Executive of Barnardo's Jane Stacey, who has had a long career in senior management of organisations in the child welfare field.

"It was a courageous act for the Methodist Church to launch such a comprehensive Past Cases Review. Even more courageous was the response from the survivors or victims who relived very difficult experiences to contribute to the review, either directly or through a third party. However thorough the review has been, there are undoubtedly cases that have not been reported and the Church would encourage survivors and victims and those with any information to contact the Safeguarding Team: safeguarding@methodistchurch.org.uk. They will be listened to and support will be offered.

"There are many lessons to be learnt, but the most challenging are those that require a significant culture change throughout the church, and particularly for ministers and church leaders. The Church will need further courage to implement the review's recommendations, which are far-reaching and call for major changes in both practice and culture. The Methodist Church has already taken measures to improve safeguarding across the Connexion and implementing the learning from this review will be the next step to ensuring that the Church can be a safe place for all."

The Methodist Conference, meeting in Southport from 25 June to 2 July, will discuss the findings of the Past Cases Review and will be invited to establish an implementation group to take forward the report's 23 recommendations.